Mark Young: La Liga Preview
If Wednesday night's blockbuster El Clasico taught the avid watcher of La Liga anything it would be that Madrid are closing in on their rivals.
Real should have been three goals up within the first twenty minutes and a number of chances were spurned. Barcelona did get two goals before half time but the character Madrid showed in the second half and the fact that they should be in the semi finals of the Spanish Cup shows that they let Barcelona off the hook. The same will not happen in the league.
Real play before the Catalan's this weekend as they host Real Zaragoza. There is disharmony in the camp but they all want to get the better of Barcelona. They have one goal and Zaragoza should be brushed aside as the odds of 1/12 for the home team suggests. Maybe one of the biggest surprises of Wednesday night was the fact that Mesut Ozil had one of his best games in the white shirt of Real and was denied a stunning thirty-yard goal by the crossbar. The German international is 6/1 to put that right on Saturday evening and score the first goal.
Barcelona travel to troubled Villarreal on Saturday and will already know if their rivals from the capital have picked up maximum points or not. With the possibility being the latter, Guardiola will need to keep the pressure on the Special One's charges. El Madrigal has usually been a tough place to go until this season. Injuries have caught up with Villarreal, as have the tight budgets. They are battling against relegation but did get three points against Sporting Gijon on Monday night. Saying this, the William Hill match winner is for Barcelona to score four or more goals at 11/4.
Sunday night's big game is Malaga hosting Sevilla. Sevilla managed to grab a point from their derby against Betis last weekend. Malaga have been poor of late and despite loft expectations at the start of the season, sit mid table. They are 5/4 to get the season back on track and chasing down that fourth Champions League spot. In front of the home fans they should pick up the points but if they hit top form again it will have to coincide with some good Santi Cazorla form. He is 8/1 to open the scoring.
Espanyol were eliminated from the Spanish Cup by Mirandes this week and because of this shock, 10/11 for them to pick up maximum points against Real Mallorca, who themselves were knocked out by Bilbao, is terrific value. Bilbao are also good value away at Rayo Vallecano at 7/5. They were impressive in the first half against Madrid last week and will want to keep some momentum up going in to the second half of the season.
Real Betis will take a point from their Seville derby and look to build upon it. They host Granada in Sunday's early kick off and look certainties at 8/13 to take three points. The early Sunday games have a tendency to provide a shock or two but this game should be simple.
Monday night's game sees Simeone's Atletico Madrid face their second away trip on the bounce, this time at Osasuna. Osasuna are solid at home but Simeone has Atletico looking frightening in attack. Diego, Adrian and Falcao are providing the triple threat that had been promised in attack. With Arda Turan supporting those three they could prove to be well worth looking at, at 13/10 or the double result Atletico to win at half time and full time at 3/1.