Midweek Copa del Rey previews
Its first leg semi final time in the Spanish Copa del Rey and both games are live on Sky Sports. With the footballing world looking forward to a Classico cup final, can Sevilla or Almeria throw a spanner in the works and give the big clubs an uphill task in the second leg?
Sevilla v Real Madrid, 19:00-Sky Sports 3
Surprisingly beating Villarreal 3-0 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan last week, Sevilla (3/1) progressed to the semi's 6-3 on aggregate. The surprise itself was not that Gregorio Manzano's Sevilla won, more that they totally dominated and snuffed out the Yellow Submarines potent attack.
A five man defence was the key to a clean sheet for the Rojiblancos, while their workman like midfield stopped Villarreal from getting any rhythm in the short, pretty passing game that the subs like to play through the middle of the pitch.
Excellent if not unexpected tactics from Sevilla boss Gregorio Manzano, but what will he have in store for Real Madrid? I wish I knew!
What I do know is that Real Madrid (17/20) easily beat their hapless neighbours Atletico 1-0 at the Vicente Calderon last week (4-1 on aggregate). Scoring the winner was former FIFA World Player of Year Cristiano Ronaldo (5/2 to score first, 4/7 anytime).
Benzema (11/2 to score first, 6/4 anytime) also scored first for Real Madrid, though in Los Blancos 1-0 league defeat of Mallorca at the weekend. Benzema, however, does not have the support of his coach and I can have no idea as to whether he will start tonight. Ronaldo certainly will so he gets my vote if you want to back a Real scorer.
Scoring a hat-trick for Sevilla at the weekend was Fabiano (13/2 to score first, 15/8 anytime), who is finally getting back to his usual self in front of goal. Also good in front of goal for Sevilla are Negredo (7/1 to score first, 2/1 anytime) and Kanoute (8/1 to score first, 11/4 anytime).
Again, I can't be sure who will start for either team so picking a Sevilla scorer is difficult. However, if you're happy to chance it I'd go with Fabiano. Though very short priced at 18/5, Fabiano and Ronaldo as anytime scorers doubled is a highly plausible punt.
Though much less so, Sevilla are also a plausible punt in the 90 minute market as reigning cup holders that are in good form. They have beaten Real Madrid in the past so an upset is certainly possible today. However, my money was placed on Real winning the cup before this season began so I can't deviate from that now, even if this is only a first leg.
I do think that Sevilla can take the lead tonight though, so Sevilla to score the first goal is a worthy punt despite being short priced at 13/10. Also, the double result of Sevilla/Real Madrid (20/1) is a potentially very good longshot that will see a couple of my pounds thrown on it.
Pre-match recommendations: Real Madrid (17/20) and both teams to score (1/2)
Worth a punt: Real Madrid to come from behind and win (13/2)
Barcelona v Almeria, 21:00-Sky Sports 3
After flatteringly beating Segunda division leaders Real Betis 5-0 in the first leg of their cup quarter final matchup, Barcelona (1/12) lost the second leg 3-1 in Seville.
Though the Catalans losing was not a surprise to me, I was shocked to see Messi (7/4 to score first, 4/11 anytime) playing and more shocked to see him miss a penalty. Sadly for me I'd bet on over 4.5 goals and the two time FIFA World player of the Year's miss cost me a few quid.
Betting on Almeria (25/1) to win tonight will likely cost you a few quid, but they deserve massive credit for twice overcoming Deportivo in the cup quarter finals.
One-nil was the score in the first leg, three-two in the second. Amazingly, Deportivo came back from two down at the Riazor in the return leg but were eliminated 4-2 on aggregate after Goitom (25/1 to score first, 8/1 anytime) hit the visitors third.
As well as Goitom, Almeria's best hopes of a goal tonight come via pint sized Argentinean winger Pablo Piatti (16/1 to score first, 6/1 anytime) and consistent front man Ulloa (16/1 to score first, 6/1 anytime).
Although Almeria have improved in recent games and could make Barca wait until half time before they score (draw/Barca is 9/2), I fully expect them to eventually lose.
Like they did against Betis in the Nou Camp, Barcelona will try and put this game to bed in the first leg. With that in mind and although I can't be sure who will start, Villa will be tremendously hungry to score after disappointingly drawing in blank in Barca's 3-0 defeat of Racing at the weekend and I'll take a chance on him scoring first. It's no given though, could be Messi, Pedro or any of the other stars!
Worth a punt: Villa to score first (5/2)
Whatever you choose, enjoy the action and don't forget that betting in-play is highly recommended on cup games at Williamhill.com
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