Monday's La Liga previews
Atletico Madrid v Racing Santander, 19:00
Quite honestly, I expected Malaga to beat Atletico (1/2) prior to the Christmas break so the 3-0 victory of Los Colchoneros came as somewhat of surprise. Considering that they played for most of the game with ten men, Atleti's 1-0 home cup defeat of Espanyol also came as a surprise.
While I don't cover cup games and therefore had no way of telling you, Simao taking and scoring the winning penalty in the cup game came as no surprise as that was the Portuguese's last game for the club.
Simao will join former Real Madrid midfielder Guti at Besiktas in Turkey, and Atleti have already moved to replace him with the 25 year old Brazilian Ellias, signed from the Brazilian club Corinthians.
Ellias is, however, a central or attacking midfielder so he certainly won't be a straight replacement and might not even see much playing time this season.
While we wait to see what happens with the new boy, we'll look at the current crop and most likely scorers in today's game: Off the boil but always worth considering is Diego Forlan (10/3 to score first, 10/11 anytime).
In much better form is Kun Aguero (also 10/3 to score first, 10/11 anytime), who has scored six goals in Atletico's last six games. The Argentine did not score in 3-0 defeat of Malaga - Tiago (2) and Alvarez were the unlikely scorers that day - but he would, understandably, still be my top pick to score first today.
Today's opponents, hapless Racing Santander (11/2) provided a massive shock by beating Mallorca on the island a few week ago, but then went back to normal and bored us all senseless by drawing 0-0 at home to Hercules in the game after.
As History has proved, any team is in with a decent chance of beating Atletico if they are on their game, but tonight I just don't see an upset on the cards and expect Atletico to win by 2-3 goals.
Though Atletico often concede, I do not expect them to tonight and therefore recommend the "No" option in the both teams to score market at 10/11. If you want a similar bet but riskier bet, how about "Atletico only" at 29/20 in the teams to score market?
I can't decide on just one scoreline, but for your consideration I suggest you choose from 2, 3 and, if you fancy a longshot, 4-0 to the home team at 13/2, 9/1 and 16/1 respectively.
Double result time and as Quique's boys usually start fast, I recommend Atletico/Atletico at 11/10. The week and a half break may lead to a little ring rust, but I still see this bet winning.
My best bet recommendation: Atletico - 1 goal (6/5)
Mallorca v Hercules, 19:00
Despite a tremendous goal from Jonathan De Guzman (9/1 to score first, 5/2 anytime), Michael Laudrup's Mallorca (4/5) could not get me the draw I craved, eventually losing 3-1 away to Villarreal.
It's fair to say that while Mallorca are not expected to win many away games, given their impressive results against the big boys in La Liga - draws with Barca and Real coupled with away defeats of Valencia and Sevilla - most punters would have expected a better show from the Islanders.
Instead, 38% possession and few scoring chances condemned Mallorca to their third straight league defeat. The good news for Laudrup and his charges is that I expect Mallorca to be able to forget about their troubles and get back to winning ways on home turf today as the visitors, 12th placed Hercules, do not travel well.
As well as a poor road record (1 win, 3 draws and 4 defeats), many of the Hercules (18/5) playing squad have not been paid for several months. The most vocal of those is on loan Real Madrid wing back Royston Drenthe, who has threatened to go on strike.
Some players may be happy to fight for the cause until the pay issues are resolved, but you have to doubt Drenthe's commitment to this game given what's he's said. In principle, he right to complain, but I can't see it helping the team on the pitch.
As usual, Trezeguet (13/2 to score first, 7/4 anytime) and Valdez (8/1 to score first, 9/4 anytime) offer Hercules best hopes of a goal today, but Trezeguet has still yet to score away from Alicante so I'd bear this in mind when choosing a potential scorer.
For a Mallorca scorer, besides the pre-mentioned De Guzman, I'd look at Pierre Webo (5/1 to score first, 11/8 anytime), who is currently the islanders joint top scorer with four goals to his name; the other joint top scorer is Castro (6/1 to score first, 13/8 anytime).
As we all know, anything can happen in football but I cannot look beyond a home win in the 90 minute market given Hercules pay troubles and the fact that Mallorca usually win at home: Four wins, two draws and two defeats makes up their record.
Scoreline wise I'd look at 1 and 2-0 to Mallorca - priced at 11/2 and 15/2 respectively.
Recommendation: Mallorca (4/5)
Real Zaragoza v Real Sociedad, 19:00
Totally dominated in Pamplona, Zaragoza (6/5) were very, very lucky to draw 0-0 with Osasuna in their last league fixture. The Zaragoza goalkeeper, Leo Franco, was undoubtedly their hero after pulling off several impressive saves.
Back at La Romareda tonight, Zaragoza will hope for at least a point against a Sociedad (23/10) side that has compiled a seasonal league away record of two wins, one draw and five defeats.
However, despite this poor record, Sociedad are a decent team and posess an excellent player in Xavi Prieto (9/1 to score first, 5/2 anytime). Prieto is also in good goalscoring form having scored three times in his last four league games.
Also worth consideration is veteran Sociedad target man Joseba Llorente (11/2 to score first, 6/4 anytime), though the big man has not netted in his last four league games.
Llorente could and should should have netted one is his club's 2-1 home defeat to Valencia last time out, but it was a game of missed chances for Sociedad who deserved to win through posessional superiority and goal chances.
Though deserved to is often used to a describe an unlucky loser, Sociedad should be able to ride their luck and take enough chances to defeat a poor Zaragoza team who's home fans constantly protest against the management.
New signings required applies to no team more than bottom club Zaragoza. Until they get some, it's hard to see them escaping their long term positioning in the La Liga standings.
Recommendation: Sociedad (21/10)
Worth a punt: Prieto e/w first scorer (9/1)
Villarreal v Almeria, 19:00-Sky Sports 3
With goals from Cazorla (11/2 to score first, 6/4 anytime), Rossi and Nilmar, The Yellow Submarines comfortably beat Mallorca 3-1 at El Madrigal last time out and will expect to vanquish Almeria with similar ease tonight.
Sadly for them, Villarreal (1/2) will have to try and win with less bite in midfield and a lesser attack as Senna and Nilmar are out injured. However, Rossi can be their man and is priced at 10/3 to open the scoring, or 10/11 to net one at anytime.
Almeria are not virgins when it comes to upsets, the most recent of which was their win at Sevilla, but Villarreal must be considered too good a team to slip up at home, even if they are missing key players.
In their last game, Almeria (11/2) threw away at two goal lead to lose 3-2 at home to Getafe. Not what I wanted to see it's fair to say - though I do appreciate Getafe's brand of football.
I'm not convinced that they will, but if Almeria are to score today it will probably come via one of Piatti (10/1 to score first, 11/4 anytime) or Uche (9/1 to score first, 5/2 anytime), the latter of which scored against Getafe.
Along with the "No" (10/11) option in the both teams to score market, I favour 2-0 to Villarreal (13/2) as a correct score and Villarreal/Villarreal (23/20) in the double result category.
Recommendation: Put Villarreal (1/2) in a double with Mallorca (4/5)
Worth a punt: Rossi to score first (10/3)
Getafe v Real Madrid, 21:00-Sky Sports 3
Certainly, this Madrid derby is the game of the evening, and with Getafe (8/1) in such good form having won four league games in a row, Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid (1/3) face a real test inside the Alfonso Perez tonight.
Last time out, Michel's Azulones defeated high flying Segunda leaders Real Betis 2-1 at the Manuel Ruiz De Lopera in the Copa Del Rey. Prior to that in the league, Madrid's third club completed an amazing comeback from two goals down to defeat Almeria 3-2.
Notable scorers in those games were Pedro Rios (18/1 to score first, 5/1 anytime), Manu and Miku (both are 12/1 to score first or 7/2 anytime).
Daniel Parejo (18/1 to score first, 5/1 anytime) pulls the strings in midfield but does not score often. He is, however, a former Real Madrid player and crucial to his current clubs hopes of getting anything out of tonight's game.
Ballon d'Or coaching award candidate Jose Mourinho will probably lose out to Spain's Vicente Del Bosque when the FIFA prizes are give out, but he won't expect to get anything less than three points this evening.
Aiming to assist his coach in that goal is the free scoring Ronaldo (9/4 to score first, 4/7 anytime), who has a staggering 17 goals in 16 La Liga games so far this season.
With Higuain still injured, the not yet in top form Benzema (3/1 to score first, 4/5 anytime) and the highly impressive Di Maria (11/2 to score first, 6/4 anytime) are the next most logical choices should you fancy an alternative to the Portuguese.
In their last two games - league and cup - Real Madrid defeated Sevilla 1-0 and Levante 8-0. While there's a big difference in reputation and size of the two defeated clubs, Sevilla are no great shakes right now and I'm sure that most punters expected Real to win by more than just one goal.
I certainly expect both teams to score tonight (4/5) so we should see at least two goals. I 'm also willing to chance a small portion of my money on Real defeating Getafe 3-2 (priced at 22/1). Other scorelines to consider are 4-2 and 2-1 to Real, priced at 33/1 and 15/2 respectively.
This game has all the makings of a cracking derby, and such a crazy bet as the longshot double result bet of Getafe/Real Madrid (22/1) could come off. However, given that I expect Real to win but not easily, the double result bet of draw/Real Madrid is my favoured and most realistic punt in this game.
Recommendation: Double result of Draw/Real Madrid (17/5)
Worth a small punt: Pedro Rios e/w first scorer (18/1)
Whatever you choose, enjoy the action and don't forget that you can always bet in-play with William Hill Online.