Saturday's La Liga Previews
The Rojiblancos suffered a surprising 2-1 defeat away to relegation threatened Valladolid midweek, but should get back on track against a Sporting (7/1) team that must think that 37 points makes them safe from relegation.
Sporting were also on the end of an unexpected defeat, in their case at home to Tenerife. The teams that need it most often beat teams who have, or think they have, nothing to play for. Even still, Sporting have proven to be very good at home and you have to question their commitment in that game.
Also in question is their away form which has yielded only two wins all season. Given their possibly premature safety mindset, and despite Sevilla (4/11) looking wobbly in recent games, you have to strongly fancy a home win today.
Due to the short price (2/5), In-play is the only way I will bet on this. I simply don't trust Sevilla enough to bet on the double result of Sevilla/Sevilla pre-match (17/20 if you fancy it), but will look at draw/Sevilla (16/5 pre-match) during the game.
There is currently no forward consistent enough that I would suggest for consideration as a scorer. Confidence is a vital amongst strikers, and there was little of that on display for either team's forward line in the midweek fixtures.
Showing them all how it should be done, Sevilla defender Cala has scored two goals in two games, and while not expected to feature in today's game, has now been ruled fit to play. Should he start, a nice price would be enough to tempt me.
My best bet suggestion is to put Sevilla (4/11) in a double with Villarreal (4/5).
Given that Barcelona play Inter in the Champions League next week, and factoring in that Espanyol (7/1) have beaten Barca (1/3) in previous instalments of this fixture, this Catalan derby could result in a shock outcome.
Not that I'll be betting on it mind! Pre-match anyway, for the key is whether or not Espanyol can score first. If they can't Barca will not be pegged back. Statistically, the visitors have scored 37 times in 32 games prior to half time; an intimidating record that deserves respect.
In the underdog spirit, considering my score first theory and going against the weekly enjoyment that I get from watching Barcelona, Espanyol striker Pablo Osvaldo (11/4 anytime scorer) has been in good form recently and is a player I will be having a small punt on to score first (8/1).
Enjoyment is indeed available in abundance when the World Champions play, and rarely have I been so glued to a TV screen (free tickets please!) as I am when watching Barcelona. Not even at their best and missing players, there is no better team to watch, not forgetting individual brilliance on display.
Sure, Romario and Stoichkov were a fantastic tandem to watch. Rivaldo provided some outstanding match winning moments, and Ronaldinho showed breathtaking skill a few years ago, but the daddy of them all is Messi.
Quiet in the 3-0 midweek defeat of (not so) Super Depor, the too short priced for me to back World Player of the year will attract punters whatever the odds. For readers in that bracket, today William Hill say 2/1 for the first goal, 2/5 anytime, 3/1 to score 2 or more and finally, 8/1 to score a hat-trick.
If you want to back a Barca player with a bigger price, consider Pedro (4/1 to score first, evens anytime). I enjoyed his near halfway line lob into an empty net against Depor, and he took his goal with great composure in the Bernabeu. Finishes of a confident player and we all know what confidence counts for in football; pretty much everything bar permanent class and Pedro has been at least very good this season.
There is little value in backing Barca in most markets at the moment, so saying yes to both teams to score (4/5) was what I was originally going to have as my main bet.
However, and although there is a decent chance that Barca could field a slightly weakened team in lieu of the Inter game, I have abandoned that bet in case Barca score first and run wild without reply. I'm also after riskier, more rewarding bets in Espanyol's favour in the hope of making good money should they prosper, or on the flipside, losing what I'd pay extra to watch anyway.
This is a derby game though and Espanyol will kick, fight and you would assume never give up in their attempts to score. The coach Pochettino is very defensive but Espanyol will be spurred on by the roar of a partisan, expectant crowd willing them forward. Perhaps the both teams to score bet could be staked after assessing just how much Espanyol are willing to attack after 10 minutes or so.
The small stakes bets I will be having, and I'm very prepared to get my fingers burned on them, contain at least one unlikely long shot. If I lose all three, I'm very confident of making a good profit in other games.
My pre-match bets are: Osvaldo to score first (8/1), Espanyol/Barca (25/1) and draw/Barca (18/5) in the double result market. Note that I'll be using double my small stake for my third and final suggestion.
Unimpressed as I was with Villarreal (4/5) in their midweek away defeat to Getafe, picking them to beat an Atletico (14/5) team that is only interested in cup competition is one of the simplest decisions I've had to make for this weekend's previews.
The Yellow Submarines 3-0 defeat ruined my draw and over 2.5 goals bet, but gave me a winner in the separate highlighted (best bet) suggestion of over 2.5 goals on its own. Staked correctly backing both would have returned a profit.
On that note, I've received feedback suggesting that I should offer amounts to stake (or/and points ratings) per bet if I am to offer two personal highlighted bets at the bottom of a preview. If this is something readers want let me know via the comments section please. Please note that I was still list options and arguments for those who like to make their own mind up and consider alternatives.
Back to this evening's game and the goalscorer market: Diego Forlan (5/1 to score first, 5/4 anytime) scored as suggested in Los Colchoneros home defeat to Xerez, but I'm not keen on backing him today. Partly because Atletico are playing away, partly because they will field a weakened team.
I can't be sure as I write this on a Friday evening, but I expect one of Aguero (13/2 to score first, 15/8 anytime) and Forlan to start, not both. Atletico should field most of their regulars in midfield, but expect to see a weakened defence with the Europa League tie with Liverpool their priority.
Atletico's defence has more holes than a cheese grater when fully strong, and a weakened defence means that their striker(s) will likely not often see the ball before Villarreal score and Atletico heads drop.
Nobody is scoring regularly for Villarreal, mainly due to the tinkering of boss Garrido, so I cannot see anybody that represents a very, very strong chance of getting on the score sheet.
Somebody will, but the best bet is quite clearly a straight 90 minute Villarreal win (4/5).
Enjoy the action and don't forget that you can bet In-Play with William Hill Online.