Saturday's La Liga Previews
Despite the 4-0 scoreline, Espanyol's away defeat to Villarreal was not as one sided as you might think; the Catalans had several good chances in the first twenty minutes or so, but found yellow submarines keeper Lopez in inspired form.
The Catalans did, however, give up a little after the goals started to fly into their net, but Valero's strike was top drawer and two of the other goals were debatable.
What's not debatable is that the injury to top scorer Pablo Osvaldo will dent Espanyol's chances in front of goal. The Argentine had begun to be a regular fixture in my Espanyol previews towards the end of last season and had carried his form into the current campaign.
Unless somebody else fills his boots, future previews will probably offer little more than an Espanyol home win or 1-0 scoreline suggestion (11/2 if you fancy the latter today).
Though more of a second striker or even winger, new Espanyol (evens) signing Sergio Garcia (6/1 to score first, 13/8 anytime) could help fill Osvaldo's boots and has great technical ability as creator. As does the other Garcia, Luis, who, when in form, is equally talented.
As ever, I won't back a striker to score until he does just that. Form and confidence are key - and neither has as much as I'd like at the moment.
I don't generally back strikers of average teams away from home either, but Almeria forward/winger Pablo Piatti (15/2 first scorer, 2/1 anytime) finished off a nice team move when scoring their first equaliser against Sociedad on Monday night - though it was marginally offside!
Easily onside, however, was Ulloa's skilful, well taken last minute equaliser that yielded a point for Juan Manuel Lillo's Almeria (12/5). I won't be backing Ulloa (15/2 to score first, 2/1 anytime) or Piatti today, but there is validity to listing their prices should you disagree with my decision.
And the only decision I'm making in this game is that I expect Espanyol to win, but not by much. Under 2.5 goals (8/13) sounds likely, but then I thought that when Zaragoza hosted Malaga last Sunday! Again, make your own decision here.
Recommendation: Espanyol (evens)
With brother Brian seriously ill, Michael Laudrup clearly has bigger things to worry about than Mallorca (3/4) getting their maiden win under his tutelage.
Nevertheless, the press are already saying he's under pressure for Mallorca's winless start: After holding Real Madrid to a draw and losing away to Sporting, I find this amazing!
As I'll write a few hundred times this season, at least half of the teams in La Liga will win most of the home fixtures yet lose most of their away games. While nobody expects Mallorca to go several months undefeated at home as they did with a better playing squad last season, the islanders certainly fit into that category.
The Barralets opponents tonight, Osasuna (10/3), drew more games at home than they won last season, with an alarming 13 defeats on their travels - only relegated Tenerife lost more away.
And lost away was the result Osasuna left the Bernabeu with last weekend, though from a betting perspective they won with my Osasuna + 2 recommendation!
I won't, however, be recommending handicaps this week. Just a simple 90 minute Mallorca win. If you want other bets: under 2.5 goals (13/20) again seems a likely winner and should new Mallorca striker Cavenaghi or any of his colleagues fail to net one, a 0-0 scoreline (priced at 8/1) could prove to be a useful cover bet.
Recommendation: Mallorca (3/4)
Not an easy pick as Bilbao (8/5) will look to bounce back from their 2-1 home defeat to Atletico and hate to lose to Sporting, while Gijon (6/4) hate Athletic just as much and are usually pretty good at home.
So where do I go with his one...draw (11/5)? Well, that certainly has credibility as the two teams shared a 0-0 (the repeat is priced at 17/2) in this fixture last season.
However, and while I'm not generally an advocate of backing strikers away from home in La Liga, the form of Fernando Llorente (11/2 to score first, 6/4 anytime) must be taken into consideration.
Giant Athletic target man Llorente now has two goals in two La Liga games so far this season, and with his quicker, more mobile striker partner Torquero expected to miss tonight's game through injury, Bilbao's scoring chances now weigh even heavier than normal on Fernando's broad shoulders.
Athletic could just sneak this one and I feel the scorecast bet of Llorente to score first and Athletic to win 1-0 is well worth risking a pound on at 40/1. It might also be worth risking a few pounds on 1-0 to Athletic as a separate punt (available at 15/2).
Like I said in the opening, Sporting are usually good at home - evidenced by their comfortable 2-0 victory over Mallorca last weekend - and my initial thoughts were for them to continue winning ways at El Molinol and defeat Bilbao by a narrow margin tonight.
Later thoughts concluded that, despite Bilbao historically being poor away from home, I am simply not sure enough of the 90 minute outcome to give a direct recommendation on it. Besides, Athletic did beat Hercules in their first away game of the season and that looks impressive now given what happened in Barcelona last weekend!
Worth a punt: Sporting 0-1 Athletic (15/2)
The pick of tonight's live on Sky games and one in which I think there is a strong chance of something other than a Real Madrid victory (priced at 4/11) winning in the 90 minute market.
For Sociedad (7/1) have looked pretty good in their two La Liga games so far (a 1-0 home defeat of Villarreal and a 2-2 draw away to Almeria) and, despite conceding a late equaliser in Almeria on Monday night, will be full of confidence for the visit of Los Blancos to Basque county.
The confidence of former Espanyol and current Sociedad striker Raul Tamudo (10/1 to score first, 7/2 anytime) will certainly have risen following his debut goal in Almeria and I will be having a small e/w punt on him today as a consequence.
Another striker with confidence, this time of Real Madrid, is Argentine Gonzalo Higuain (11/4 to score first, 8/13 anytime) who opened his seasonal account with Los Merengues by scoring in their 2-0 midweek Champions league defeat of Ajax. I'm not backing him in La Liga just yet, but he merit's your consideration nonetheless.
Also worth consideration if you fancy Real to come out on top tonight are: The same 1-0 scoreline that they beat Osasuna with last week (priced at 13/2 for tonight's game) and Draw/Real Madrid (16/5) in the double result market.
I expect to use all of the above bets in future Real Madrid previews, but am sticking with my 90 minute pick of a draw (16/5) tonight, with small punt suggestions of 1-1 and 2-2 (priced at 17/2 and 20/1 respectively) for those of you that agree with my assessment and like to take a chance on scorelines that compliment it.
Finally, and given that I fancy a score draw, yes in the both teams to score market is worth consideration at even money.
Recommendation: draw (16/5)
Enjoy the action and don't forget that you can bet in-play with William Hill Online.