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Jonathan Cordingley 21st Oct 2010 - 17:13

Saturday's La Liga previews

Real Zaragoza v Barcelona, 17:00-Sky Sports 4

Unless Barcelona (1/4) suffer an unlikely Champions league hangover, bottom club Zaragoza look set to remain winless for at least another week. Can they get a draw or perhaps win on a handicap bet against the Champions?

Well, if that tickles your fancy, Zaragoza + 2 would cover a one goal Barca win and the draw at 17/20, but with FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi in such good form, I prefer to take a chance on the Argentine scoring first (5/2).

Including the Champions league, scoring first is exactly what Messi has done in two of his last three games for Barcelona. His stunning effort in the 2-0 defeat of Copenhagen was perhaps the most attractive of his recent goals, but if you're looking for better value in this market, Iniesta could be worth a punt at 7/1 to score first or 2/1 anytime.

Iniesta scored Barcelona's equaliser in their 2-1 La Liga defeat of Valencia last weekend, and key to that was the almost telepathic connection between him and midfield maestro Xavi.

Stop those two passing to each other and you have half a chance of beating Barca I think; something Pep Guardiola knows all too well. Noticeably, Pep adjusted Iniesta's position during the half time interval last weekend and reaped the rewards within five minutes of the restart.

It seems unlikely that Senor Gay's boys will be as effective as Valencia were in stopping Barcelona's best players from playing deft 1-2's in the first half of their match, but you never know, this is football and one would expect Zaragoza's players to raise their game against such opposition.

FC Copenhagen raised their game against the Catalans but spurned the few chances they had - see the player who stops running when through on goal thinking he was offside!

For betting purposes tonight, I'm hoping that Zaragoza put up enough of a fight to allow the double result bet of Draw/Barca (10/3) to be a winner. In my opinion, the only other double result bet worth considering is Barca/Barca (13/20). However, the price is way too short for me and Barca's current form cannot be classified as imperious enough to make that bet look like a near certainty.

Messi to score first and Barca to win is not a certainty either, but it does appear to be the best bet on paper and is priced at 3/1.


Real Madrid v Racing Santander, 19:00-Sky Sports 4

I have to give them credit, Real Madrid (1/7) were effective in possession and purposeful in movement when defeating Malaga 4-1 at La Rosaleda last weekend. I enjoyed watching them.

Of great enjoyment to me was the cross of Ronaldo (2/1 to score first, 2/5 anytime) and finish of Higuain (9/4 to score first, 1/2 anytime) for the first goal, but the counter attack that led to the Argentine's second was also a footballing work of art.

Ronaldo's free kick in the 2-0 midweek Champions league defeat of AC Milan was not a work of art, more a fault with the wall, but the Portuguese did score first.

Scoring first is what I expect Cristiano or Gonzalo Higuain to do tonight, but the 4/7 about either doing so is very short indeed - As are their separate prices to score first or anytime.

Indeed, the only Madrid related scorer bets with slight value are either of the two - as separate bets - to score first and Real to win: Ronaldo first + Real win = 11/5, while Higuain is 5/2 under the same terms.

Today's visitors to the Bernabeu, 16th placed Racing Santander (14/1), have a manager under pressure in Miguel Angel Portugal: Prior to last weekend's 1-0 victory over Almeria, the former Real Madrid B team manager was expected to get the sack if Almeria won.

Only a brave punter would expect anything other than a Real win tonight and with that in mind, surely Portugal will not be sacked if his boys leave the Bernabeu pointless.

I fully expect Racing to leave pointless and, more than likely, without scoring: If you think that Racing can nick one then consider the 6/4 about both teams to score.

Pedro Munitis (20/1 to score first, 7/1 anytime) scored his first goal in 18 months last weekend and notably used to play for Real Madrid between 2000 and 2003. Maybe the veteran wideman can make it two in a row against his former employers; he's scored against them before.

I'm not totally convinced with this, but if I was to bet on the over/under goals market, over 3.5 would be my choice as it's the lowest tally you can bet on in the over market that has a price above even money (11/8).


Valencia v Mallorca, 21:00-Sky Sports 4

Some will fear that, like in the Barca game, there is a decent chance that the lesser team can get something out of this game given Valencia's midweek Champions league participation.

I'm not, however, one of those people as Valencia (8/15) have so far shown that they have a big and good enough squad to cope with the rigors of competing on multiple fronts.

In Los Che's last Primera Liga game after a midweek Champions league tie, Unai Emery's boys beat Athletic 2-1 in the Mestalla. Bilbao are definitely a better team than Mallorca but, like the Islanders, do not travel well.

With three wins from a possible four, Valencia certainly cannot not be termed as bad travelers, but they could not take anything other than a fantastic first half performance - sealed with a Pablo Hernandez strike - and plenty of pride from their 2-1 defeat at the Nou Camp last weekend.

Michael Laudrup's Mallorca (5/1), however, can take no pride from their 1-0 home defeat to Espanyol last weekend: A pitiful, toothless display from the Islanders.

I don't, but if you fancy a Mallorca scorer, the best option is seemingly Fernando Cavenaghi (8/1 first goal, 9/4 anytime), who has two goals in six starts for the Barralets since joining the club on loan from Bordeaux.

As my worth a punt recommendation last weekend, Valencia's Aduriz returned stakes for not starting against Barca, but he is understandably favourite to score first tonight at 7/2 (evens anytime scorer).

Other than Aduriz, Soldado (4/1 to score first, 11/10 anytime) is second favourite to open the scoring but is seemingly less likely to start than Aduriz and has not been as prolific in front of goal.

I like 2-0 to Valencia (7/1) as a potential scoreline punt and hence won't be betting on the 7/10 about over 2.5 goals. However, I won't betting on the more attractively priced under 2.5 goals (21/20) either as I prefer to look for better value in the double result market.

Though it wasn't the case on the wet Ibrox pitch Wednesday night, Los Che have a habit of starting fast and leading by half time in most of their La Liga games. With that in mind, the value I covet comes in the double result bet of Valencia/Valencia (29/20).

Enjoy the action and don't forget that you can bet in-play with William Hill Online.



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