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Jonathan Cordingley 8th Jan 2011 - 14:36

Saturday's La Liga previews

Malaga v Athletic Bilbao, 17:00

With more than a few Euros in his back pocket, Sheikh Abdullah Ben Nasser Al Thani has brought Baptista, Demichelis, Maresca, Camacho and Asenjo to Primera strugglers Malaga (13/10).

Demichelis and Asenjo have joined on season long loans, while the others are permanent signings. The most notable of this bunch is probably Demichelis, who is well known to Pellegrini through their days as player and coach at River Plate many years ago.

It has often been said that Argentinean defender Demichelis (25/1 to score first, 7/1 anytime) has become a liability for club and county in the last two seasons and I'm inclined to agree. However, if anyone is going to re-ignite his career, it will be the Chilean Pellegrini.

Baptista (6/1 to score first, 13/8 anytime) is also in need of a career revival as, with spells at Real Madrid, Arsenal and Roma sandwiched in between, he has failed to show the form that made him Sevilla's best player a few years ago.

Of course, this new team will need time to gel, but tonight they face a Bilbao team who fought tooth and nail in their 1-1 midweek Copa Del Rey draw with Barcelona.

Indeed, Athletic (21/10) were unlucky to see their selves eliminated from the cup on away goals, but could not have tried harder in front of their passionate San Mames crowd.

When considering the 90 minute market tonight, I must mention that Malaga were also eliminated from the cup midweek - a 3-0 home defeat to Sevilla, but add that Bilbao are usually very poor away from home. Defeat for the Basque's at La Rosaleda therefore seems likely this evening.

Concerns must, however, be raised as Bilbao's top scorer, Fernando Llorente (5/1 to score first, 11/8 anytime), bagged another goal in the cup game, and with Malaga so poor on set pieces (Atleti scored three near identical headers against them a few weeks ago), I wouldn't bet against the big man heading one in tonight.

In saying that, I consider the both teams to score market a little dicey due to Athletic's tiredness. Should you be able to decide now, 13/20 is the price on "Yes" and 23/20 is the price on "No".

Though they won 2-1 in Gijon last weekend, through experience I'm inclined not to trust Malaga at home. However, sense dictates that this should be a home win so that's my recommendation at 13/10.

Real Sociedad v Sevilla, 19:00-Sky Sports 1

Without a win since their derby defeat of Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao over a month ago, Sociedad (21/10) host a Sevilla side that has began to pick up steam in recent games.

The most recent outing for Manzano's Rojiblancos resulted in a comfortable 3-0 away defeat of Malaga in the Copa Del Rey midweek. Notably, amongst the scorers was Fabiano.

Previously unimpressive after returning from injury, Fabiano (9/2 to score first, 6/5 anytime) netted a terrific top corner free kick against Pellegrini's side and his confidence will have risen as a result.

I favour Fabiano as a potential Sevilla scorer, but should you fancy an alternative, Kanoute (11/2 to score first, 6/4 anytime) scored the winner in Sevilla's 1-0 home defeat of Osasuna in the league last weekend and has been in better goalscoring form than his Brazilian colleague.

Back from injury to help both forwards improve their goal haul is winger Jesus Navas (9/1 to score first, 10/3 anytime), a player who's absence made a big difference to the team's proficiency in front of goal.

It must be said that Sevilla (5/4) still look a little iffy defensively, but wingers and forwards are all that they are about offensively and as both types of players are firing, Sevilla can beat anybody on their day.

Already eliminated from the cup, Sociedad have had a few days extra rest compared to today's visitors and will fancy their chances inside San Sebastian. However, last time out the Basque's disappointingly lost 2-1 away to Zaragoza.

In Zaragoza, Sociedad conceded a wonderfully worked goal to go one down, before the in - from Prieto (9/1 to score first, 10/3 anytime) equalised. After that, the Basque's had a goal ruled out, but allowed Zaragoza too much freedom in the final third and paid the price by conceding an injury time winner.

Conceding is what I expect both teams to do tonight so the "Yes" option in the both teams to score market is recommended at 13/20.

In the 90 minute market I originally picked out a home win. However, given what I have written about Sevilla's upturn in fortunes, I am no longer convinced.

A draw (12/5) could be the answer, but I've decided that I will only bet in-play on the match outcome. However, I love the goalscorer bets and will take pre match punts on Prieto as an e/w first scorer (9/1) and Fabiano anytime (6/5).

I can't pick a scoreline because I can't decide on the outcome, but I will recommend over 2.5 goals for another pre match punt - available at 10/11.

This game should prove to be an excellent choice for the TV cameras, so enjoy and consider betting in-play on the 90 minute market.

Deportivo La Coruna v Barcelona, 21:00-Sky Sports 1

Previously on fire with a staggering average of five goals per game, Pep Guardiola's Barcelona (2/9) have struggled offensively in their last three games and it appears that the cracks are beginning to show.

I would not get too worried, I don't expect the Catalans to start losing league games, but the previously un-considerable under 2.5 goals (6/4) would have lined your pockets in two of Barca's last three games and I think it's worth a punt again tonight.

Those three games were 0-0 and 1-1 cup draws with Athletic, along with last weekend's 2-1 league home defeat of Levante. In all three games, Barca faced teams who plugged the middle and sat back waiting to counter attack.

With Messi (2/1 to score first, 2/5 anytime) being the key player and not a starter in all three matchups, Barca struggled with such defensive tactics and once ahead in two of the three games, even tied to protect their lead by shockingly defending deep their selves.

Such a tactic is unthinkable for Barca, but currently a reality of their Messi dependence. However, when the Argentine has not been available, Pedro (7/2 to score first, 10/11 anytime) has proved dependable and has scored first in each of his last two games.

Scoring with unusual regularity for tonight's hosts, 12th placed Deportivo (10/1), has been Adrian (11/1 to score first, 4/1 anytime), who scored a brace in his clubs surprising 2-1 away defeat of Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

Athletic may have had one eye on their pre - mentioned cup tie with Barca when they faced Deportivo, but even still, to win in Bilbao is very impressive and not something many teams do.

Overall I'm not forecasting total misery for Barca tonight, but the draw is tempting at 5/1 and, along with a Deportivo + 2 goals handicap bet (priced at 6/5) that covers the draw, a highly unlikely Depor win and a one goal Barca win, I'm willing to take a chance on Depor grinding out a 0-0 draw at 16/1.

Nil -nil is exactly what I expect Lotina's boys to play for, and while I could easily be way off the mark considering the history of their opponents, if you are going to go for an upset in a Barca league game, tonight seems like one of the best opportunities you'll get this season.

Whatever you choose, enjoy the action and don't forget that you can always bet in-play with William Hill Online





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