Saturday's La Liga previews
Almeria v Espanyol, 17:00
Despite Barcelona fielding a weakened team in the Copa del Rey 2nd leg semi final midweek, Almeria (8/5) were once again beaten to nil by Barcelona on home ground.
Three -nil was the score on the night, meaning that Barcelona have now netted sixteen goals against Almeria in only three games!
I'd hoped that Almeria could at least score once midweek and recommended Ulloa (6/1 to score first, 7/4 anytime) as worth a punt to do so. Sadly, the Argentinean striker did not even play in the game! Not much I can do about that.
Espanyol's Sergio Garcia (6/1 to score first, 7/4 anytime), given a rare start, could and should have given his team a point in their one-nil home defeat to Villarreal last time out.
I went for a draw in that game and Espanyol (17/10) could have easily got one, particularly in the first half when they played so well. The winner was a cracking strike against the run of play though, and Villarreal are clearly the third best (and not that far of second either) side in Spain.
Luis Garcia (7/1 to score first, 2/1 anytime) is the Catalans man of the moment with four assists and two goals in his last four games and should have further influence today.
A couple of months ago I would not have hesitated in picking a home win when Espanyol are away, but with so many surprise road victories under their belt recently - the most recent of which was a three-one win at Getafe - there is plenty of hesitation amongst your writer.
I also hesitated over picking an Espanyol win in that game with Getafe and changed my mind to a draw. With that in mind for tonight, I'm going with Espanyol- draw no bet at even money.
Athletic Bilbao v Sporting Gijon, 17:00
Famed for being great at home but poor away, Athletic (4/6) beat Atletico Madrid 2-0 in the Vicente Calderon last weekend. A shocking result you might think, but then Atletico are sliding and it was definitely the right time to strike.
Previously on the verge of being sacked, Gijon boss Manuel Preciado has motivated his team into loosening the noose around his neck by winning three games in a row.
One of those wins, their most recent, was away to Mallorca last weekend. Without a road win to their name and facing a team who - like Bilbao - are famed for being good at home, Sporting (4/1) shockingly ran out 4-0 winners on the island.
Mallorca were not at their best, but the visitors played well, forced an own goal and scored three more from only three shots on target!
Impressive stuff from Sporting, but can Diego Castro (9/1 to score first, 10/3 anytime) and his teammates spring another surprise at San Mames this evening?
On home ground, Athletic will probably lose to a weaker, in-form team this season and it could be Sporting. However, I'm not going against the Basque's winning, even if they have failed to beat Gijon in their last four meetings.
A draw (11/4) could be considered a plausible punt with two in-form teams meeting, but I think that the safest bet is the attractively priced "Yes" (21/20) in the both teams to score market. With that punt you need not even make a decision on the 90 minute market.
As to who will score, well I can't recommend Llorente (7/2 to score first, 10/11 anytime) with the big man missing a penalty last weekend, but Toquero (5/1 to score first, 5/4 anytime) bagged the brace that beat Atleti and could be your man.
My man comes with a big price and has scored in each of Sporting's last three away games. He is the pre-mentioned Diego Castro.
Recommendations: Both teams to score "Yes" (21/20)
Worth a punt: Diego Castro e/w first scorer (9/1)
Getafe v Deportivo La Coruna, 17:00
Losing for the third time in a row, Getafe (4/5) were defeated 2-0 away to Levante last weekend. In such poor form, the Madrid based club must be considered as being in a mini crisis.
Going 2-0 up at home to a less than inspired Sevilla, Deportivo (7/2) found their selves 3-2 down after the Rojiblancos tried to complete a remarkable second half comeback.
Thankfully for coach Lotina, Laure (50/1 to score first, 20/1 anytime) scored a late equaliser to give Deportivo a point. A point was the least they deserved in all fairness and they'll be looking for at least that today.
Depor's Lassad (7/1 to score first, 2/1 anytime) scored a brace (10/1 for a repeat) against Sevilla and is a decent shout to score today, but Deportivo rarely score on their travels and that must be taken into consideration.
What must also be taken into consideration is that Getafe have conceded ten goals in their last three matches at home, so maybe former two time top scorer in the Argentinean Primera Division and Depor debutant Jose Sand (15/2 to score first, 9/4 anytime) can net one tonight?
Sand, on-loan from the Abu Dhabi club Al Ain S.C.C, has scored on his debut for each of his last two clubs, Argentinean side Lanus being the first.
A lot of my goalscorer picks have gone wrong recently, but hopefully this new one will go right. Overall I can't fully trust Depor to win away, even if Getafe are terrible right now. I'd therefore suggest a wager on the draw no bet market.
Recommendation: Deportivo, draw no bet (9/4)
Worth a punt: Sand e/w first scorer (15/2)
Osasuna v Mallorca, 17:00
To say I was stunned to watch Mallorca lose 4-0 at home to Sporting would be an understatement. For a team with such a good home record - 6 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats at the time - I did not give any consideration to the islanders losing to a team hovering around the relegation positions that had yet to win on the road so far this season.
Mallorca were definitely not at their best last weekend, but Sporting took every one of their three shots on target and played very well.
What we are to expect from Mallorca (9/4) this week I'm not sure, but given that they are usually poor on the road, I won't be backing them to win away.
Away is, however, where Laudrup's boys have sprung the odd surprise against big teams like Sevilla or Valencia, but such upsets seem like distant memories given that one has not happened for a couple of months.
Osasuna (6/5) cannot always be trusted to win at home, but they did stunningly beat Real Madrid 1-0 in Pamplona last weekend and the same score sounds like a sensible punt today.
Just who will score I don't know, but last week's hero, Camunas (15/2 to score first, 9/4 anytime),along with Walter Pandiani (9/2 to score first, 6/5 anytime) could be the men to choose from.
Recommendation: Osasuna (6/5)
Worth a punt: Correct score of 1-0 to Osasuna (11/2)
Real Zaragoza v Racing Santander, 17:00
Though they were heavily defeated at Espanyol a few weeks ago, Zaragoza (21/20) won their last away game 2-1 at Malaga and generally have been in excellent form at home.
Indeed, Javier Aguirre's boys have won their last three games on home soil and will no doubt be very confident of making it four in four at La Romareda today.
Racing (13/5) were unlucky to not have taken all three points from their Monday night 1-1 draw with Valencia, but their draw did at least break a two game losing streak.
Nahuelpan (7/1 to score first, 2/1 anytime) scored Racing's goal against Los Che, but that's was only his second of the season and the first one was months ago.
Scoring for Zaragoza in Malaga were Bertolo (15/2 to score first, 9/4 anytime) and Sinama Pongolle (5/1 to score first, 5/4 anytime), the latter of which showed world class touch and technique when scoring the winner.
Though flashes of brilliance are rare for Pongolle, hopefully he can show some consistency today and help Zaragoza win by either a 1-0 or 2-1 scoreline - priced at 11/2 and 8/1 respectively.
Recommendation: Zaragoza (21/20)
Villarreal v Levante, 19:00-Sky Sports 4
Last time out, Villarreal (2/7) beat Espanyol 1-0 in Barcelona. On the scoresheet once again was former Manchester United striker Giuseppi Rossi (11/4 to score first, 8/13 anytime), who now has 12 Primera Division goals so far this season.
For the third time in a row, Santi Cazorla (5/1 to score first, 5/4 anytime) set Rossi up to score. Besides anyone playing for Barca, I honestly can't think of a more potent midfield - striker partnership in La Liga.
Levante (9/1) certainly don't have a potent partnership like The Yellow Submarines do, but Caicedo scored in Levante's 2-0 home defeat of Getafe last weekend and has an impressive tally of 8 goals in 15 games.
However, Caicedo has only scored once away from home this season and Villarreal rarely concede at El Madrigal, so I wouldn't bank on the Ecuadorian netting one tonight.
I wouldn't bank on Levante getting anything tonight actually, so "No" (7/10) in the both teams to score market, just Villarreal (evens) in the teams to score market and Villarreal/Villarreal (7/10) in the double result market are all worth your consideration.
Villarreal have never lost to Levante in the top flight and I don't see that changing today.
Recommendation: Rossi anytime wincast (4/5)
Worth a punt: Villarreal - 2 goals (15/8)
Barcelona v Atletico Madrid, 21:00-Sky Sports 4
Though it took them right until the end to finally put their win beyond doubt, Barcelona (1/6) comfortably beat Hercules 3-0 in Alicante last weekend.
On the scoresheet with a brace in the closing minutes was Messi (2/1 to score first, 2/5 anytime), with the red hot Pedro (3/1 to score first, 8/11 anytime) scoring the opener.
In the Copa del Rey 2nd leg semi final away to Almeria on Wednesday, Barcelona - with a largely second string team - again won 3-0 (priced at 7/1 for a repeat tonight).
Already eliminated from the cup, Atletico (14/1) continued losing ways last weekend, this time by a score of 2-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao.
Los Colchoneros are in a major slump and I don't think it will stop until the coach leaves. No question, the Atletico directors do not help the team by selling players like Simao then replacing them with Juanfran, but the coach has lost the dressing room and I can't honestly remember the last time Atleti did not get a hiding in the Nou Camp.
Madrid's second team usually score in Barcelona though (7/10 both to score), and Kun Aguero (11/1 to score first, 4/1 anytime) has an excellent record of five goals in his last six games against the Catalans.
Though currently out of form, Diego Forlan (also 11/1 to score first, 4/1 anytime) has also scored more than a few in Barcelona and, like Aguero, might be motivated enough to try and nick one tonight.
In conclusion, I can't see anything other than a one sided Barca win and am happy to bet on the ninety minute handicap market.
Recommendation: Barcelona - 2 goals (11/10)
Worth a punt: Barcelona - 3 goals (5/2)
Whatever you choose, enjoy the action and don't forget that you can always monitor the game and bet in-play at Williamhill.com.