Saturday's La Liga previews
Zaragoza v Malaga, 17:00
Zaragoza (4/5) secured three vital points in their 3-0 demolition of Valencia at La Romareda last Saturday, and will be expected to take another three when they host fellow relegation battlers Malaga (3/1) this evening.
Based on previous results, I feared that The Blanquillos would draw with Los Che but picked an away win anyway.
Despite Valencia fielding a weakened side, they created more chances and dominated possession until 6 foot 8 inch Serbian striker Zigic was sent off on the stroke of half time.
Former Real Madrid right back Diogo (28/1 to score first, 8/1 anytime) had put Zaragoza in the lead with a terrific strike from distance in the 41st minute, but the sending off was definitely the turning point.
Zaragoza punished ten man Valencia in the second half, with former Los Che utility man Arizmendi (6/1 to score first, 13/8 anytime) and January signing Jiri Jarosik (16/1 to score first, 9/2 anytime) completing the scoring.
A few hours prior to the Zaragoza - Valencia match, William Hill Online sponsored Malaga had given me a losing start in my Saturday match predictions by drawing at home to Tenerife.
Tenerife had the better of the play in the first half, but The Anchovies dominated the second period and took the lead through Apono (14/1 to score first, 4/1 anytime).
It looked like game over from that point onwards but disaster struck when Malaga's Danish defender Patrick Mtiliga clumsily felled Nino to concede and 85th minute penalty.
Dropping two points in this manner has left Malaga in 15th position with 31 points, 2 more than Zaragoza who are 17th. Both teams need the win, but Zaragoza need it slightly more and are at home.
I think the best bet is a simple home win (4/5)
Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao, 19:00-Sky Sports 4
A Zlatan Ibrahimovic tap in gave Barca all three points in Mallorca last weekend- can high flying Athletic Bilbao fare any better in the Nou Camp on Saturday night?
Probably not, but they do have the advantage of a few days extra rest given Barcelona's 2-2 Champions League draw with Arsenal on Wednesday evening.
Barcelona (1/6) looked every bit World Champions for twenty minutes at the Emirates, and appeared set to win about four or five nil until Arsenal staged a magnificent comeback.
Sad as it was to see Cesc miss out on a trip home by being booked, you have to admire the courage of the La Massia product for playing out the closing stages of that game while clearly impeded by injury.
The only thing I'm looking forward to more than the return leg is next week's likely title decider, the biggest game in World football, the Classico-Real Madrid v Barcelona.
Victory today is essential for Barcelona, and despite the criticism he's received recently, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (11/4 to score first, 8/13 anytime) is the most in form goalscorer on offer today. Including his well taken double in London, the Swede has five goals in his last four games and consequently is growing in confidence.
Messi (9/4 to score first, 1/2 anytime, 3/1 to score two or more and 10/1 to net a hat-trick) has not scored for a few games, but could wreak havoc today should he start.
Despite improved away form this season, Athletic (14/1) always struggle to take points from the Catalan capitol and will therefore need every advantage they can get.
Handicaps are only of interest to me in-play, but should you fancy a pre-match punt bets giving Athletic 2 and 3 goal starts are available at 23/20 and 2/5 respectively.
Llorente (9/1 to score first, 10/3 anytime) was fantastic in Athletic's 4-3 defeat of Racing, but is a player I generally only back at San Mames where he is most effective.
His striker partner Toquero (11/1 to score first, 4/1 anytime) has also impressed recently and scored Athletic's equaliser when the two teams met in Bilbao last November.
I expect Barcelona to win but am not interested in backing them at 1/6. As with the handicaps mentioned earlier, I would suggest betting In-Play.
If I had to choose a bet pre-match, given that it seems to take Barca more than 45 minutes to take the lead in recent matches, I would take a chance on draw/Barcelona in the double result market (15/4).