Spanish La Liga previews: Saturday 28 August
Three games from the Liga BBVA including two live games shown live on Sky Sports 1.
First off let me say that I’m glad to be back and exited about the first weekend of La Liga. I must also say that, despite being English, I was ecstatic with Spain’s World Cup win; a victory for the purists indeed.
Anyway, as usual treat the previews as pointers for each game. If I am very confident of something I’ll write a direct and clear recommendation beneath the preview (note long shot recommendations are termed as “worth a punt”). If not then treat them as they read, its honest writing with an aim of helping you decide what to bet on.
Hercules (6/4) are a club based in Alicante who return to the Primera Liga after a thirteen year absence. They finished second in last year’s Segunda standings, two places above their heartbreaking finish the year before when they lost out to Tenerife by 3 points.
A team with consistency then and one that has balanced the numbers well in terms of transfer activity. Nobody of note worth mentioning coming or going- for betting purposes we’ll wait and see if a relatively consistent scorer emerges over the coming weeks.
Basque giants Athletic Bilbao (8/5) hit the ground running at the start of last season, but suffered an alarming drop in form after their early success. Perhaps the small squad, too many competitions factor was the biggest reason for this.
They did, however, reverse their fortunes after exiting the Europa league, finishing in 8th position. Not high enough to get them back into the ludicrously named second tier Uefa competition, but then maybe that’s a good thing given what I’ve just written.
Despite having several good youngsters coming through the system, Athletic over achieved last season and while expectations will still be reasonably high, the main priority will be to avoid relegation-something this historic team has never suffered.
In a couple of years the Basque starlets will have developed (or been sold on!) and Athletic may well have a squad big enough to cope with the rigours of regular European competition.
For now I expect them to lose this seasonal opener. After all, Bilbao are famously fearsome at home and meek away. Make no mistake, the upset here would be the promoted club losing to the established team.
If you fancy the upset then you might want to pick from Llorente (5/1 first scorer, 5/4 anytime), Torquero (13/2 first scorer, 15/8 anytime) or teenage sensation Iker Muniain (8/1 first scorer, 11/4 anytime) in the goalscoring stakes. Not for me, but then each to his own.
Recommendation: Hercules (6/4)
Well done to the Anchovies for avoiding relegation last season. I must admit that I had them marked for defeat at home to Real Madrid in the final game of the season, but Sergio Duda’s well worked goal put paid to that theory, enabling Malaga to draw 1-1 with title chasing Los Blancos.
Malaga’s survival has lead to a new dawn at the club, with Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani becoming the first foreign owner of a Primera Liga team. Like any sheik, Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani has more than a few pounds in his bank account and expectations are growing that, with former Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira onboard, the club can challenge for a Europa League berth.
Former Malaga favourite Eliseu (11/1 to score first, 4/1 anytime) has been re-signed from Lazio and the club have also added several players from the junior teams.
Enough to get them into Europe..... I don’t think so! Still, the manager has pedigree and we have a few days of the transfer window left, along with opportunities to strengthen the squad in January; dependant on said activity, I’d say they finish between 8th and 15th in the final Primera Liga standings.
For now Malaga (19/10) must concentrate on beating a rebuilt Valencia (5/4) team in this live on Sky offering, and a big rebuild it has been! Gone are star striker David Villa, attacking midfielder David Silva, defender/defensive midfielder Marchena, reserve striker Zigic, young defender Alexis and long serving stalwart Baraja.
As replacements Los Che have brought in Roberto Soldado (forward-Getafe), Tino Costa (attacking midfielder-Montpellier), Mehmet Topal (defensive midfielder-Galatasaray), Artiz Aduriz (forward-Mallorca), Ricardo Costa (defender-Wolfsburg) and Sofiane Feghouli (winger-Grenoble).
Valencia born Soldado is the best of the bunch and will be expected to kick on from his 16 goal haul with Getafe last season and break through the 20 goal barrier.
Here to help him do that is the rather excellent trio of Mata (13/2 to score first, 15/8 anytime), Pablo Hernandez (8/1 to score first, 11/4 anytime) and Ever Banega.
I’ll reserve judgment on the other new signings for the time being, but I don’t expect them to have a big enough impact to give Valencia another top four finish come the end of the season- The Europa league beckons in 2011/12 I think.
Anyway, tonight I envisage a low scoring game (under 2.5 goals is understandably short priced at 7/10), but cannot- no matter how long I spend considering it-decide on the 90 minute outcome of this match. A draw (9/4) is very plausible, but it’s bet in-play only for me.
Should he be cleared fit to play, and as a long shot, I would definitely prefer to take a chance and bet on the pre-mentioned Sergio Duda in the first scorer market. Without doubt the Portuguese free kick expert is Malaga’s best player, and I think he would get a few dead ball opportunities today with Valencia going in for some harder than usual tackling during the final months of last season.
Once again a team from Valencia features on Sky Sports as newly promoted Levante (12/5) host Andalusian powerhouse Sevilla (evens) at the Ciutat de Valencia.
A powerhouse Los Rojiblancos may be, but they will lose a lot of steam should Brazillian striker Luis Fabiano (7/2 to score first, 10/11 anytime) leave the club. This on/off saga has reared its head every transfer window for at least 2 years, yet Fabiano always stays!
Perhaps he will have finally departed by the time you read this, perhaps the fact that he is now cup tied in the Champions league will keep him in Southern Spain until January. The only thing I am sure of is that Sevilla will not qualify for Europe’s top prize if he leaves.
However the above scenario plays out it’s a make or break year for former Real Madrid and Almeria striker Alvaro Negredo (5/1 to score first, 5/4 anytime), now in his second season at Sevilla.
A player of great skill and technique, Negredo had occasional moments of Brilliance last season but was consistently inconsistent and sent off more times than I care to research. He also scored in his own net! Given this you’d have to think that things can only get better.
Sevilla’s defence certainly needs to get better after the departure of experienced centre back Sebastian Squillaci. The French international has been replaced with Alexis of Valencia, a player who has yet to fill the potential he showed as a teenager.
It’s highly debatable whether Alexis can fill the new Arsenal defenders boots, but the younger Juan Cala was highly impressive in his handful of appearances at the end of last season, and notably a goalscoring defender. However, it’s unclear as to whether he will start this game and Sevilla have been in terrible form recently.
Such terrible form that you have to at least give give consideration to the theory that things will get worse before they get better. I expected Sevilla to get trounced in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup and warned friends off betting on them on Tuesday night, but I did not expect to see Braga score goal after goal in the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
You must, however, give credit to Braga as they were very well organised defensively and devastating on the counter attack. I expect they’ll cause a few more shocks in Europe before the seasons out.
I hope they don’t, but I expect Levante to go straight back down to the Segunda division. Trying to help avoid that happening will be former Deportivo midfielder Sergio (20/1 to score first, 7/1 anytime); a player who’s experience will be vital with so many young players on loan at the club.
It’s worth adding that Sevilla always win this fixture, home and away, but confidence is very important and they have very little of that right now. Anything can happen on the opening day, I sense an upset!
Recommendation: Levante (12/5)
Whatever you choose enjoy the action and don’t forget that you can bet In-Play with William Hill Online