Sunday's La Liga preview
Losing 1-0 away to Levante last weekend, Espanyol (19/20) tasted defeat for the 6th time in 7 games. Levante, to be fair, are a decent team but Espanyol are clearly suffering from a lack of experience in their young side. Besides selling half of their defence in the last transfer window, Espanyol are riddled with injuries throughout the team and you can no longer be certain that they'll win at home against moderate opposition.
Opponents Deportivo (3/1) beat Sociedad 2-1 on Monday night, with goals from Riki (7/1 to score first, 2/1 anytime) and Adrian (8/1 to score first, 11/4 anytime).
Riki's acrobatic goal was most impressive and, if given a starting berth, he'll look to gain some consistency by scoring again today.
However, Deportivo are probably not good enough to win away at Espanyol so I fancy chancing a draw.
Worth a punt: Draw (23/10)
With Caicedo (5/1 to score first, 5/4 anytime) fit again and back amongst the goals after scoring in his team's 1-0 defeat of Espanyol last weekend, Levante (5/4) confirmed their position as one of the top 4 form team's in the Spanish top flight.
In nowhere near that kind of form, but nevertheless a team that provides the odd away upset are Mallorca (11/5). Last weekend the islanders lost 2-1 at home to another team in the top 4 form teams, Valencia.
After Castro missed a penalty in Mallorca's last game, defender Ramis (25/1 to score first, 8/1 anytime) took the spot kick awarded against Valencia and easily converted it.
I'm not sure about the ever increasing trend of defenders taking penalties, but I am sure on whom I'm going to bet on to score today and which team I think will win.
Recommendation: Levante (5/4)
Worth a punt: Caicedo, e/w first scorer (5/1)
Beating Malaga 1-0 at La Rosaleda last weekend, Osasuna (11/10) will fancy their chances of defeating Racing in Pamplona today.
Racing (14/5), who fluffed a penalty and eventually lost 3-1 at home to Real Madrid last weekend, will think they can take a point from this tie.
In their respective matchup's last time out, Sergio scored an injury time goal for Osasuna, while Bakircioglu netted Racing's goal against Los Blancos.
Giovanni Dos Santos (9/1 to score first, 10/3 anytime) is probably due a goal for Racing and, if fit, Walter Pandiani will be a threat for Osasuna today. Overall, however, there are no consistent scorers to pick from today.
In conclusion, Osasuna are usually strong at home but Racing, despite the returning Marcelino no longer being undefeated in his second spell as manager, should still be confident enough to gain a point today.
Worth a punt: Draw (21/10)
Losing 2-1 away to Deportivo on Monday night, Sociedad (21/20) will expect to return to winning ways against pathetic Malaga (13/5) this afternoon.
After famously conceding defeat away to Real Madrid by fielding a mainly second string side in Malaga's previous game, anchovies coach Pellegrini saw footballing karma throw egg in his face after his rested first teamers lost 1-0 at home Osasuna in the subsequent fixture.
Under massive pressure, but away from the fans that would probably have been baying for his blood if this tie was in Malaga, Pellegrini and his charges must record an unlikely win at San Sebastian today.
I'm slightly nervous that they'll get it, but I feel I have to make the easy pick on paper.
Recommendation: Real Sociedad (21/20)
With a stunning Giuseppi Rossi (33/10 to score first, 8/11 anytime) free kick the only positive that Villarreal (4/7) can take from their 3-1 away defeat to Atletico Madrid last weekend, the Yellow Submarines will be anxious to keep up with third placed Valencia by beating Sporting today.
Sporting (5/1) convincingly defeated Getafe 2-0 in Gijon last weekend, with well worked goals from Miguel De Las Cuevas (12/1 to score first, 5/1 anytime) and Diego Castro (10/1 to score first, 7/2 anytime).
Manuel Preciado's boys are a threat to anyone at home but away, somewhat less so. Nevertheless, with Villarreal looking shaky in recent league games and considering they played away to Leverkusen in the Europa League on Thursday night, I'm willing to take a small punt on Sporting causing a shock today.
Along with Sporting + 1 goal (5/4), the draw (11/4) has appeal, but I've gone for a few of those this weekend and fancy a bigger price.
Maybe I'll have egg on my face for not taking one of the above, maybe Nilmar (4/1 to score first, evens anytime) will start to repeat his early season form and lead the subs to an easy win? Whatever happens, I've made my choice and am willing to bet in-play if I think I've made a bad one.
Worth a punt: Sporting, draw no bet (3/1)
Worth a punt as an e/w first scorer at the price: Diego Castro (10/1)
Though they surprisingly failed to score and eventually lost 2-0 to Athletic last weekend, Sevilla (6/1) did not play that badly in their defeat at San Mames and can count their selves very unlucky with the injuries and defence mistakes that cost them.
Barcelona (4/9) defeated Zaragoza 1-0 at the Nou Camp last weekend with a first half Keita goal. Of course, midweek they comfortably defeated Arsenal 3-1 in the Champions League.
Van Persie's second yellow card finished off Arsenal's slender chances of progressing to the next round, but I don't think his expulsion would have made any difference in which team won. Barcelona were simply by far the better team, make no mistake.
A Messi brace (5/2 for one tonight) along with a well taken Xavi (12/1 to score first, 5/1 anytime) goal sent the gunners packing and, along with Pedro (4/1 to score first, evens anytime) and Villa (7/2 to score first, 10/11 anytime), both should be considered to score tonight.
Though Sevilla have beaten Barca before and are capable of giving them problems, with Fabiano out for 6 weeks and Negredo likely miss out today through injury, I wouldn't hold out much hope of Sevilla getting anything out of this game.
Recommendation: Double result of Barcelona/Barcelona (19/20)
JC's Sunday double: Levante (5/4) and Barcelona (4/9)