Sunday's La Liga previews
Massive credit must be given to Hercules (12/5) and their coach, Esteban Vigo, for their stunning 2-0 victory over Barcelona in the Nou Camp last Saturday.
Indeed, stunning is the right word to use for such a masterful tactical display over a tired, weakened Barca side. But can they do it again; this time at home to second placed Valencia (21/20)?
I think not, and I'll tell you why: Without the ball, Hercules crammed all of their players into the middle of the pitch and consequently Barca were forced out wide to create chances. With three small in stature forwards on the pitch and without a plan b target man to call on from the bench, Barcelona's crosses fell straight into the path of Hercules tall, strong defenders, who were easily able to snuff out any aerial danger.
Valencia, however, are very effective down the flanks and can boast two great headers of the ball in striker's Aduriz (5/1 to score first, 11/8 anytime) and Soldado (11/2 to score first, 6/4 anytime).
It remains to be seen if Che coach Unai Emery will start with two forwards in this game, particularly given that it's an away fixture, but you must fancy one of the two to score today if the tactics are as expected.
Not expected was the brace of Nelson Valdez (8/1 to score first, 9/4 anytime) last weekend; his second goal was so well taken that you must assume he is operating with great confidence right now.
Clearly operating with much less confidence in front of goal is David Trezeguet (13/2 to score first, 7/4 anytime), who did not please me by taking a touch too many when fluffing an easy scoring opportunity at the death of last weekend's game; obviously I won't be backing him today because of this.
Recommendation: Valencia (21/20)
The only concerns you should have in backing The Yellow Submarines in this local derby are that Villarreal (evens) do not win often away from home and played in the Europa league on Thursday night.
Neither are enough to put me off as the early signs indicate that Levante are well on their way to replicating, the now second division, Xerez's start to last season's Primera Liga campaign.
Levante (12/5) have played two games so far, losing both 4-1: With want away Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi (5/1 to score first, 11/8 anytime) scoring a brace in Villarreal's 4-0 defeat of Espanyol last weekend, those statistics do not bode well for Luis Garcia Plaza's cheese grater defence.
Also of worry to the Levante coach will be Brazilian striker Nilmar (5/1 to score first, 11/8 anytime) and Spanish midfielder Borja Valero (11/4 anytime scorer), both of whom (Valero spectacularly) scored at El Madrigal last Sunday.
The double result of Villarreal/Villarreal (23/10) may appeal to some of you, but given possible tiredness from the subs trip to Zagreb, I'm just going for a straight 90 minute win.
Recommendation: Villarreal (evens)
Los Verdiblancos had a few good chances in their 1-0 away defeat to Valencia last weekend, with stalwart Pedro Munitis and Werder Bremen owned striker Rosenberg the main culprits.
However, those two and their Racing (6/5) team mates have a great opportunity to get back on track when they face a Zaragoza (2/1) team that, at times, played like a team from the regional leagues of Spain during their astonishing 5-3 home defeat to Malaga.
A little bit of credit must be given to Zaragoza's Brazillian defender/defensive midfielder, Edmilson, who scored his first ever La Liga goal in last weekend's defeat. I would not, however, suggest backing him again as that was his first league goal in any league for 7 years!
Anyway, Zaragoza won't be five goals down in 34 minutes this time, but they will probably lose.
Recommendation: Racing (6/5)
This is it, the biggest and most enticing clash of the Spanish footballing weekend! Can Atletico (18/5) add further misery to Barcelona's title campaign by beating them in front of the loud, passionate Vicente Calderon crowd?
Why not, Los Colchoneros have won this fixture for the last three years and are in great domestic form having won both of their Primera Liga fixtures so far this season.
In both games - a 4-0 defeat home defeat of Sporting and a 2-1 win away in Bilbao - Uruguayan hotshot and column favourite Diego Forlan (8/1 to score first, 11/4 anytime) scored. World Cup Golden Ball winner Diego also scored the opening goal in Atletico's 2-1 defeat of Barcelona last season (a repeat of that is priced at 80/1 in a scorecast; with 3-1 and the same scorer an amazing 170/1!) and is my favourite to once again bag the first goal tonight.
Other bets featuring the two time European Golden Shoe winner that are worth consideration are: The wincast bet of Forlan to score first and Atletico to win (16/1), the anytime wincast bet of Forlan to score at anytime and Atletico to win (13/2) and, at stretch, Forlan and Messi as anytime scorers doubled (13/2).
Speaking of the reigning World Player of the year, Messi (7/2 to score first, 10/11 anytime), the diminutive Argentine could not score in Barca's impossible to predict defeat to Hercules last weekend, but did score a brace in the Catalans 5-1 midweek hammering of Olympiacos in the Champions league; one of those goals was truly outstanding and a delight to witness.
Also on the score sheet in that game were Pedro (7/1 to score first, 2/1 anytime), David Villa (10/3 first scorer, 4/5 anytime) and Panathinaikos winger/forward Sidney Govou!
Frenchman Govou's goal showed that Barcelona (4/6) are susceptible to pace at the back when pushing up the pitch, and Atletico have a few players, besides Forlan, who will look to exploit that on the counter: Reyes (11/2 anytime scorer), Simao (4/1 anytime scorer) and the hopefully fit Sergio "Kun" Aguero (8/1 first scorer, 11/4 anytime).
To finalise the scoring talk, the very short priced over 2.5 goals (4/9) and yes in the both teams to score market (4/9) are two bets that have come off in nearly every meeting between these two teams in recent years.
Despite 4/6 being a good price for Barca in a league game, I see no point in backing them given the history between the teams at the Vicente Calderon. If you disagree, also consider the double result bets of Atletico/Barca (20/1) and Draw/Barca (9/2).
Recommendation: Atletico (18/5)
Worth a punt: Forlan e/w first scorer (8/1)
A possible explanation for The Anchovies quick fire ascension to a five goal lead relates to the alleged offer from Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al - Thani of 6,000 euro per player should they beat Zaragoza last weekend.
And win they did, with some quality goals from former Real Madrid trainee Fernando (12/1 to score first, 5/1 anytime), ex Arsenal player Quincy Owusu - Abeyie (9/1 to score first, 10/3 anytime) and teenager Juanmi (7/1 to score first, 2/1 anytime). Most of them came via assists from Portuguese speedster Eliseu, who has impressed since coming back to Malaga.
Malaga (9/4) did leak three goals - 2 of them in the second half - in their eventual 5-3 victory, but look well placed to be the straw that breaks the back of the camel named Antonio Alvarez tonight!
I told you last week how Sevilla (11/10) manager Alvarez was under pressure following the Rojiblancos Champions league exit, and last Sunday's scoreless draw at home to Deportivo can only have made the pressure grow.
Striker Alvaro Negredo was guilty of spurning chance after chance in that game, and substitute Fabiano (9/2 to score first, 6/5 anytime) was brought on too late to have an impact.
Brazilian Fabiano did, however, start Sevilla's 1-0 Thursday night Europa league home defeat to PSG and, obviously, could not find the back of the net once more. The only argument you could currently make in favour of backing him is that he is no stranger to scoring in these Andalusian derbies, having notched a brace in last year's 2-2 draw at La Rosaleda (a repeat of that scoreline is priced at 14/1).
Whichever strikers start for Sevilla, I expect them to lose tonight. After all, there could be extra money in it for the Malaga players!
Recommendation: Malaga (9/4)
Enjoy the action and don't forget that you can bet in-play with William Hill Online.