Sunday's La Liga previews
I expected Juan Manuel Lillo's Almeria (5/4) to at least manage a draw away to hapless Racing last weekend, but watched in horror as they put in a lacklustre performance to lose 1-0.
While nothing could have been done to stop Pedro Munitis's goal, it could have been 3 or 4 nil if not for the superb performance of the Almeria keeper, Diego Alves.
Hopefully Alves will not be required to make too many saves this weekend, for if he is, Lillo could be that bit closer to falling of the tightrope he's been nervously walking on for the past few weeks.
Considering the tightrope talk makes the 90 minute market a little dicey as sense says that you should go for the home win here, but confidence and circumstances depict that you could look in the other direction.
In the other direction are Hercules (11/5), a team who, since losing at home to Bilbao and Valencia, have improved results at home by beating Sevilla and drawing with second placed Villarreal.
However, with one win (Barca), one draw (Zaragoza) and one defeat (Getafe), the Alicante based club have progressively gotten worse on their travels.
In order to improve their fortunes on the road, Hercules must look towards David Trezeguet and Nelson Valdez (13/2 to score first, 7/4 anytime) for goals. However, due to his red card in the 2-2 draw with Villarreal on Monday night, Trezeguet will miss out today.
Almeria's Uche (11/2 to score first, 6/4 anytime) has scored home and away this season but, after I upgraded him to the worth a punt recommendation last week, failed to score in Santander.
Whether Uche does or doesn't score today, and despite the reservations I stated earlier, I think that Almeria (5/4) will do just enough to win this matchup.
I'm hoping that just enough translates to a correct score of 1-0 to Almeria, priced at 11/2. Given this scoreline pick, while considering that Hercules have failed to score in five of their last six away games, under 2.5 goals (4/7) and "No" (8/11) in the both teams to score market seem appealing.
Well I never! If there was one result I thought I had a high probability of getting right last Sunday, it was Mallorca to beat Espanyol at Son Moix. In a pitiful day for my predictions, Pochettino's Espanyol won 1-0 on the island, and they did it with 10 men.
Indeed, the Catalans survived 53 minutes after Pablo Osvaldo's seemingly harsh sending off and, amazingly, had the better of the second half, spurning several chances to double their lead.
Espanyol's lead came via the penalty spot after Luis Garcia was felled by another Garcia, Mallorca's Kevin. The goal arrived five minutes before the elbow related sending off and, for a team who had yet to gain a point or even score a goal away from home, went totally against the form book.
Perhaps we will have to make adjustments to the form book, more than likely that game was a one off. Anyway, Espanyol (4/5) are at home tonight and I won't be deviating from going for the usual home win when moderate opposition are in town.
Moderate opposition is a fair way to describe Levante, who gained their first home win of the season by beating Real Sociedad 2-1 last weekend. On the scoresheet that day were Levante's Del Horno and Caicedo (15/2 to score first, 2/1 anytime).
Staying with scorers, Levante's Sergio (14/1 to score first, 4/1 anytime) has scored in each of his last two away games and could therefore be worth a small punt to make it three in three this afternoon.
Anyone wanting a punt in the double result market should consider that in two of Espanyol's three home games (all wins), Espanyol/Espanyol (2/1) has been a winning bet.
However, confidence will be high in the Levante (7/2) camp after recent successes and given that they have scored twice in the first half of their three away games, a 1-1 draw sounds plausible for a half time score (8/1).
One all could also be deemed a plausible scoreline for full time, but I prefer to take chances on 2-1 to Espanyol (8/1) along with 1-0 to the Catalans (5/1) - Notably 1-0 has been the winning score in two of Espanyol's three home wins so there is substantial merit to betting on it today.
Also with merit - though in complete contradiction to the 1-0 scoreline - is the 23/20 priced "Yes" in the both teams to score market; Espanyol have scored in every home game, Levante in every away fixture.
Michel's Azulones may have lost 2-0 away to Atletico last weekend, but they need not hang their heads in shame as they played well in the Vicente Calderon.
Indeed, Getafe (8/11) created far more chances than their hosts and lost to a side that was motivated by the recent loss of a club legend. Sadly I was unaware of the death when writing last week's preview and had already bet on Getafe to win!
Never mind, Atleti keeper David De Gea was in inspirational form so maybe my punt would not have come off regardless of the untimely passing of Juan Carlos Arteche.
Passing well last weekend were Sporting (4/1), who surprisingly beat Manzano's Sevilla 2-0 at El Molinon with goals from Gaston Sangoy and Diego Castro.
From my experience in writing these previews, a striker like Castro (9/1 to score first, 5/2 anytime) will likely get no more than three goals in a row. Coincidentally, Diego has two goals in his last two games.
With zero goals, or even shots, in their 1-0 Europa league defeat away to Stuttgart were Getafe. Yes, that's right, zero shots!
The upside of the Stuttgart game is that the Getafe coach, Michel, rested several of his players. With that in mind and considering that Sporting are usually poor on their travels, I think the best bet is a 90 minute Getafe win (8/11).
Senor Camacho's Osasuna (23/20) started well in their 0-0 draw away to Deportivo but, due to Camunas's sending off, had to play nigh on sixty minutes with ten men.
Though I don't know what he said, Camunas was sent off for verbally abusing the referee; not at all what I wanted to see as it reduced the chances of my Osasuna (draw no bet) punt coming off.
Worse still, Osasuna's Hungarian midfielder, Krisztian Vadocz, had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside. Add all this to the fact that my top pick for first scorer, Walter Pandiani, missed the game completely and you could argue that I was unlucky to get my stake back on the pre-mentioned punt.
Malaga (5/2) were certainly not unlucky to lose 4-1 at home to Real Madrid last weekend, but backers of both teams to score will be pleased to see that the anchovies maintained their record of scoring in every La Liga match so far this season.
Osasuna have obviously not scored in every game, nor are they generally a high scoring team, but you'd expect Camacho's boys to have at least one goal in them tonight so I'd suggest backing "Yes" in the both teams to score market at 21/20.
As to who scores: If Vadocz believes in karma, maybe he'll bag the first at 14/1, but the more likely scorer - and a player I will put in a 1-0 scorecast every time Osasuna play at home - is Walter "El Rifle" Pandiani at 4/1.
Finally, I suggest a correct score bet of 1-1 (priced at 11/2) along with a 90 minute draw (9/4).
Win a game, lose a game appears to be what we should expect from Sevilla after beating Atletico at home, losing away to Sporting and beating Karpaty Lviv in the Europa league in their last three games.
Based on the above theory, 4/1 shots Athletic should win in the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan tonight. However, La Liga and the Europa league are very different animals and if you were to work purely off domestic league games, Sevilla should win today!
The Rojiblancos Europa league victory was an impressive blend of hard work and neat passing, yet Manzano's charges exhibited anything but those traits in their pathetic 2-0 defeat away to Sporting.
Such a performance highlighted the need for Manzano to bring new in new faces when the transfer window re-opens in January and, should he not improve, sell Fabiano.
Of course, Fabiano signed a new five year deal not so long ago but his performances are akin to a man who thinks he will soon be leaving. Chances are that his wish will be granted in January if Sevilla can find someone who will pay their asking price.
Playing much better than Fabiano is Malian striker Kanoute (5/1 to score first, 11/8 anytime), who scored the winner in Lviv on Thursday evening. Despite Freddie's age, and therefore need for longer rest periods between games, he would still be my top pick in the scorers market today.
My second pick would be Bilbao's much touted target man, Fernando Llorente (7/1 to score first, 15/8 anytime), who scored Athletic's second goal in their 2-1 home defeat of Zaragoza this weekend.
Home is where Bilbao flourish, away is where they usually struggle. Based on that and the fact that Sevilla pretty much always beat Bilbao in the Ramon Sanchez, I fancy a home win (3/4). However, I prefer to wait for a better price in-play.
Finally, I like the look of "Yes" in the both teams to score market at 4/5, along with a very, very small scorecast of Kanoute and 2-1 to Sevilla (35/1).
On paper, this game should be full of goals, goals and more goals! With that in mind, over 2.5 (4/6) and over 3.5 (2/1) are the obvious bets to consider.
However, I must add slight caution by saying that both teams played in the Europa league on Thursday and neither have much depth in their playing squads.
Nevertheless, I'm still going for over 2.5 goals and am pleased that both teams won their European games: Villarreal beat PAOK Salonika 1-0, while Atletico beat Rosenborg 3-0.
Notable scorers for Los Colchoneros were the returning Kun Aguero and the red hot Diego Costa. Interestingly, Costa has not been scoring first in recent games so his anytime scorer price of 15/8 should appeal.
Also of appeal are the Villarreal tandem of Nilmar and Rossi (15/8 for either to score first), both of whom have been excellent for Villarreal so far this season.
Sadly neither player scored in The Yellow Submarines last game, a 2-2 away to Hercules: Left back Capdevilla and, the later to be red carded, Borja Valero were the scorers.
In total, three red cards were handed out that day. Crazy stuff, but what a pity that the subs could not get the win that would have put them top of the table.
Never mind, Villarreal usually beat Atletico at El Madrigal and will expect to do so again today. Last year, it ended 2-1 to the subs and that, along with 3-1 to Villarreal, is a scoreline punt that I suggest you consider for tonight's game; price wise they are 8 and 16/1 respectively.
Also worth consideration is the seemingly "nailed on" both teams to score, available at a short, yet understandable 8/15. If you're searching for a better price, the match x goals bet of Villarreal to win and over 2.5 goals is well worth a punt at 21/10.
Enjoy the action and don't forget that you can bet in-play with William Hill Online.