Thursday's Copa del Rey previews
Amazingly, Almeria (11/10) - a small club in Southern Spain that was promoted to the top flight a few seasons ago - beat Mallorca 4-3 in each of their fifth round cup matchups!
The most impressive player in both fixtures was Almeria's skilful, electric paced winger/forward Pablo Piatti (6/1 to score first, 7/4 anytime). Piatti scored twice in the second leg and impressed Sky Sports viewers with two fantastic goals in Almeria's shock 3-1 away defeat of Sevilla in the league a few weeks ago.
Relegation threatened Almeria currently occupy 19th position in the Spanish top flight, but did get the better of tonight's visitors when the two clubs last faced off.
Two nil was the score and while a repeat of that scoreline is not unlikely, Deportivo have improved defensively since that evening in September and will probably play for a 0-0 draw tonight.
Spanish Champions in 1999/2000 and cup winners in 2002, Deportivo were once known as "Super Depor" for their attacking verve and clam defensive play.
In reality, though they've had some great players in the last 15 years -Bebeto, Rivaldo, Djalminha and Mauro Silva to name a few, Depor were always punching above their weight.
Without the money brought in through Champions league football since the 2004/05 season, Northerners Deportivo (5/2), a small club in city of only 200,000 inhabitants, can no longer compete financially and have become a team that finishes anywhere from 8th to 13th position.
Depor did, however, enjoy a phenomenal start to last season, hovering around fifth position at the Christmas break. But safe from relegation by then, they subsequently lost countless games and finished in tenth position.
Top division survival is all they covet now and sadly Deportivo play for draws, certainly every time they are away from home. Away in the first leg of the last cup round, Depor drew 1-1 with Cordoba.
They needed extra time, but Depor surprisingly scored three goals against Cordoba in the return leg. With all three was Adrian (7/1 to score first, 2/1 anytime).
To create chances, the boys from A Coruna do have a skilful but injury prone veteran in Juan Carlos Valeron (16/1 to score first, 6/1 anytime), an old school foot on the ball playmaker who has been at the club since the 2000/01 season.
To conclude, if any of the midweek cup ties are tentative, low scoring affairs, this is the most likely candidate. Average- weak teams with small squads that will be playing their fourth game in two weeks could very well produce a stalemate.
If I'm wrong on this, you can always bet in-play and re-assess your options. I'll certainly being doing that should a goal be scored.
Recommendation: Correct score of 0-0 (priced at 7/1)
Spain's most successful club, second placed Real Madrid (2/7), demolished Levante 8-0 in the first leg of their fifth round tie, but stunningly lost the second leg 2-0 in Valencia.
Despite realistically having no need to even score a goal and hence deciding to field a team filled largely with inexperienced youngsters, FIFA World Coach of the Year winner Jose Mourinho did not expect his charges too actually lose the second leg.
A few days after that game, an almost full strength Real side (Argentinean international Higuain is injured) came from behind to beat Villarreal 4-2 in the league.
Scoring a hat-trick on Sunday in the Bernabeu was another man associated with FIFA awards, former world player of the year Ronaldo (9/4 to score first, 1/2 anytime).
Although former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso makes Los Blancos (the whites) tick, Real are far less likely to complete comebacks or win tight matches without the goals of the self titled CR7.
Anyone that forecasts Spanish league results will likely tell you that Atletico Madrid matches are usually a nightmare to pick. Why? Well, they sometimes win away games when they are not supposed to and often draw or, very rarely, lose to teams they should beat at home.
Evidence of the last two Atletico faults can be found in their recent home draw with Racing Santander (a team that constantly fights relegation) and their defeat at home to Espanyol at the end of November.
Ironically, Atletico (9/1) exacted revenge on Espanyol by defeating them 1-0 in the first leg of their fifth round cup tie in Madrid, before drawing the second leg 1-1 in Barcelona.
As the most likely Atletico player to score with strike partner Diego Forlan (9/1 to score first, 10/3 anytime) out of form and unfit, netting the first goal in the second leg was Kun Aguero (8/1 to score first, 11/4 anytime), a player who, along with an Atletico win, was tipped up by myself for Monday night's league clash away to Hercules (the small team from Alicante that famously beat Barcelona 2-0 in the Nou Camp).
To my absolute horror, having drawn a blank in seventy minutes of play, Aguero was substituted with Atletico four down after Hercules shockingly blew them away in the first half.
Perhaps I should have looked for another upset in that much, but the Hercules camp was supposedly in disarray with broken morale after one of their players complained and went public about the club failing to pay most of its playing squad.
Overall I think that the biggest chances of an unexpected "Atletico moment" tonight will arise via one of Atletico taking the lead, holding Real to a draw at half time or only losing by one goal.
Real have had Atletico's number in recent years, it's been proven time after time after time. Most recently, Los Colchoneros (the mattress makers) lost 2-0 away to their cross city rivals in November.
Not much has changed since then and I don't see anything other than a Real win tonight. Given the big price and failure in his last game, I can, however, see Aguero, in typical Atletico fashion, netting one when he's not expected to.
Recommendation: Aguero e/w first scorer (8/1)
Enjoy the cup action and don't forget that whatever you choose pre - match, you can always bet in-play on a large variety of different markets with William Hill Online.