Spanish football’s elite top flight, La Liga, is undoubtedly the dominant force in European football in recent times, providing five of the last six finalists in the Champions League, as well as five of the last eight winners.
It doesn’t stop there either, with teams from Spain also ruling the roost in Europe’s second tier tournament, the Europa League, taking four of the last five editions, highlighted by triumphs for goal happy Sevilla in 2014, ’15 and ’16.
Enthused by a domestic league bursting with quality and rivalry, Betting Directory’s Tom Lee, a regular visitor to Spain and its football grounds, takes a weekly look at the best bets on the fixture list…
Some potentially very tight encounters are the hallmark of week 21 on the La Liga calendar, and a game which looks a rock solid candidate to end honours even is Saturday’s midday kick-off between Malaga and Espanyol at La Rosaleda.
After the postponement of Depor against Betis on Friday night due to adverse weather, this opening game of the round of fixtures is 14th against 9th, in a match where Marcelo Romero’s Malaga really need to get something to build on last week’s point against Osasuna.
Their lack of strength in depth was highlighted by their inability to see off the relegation strugglers, and Espanyol are much better equipped to cause them problems.
That said, Espanyol aren’t world beaters themselves, and were flattered by last week’s 3-1 home win against high-flying Sevilla, who were forced to play for almost the entire game with 10 men after a second minute red card for Nicolas Pareja.
It’s about time Malaga starting making inroads into 2017 after a poor January, and a point would suit both sides.
The draw is available at 12/5 with any of bet365, Betfred, BetVictor or Skybet.
Next up on Saturday (3.15pm) is a potential banana skin for Barcelona, as they welcome the stubborn Basque side, Athletic Bilbao, to the Nou Camp
Well drilled by Ernesto Valverde, ‘Los Leones’ as Athletic are also known don’t concede too many, and it’s worth bearing in mind these two sides were only separated by a single goal (4-3 on aggregate) over 180 minutes in the Copa Del Rey last month.
What’s more, the Basques are in positive goal difference for the season and might be able to cause Barca real problems, with Luis Enrique’s side under pressure to keep up the heat on Real Madrid, less than 72 hours after a taxing Copa Del Rey encounter with Atletico Madrid.
It’s also worth recalling the cagey game the two sides played out when they met in the league back in August, with Barca nicking a 1-0 win at San Mames.
As such, Barca make zero appeal at 2/9 for the win, with the draw looking a huge price at 6/1 with any of Betfred, BetVictor, Sportingbet or William Hill.
Moving on, fourth-placed Atletico need to get back to the sort of form that saw them beat Betis and Eibar to nil in January, and their home game against lowly Leganes looks a perfect opportunity to do so (Sat, 5.30pm).
Leganes have failed to score in three of their last four in the league, and are lucky that in Granada, Osasuna and Sporting, there are three worse teams than them to help them ward off the threat of relegation.
Atletico have had a tricky campaign on a number of levels, but Diego Simeone will have his side fired up for this in case Barca or Sevilla drop points above them.
Back Atleti to win to nil at 4/5 with either BetVictor or Coral.
Lastly, something to light up Sunday could well be a rare win on the road for Alaves (3.15pm).
The Basque outfit have become stalemate experts in 2017, drawing seven of their last nine in all competitions, but if something can help them snap that sequence then surely it’s the short three hour trip to northern rivals Sporting Gijon…
The two teams draw 0-0 in Vitoria-Gasteiz back in August, but while the babazorros (Alaves) have become ultra hard to beat, Sporting have embarked on a dismal run, gaining just one point from a possible 18 recently.
That’s nowhere near the required standard, and another defeat looks a distinct possibility, with Alaves looking a super price at 13/5 with any of Betfred, BetVictor, Boylesports or Ladbrokes.
This weekend’s best bets in La Liga: