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, the Sportsman’s Tom Lee, a regular visitor to Spain and its football grounds, takes a weekly look at the best bets on the fixture list…
After a crazy, helter-skelter weekend, one capped off by a stunning, stoppage-time Messi winner in the Clasico, you might be tempted to go and lie down in a darkened room for a week or two, and understandably so!
There’s no time for anything of the sort though, as all 20 teams have got to dust themselves down and go again, with the 34th wave of games all being played midweek.
On Tuesday night there are southern bragging rights up for grabs in Andalusia, with Tony Adams still looking for a first goal from his Granada side under his management, having lost his opening two games 0-3 and 0-2 respectively.
Here they welcome neighbours Malaga to Los Carmenes (7.30pm), who unfortunately for Adams have lifted themselves from the doldrums with three wins at just the right stage of the campaign, taking nine points from a possible 12, including wins to nil against both Barcelona and a much-improved Valencia.
Malaga really ought to extend their good run of form here, and are 5/4 with William Hill to take all three points.
On the same night, Diego Simeone’s hard-as-nails Atletico Madrid are back in action, entertaining Villarreal (8.30pm) in their third last league game at the Vicente Calderon.
Their rapidly approaching stadium move isn’t flavour of the month with all of their fans, who understandably adore their current scruffy but atmospheric, tight-knit home out by the river and the gas works.
With that in mind, they not only want to maintain their impressive form but also win all remaining games at the famous old stadium.
Watching them win away to Espanyol on Saturday night was a bit like watching one of those wildlife programmes where a despairing animal is cornered by a python, who slowly but surely squeezes the life out of it.
They barely had a chance during the 90 minutes, but when one arrived the finish supplied by Antoine Griezmann perfectly demonstrated why Europe’s elite will be moving heaven and earth to try and sign him this summer.
Boylesports are 6/5 about Atletico doing what Atletico do, namely win to nil.
Lastly, Real Madrid have a defensive headache for the lengthy trip to the north west to face Celta Vigo on Wednesday night (8.30pm), with just one senior centre back available.
It’s likely Casemiro might fill in against a team who threw everything at them when the the two sides met in the capital in December, Real eventually winning a breathless encounter, 3-2.
After Sunday night Zinedine Zidane’s team have zero margin for error – indeed Barca are top on goal difference and have a superior head-to-head record – though Madridistas will rightly point out their game in hand.
Celta, Europa League opponents for Manchester United next week at the semi final stage, are not to be underestimated.
I fancy them to score but Madrid to do enough to take all three points in another entertaining game.
Paddy Power go 17/10 about Madrid to win and both teams to score.
This week’s best bets in La Liga:
7.30pm Tues – Granada v MALAGA – Away win @ 5/4 (Hills)
8.30pm Tues – ATLETICO MADRID v Villarreal – Atleti to win to nil @ 6/5 (Boyles)
8.30pm Wed – Celta Vigo v REAL MADRID – Real to win & both teams to score @ 17/10 (Paddy)Posted 4 hours, 25 minutes ago