Spanish football’s elite top flight, La Liga, is undoubtedly the dominant force in European football in recent times, providing six of the last eight finalists in the Champions League, as well as six of the last nine 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 six 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…
Unusually, Matchday 15 doesn’t exactly appear to be heaving with betting opportunities, Valencia becoming temporarily at least no longer a good thing without metatarsal victim Guedes available for selection, Barcelona suddenly drawing games, plus the vital Friday night basement clash between 19th placed Alaves and one above them Las Palmas much too tight to call.
There are a couple of angles it could pay to examine though, both of which arrive on Sunday.
The early kick-off is the 11.00am start in the Anoeta, rock-bottom Malaga making the 975km journey to the far north and San Sebastian, to lock horns with a slightly flimsy looking Real Sociedad who are currently sitting in ninth.
At 1/2 for the home win it would be tempting to idly dismiss this as a routine canter for La Real, but they’re losing games they should draw, and drawing games they should win – namely their late capsize after leading inside the half hour away to Atletico last week.
It also wasn’t a great advert that they slipped out of the Copa Del Rey on away goals over two legs to Lleida, while their ridiculous draw against Las Palmas two weeks should have finished about 7-2.
In short, there’s something more than a bit unconvincing about them, and while they seemingly won’t have too many better opportunities to get back in the winning groove, they’re meeting Malaga at a time when the visitors are finally starting to feel some momentum and winning mentality return to their ranks.
Indeed, the basement boys have made both Barca and Real Madrid sweat for three points in recent weeks, while their hard fought and rapturously celebrated wins against Deportivo and Celta Vigo have proved they’re not down yet.
What we might actually be seeing is the start of a rally, one which means the ‘double chance’ market, the one which gives us both Malaga and the draw, could be the right card to play.
A draw or a Malaga win is 13/8 with either bet365 or Unibet.
Later on Sunday we’ll head to the other end of the country, with Seville the host city for Real Betis against Atletico Madrid in the 60,000 capacity Benito Villamarin.
Betis, who charged through the autumn firing on all cylinders have come down to earth with more than a bit of a bump, suddenly finding themselves in 11th after a run which has yielded four defeats and two draws in all competitions.
Losing to Las Palmas wasn’t clever, and nor was getting bombed out of the Copa Del Rey by local side Cadiz.
Right now, they look shorn of confidence.
Meanwhile, without playing anything like as well as they can, visitors Atleti suddenly find themselves within six points of the league summit, undefeated domestically and with Diego Costa to come in the new year.
Dropping down into the Europa League isn’t ideal, plus there’s a risk of fatigue after their midweek exertions when drawing 1-1 with Chelsea in the Champions League, but even so the carrot of another slip from one or both of Barca and Valencia, plus the fun they’re having being above Real Madrid in the table, means they’re not to be missed this weekend in a game they have more than enough quality to put to bed.
They’ll do for me at the 4/6 available with any of bet365, Hills, Paddy or Skybet.
This Sunday’s best bets in La Liga:
11.00 – Real Sociedad v Malaga – DOUBLE CHANCE MALAGA & THE DRAW @ 13/8 (bet365 or Unibet)
3.15 – Real Betis v Atletico Madrid – AWAY WIN @ 4/6 (bet365, William Hill, Paddy Power or Skybet)