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, 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…
And what a weekend this is, with the top two, Barcelona and Valencia, locking horns on Sunday night at the Mestalla (7.45pm).
Supposedly a work in progress, Barca, hard off the back of Wednesday night’s trip to trade blows with Champions League adversaries Juventus in Turin, but utterly ruthless in front of goal domestically, and absolutely deadly at the back, conceding just four in the league so far.
Will their midweek efforts and the point they earned in Italy have left a shadow on them?
Make no mistake, the towering and intimidating home of Valencia will be rocking, safe in the knowledge their team have been comfortably the most entertaining in La Liga to watch so far in 2017/18.
Kondogbia, Zaza, Mina, Rodrigo, Parejo, Soler, Pereira, and of course the mesmerising Portuguese Guedes are just some of the names who’ve thrilled a fanbase who’ve been starved of success in recent years, but are now witnessing something beautiful happening…
But are they legitimate title contenders? This game will surely be a decent barometer of those ambitions.
A win for the hosts puts them within a point, a win for Barcelona and they streak away, seven points the margin of superiority at the end of November.
What colours my thinking here is that neither have lost in the league, and though the onus will be on Los Che to come out and carry the attacking threat, especially with Barca having played midweek, they are up against the best defence in the section.
Also, factor in that Valencia drew with both Madrid giants in earlier league encounters, suggesting a similar outcome might be the value play here.
In many ways a draw would suit both, unbeaten records maintained, reputations upheld, honours even.
For those reasons, it has to be the stalemate for me, an attractive 3/1 chance with any of Betfred, BetVictor, Stan James or William Hill.
Also in Valencia, 24 hours previously a team I have great affection for (especially after they did the job for followers of this column on Sunday night to bring up the full house!) is Levante, the solid and compact outfit who sit 12th after their 2-0 win away to Las Palmas, who face a difficult home encounter at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia, with fourth placed Atletico Madrid coming to town.
Atleti, at home and in decent nick with a 2-0 win over Roma at the Wanda in the Champions League in midweek, remain unbeaten in the league, although thus far it’s been mainly pragmatism and steel over adventure and flair, with 16 scored and only six conceded.
I expect them to do what they so often do in these circumstances, namely emerge with a hard fought narrow victory.
Levante are no pushover, but Atleti do have superior quality, and find their way into the shopping basket at a not overly generous 4/7.
Finally, an appealing piece of value to make up a decent patent arrives in San Sebastian on Sunday afternoon (3.15pm), with Real Sociedad at home to whipping boys Las Palmas.
The visitors don’t look anywhere near ready to reverse their slump, and for the hosts this a strong opportunity to win without conceding, against the bottom team who to date have managed just eight goals in 12.
This weekend’s best bets in La Liga:
7.45pm (Sat) – Levante v Atletico Madrid – AWAY WIN @ 4/7 (William Hill)
3.15pm (Sun) – Real Sociedad v Las Palmas – SOCIEDAD WIN TO NIL @ 9/5 (BetVictor)
7.45pm (Sun) – Valencia v Barcelona – DRAW @ 3/1 (BetVictor)