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…
Things are getting oh so interesting as we head into week 20 of the calendar, with just two points separating the front three at the top of the table, though leaders Real Madrid do have a game in hand.
Points on the board is what its all about though, and this week’s headline suggestion is second-placed Sevilla, who can do themselves a world of good by returning home from Barcelona with all three points in the bag having beaten Espanyol.
The pair clash at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat at 3.15pm on Sunday, in a game that would take Sevilla temporarily top of the standings if they can emerge victorious and unscathed.
Things are getting very exciting for the Andalusian outfit, on the back of a run which has seen then take maximum points in the league (five wins from five) since December 11th, whilst scoring 13 goals in their last four in all competitions.
They’re up against a side who seem to be meandering their way to yet another mid-table finish, gaining hard fought wins against the lesser lights, but lacking the quality to win at home to the big boys.
Sevilla have proved dab-hands at winning the Europa League in recent times, and have a seemingly eminently winnable two-legged Champions League encounter against Leicester City upcoming in February, but in the meantime they can keep their title push rolling with a win against Espanyol.
Back Jorge Sampaoli’s team at 6/5 with bet365.
The game that follows is the north coast clash between Athletic Bilbao and struggling Sporting Gijon (5.30pm), where Bilbao ought to take the beating, but make zero appeal in the regular match odds at 1/3.
They’re looking for revenge after losing the reverse fixture 2-1 at El Molinon back in August, but are going much better now, whereas Sporting are beginning to look cut adrift down at the bottom, alongside Granada and Osasuna.
This is 7th against 18th in a match where Bilbao are looking to get back to winning ways after drawing their last three in the league, but it’s also worth noting that Sporting often score despite their poor form, finding the net at least once in six of their eight games since the end of November.
I’m looking for an entertaining home win, one which would mean a payout for the 12/5 offered by Hills about Bilbao to win and both teams to score.
Finally, if you’ve been following this column in recent weeks you’ll know we’ve done very nicely indeed by correctly forecasting games to end all square, and that’s very much the hope for Eibar at home to Deportivo La Coruna at the compact Ipurua Municipal (Saturday, 5.30pm).
This game represents 10th against 16th in a game where both sides are on minus goal difference for the campaign.
What’s more, Eibar had a tough game in midweek in the Copa de Rey against Atleti (2-2), while Depor have drawn their last five in all competitions, including two away from home in La Liga.
This could very well be more of the same, something about which any of Fred, Victor or Skybet are offering a decent looking 23/10.
This weekend’s best bets in La Liga:
3.15pm Sunday – Sevilla to win away to Espanyol (NAP) @ 6/5 (bet365)
5.30pm Sunday – Athletic Bilbao to win at home to Sporting Gijon and both teams to score @ 12/5 (Hills)