Spanish football’s elite top flight, La Liga, is undoubtedly the dominant force in European football in recent times, providing seven of the last 10 finalists in the Champions League, as well as seven of the last 10 winners.
What’s more, Atlético Madrid’s win after extra time in Estonia means nine of the last 10 European Super Cups have gone to a Spanish side, in a period where a stunning 21 of the 30 available European trophies, Champions League, Europa League and Super Cup, have headed in the same direction.
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…
Currently in Spain on a sweltering weekend which has already seen Atlético Madrid back up their midweek Champions League with a solid 0-2 win away to Getafe, Celta Vigo and Real Valladolid share six goals at Balaídos, plus Alaves get five away from home against promoted but second bottom Rayo Vallecano, i’m hoping there’s more good entertainment to come today.
Perhaps the most interesting clash of the day is the Valencian derby clash between Villarreal and Valencia (3.15pm), with two distinctly out of sorts sides looking to kick-start their respective campaigns at El Madrigal.
A lopsided 15th versus 18th is about where no-one saw these two being after four matchdays had taken place, but that’s where we find ourselves in a game which could easily end in a share of the spoils.
The Yellow Submarine nicked the corresponding fixture 1-0 back in May, and come into this off the back of a scruffy 1-0 Liga away win at Leganes, plus a 2-2 on Thursday night against Rangers in the Europa League.
That means they’ve got a goal or two in them, whereas the visitors were undone by 10-man Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday, and prior to that had drawn three of their opening four.
It’s relevant though that the other local Valencian derby this month, Levante against Valencia three weeks ago, finished 2-2, and this could be another effective fixture upon which to play the ‘Draw & both teams to score’ card, which comes out at around 7/2 depending on where you shop around.
Both are struggling but capable of finding the net.
Another big talking point over here this week has been the Spanish FA (RFEF) vowing (correctly in my opinion) to block the proposed La Liga game between Girona and Barcelona in Miami in January.
La Liga had tried to introduce the concept to a rightly hostile reaction, trying to smooth the way for future fixtures to be played across the atlantic at the likes of the Hard Rock Stadium.
I for one pray that doesn’t occur, though in the meantime the two sides meet in the Nou Camp on Sunday night (7.45pm), Barca top and playing with freedom and verve, something evident in midweek in the Champions Leagus as they hammered PSV Eindhoven 4-0.
They’ll almost certainly win this one in a canter as well, but don’t forget the conceded two against minnows Huesca recently and don’t mind opening the door occasionally.
For that reason, once again the ‘result & both teams to score’ option becomes a live wire, turning Barca from prohibitive 1/9 shots into a 5/4 option – just hope Girona can hold on to some local pride and pinch a goal as they did in the corresponding 6-1 mauling last winter.
Sunday’s best bets in La Liga:
3.15pm – Villarreal v Valencia – Draw & Both teams to score
7.45pm – Barcelona v Girona – Home win & Both teams to score