31 Aug

In A Liga Of Its Own…(31 Aug, 1 & 2 Sept)

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…

It’s fair to say for La Liga punters it’s been quite a bumpy, crash landing into the 2018/19 campaign, but everyone has a couple of games under their collective belts and hopefully results will begin to settle down as we roll into Jornada 3 on Friday night.

Real Sociedad would be joint top now with an unblemished six points had they taken their chances on the outskirts of Madrid last Friday night, a game which witnessed their seemingly unassailable 2-0 hold over Leganes evaporate, as the hosts battled back with two late goals from Nabil Al Zhar (the second timed at 88 mins) to grab an unlikely share of the spoils.

Nonetheless, it’s been a buoyant start from La Real, for whom the fixture list has been kind with a Friday night visit to already struggling Eibar (9.00pm).

Eibar have done well in this fixture historically, winning three of the last four home encounters with their Basque rivals, but this time around it’s harder to envisage that form line being upheld with a likely makeshift Eibar midfield of Pape Diop, Gonzalo Escalante, Fabian Orellana and Joan Jordan.

They’ve lost their first two, and as a broader profile have won just one of their last six at home.

Sociedad look slicker under Asier Garitano and have a far deeper squad to choose from – they appear to be the clear pick to take all three points back to San Sebastian, at a decent value 13/8 or 17/10.

Moving onto Saturday, the nascent Liga table sees Celta Vigo (8th) a place above Atlético Madrid, both sitting on four points after a draw and a win.

They clash at the Balaidos (5.30pm) in a fixture which Atleti nicked 0-1 in the quivalent fixture last season, a game where the lone dividing goal came prior to the half hour mark courtesy of the now departed Kevin Gameiro.

The Europa League winners will have been pleased with news of a distinctly winnable looking Champions League group on Thursday, a section which will see them face Borussia Dortmund, Club Brugge and AS Monaco.

Atleti laboured to a 1-0 home victory against newly promoted neighbours Rayo Vallecano last Saturday, but don’t forget they had an excellent transfer window, not only in terms of signings but also in terms of players retained. They can only improve and ought to have enough to sneak this away from home, a 4/5 chance.

Finally, the La Liga fixture computer has spat out an early treat on Sunday night (7.45pm), with a Seville derby to look forward to to round off the weekend. Real Betis v Sevilla at the 60,720 capacity Estadio Benito Villamarín, game on!

Surely this one can’t be as riotous as the pair we were treated to in 2017/18, an end of season 2-2 draw which followed a staggering 3-5 away win for Betis in early January.

This time around Betis, who lest we forget have won that game but no other on the last 12 occasions these two have met, come into the game scrapping for early season form, whereas Sevilla have made a sharp beginning to the campaign, winning 1-4 at Rayo Vallecano on the opening day.

Held 0-0 last weekend by Villarreal, they’ve had the distraction of Europa League football midweek, and might have to settle for a share of the spoils here.

Betis are yet to score and badly need to kick-start their season, while their fans will be desperate for them to avoid defeat.

Since the last meeting ended all square I’m happy to take the draw, a result which would save face and suit both sides of the divide, at odds as big as 11/4.

Good luck!

This weekend’s best bets in La Liga:

Fri 9.00pm – Eibar v Real Sociedad – Away Win

Sat 5.30pm – Celta Vigo v Atlético Madrid – Away Win

Sun 7.45pm – Real Betis v Sevilla – Draw

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