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…
With the midweek distraction of the first leg of the Copa Del Rey semis (Leganes 1-1 Sevilla, Barcelona 1-0 Valencia), matchday 22 seems to have come around in a flash, bringing with it the Barcelona derby, plus Monday night’s relegation shootout between Las Palmas and Malaga, a game which looks very much like it’ll be curtains for the losing team.
Looking for a bet? Three games catch my eye, though it’s fair to say none come without some fairly considerable risks attached…
One of the unsung heroes of the campaign to date has been the quietly effective performance of last season’s Europa League semi-finalists, Celta Vigo, who’ve crept into an impressive seventh off the back of a string of decent displays.
Three wins on the bounce at the expense of Betis, Real Sociedad and Levante isn’t all they’ve had to crow about of late, as since the calendar ticked into 2018 they’ve also held Real Madrid to a draw at the Balaídos.
Late on Saturday afternoon (5.30pm) they head to take on Alavés in the Mendizorrotza, a side precariously perched above the relegation zone in 17th, featuring a squad who’ve developed an unfortunate recent taste for red cards – three already in the month of January is some tally.
If Celta Vigo turn up in a similar vein of form to that of late then their superior quality means three points is theirs for the taking. Away win.
Onto Sunday evening, the capital’s futuristic Wanda Metropolitano should be rocking for Atlético Madrid against Valencia, a must see which represents second against third in the table.
The visitors made several changes but still kept it tight in the Nou Camp on Thursday night, giving themselves a true fighting chance for the second leg.
Resting key men was vital, but having lost four games in quick succession they’re up against the meanest defence in the league here, with only nine goals conceded in 21 games.
It’s possible Valencia’s obsession with hard running and high intensity football is now catching up with some of them, and I expect Atléti to come out on top by a narrow margin.
As with last Sunday, it’s Atléti to win to nil that gets the vote, a 6/4 shot with any of bet365, BetVictor or Ladbrokes.
Finally, I mentioned an element of risk to this week’s selections so feel free to ignore this and attribute it to me having to many bangs on the head, but on Monday night I’m backing Malaga to take home a priceless three points from their trip to Gran Canaria to take on Las Palmas.
Second bottom against bottom, this will be a dogfight.
Las Palmas are awful but somehow still capable of conjuring up results like their miracle win against complacent Valencia two weeks ago, while Malaga very rarely score – their goals for tally of 14 in 21 is pathetic.
That said, they rarely get beat by many and have strengthened in the transfer window.
It’s now or never if they are going to kick start their campaign, and I fancy them to nick this and begin to try and fight their way out of trouble, in a spell where the likes of Levante could easily get dragged into trouble. Away win.
This weekend’s best bets in La Liga:
Sat 5.30pm – Alavés v Celta Vigo – Away Win @ 9/5 (bet365)
Sun 7.45pm – Atlético Madrid v Valencia – Atléti to win to nil @ 6/4 (bet365, BetVictor or Ladbrokes)
Mon 8.00pm – Las Palmas v Malaga – Away Win @ 23/10 (Betway or Sportingbet)