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 probably says much about the first three weeks of the new Spanish top flight campaign that this Saturday’s Valencia v Real Betis clash (5.30pm), widely expected to be two of the great flair teams and free-scoring entertainers in this league, represents 17th against 13th at the Mestalla.
Results have, to put it mildly, been all over the place.
Maybe it’s a hangover from Spain’s limp surrender in the World Cup in Russia, perhaps there’s fatigue or some other associated factor in play, but for whatever reason (unless your name is Barcelona or Real Madrid, both of whom have been gifted relatively straightforward opening games) picking winners has been like a game of pinball.
Back from the hated international break, it’s therefore a relatively low key strategy for matchday four…
Talked of as potential champions for the first time since 2014 after holding on to the likes of Griezmann, Oblak and Godin in the transfer window, pus making some eyecatching additions, Atlético Madrid are regulars in this column, and generally profitably so.
Not two weeks ago though, as they schlepped all the way to Galicia to produce a woeful display in front of a handful of dismayed away fans, losing 2-0 to Celta Vigo and having Montenegrin defender Stefan Savić sent off for good measure.
That they failed to register a single shot on target is an indictment of their limp effort there, and they’ll want to sharpen themselves with a Champions League trip to Monaco to come on Tuesday night.
With that in mind, they’ll be grateful to have been allocated a home game against Eibar at midday UK-time on Saturday, a gilt edged opportunity to blow away the cobwebs and find some form.
I like the idea of them coming out of the traps good and quick against the Basque side, who won last time out but lost their two opening fixtures.
I spy some firms offering Even money about Atleti to be winning at half time, an offer I hope turns out to be too good to miss.
My other fancy also comes on Saturday, this time in the evening kick-off (7.45pm) at San Mamés as Athletic Bilbao entertain Real Madrid.
Both have begun well, Real sitting second only on goal difference behind Barcelona with a perfect three from three and only two conceded, while the hosts are sixth with a win and a draw from only two outings to date, though that really ought to be two from two as they allowed Huesca to snatch a point last time out despite spending a few minutes coasting at 2-0 up.
That aside, this won’t be an easy mission for the Madrileños, who so far have been on easy street with games against Getafe, Girona and Leganes, and what’s more both games between these two ended up in a draw in 2017/18.
Additionally, Real could well have one eye on their forthcoming midweek Champions League tie against Roma, and a draw could well be the outcome here.
Goals are likely, so the ‘Draw & Both Teams To Score’ outcome could be the way to play it – a 4/1 shot with the majority of bookmakers.
This weekend’s best bets in La Liga:
12.00 Sat – Atlético Madrid v Eibar – Atleti to be winning at half time
7.45 Sat – Athletic Bilbao v Real Madrid – Draw & Both Teams To Score