As we approach the much anticipated El Clasico on Sunday, the La Liga is officially a two horse race after champions Atletico Madrid drew for the third consecutive match. Barcelona remained top of the table and Lionel Messi surged past Cristiano Ronaldo and the 30-goal mark in the league this season. Naturally, the teams at the bottom of the table at this stage of the season are there for a reason: they lose more games than everybody else. This time out, however, was a particularly disastrous weekend for all concerned. Six of the bottom seven tasted defeat with only Almeria picking up a point after they held Villarreal to a goalless draw at home. It looks all over for bottom club Cordoba, who are miles from safety with just eleven games remaining. Seven of my ten picks won last weekend with the most notable being Real Madrid’s highest scoring half to be the first at 18/10 and Real Sociedad’s first away win of the season coming in at a valuable 22/10.
Friday 20 March
Valencia continue to impress in La Liga and were rewarded by moving into third place with Atletico Madrid slipping up with another draw. Valencia have now won five of their last six games and drawn once against Atletico. This weekend they travel to Elche who were expected to lose at Sevilla last weekend and did just that going down 3-0. Elche sit only two points above the relegation zone and have been poor at home, suffering seven losses, four draws and only four wins. Valencia have also been inconsistent on the road, winning only five of their thirteen travels and losing thrice. The Bats won the reverse fixture 3-1 but looking at their away record of just five wins doesn’t give much confidence. Elche won this fixture 2-1 last season and the draw is tipped.
Saturday 21 March
Atletico Madrid 3/10
Any slight hope of defending their title is officially over for Atletico Madrid. The champions have only won once in their last five league games and are nine points adrift of leaders Barcelona with just eleven games remaining this season. However, their fight for a top-three place remains relevant—as third means an automatic Champions League group spot, while fourth means a qualifier against a potentially difficult opponent. They were unable to get back to winning ways on Saturday, drawing a third game in a row. This time it was a goalless draw at Espanyol, with centre-back Joao Miranda missing the second half after receiving a red card, which made things even more difficult. The result means they are down to fourth after Valencia’s win. Getafe have lost eight of their thirteen travels, winning just three times. Diego Simeone’s men won the reverse tie 1-0 and annihilated Getafe 7-0 in this fixture last season. The home win is a banker bet.
Rayo Vallecano 15/10
Rayo Vallecano took a big step towards securing survival by coming from behind to beat struggling Granada 3-1 at home. Vallecano’s win took them into eleventh position and puts them in good stead ahead of a tough match on Saturday against Malaga. The Anchovies won the reverse tie 4-0 at home, putting the game to bed by half time leading 3-0. Vallecano have only won five of their thirteen home games, losing seven times. Malaga are in good form with three wins in their last four matches which includes a 1-0 win at Camp Nou over Barcelona. Malaga are tipped to pull the double over Vallecano by claiming the victory here.
Celta Vigo 5/4
Levante return to their home ground after losing 2-0 at the Bernabeu to Real Madrid. They have won their last three home matches and will host a Celta Vigo team who are in poor form with two losses and a draw in their last three games. Celta Vigo have been poor on the road but won the first round meeting against Levante 3-0 and also won this match 1-0 last season. The draw is tipped but I suggest taking Levante to Win/Draw at 11/20 as a safer option on the basis of form.
Athletic Bilbao 5/10
Athletic Bilbao are a team very much on the up, having struggled to get themselves together earlier in the season. A fit and firing Aritz Aduriz just keeps getting better and more important for Bilbao, with a penalty last weekend being his eleventh goal of the campaign and setting his side on the way to a 2-1 away win over Celta Vigo. They moved into eighth place with their fourth win in a row and have only lost once in La Liga since mid-January, against league leaders Barcelona. They will play host to an Almeria team who are without a win since early February. Bilbao have not lost to Almeria since 2009 - that’s a run of seven matches unbeaten with three victories for the Basque club. The reverse fixture ended in a 1-0 victory for Bilbao and they should continue their excellent form by picking up another victory.
Eibar slumped to their eighth loss on the trot when they went down 2-0 at home to Barcelona last weekend. The dramatic fall from the top half to the verge of the relegation battle leaves the tiny Basque side in real danger and with a must-win game away to Granada. The Nazaries are just five points off Eibar in nineteenth and have lost three of their last four games with their most recent loss at Vallecano last weekend. Granada are the league’s lowest scoring team with just eighteen goals in 27 games. I doubt Eibar will lose for a ninth consecutive match. The Segunda champions are available at 15/20 on the Double Chance market and I suggest you get on that.
Sunday 22 March
Deportivo have fallen into the relegation zone after losing four of their last five games, drawing just once. They host an Espanyol side who did well to hold Atletico Madrid to a goalless draw at home after losing their two prior fixtures against Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad. Deportivo have only picked up four wins at home this season but Espanyol have been atrocious on the road with two losses, two draws and nine defeats. Deportivo earned a point in the first round meeting and I’m backing them to make home advantage count and get the much needed victory.
Villarreal and Sevilla will renew their rivalry for the third time in ten days on Sunday. They were drawn against each other in the last sixteen of the Europa League with Sevilla winning the first leg 3-1 at Villarreal last Thursday. The second leg will be contested in Seville on Thursday before this league fixture at Villarreal. Sevilla also won the reverse league tie 2-1 at home back in October and at the time of writing are unbeaten against Villarreal in the last four head-to-heads. Villarreal have had success at home this season winning ten of their thirteen league fixtures there and will be going all out to avenge their first leg defeat at home last week. Los Rojiblancos have lost seven of their thirteen travels, winning six times. That away record doesn’t give much confidence for Sevilla to snatch another away win here. Go for the home win this time available at a tasty 21/20.
Real Sociedad 13/20
Real Sociedad's long wait for a first La Liga away win of the season came to an end with a 1-0 victory at Getafe on Monday. After twelve winless league games on the road, it was only a matter of time and it had to be followed on a punting point of view. The win lifted David Moyes' men into tenth and puts them in good confidence ahead of their home fixture against the league’s worst team. Cordoba’s 2-0 loss at Malaga on Sunday made it eight losses in a row for the newly promoted side. Sociedad have brought down the likes of Barcelona and the two Madrid giants at home this season and I see nothing less than maximum points once more here.
Real Madrid 36/10
Please see featured game.