Gameweek One in La Liga saw champions Barcelona prove their worth with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao, while Rafa Benitez started his reign at Real Madrid with disappointing goalless draw at Sporting Gijon. Eibar, who avoided the drop after Elche were kicked out of the league, are unlikely log leaders after they ousted Granada 3-1. This weekend sees a cracker of an encounter between Sevilla and Atletico Madrid who are competing with each other for the top spots in La Liga, while Barcelona and Real Madrid are 1/10 favourites in their respective home fixtures.
Friday 28 August
The action kicks-off at Estadio El Madrigal on Friday night with Villarreal up against Espanyol. Villarreal began their 2015/16 season on a bit of a sour note, conceding a late goal that should have been ruled offside to draw 1-1 away to newcomers Real Betis. Roberto Soldado was denied a dream debut for Villarreal as he his goal would have separated the tie. Soldado managed just seven English Premier League goals in two seasons for Tottenham Hotspur but needed just 32 minutes to open his account for his new club. Espanyol fought hard to get three points on the board with a 1-0 home win over Getafe. This fixture won’t scare them as last season saw them break a twelve-match winless streak against Villarreal in comprehensive fashion. Espanyol managed a 3-0 win after losing six and drawing six matches against the Yellow Submarines. However, their away form was poor for the most part of last season, with that win just one of five victories in nineteen travels. Villarreal picked up twelve wins from nineteen home games and will be eager to start the new season with a victory in their opening home match. Villarreal should prevail.
Saturday 29 August
Real Sociedad 8/10
Sporting Gijon 36/10
Real Sociedad will host newly promoted Sporting Gijon who are riding high after holding Real Madrid to a goalless draw. Sociedad also got their season underway with a point earned and no goal scored, drawing at Deportivo. Gijon proved why they had the best defence in the second tier last season, where they conceded just 27 goals from 42 matches. They employed some good tactics in their travels, losing just once all season, drawing thirteen matches and winning on seven occasions, whilst conceding a measly thirteen goals and scoring 27. Under 2.5 Goals is tipped at 13/20.
Barcelona got their La Liga campaign off to a winning start when Luis Suarez scored with a fine volley shortly after halftime to secure a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. The Spanish and European champions’ victory at the San Mames Stadium, despite Lionel Messi having a first-half penalty saved, was sweet revenge for Barca following their 5-1 aggregate defeat by Bilbao in this month’s Spanish Super Cup. It came at some cost, however, as midfielder Sergio Busquets and right-back Dani Alves suffered injuries that ended their participation in the game. Last season’s mid-table finishers Malaga are priced up at a massive 23/1 for the win. That’s a generous price for a team who were unbeaten against the champions last season, winning 1-0 here and drawing 0-0 in the reverse tie. However, that was their first win against Barca after a run of twenty matches, losing seventeen times and managing only three draws. Barca are expected to boast their title winning strike force of Messi, Suarez and Neymar after the latter returned to training following a bout of mumps. Barcelona are too short to back so I’m going with the new Matchbet of Barcelona To Win + Over 2.5 Goals at 4/10.
Celta Vigo 7/10
Rayo Vallecano 4/1
Both of these sides are coming off positive results from their opening games. Former Liverpool striker Iago Aspas enjoyed a dream return to boyhood club Celta Vigo by snatching the winner as his side downed ten-man Levante 2-1 away from home. Rayo Vallecano would have been satisfied with a point against a fiery Valencia outfit, as they played out a goalless but end-to-end draw in front of their home support. Vallecano leaked 42 away goals last season, the joint second highest in the league. Celta Vigo played a part in that bad record, thumping them 6-1 in this fixture and should claim the three points against them once more.
Real Madrid 1/10
Rafael Benitez's reign as Real Madrid manager got off to a disappointing start as they were held to a goalless draw by newly promoted Sporting Gijon. Madrid pressed hard for a goal throughout the second half but their finishing left a lot to be desired. Real Betis started their campaign in the top flight by rescuing a point with a late goal at home to Villarreal to draw 1-1. Madrid look solid as always in defence and the best bet in this match is to go with the home team to get a Clean Sheet at 8/10.
Sunday 30 August
Athletic Bilbao 1/1
Eibar won 3-1 at ten-man Granada on Monday night to make a promising start to the modest Basque club's second season in La Liga. The victory by a two-goal margin meant round one ends with Eibar as the unlikely leader at top of the standings for the first time in their history. Granada were dealt a red card after equalising early in the second half and Eibar did well to make their one man advantage count on the road. They face an Athletic Bilbao side who fell to a 1-0 loss at home to the champions in their first match. It was a disappointing loss after thrashing Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate the week prior to lift the Spanish Super Cup. Bilbao managed a 1-0 win here last season and after their recent showings against Barca, have to be backed for the win against the minnows.
Valencia started their season in disappointing fashion, drawing a blank in an away draw at Rayo Vallecano. They will be confident of getting their first win when they host Deportivo, whom they cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory over in this fixture last season. Los Che were excellent at home last season, winning fifteen matches, drawing thrice and losing just once at the Mestalla. They also had the best defensive record at home in the whole league, letting in a mere ten goals, whilst banging in 42. Deportivo narrowly survived relegation last season and managed just two away wins, losing nine times from nineteen travels and scoring just thirteen goals whilst conceding thirty. The home win is a banker bet.
Atletico Madrid 31/20
Sevilla against Atletico Madrid looks the Spanish game of the weekend. These sides finished fifth and third respectively last season and a win here counts as a six-pointer in the race for a top four place. Sevilla were forced to hold on for a point against Andalusian (South Coast) rivals Malaga in La Liga’s opening match last Friday after seeing new signing Steven N'Zonzi sent off midway through the second half. N'Zonzi, a £5 million summer arrival from Stoke, picked up his second yellow of the match in the 69th minute to leave Sevilla having to cling on in the closing stages for a hard-earned away point. Sevilla fans could have been forgiven for expecting a goal-fest after seeing their side's previous two matches produce a total of nineteen goals - a 5-4 defeat to Barcelona in the UEFA Super Cup and a 6-4 friendly loss to Roma. Atletico Madrid opened their La Liga season with a narrow but deserved victory over promoted Las Palmas. Antoine Griezmann scored the only goal after sixteen minutes with a deflected free-kick which wrong-footed the away team’s ‘keeper. Atletico have dominated recent head-to-heads between the sides, last losing to Sevilla in 2010. That’s a run of eleven games that Sevilla have failed to beat them, losing on five occasions. However, Sevilla have goals in them and are tipped to break their bad form against Atletico by claiming a win.
Two of last season’s relegation scrappers will be looking to pick up their first points after opening day losses. Getafe narrowly went down 1-0 away to Espanyol while Granada were unlucky to lose 3-1 at home to Eibar, conceding two goals after going down a man. There were only two matches in the league that tallied above 2.5 goals last weekend and looking at this week’s schedule, there isn’t a more likely low scoring affair. These sides only scored 33 and 29 goals respectively from 38 matches. Under 2.5 Goals is priced up too short at 9/20 so go for Both Teams To Score - No - available at 15/20.
Las Palmas 11/10
Canary Islands club Las Palmas fared well in their first La Liga match since 2002, going down by a single goal away to Atletico Madrid. They will play host to a Levante side who lost 2-1 at home to Celta Vigo. Las Palmas finished fourth in the Segunda Division last season with an excellent home record, winning fifteen of their 22 matches and losing just twice. Levante won just three away games from nineteen last season, losing twelve times. The home win is tipped.