Gameweek 19 of the Spanish La Liga sees Atletico Madrid at the summit of the table following their 1-0 victory over bottom-placed Levante. Los Colchoneros were the only title contender to pick up maximum points last weekend as both Barcelona and Real Madrid were held to draws against Espanyol and Valencia respectively. Atletico Madrid are now two points clear of Barca at the top of the table with 41 points, having played a game more, while third-place Real Madrid are four points adrift of their city rivals, which has led to the sacking of Rafael Benitez. Zinedine Zidane is the man Real Madrid have turned to and the Frenchman will begin his reign against Deportivo La Coruna at the Bernabeu on Saturday. La Liga champions Barcelona will be expected to return to winning ways when they host Granada at the Camp Nou. Meanwhile, Diego Simeone’s side have the toughest test as they travel to Celta Vigo, while Gary Neville still searches for his first league win as Valencia boss – they’re away to Real Sociedad.
There’s some enticing odds on offer and exciting football to watch. Let’s get to it right away.
SATURDAY 9 JANUARY
Barcelona were held to a goalless draw at Espanyol last weekend which sees Luis Enrique’s side with just one win in their last four matches in La Liga. The Catalans remain unbeaten in 10 matches, but have struggled to kill teams off in recent games. They are currently second on the log with two points behind Atletico Madrid having played a game less. Summer signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal will be in line to make their long-awaited league debuts after Barca’s transfer ban expired on Monday. After back-to-back losses against Celta Vigo and Las Palmas, Granada recorded an enterprising 2-1 victory over Sevilla. The Nazaries will face a daunting test at the Camp Nou with Barca desperate to return to winning ways. Barcelona are overwhelming favourites and are unbeaten at home with eight wins from nine games. Take Barca on the Handicap at 1/8.
Athletic Bilbao 5/2
Sevilla will be hoping to bounce back strongly following their miserable 2-1 defeat away to Granada last time out. Coach Unai Emery will demand a positive reaction from his players and will be happy to return to Seville. Los Rojiblancos have won seven on the spin at home with notable victories over Barcelona and Real Madrid. Their opponents, Athletic Bilbao, are unbeaten in four matches in all competitions with three wins followed by a 2-2 draw at home to Las Palmas last Sunday. The Lions have been inconsistent on the road with three wins and two defeats from their last five matches. I’m going for the home win at even money.
Real Madrid 1/6
Deportivo La Coruna 11/1
Zidane will take charge of his first game as Real Madrid manager and will look to hit the ground running against seventh-place Deportivo La Coruna. Los Blancos squandered a great opening goal and a chance to catch Barcelona in the La Liga standings when they slipped to a 2-2 draw at Valencia last Sunday. They are now four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and two points behind defending champions Barcelona, who have a game in hand. Real Madrid will be looking to return to winning ways at the Santiago Bernabeu, where they’ve won three on the spin. Deportivo La Coruna suffered a 2-1 defeat to Villarreal after Bruno Soriano converted an injury-time penalty. Victor Sanchez’s side are unbeaten in their last four matches away from home, but have only managed one victory in that run. Back Real Madrid to win on the Handicap at 9/20.
Rayo Vallecano 23/10
Levante went down 1-0 to Atletico Madrid last time out – their fifth straight defeat in all competitions. The bottom-placed club are now winless in eight matches with six losses and have failed to score in each of their last three games. Fellow strugglers Rayo Vallecano have lost five of their last six matches in all competitions with three straight losses on the road. Los Franjirrojos have the worst defence in the league having conceded 41 goals this season. Levante are unbeaten in their last three meetings with Vallecano, winning two on the bounce. It should be a tight affair, but Levante are tipped to capitalize on home advantage.
SUNDAY 10 JANUARY
Sporting Gijon 6/1
Villarreal snatched a 2-1 victory from the jaws of a draw against Deportivo La Coruna which has seen them open up a five-point buffer to fifth-placed Celta Vigo. The Yellow Submarine are unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions with six wins. They are also unbeaten at home in five matches in the La Liga with four victories including three on the spin. Sporting Gijon are winless in four matches with three defeats against Sevilla, Eibar and Getafe last time out. They have been dreadful on the road with six straight losses, including a 2-0 defeat to Real Betis in the Copa del Rey. Villarreal are tipped to make easy pickings of their opponents.
Real Sociedad 12/10
Real Sociedad fought back to salvage a 2-2 draw at relegation-threatened Rayo Vallecano. Eusebio Sacristan’s side remain winless in five matches in all competitions with two defeats against Villarreal and Real Madrid. Gary Neville watched his Valencia side grind out a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid, as the home side displayed the resilience that has become their trademark under the Englishman. Their spirited, yet stylish display, proved why Valencia qualified for the Champions League last season and showed that they are capable of getting back in there, if they are given confidence and play with a clear idea. Neville will hope this can be the launchpad for his managerial career and a late run towards the top four. Valencia beat Sociedad 2-0 at the Mestalla Stadium last season, while the corresponding fixture ended in a 1-1 draw. Take Valencia on the Win/Draw Double at 6/10.
Real Betis 28/10
Getafe came from behind to beat relegation rivals Sporting Gijon 2-1 on Monday thanks to goals from Juan Cala and Pablo Sarabia. Fran Escriba’s side are unbeaten in five matches in all competitions with just two wins including their 3-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano in the Copa del Rey. Their last two home matches in La Liga have ended in draws with Real Sociedad and Deportivo La Coruna. However, Escriba will be confident of claiming maximum points against Real Betis who continue to struggle. Betis are winless in six matches in all competitions with three defeats, including consecutive 4-0 losses against Barcelona and Eibar. The home win looks a top bet at 19/20.
Las Palmas 29/20
Las Palmas earned a commendable 2-2 draw away to Athletic Bilbao last weekend. Coach Quique Setien would have been pleased with his side’s performance and will look to build on that. Los Amarillos will welcome the return to their home ground where they’ve won three on the trot including a 2-1 victory over Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey. Their opponents, Malaga, eased their way to a fourth straight Primera Division win by beating Celta Vigo 2-0 thanks to early goals from Charles and Raul Albentosa. Javi Gracia’s men are unbeaten in their last three away matches with successive wins against Rayo Vallecano and Levante. A tight affair is expected with Malaga tipped to come away with maximum points.
Celta Vigo 7/2
Atletico Madrid 8/10
Back-to-back defeats see Celta Vigo drop to fifth place on the La Liga table with five points behind Villarreal. It only gets tougher for coach Eduardo Berizzo with a difficult fixture against leaders Atletico Madrid, along with various reports suggesting Nolito has his heart set on joining Barcelona this month. Celta Vigo will raise their game against Atletico and could see this as a perfect opportunity to get their season back on track. Los Colchoneros are top of La Liga after 18 matches, albeit ahead of a Barcelona side with a game in hand. They come into the match with two wins on the spin, along with two clean sheets. I’m tipping Atleti to pile further misery on Berizzo and his side by coming away with maximum points.
MONDAY 11 JANUARY
Eibar recorded an emphatic 4-0 victory over Real Betis last Sunday to make it two wins on the bounce. Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar has done a remarkable job this season with Armeros lying 8th in La Liga standings on 27 points – just four points off fifth-place Celta Vigo. Eibar are unbeaten at home in their last three games with two wins including a 4-0 victory over Ponferradina in the Copa del Rey. Espanyol are winless in two matches, but come off a commendable draw at home to Barcelona last weekend. Periquitos will be looking for a positive result following their impressive performance against the La Liga champions. However, Eibar are strong at home and are tipped to oust their opponents.
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