Our footy writer previews this upcoming weekend's set of Spanish La Liga matchups.
It’s the final gameweek of the year, and then its jingle all the way and teams go on their annual Christmas break in La Liga. Real Madrid ended 2016 in the most Real Madrid-way possible. Los Blancos needed a stoppage time header from Sergio Ramos to salvage a 3-2 win over Deportivo, ensuring that they stay top come 2017.
Zinedine Zidane’s side will skip La Liga action this weekend as they jet off to Japan to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup. Elsewhere in La Liga, Barcelona kept themselves in distance of Real Madrid, beating Osasuna by a 3-0 scoreline. Atletico Madrid are the side that are slowly drifting away, being 12 points behind the leaders after their 3-0 loss to Villarreal. The Yellow Submarine find themselves in fourth spot after that win – four points behind third-placed Sevilla.
Friday 16 December
13/10 Alaves | Draw 21/10 | Real Betis 47/20
Alaves did well to hold on to their goalless draw at Eibar last weekend. Despite keeping just 37% of the possession, Alaves were tight in defence and made no costly errors. A top half spot is still possible for Babazorros, but they’ll need the teams around them to slip up.
Real Betis claimed an emphatic 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao, courtesy of a Ruben Castro goal, which took the Spaniard’s tally to seven goals this campaign. Away from home is where Betis have struggled, though. Five losses from seven away games doesn’t bode too well for Victor Sanchez’s men. I’m expecting a low-scoring affair, with Under 2.5 Goals tipped at 11/20.
Saturday 17 December
49/20 Sporting Gijon | Draw 22/10 | Villarreal 12/10
Sporting Gijon managed to do what no side could do for five games; which was score against Espanyol. Despite losing 2-1, Duje Cop ruined the oppositions clean sheet record by scoring from a free-kick. However, Gijon are in for a much tougher fixture this weekend against Villarreal, who just beat Atletico Madrid by a 3-0 scoreline.
The Yellow Submarine climbed into the top four and will look to stay in the UEFA Champions League places come 2017. My only concern for Villarreal is that they have won just one of their seven away fixtures. Over 2.5 Goals is my prediction at 5/4.
3/10 Atletico Madrid | Draw 9/2 | Las Palmas 9/1
Atletico Madrid are slowly seeing themselves slip away from the top of the table. With arch-rivals, Real Madrid, in blistering form, Atleti need to step up their game if they are to compete for the title.
Las Palmas were held to a 1-1 stalemate at home against 15th-placed Leganes. Diego Simeone’s side claimed the double over their opponents last season, keeping clean sheets in both fixtures. However, with Jan Oblak expected to be on the sidelines through injury, Atleti could find it tougher to keep as much clean sheets as they usually do. Simeone’s side on the (-1) Handicap seems a better bet at 8/10.
28/10 Granada | Draw 24/10 | Real Sociedad 1/1
Granada kept up their resurgence to get out of the relegation zone with a commendable 1-1 draw away to Malaga last weekend. It’s almost impossible for Granada to come out of the bottom three this weekend, boasting a (-17) goal difference.
Real Sociedad did well to shake off their shock defeat to Deportivo a fortnight ago, beating Valencia by a 3-2 scoreline at Anoeta. Willian Jose scored a brace and could have had a hat-trick, had he not got injured before Carlos Vela missed from the penalty spot. Granada are usually involved in low-scoring encounters at home, but against Real Sociedad, I think that feat could change. Over 2.5 Goals is the tip at 21/20.
5/10 Sevilla | Draw 32/10 | Malaga 5/1
Sevilla ensured third spot in La Liga with a resounding 3-0 win away to Celta Vigo. Jorge Sampaoli’s side took the game to Celta and outclassed them in every area of the pitch. Sampaoli is forever changing his tactics, making him one of the best coaches in world football. Sevilla went into the break goalless against Celta Vigo, and then Sampaoli showed his class, taking off a defender for Vicente Iborra, who netted a second half hat-trick – becoming only the third player to score a treble after coming off the bench.
Malaga failed to hold onto their lead when Ignacio Camacho opened the scoring in the 24th-minute last Friday. Despite the stalemate, Malaga are unbeaten in five La Liga games. Sevilla won this fixture 2-1 last season, and could find it tough, knowing that Sampaoli’s men have won six of their seven matchups. The home win is tipped.
Sunday 18 December
31/20 Leganes | Draw 21/10 | Eibar 19/10
Sunday's La Liga action kicks off with a tie between 15th-placed Leganes and 8th-placed Eibar. Asier Garitano’s side are winless in four games, including their 3-1 home defeat against Valencia in the Copa del Rey. Leganes have drawn back-to-back games in La Liga and Garitano will be hoping his side can pick up three points against Jose Luis Mendilibar's side.
Eibar have been one of the biggest success stories of 2016/17 so far and have showcased plenty this term to suggest they could push for an unexpected UEFA Europa League place. However, Los Armeros need to improve on their travels if that is to materialize. Eibar have won just one of their seven matches on the road, losing four times. The draw seems likely and provides good value at 21/10.
6/10 Deportivo | Draw 29/10 | Osasuna 47/10
Deportivo look set for another relegation dog-fight after just three wins from 15 matches this season. Gaizka Garitano’s side have lost four of their last five games – including a 1-0 loss at Real Betis in the Copa del Rey – and lie just a point above the drop zone. Depor return to the Riazor hoping for a similar performance to the one that saw them thrash Real Sociedad 5-1 in week 14.
Bottom-of-the-log Osasuna are destined to return to the Segunda Division after suffering 10 defeats from 15 games, winning just once. They have the unwanted title of the worst attack in the league (13 goals scored) and the leakiest defence (32 goals conceded). Deportivo are tipped to secure a vital three points at 6/10.
1/10 Barcelona | Draw 8/1 | Espanyol 22/1
Sunday’s final fixture will see Barcelona square off against Espanyol in the Barcelonian Derby. Luis Enrique’s star-studded team recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory at relegation-threatened Osasuna thanks to a brace from Lionel Messi and strike from Luis Suarez. Prior to that result, the Catalan giants had drawn three in a row and Enrique will be hoping his side can put together a string of wins in their quest to retain their title.
Quique Sanchez Flores’ ever-improving side are riding an 11-match unbeaten streak across all competitions. Although only five of those game have resulted in wins, it’s still an impressive feat to go that many games undefeated. Against the odds, they held Atletico Madrid to a goalless draw at the Vicente Calderon in week 14, but this will be their toughest test yet. I fancy Espanyol to hold Barca at half-time with Enrique’s side to win in the second half. The Draw/Barcelona Half-time/Full-time Double is the way to go at 28/10.
Monday 19 December
9/10 Athletic Bilbao | Draw 5/2 | Celta Vigo 31/10
The final game of the year in La Liga will see Athletic Bilbao host Celta Vigo, with both sides in desperate need of a win. Bilbao are winless in five matches away from home in La Liga. They’ll be glad to return to the San Mames, where they have won five of their seven matches.
Celta Vigo were absolutely horrendous in their last fixture, going down 3-0 to Sevilla – despite going into the half-time break goalless. This is going to be a tough one. Bilbao won this fixture 2-1 last season, but for a safer option this time round; back Both Teams to Score at 9/10.
TREBLE @ 4/1
Atletico Madrid Win (-1) Handicap 8/10
Sevilla Win 5/10
Athletic Bilbao v Celta Vigo BTTS 9/10
Written by Jesse Nagel @Hollywoodbets