Round 20 Betting Advice: We’re halfway there
James Watson brings you his expert betting tips for Round 20 in La Liga.
So we’re officially half way through the Spanish football season with all teams having played each other once. I’m one of a large group that thinks the league title is decided already, with Barcelona almost deserving of a whole other league to themselves.
At this stage, I have placed a total of 186 bets on this league, with a profit of £636.07 based on £20 stakes on each bet. This equates to a return on investment of 20.40%, far above what I set out to achieve at the beginning of the year. Immediately this is almost forgotten however, as the next half of the season is just as long and things could change in a heartbeat. It still is, and always has been, a case of locking in long-term profit.
You’re probably aware that it’s a week of Copa del Rey action – so as usual, take precaution with sides that require a little more attention before placing a bet. Luckily this is only 8 sides this week (Real Madrid, Valencia, Real Zaragoza, Sevilla, Barcelona, Malaga, Atletico Madrid and Real Betis).
Espanyol vs. Mallorca
Espanyol played well last weekend with a well-drilled, albeit narrow, victory over away strugglers Celta. Mallorca on the other hand were thumped by Valladolid – helped massively by a standout performance from my singing of the season Patrick Ebert. The home and away form coming into this game slightly favours Espanyol, having W3 D3 and L4, compared to Mallorca’s W1 D3 L6 from the 10 available games.
Overall I think it’s clear to see that Espanyol have turned a corner and adjusted their game plan to suit the skill level of the squad. With only 1 loss from 6, they have steadily made their way out of the relegation zone, yet opponents Mallorca seem to still be stuck in their rut.
On paper this looks like a big unders game with chances few and far between, but I make Espanyol decent favourites here. The even money available on a home win more than compensates for the decent form of late and better overall quality.
Advised bet – Espanyol win. Best odds 2.00.
Granada vs. Rayo Vallecano
Despite just about scraping through with a draw against Getafe on Monday, Granada looked in poor shape against a side that was missing several players – most importantly lacking an attacking edge. Rayo Vallecano continue to impress with an away win at Bilbao now giving them 4 consecutive victories and a highly respectable 6th place in the league table.
Although historically not a good away side, you really have to fancy Rayo Vallecano here as they go through what appears to be a steep upward trend. However, their odds have been distorted as a direct result and they are currently one of the most overhyped sides in the league as a result.
Both teams have suspensions that are likely to affect team performances, with Rayo missing midfield playmaker Alejandro Dominguez and Granada without holding midfielder Iriney. However, the most severe team news that Rayo are without wonderkid Leo Baptistao who has been by far and away their best player this season and leading goalscorer.
Combine that loss with Dominquez (Rayo’s leading player in terms of assists). In my opinion, this game suddenly goes from a relatively safe Rayo win to an extremely tight tie that could be decided by 1 goal either way. Considering home advantage, Granada are far too big here and the -0.25 handicap gives good cover on the draw result.
Advised bet – Granada -0.25. Best odds 1.98.
Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona
As predicted, Real Sociedad looked very lethargic against an improving Deportivo side during the weekend – their movement up the table being halted by a high percentage of draws, particularly at home. Barcelona on the other hand continued their systematic destruction of the league with a comfortable 3-1 victory away to Malaga. Just to put that in context, Malaga are one of the best sides in the league and have stood toe-to-toe with the world’s best clubs in the Champions League, yet Barcelona beat them at a canter.
This game had me pulling my hair out in value terms. My usual ethos is to take a bet if I make it value, regardless of whether I think it has much of a chance of winning, simply because mental judgements of this scale are completely irrational.
I do make Real Sociedad a decent value bet on the handicaps, but Barcelona have been terrifying this season, winning all of their games and scoring freely throughout. Instead, I chose to turn my attention to a more specific first half handicap as Barcelona are slower starts away from home. Indeed, they have scored 63% of their away goals in the second half.
Still, I expect Barcelona to go on and convincingly win this game, probably by a wide margin, regardless of how the first half turns out. Therefore I’ll also look to back over 2.5 Barcelona team goals at exactly the same odds, a bet that has won in 8 of Barcelona’s 10 games.
Advised bets – Real Sociedad +0.75 first half Asian handicap (Best odds 1.98). Over 2.5 Barcelona team goals (Best odds 1.98)
Getafe vs. Sevilla
Getafe were without several key players for their 2-2 draw with Granada, yet it is clear they were easily the better side in this fixture and probably deserved a win based on the whole game. Inexperience can be to blame, especially in defensive areas with the concession of two (dubious) penalties.
Their home record has been the better side of average, with 4 wins and a draw from their 9 games. Sevilla on the other hand have been in dire form of late, with the away form of the club being of particular concern. The 2-0 loss being the last straw before the board replaced Michel with Valencia favourite Emery.
I personally see this as a big step in the right direction for a side that has struggled to transfer some of their more exciting home performances to their travels.
There is well documented evidence that a new manager has s moderate impact on a club’s short term results (dubbed the “new manager effect”) and as such I make the Sevilla line and odds more than reasonable considering the calibre of their opponents. The draw no bet will return stakes if the tie finishes level – all in all, great protection against a not so impossible result.
Advised bet – Sevilla +0 (Draw no bet). Best odds 1.98.
Malaga vs. Celta Vigo
As mentioned, Malaga were beaten convincingly by Barcelona at the weekend. Although a defeat was hardly unexpected, they manner of this loss must be a little worrying for the Andalucian side. However, their rivals this week, Celta, must be earmarked as an easy 3 points.
The visitors lost to fellow relegation rivals Espanyol to continue a dire run of 9 losses from their 10 away games. 90% of Malaga’s home games have gone over 2.5 goals, with Celta showing a recent tendency to go ‘unders’ in their games – they have in fact had 3 consecutive 1-0 losses away.
As you can see, it looks like a difficult game to call in terms of value, with little interest in either side of the handicap and two opposite statistics in the goal markets.
However, in my experience, when two opposing trends come up against one another, it’s either the home side or the more dominant side that prevails. In this case, I think Malaga should make light work of Celta Vigo, even with the fatigue from playing 2 fixtures against a demoralising Barcelona side.
In addition, Celta Vigo look to play a counter attacking style in the majority of their away games, which helps explain the run of 2-1 losses at the beginning of the season. I am of the opinion that the attacking talent on offer at Malaga should overrun this defence when given the opportunity. Over 2.5 goals on face value looks correctly priced, but with a bit of extra burrowing, it looks good value.
Advised bet – Over 2.5 goals. Best odds 1.95.
Osasuna vs. Deportivo la Coruna
Of all the fixtures on the list this week, Osasuna vs. Deportivo looks likely to be the most boring. Both have been really struggling for goals, with Osasuna averaging 0.8 goals a game at home and an even lower 0.67 away.
Their game against Real Madrid at the weekend, although considered extremely boring to watch, was actually a near perfect tactical display against a far superior side. Deportivo’s poor goalscoring run has been more noticeable in recent games, only scoring 2 in their last 4. They too played a solid tactical game away to Real Sociedad in the previous round.
I’m personally a big fan of ‘Super Deportivo’, and not just for their playing style. They are one of my favourite teams to handicap, particularly away from home, as they have a very high proportion of draws.
Osasuna are correctly priced as favourites here, but the knock on effect is a +0.5 handicap available on Deportivo – a bet that has paid out in 60% of Osasuna home games and 50% of Deportivo away games (this percentage increasing when only considering sides of a similar quality level).
Advised bet – Deportivo la Coruna +0.5. Best odds 1.94.
Valladolid vs. Real Zaragoza
Valladolid continued their impressive return to La Liga with a convincing win over a struggling Mallorca side. However, most of this must be put down the incredible man-of-the-match performance of Patrick Ebert, scoring 2 goals and assisting the other, in his return from injury.
They have a very good home record, having W4 D3 L3, but this rises to W4 D2 L1 in games without Ebert. As mentioned in the previews before, Zaragoza have a better away record than at home, but could not translate this into any points against the impressive Atletico Madrid at the weekend. They have however, still lost 5 of their 10 away games.
I am of the opinion that Valladolid are superior to Zaragoza in pretty much every quantifiable way. In addition, Real Zaragoza have multiple suspensions, with big issues in defence in particular. Alvaro, Paredes, Zuculini and Jose Mari are all out.
They also play a Copa Del Rey fixture midweek, adding fatigue in to the mix. Valladolid to win at odds of 2.2 is by far and away the standout bet of the round, which was duly tweeted in advance to those who wanted a nice wedge of early market value. Since then, the odds have dropped, and I expect such support to continue up until kick off.
Advised bet – Valladolid win. Best odds 2.2.
Atletico Madrid vs. Levante
Atletico Madrid continue to retain their position as the best home side in the league, with a perfect record of 10 wins from 10 games. Their convincing performance against Real Zaragoza, particularly in the first half, shows their dominance against weaker sides. Levante on the other hand looked to have welcomed back their historic ‘away demons’, with back to back losses against Rayo and Real Betis on their travels.
Levante’s away record stands at W3 D2 L5, which is above average for them, but hardly unexpected from a side that is competing amonst the Europa Leauge positions. One defining characteristic of Levante’s season is that when they lose, they lose heavily. In fact, from their 5 away losses this season, all of them have been by at least a 2 goal margin.
Atletico on the other hand have won 6/10 home games by at least 2 goals. Therefore, my bet here is to back Atletico on a large handicap. Although this goes against several of my bets against them this season, I do feel as though I’ve been a little rash at times in doing so, failing to adjust my expectations of them.
In addition, I once again like Atletico to score an early goal. This time, the line has been set at 34 minutes (the extra 2 minutes being allotted due to Levante’s more natural defensive style). It’s a personal favourite of mine and growing within the La Liga betting community, having won in 90% of Atletico Madrid’s home fixtures this season.
Advised bet – Atletico to score before the 34th minute (Best odds 1.83). Atletico Madrid -1.5 (Best odds 1.93).
Valencia vs. Real Madrid
The weekend saw Real Madrid drop more points, with a 0-0 stalemate at Osasuna. They now only have 1 win from their last 4 games and are rapidly losing contention with rivals Atletico Madrid, never mind
Barcelona who seem to be on a completely different planet. Valencia on the other hand had a good week, with a solid victory against historical “3rd place rivals” Sevilla. Their home form, like many of the other big sides, has been nothing short of excellent, with a record of W7 D1 L2.
The initial snap reaction is that because Valencia lost to Real Madrid in the cup midweek, they will be beaten again in the league. The problem being that there are several other factors at play here, the biggest two being motivation and home advantage. In addition, Real Madrid are still missing Ramos to suspension and with Pepe likely to be still out through injury.
Rather incredibly, Real Madrid have failed to win 6 of their 10 away games this season and also drew with Valencia in the very early stages of the year. I make Valencia on a positive handicap (and a large one by anyone’s standards) is a big value bet, actually quite surprising considering the media hype around Real Madrid’s demise.
Advised bet – Valencia +0.75. Best odds 1.93.
Real Betis vs. Athletic Bilbao
Betis continue their bizarre run of being better on the road than in front of a home crowd, meaning their home advantage is almost negligible (although Bilbao clearly suffer from an away disadvantage).
There is however no denying that they are a superior team to Athletic and were boosted by a tidy win against fellow high fliers Levante at the weekend. Athletic on the other hand lost at home to Rayo Vallecano – their dire run of form continuing as a result. Away from home they have been very poor, with 2 wins from 9 (against poor Granada and Mallorca sides).
In summary, the Real Betis win is nothing short of obvious and offers a good amount of value for such a pick. Also on my radar is Real Betis to score at least 3 goals, which hasn’t happened once this season, although Athletic Bilbao concede an average of 2.89 goals away from home. If there’s going to be one game for Betis to score a lot of goals, this is the one – odds are available at a massive 3/1 for this to happen again.
Advised bet – Real Betis win. Best odds 2.05