Football betting analyst Mark O’Haire shares his thoughts and favourite fancies from across the continent with La Liga taking centre-stage this weekend.
Atleti Underrated Against Barca
The game of the weekend in Spain takes place on Saturday night as Atletico Madrid welcome Barcelona to the Wanda Metropolitano. The hosts suffered a narrow 1-0 loss here last season against the Catalans and have earned a solitary success over the last 11 head-to-head encounters (W1-D5-L5), but the gap between the two has undoubtedly narrowed.
That reverse was only the second in six Los Colchoneros have endured when welcoming either city rivals Real Madrid or Barca and there’s reason to believe Diego Simeone’s side can collect at least a share of the spoils again when facing off against La Liga’s big fish.
Luis Suarez might be missing for Atleti, although the capital club should be capable of coping in his absence.
The hosts look likely to revert to their tried-and-trusted hatchet plan when playing against elite opposition – contain and counter, hassle and harry, with discipline and pragmatism at the heart of Atletico’s game plan.
These are normally tight, attritional affairs.
In Joao Felix, Los Colchoneros boast one of Europe’s most fearsome forwards in 2020/21 and Simeone can swamp his midfield with experts in thwarting opposition outfits.
Having seen how Barcelona toiled on trips to Getafe and Alaves of late, there’s reason to believe Atletico can follow a similar blueprint to great success.
So I’m surprised Simeone’s underdogs are entering this encounter with a +0.25 start on the Asian Handicap at 1.82, especially so considering Barcelona’s plight over the past 12 months. The Blaugrana have already dropped points in four of their seven La Liga outings this term and benefitted from a red card when overcoming Betis in their most fixture.
Barca’s process has weakened under Ronaldo Koeman, the visitors’ best player this season – Ansu Fati – is injured and Lionel Messi has been traipsing around South America over the past fortnight in World Cup qualifiers. Antoine Griezmann has never looked comfortable leading the visitor’s attack and the Catalans have been far from trustworthy travellers.
Indeed, this selection will have made money in 55% of Barcelona’s away days since the start of last season, including six of the Blaugrana’s nine trips to top-half teams in 2019/20.
I make this match much closer to a pick ‘em and therefore Atletico have to be the bet with the Asian Handicap start – after all, the hosts are unbeaten in 23 La Liga encounters.
Improving Alaves Can Overcome Valencia
It’s been a tumultuous 2020 for supporters of Valencia. Reports of financial uncertainty meant Los Che had to reportedly slash their wage budget by a whopping 40% ahead of the current campaign, with the club’s financial situation explaining the gutting of the squad.
The exits of club captain Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin to Villarreal were confirmed this summer, following the exit of star winger Ferran Torres to Manchester City while striker Rodrigo Moreno joined Leeds before Geoffrey Kondogbia moved to Atletico Madrid. Cristiano Piccini left on-loan and Ezequiel Garay did not have his contract renewed.
Head coach Javi Gracia was forced to pick up the pieces and denied access to strengthen the squad and so it’s not been hugely surprising to see erratic and inconsistent displays from Valencia thus far.
A 4-1 victory over Real Madrid raised spirits before the international break, although the final score was incredibly generous based against the balance of play.
Los Che scored three penalties and converted their only other on-target attempt to earn a third success of the season and move into the top half of the table. Nevertheless, I’m more than happy to oppose the rotten road-trippers on Sunday night knowing Gracia’s group are overachieving in terms of points gained against performance level data.
Valencia actually rank bottom-three for Expected Points (xP), Expected Goals (xG) ratio, xG from open play ratio and shots in the box ratio from their nine matches. The guests have delivered a sole shutout and have returned W4-D4-L15 across 23 away days since the start of last season (leaking in all bar two of those 23 tussles on their travels).
After a slow and concerning start to life under Pablo Machin, Alaves are beginning to reap the rewards for keeping faith with their new head coach.
The hosts have picked up W2-D2-L1 in their most recent five fixtures, including a deserved draw when welcoming Barcelona in their latest outing at their Mendizorroza base.
It might not be pretty but El Glorioso know how to accrue points in Vitoria, particularly against the lesser lights, and can call upon capable pair Joselu and Lucas Perez in attack.
Alaves’ improvements deserve a bit more respect than the market is offering – the +0 Asian Handicap is 1.94 – and I’m backing the hosts to bring Valencia back down to earth with a bump.
- Atletico Madrid +0.25 – 2 units @ 1.82
- Alaves +0.0 – 2 units @ 1.94