Mark O’Haire’s La Liga Tips – Thursday
The last La Liga action of 2015 features a local derby on New Year’s Eve as Valencia make the short hop up the east coast to face Villarreal.
Villarreal v Valencia, Thursday 31st December 2015 15.00, Sky Sports 1
Until 1997, Valencia were the undisputed kings of football in the community of Valencia – nobody batted an eyelid at a Villarreal side that had spent most of their 80 years in the lower leagues of Spain.
However, having been denied a shareholding by his brother when looking to invest in Los Che, Fernando Roig, one of the three Roig brothers who had a strong hold on the economy, business and sport of Valencia, took charge of the Yellow Submarine.
With the strong backing of Roig, Villarreal shrugged of their tag as Valencia’s harmless little brother and a rivalry was born. It all came to a head in the 2004 UEFA Cup semi-final contested between the pair and the brotherly love that had previously existed turned to bad blood.
A controversial penalty helped Los Che through that day and they’ve been snarling since. A decade after that continental clash, Valencia effectively relegated Villarreal in 2012 and celebrated it like they’d won the title. No longer were these two regional pals.
The simmering distaste between the duo has soothed a touch but the Derbi de la Comunitat does tend to be keenly contested. Like any sibling or intercity tug of war, this match matters and local bragging rights carry a decent degree of importance.
Visiting boss Gary Neville is still searching for his first league victory following back-to-back draws with Eibar and Getafe.
But he’s at least able to welcome back Lucas Orban and Javi Fuego from suspension. Dani Parejo should be pushed further forward and Pablo Piatti is in line for a start on the left.
Valencia have W0-D4-L1 of their past five in La Liga and are now nine points off the Champions League qualification places. Defensively they’ve struggled; their solitary shutout in 11 came against little Barakaldo in the Copa del Rey and they’ve failed to keep their sheets clean since September when playing away.
Talking of their road record, Los Che have W2-D2-L4 in La Liga this term with six of those opponents residing in the top-11 before Wednesday’s round of fixtures. Since the start of last season, Valencia have W9-D10-L8 on their travels and W3-D5-L4 at top-half clubs that aren’t Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Neville’s troops take on Real Madrid on Sunday and so these pair of fixtures could easily make-or-break Valencia’s season. Their New Year’s Eve trip to El Madrigal certainly won’t be a walk in the park.
The Yellow Submarine have already dispatched both Real and Atletico Madrid on home soil this season and sit eight points ahead of their neighbours.
Marcelinho’s men have W8-D1-L1 of their past 10 in front of their home supporters with their only loss coming in injury time to Celta back in October.
The hosts have Jaume Costa and Mario back and will be confident of extending their excellent run of results on home soil. Since the start of last season, Villarreal have W18-D2-L7 when welcoming La Liga opposition, scoring at least twice in 13/27 (48%).
This contest features two of the best four backlines in the division but I’m keen to explore a goals angle. The fixture has a history of goals – the past four head-to-heads have featured Both Teams To Score winners – and that’s also been the case in four of Valencia’s previous five away days as well as six of Villarreal’s eight at El Madrigal.
And I’m also going to have a wee poke on Villarreal taking maximum points with BTTS. They’ve won five of their eight matches that have produced goals for both sides this season and with Valencia winning just once in eight when both teams have scored, I reckon the 31/10 on offer has legs. After all, the Yellow Submarine boast a 67% win-rate since the beginning of 2014/15 at home.
Both Teams To Score @ 20/21
Villarreal to win and Both Teams To Score @ 31/10
*Prices correct at time of publication.