Mark O’Haire’s European Footy Tips – La Liga Week 2

Roberto Soldado bagged a debut goal for Villarreal last weekend as the Yellow Submarine saw their lead pegged back by Betis on Sunday night.

Villarreal v Espanyol, Friday 28 August (19.30), Sky Sports 3
A point was probably a fair result for Marcelinho’s men who again proved they’re more than capable of hurting opposition with their dangerous and fast-paced attacks.

Back at El Madrigal, Villarreal will now be hell bent on backing that opening day point up with three more as Espanyol make the relatively short journey south from Catalonia. The Yellow Submarine were smart operators on home soil last season and their W12-D1-L6 return was only bettered by the top-five.

So it’s probably no surprise to see I’m keen on getting Marcelinho’s hosts onside for Friday night’s encounter. The visiting Parakeets traditionally punch around the mid-table mark but the mood amongst Blanquiazules supporters is a little sombre following the summer departures of goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, centre-half Hector Moreno and striker Sergio Garcia – three key cogs in the Espanyol machine.

Head coach Sergio has lost his 26-goal striker partnership between Garcia and Christian Stuani and the Parakeets required a Salva Sevilla free-kick to get the better of Getafe on home soil last weekend. The visitors were beaten in 10 road trips last term but excluding their visits to the top-four, only one of their remaining six losses were by a margin of two goals or more.

We should expect a dogged and deep Espanyol defensive line in outer-Valencia in the week two curtain-raiser and Villarreal might find breaking the visitors’ resistance a little tougher than they’d hoped.

With that in mind, the 23/10 on a Villarreal win by exactly one goal looks a solid play.

Barcelona v Malaga, Saturday 29 August (19.30), Sky Sports 3
Lionel Messi may have missed a penalty but Barcelona still managed to escape Bilbao with a win. Luis Enrique’s troops pocketed the points thanks to Luis Suarez’s solitary goal but the defending champions left the Basque Country nursing injuries to Dani Alves and Sergio Busquets.

With Pique already suspended, the treble winners are looking thin on the ground with their squad already stretched. Jeremy Mathieu should at least return for the Nou Camp clash with Malaga and although Barca should be expected to enhance their wonderful W42-D5-L4 return in their past 51 games, I’m not convinced they can shutout their Andalusian visitors.

Malaga were the better team in their goalless draw with Sevilla last Friday with boss Javi Gracia frustrated his side failed to find the back of the net despite their man advantage following Steven N’Zonzi’s red card. Los Boquerones W6-D2-L11 on the road in 2014/15 but their sole victory at top-half clubs came at the Nou Camp and they’ll be keen to try and disrupt the Blaugrana’s rhythm.

Malaga’s youngsters should enjoy the bigger pitch as well as Barcelona’s defensive problems and the 13/10 that the travellers grab a goal looks a worthy selection.

Last term Gracia’s men got on the scoresheet at Real and Atletico Madrid as well as Barcelona and with Luis Enrique’s team failing to keep their sheets clean in almost half of their home La Liga duels, it’s an attractive price.

Sevilla v Atletico Madrid, Sunday 30 August (19.30), Sky Sports 3
My outright tip Atletico Madrid managed only a 1-0 win over newly-promoted Las Palmas on their season bow last weekend but there were plenty of signs of encouragement from Diego Simeone’s men. The Mattress Makers were full value for the three points and were always in control of the game despite not cutting loose.

This weekend Atleti face a tough task with a trip to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán but with Simeone’s squad stronger than arguably their title winning campaign, I’m confident the capital club can avoid defeat in Seville. Since Simeone arrived at the Vicente Calderon, Atletico have returned impressive W35-D18-L16 figures from their away league fixtures. Across the past two campaigns the travellers have W7-D3-L2 at top-seven rivals and so the 4/5 in the Draw No Bet market looks well worth an interest.

Sevilla were far from their best in that 0-0 draw with Malaga and head coach Unai Emery is still looking to mould his new-look squad into a serious force. Los Rojiblancos can call upon a wonderful home record but their return of W1-D4-L3 when entertaining sides that have finished above them during Emery’s stewardship is less than impressive. It’s now five years since Sevilla tasted victory when welcoming Atleti to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán and that record may well be extended.

I’ve made my feelings crystal clear with regards to the Mattress Makers. I seriously expect them to go close to lifting the La Liga title once more and they appear underrated in the markets for Sunday evening’s mouthwatering tie in Sevilla. Los Rojiblancos will come good this season but for now, they’re worth opposing.

We’ll get our cash back if the showdown ends all square but we’ll be in profit should the visitors come good.