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La Liga: Real face tricky fixture away to Villareal as Barca storm Osasuna

Sevilla vs Celta Vigo

Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville

Friday, 30-08-2019 @9pm

After a comfortable 0-2 success at Espanyol on the opening day, Sevilla made it back to back away wins on Matchday 2 as Joan Jordan’s second half strike proved enough to sink newly promoted Granada at Los Carmenes. It’s been a perfect start to the campaign thus far for the Andalusian side and their new manager Julen Lopetegui, but can Sevillistas extend their 100% record when Celta Vigo visit Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Friday night?

This is a really enticing fixture to kick-off Matchday 3 in La Liga, between two sides that picked up excellent victories last weekend. Granada were always going to make life tough for Sevilla at Los Carmenes but the Andalusian’s toughed out a gritty 0-1 triumph, whilst Celta bounced back from their 1-3 opening day defeat at home to Real Madrid with a fine 1-0 victory against Copa Del Rey holders Valencia at Balaidos.

With home advantage and loftier expectations in general this term, the pressure is undoubtedly on Sevilla to bag the points from this contest – and it is a fixture which has been kind to them in recent seasons.

Their 2-1 win over Celta here in 2018/19 was their third consecutive home victory in La Liga against the Galician outfit and all of those successes have been by the same scoreline. Sevillistas are strong odds-on favourites to get the better of Celestes again this Friday and that’s no surprise when you also consider that the hosts won 12 of their 19 La Liga outings at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan last season whilst the visitors come into this one in search of their first away league win in 13 – a run stretching back to early December.

That sequence was the main reason why Celta slumped to a woeful 17th place finish in 2018/19, but the Galician’s can be optimistic about a much better campaign this time around with experienced boss Fran Escriba now at the helm.

Celta were readily outclassed by Real Madrid at Balaidos on the opening weekend, but they bounced back fantastically at home on Matchday 2 to beat Valencia thanks to a moment of brilliance from new man Gabriel Fernandez, who turned on a sixpence in the area to cheekily stroke home an incisive cross from Iago Aspas.

Vigo could have had more goals save for some excellent goalkeeping from Jasper Cillessen and a late penalty miss from Denis Suarez, but Escriba won’t care as the result already marks a significant step forward on last term for his team.

Athletic Bilbao vs Real Sociedad

San Mames Barria, Bilbao

Friday, 30-08-2019 @11pm

The Basque derby rounds-off a cracking double bill of La Liga action on Friday night, as Athletic Bilbao play host to Real Sociedad at San Mames. This is always a feisty and enthralling clash between two of Spain’s biggest footballing rivals and we can expect nothing less on Matchday 3 following decent starts to the campaign made by both sides.

Athletic kicked their season off in the best possible way with a tremendous 1-0 triumph at home to Barcelona – a result which extended their unbeaten run in the league at San Mames to 15 matches. After toughing out a 1-1 draw with Getafe at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on Matchday 2, Los Leones will be confident that they can maintain their unbeaten streak at home and unbeaten start to the campaign when they welcome their main adversaries this Friday.

Sociedad will have other ideas though after also banking four points from their first two fixtures. Txuri-urdinak battled hard to earn a 1-1 draw away to Copa Del Rey holders Valencia on the opening day, before pinching a 0-1 victory at Real Mallorca last week thanks to a late strike from Martin Odegaard who started and finished a sublime counter attacking move.

Imanol Aguacil’s charges also have recent history on their side heading into this week’s contest – they have won the last three Basque derbies in La Liga including a 1-3 success here in 2018/19 – which was incidentally the last defeat suffered by Bilbao at San Mames.

There are reasons to believe that the hosts can stop the mini rot in the head to head though this Friday, not least due to their fine run at home which has largely been steered by current boss Gaizka Garitano, who took over at the club a couple of weeks after the aforementioned loss to Sociedad.

Bilbao were hugely impressive against champions Barcelona at San Mames on the opening night of the season, and whilst Los Leones were clearly charged up because of the occasion and opposition, they will be mightily difficult to overcome in their own back yard this term if able to reach a similar standard consistently.

Their record of just one win from the last seven Basque derbies at San Mames tempers enthusiasm for backing a home victory here though at a touch of odds-against, as does the visitors’ solid start to the campaign on the road.

Osasuna vs Barcelona

Estadio El Sadar, Irunea

Saturday, 31-08-2019 @6pm

After looking rudderless and devoid of spark without the injured Lionel Messi when beaten 1-0 by Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on the opening night of the season, champions Barcelona eventually clicked into gear on Matchday 2 against Real Betis at Camp Nou.

The Catalan giants fell behind 15 minutes in after a well worked Betis move was finished off decisively by summer signing Nabil Fekir, but it was Fekir’s fellow Frenchman Antoine Griezmann who went on to run the show as Barcelona began dominating proceedings.

Griezmann levelled matters shortly before half time after latching onto a pinpoint cross from Sergi, and then struck a beautiful curling effort early in the second half to give Ernesto Valverde’s side the lead, showing exactly why Barca paid £117m to acquire his services over the summer.

Further goals from youngster Carles Perez, Jordi Alba and Arturo Vidal (the latter assisted by Griezmann) completed a comprehensive 5-2 rout over Los Verdiblancos and demonstrated that the champions can more than get by whilst Messi and Suarez are on the side lines.

But with the aforementioned duo likely to be out for several more weeks with calf injuries, it’s vital for Barca that Griezmann continues in this manner and proves that he can be the main man when called upon. This weekend’s game against newly-promoted Osasuna should provide the 28-year-old with another opportunity to shine, however the Basque outfit could make life difficult for the champions based on what we’ve seen from Los Rojillos thus far.

Last term’s Segunda kings have made an extremely solid start to life back in the top flight, posting consecutive clean sheets with a 0-1 success at Leganes on the opening day and a 0-0 stalemate at home to Eibar on Matchday 2.

Jagoba Arrasate has clearly set his team up to be tough to beat and the majority of clubs could struggle to break Osasuna down this term – particularly at Estadio El Sadar where the Basque outfit recorded 19 wins and two draws from their 21 fixtures in 2018/19 en route to promotion.

Getafe vs Deportivo Alaves

Coliseum Alfonso Perez, Getafe

Saturday, 31-08-2019 @8pm

Last season’s 5th placed side Getafe have just one point on the board from a possible six heading into Matchday 3, however Jose Bordalas’ men shouldn’t be judged too harshly on their efforts so far.

They battled well against Atletico Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano on the opening night and were arguably unfortunate to come away empty handed, before sharing the spoils last weekend with an Athletic Bilbao side who were buoyant after their recent win over champions Barcelona. Getafe fell behind early to a goal from Raul Garcia, but hit back almost instantly after Jaime Mata got on the end of an excellent cross from summer signing Marc Cucarella.

Whilst that 1-1 home draw goes down as nothing more than a fair result, it gets Getafe up and running for the season and the Madrid based outfit should fancy their chances of registering a first win on Saturday evening when Alaves visit Coliseum Alfonso Perez. Getafe wiped the floor with El Glorioso 4-0 in last term’s corresponding fixture – a result which contributed to a fine run of nine wins from their last 13 home league games in 2018/19 (D2, L2).

Last week’s aforementioned draw with Bilbao means Jose Bordalas’ side go into this match having lost just one of their last 11 in front of their own supporters, so it’s no surprise to see Alaves around the 9/2 mark to win this clash considering the visitors have lost three of their last four and eight of their last 14 top flight matches on the road.

Nonetheless, Alaves have enjoyed a fairly solid start to the campaign under new boss Asier Garitano after ending 2018/19 with a whimper. The Basque outfit won just one and lost six of their final ten matches last term, but have posted consecutive clean sheets in their opening two games of the season, beating Levante 1-0 at home before playing out a 0-0 stalemate against Espanyol at Mendizorroza on Matchday 2.

Alaves are likely to keep things extremely tight in this encounter as Garitano will be respectful of how good Getafe usually are at Coliseum Alfonso Perez, but we do expect the hosts to make a breakthrough and edge the three points.

Whilst seeking their first La Liga victory in four stretching back to last term, Getafe have far more quality than their Basque opponents in their ranks and are a formidable outfit on home soil.

Levante vs Real Sociedad

Estadio Cuidad de Valencia, Valencia

Saturday, 31-08-2019 @8pm

Levante got their La Liga campaign off to a poor start with a 1-0 defeat away to Alaves on Matchday 1; however Granotas were much improved last weekend as they ousted Villarreal 2-1 at Cuitat de Valencia. Paco Lopez’ charges turn out at home again this Saturday evening looking to make it two wins from three, but they face a stern test against a Valladolid side who earned a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu on Matchday 2.

Levante found themselves behind just three minutes in last weekend after Gerard Moreno struck for Villarreal, but Granotas held firm thereafter and turned things around via two penalties in the second half to sink El Submarino Amarillo.

Victory over their cross-city rivals will have given Paco Lopez’ men a huge lift after their poor display against Alaves on the opening weekend, and the result extended their unbeaten run at home to seven matches following their strong finish to the 2018/19 season at Cuitat de Valencia.

That sequence, combined with their 2-0 home success against Valladolid last term, means Levante have been installed as solid favourites for this Saturday’s clash, although the touch of odds-on looks a bit short considering how well Valladolid have started the season.

Pucela have already played twice on the road and their results have been hugely impressive. Sergio’s side took advantage of an early sending off to beat Real Betis 1-2 at Benito Villamarin on Matchday 1, before turning in a wonderful effort against Real Madrid last weekend. After holding Los Merengues for over 80 minutes, Valladolid fell behind to a Karim Benzema goal, but battled back superbly to level shortly after through Sergi Guardiola, securing a priceless 1-1 draw.

If Valladolid can produce anything like a repeat showing on Saturday it will be extremely difficult for Levante to overcome them, so the judgement call is to swerve the hosts in the match betting here. Similarly though, Levante’s decent home form shouldn’t be underestimated, so the 3/1 about a Valladolid triumph isn’t quite big enough to tempt an investment.

Real Betis vs Leganes

Estadio Benito Villamarin, Sevilla

Saturday, 31-08-2019 @10pm

It’s obviously early days in the new La Liga season, but both Real Betis and Leganes will be feeling uncomfortable after losing their opening two games. The sides occupy the bottom two spots in the embryonic league table heading into Matchday 3, when they will face off in search of a first win and an important three points at Estadio Benito Villamarin.

Betis would have hoped to kick off the new season and life under Rubi on a high at home to likely strugglers Valladolid on Matchday 1, but they couldn’t cope after the early dismissal of keeper Joel Robles and eventually went down to a disappointing 1-2 loss.

An instant riposte briefly looked on the cards last weekend after summer signing Nabil Fekir gave Los Verdiblancos an unexpected lead against Barcelona at Camp Nou, but Betis were steamrollered in the second half as the reigning champions romped their way to a 5-2 success.

There have been glimpses of promise from Betis despite the bad results, but it’s clearly going to take Rubi some time to get his squad organised and playing the way he wants. At present, Los Verdiblancos look a threat going forward, but they’re far too exposed at the back when they do and susceptible to conceding lots of goals – as was the case last term.

Fortunately for Betis, they take on a Leganes side this weekend who have looked anything but potent in attack thus far. Mauricio Pellegrino’s men have drawn blanks in two home matches against Osasuna and Atletico Madrid, losing both fixtures 0-1.

Whilst the latter result is obviously no disgrace, Lega enjoyed their fair share of possession against Los Rojiblancos but only created one real chance of note from open play.  Lega have now failed to net in their last five home La Liga matches, so Pellegrino’s side will probably be glad to be on the road for the first time this season on Saturday.

And away from home, Leganes showed much more consistency in front of goal towards the end of last term. They netted eight goals in their final five away games, scoring in each. With Betis suffering obvious defensive issues at the moment, Los Pepineros will be hopeful that they can continue that trend here to open their account for the campaign.

Valencia vs Mallorca

Estadio de Mestalla, Valencia

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @6pm

After finishing 4th and lifting the Copa Del Rey in 2018/19, there are lofty expectations surrounding Valencia this season but it’s been a poor start for Marcelino’s men so far. Held to a 1-1 draw at Mestalla by Real Sociedad on the opening day, Los Ches were then outplayed by Celta Vigo at Balaidos last weekend and a shade fortunate to only lose by a one goal margin.

They had summer signing Jasper Cillessen to thank for ultimately keeping the score down, as the Dutch No.1 superbly denied efforts from Iago Aspas and Denis Suarez before saving the latter’s penalty kick minutes from time. At the other end, Daniel Wass’ rasping shot was wonderfully deflected onto the crossbar by Celta stopper Ruben Blanco, but that was Valencia’s only real chance of note throughout the 90 minutes as Maxi Gomez failed to make an impact against his former suitors.

The result puts Valencia firmly on the back foot heading into Matchday 3, as they are already five points adrift of Atletico Madrid and Sevilla – two sides they should be mixing it with this term. A win against newly promoted Mallorca on Sunday is absolutely paramount for Marcelino’s charges, but it’s easy to envisage a tense atmosphere and pressure building at Mestalla unless the hosts are able to breakthrough early.

This does look a decent opportunity for Valencia to get up and running though, considering Mallorca lost nine of their 21 away games in Segunda last season. Los Bermellones picked up just 20 of their frankly modest 69 point haul in the second tier outside of Son Moix, so they look set to struggle massively on the road playing far superior teams week in, week out. Mestalla is notoriously one of the toughest venues to visit in the top flight and this could be a baptism of fire for Vicente Moreno’s side as they embark upon their first La Liga away game in six years.

Mallorca played well on the opening day to edge out Eibar 2-1 at Son Moix, however their limitations were somewhat exposed on Matchday 2 as they were turned over 0-1 by Real Sociedad. With Valencia losing just one of their last 14 La Liga matches at Mestalla and Mallorca winning just four times on their travels in Segunda last term, it’s easy to see why the visitors are huge underdogs for Sunday’s clash and we can more or less rule out a shock taking place.

Valencia make little appeal for single bets in the match betting at around the 2/5 mark, but those odds can be enhanced significantly by backing Los Ches to win this fixture to nil.

Mallorca failed to score in their last four Segunda away matches in 2018/19, whilst they have hardly been prolific in La Liga so far with just one goal netted in two games.

Atletico Madrid vs Eibar

Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @8pm

It’s a new look Atletico Madrid this season in terms of personnel following a number of high profile incomings and outgoings over the summer, but their performances and results so far this term have carried a very familiar feel.

Atleti’s secured 18 of their 22 league wins in 2018/19 without conceding, with 50% those matches ending 1-0, and that’s been the scoreline in their opening two fixtures this time around against Getafe and Leganes. Can Los Rojiblancos extend their 100% start when they welcome Eibar to Wanda Metropolitano this weekend?

It’s probably clear by now that Atletico’s style will never change under Diego Simeone. The Argentine has successfully embedded a unique philosophy and culture at the club, which makes Los Rojiblancos stand out from their rivals both domestically and in Europe. The continuous aim is to be better organised, sturdier and fitter than the opposition. Atleti only ever really do enough regardless of opposition and once a goal is scored the shutters come down.

Compared to previous years where Simeone would typically add just one or two quality additions to his settled and experienced squad, there was a huge shake-up at the club this summer which raised doubts around whether the Argentine could blood his new faces together in a short space of time.

There’s plenty of room for improvement on the evidence of Atleti’s first two matches this term, but the key qualities of a Simeone side have been there. Los Rojiblancos have toughed out 1-0 wins against Getafe and Leganes, putting them alongside Sevilla as the only two clubs to boast a 100% record at this early stage of the campaign.

A similar result may well be on the cards this Sunday against Eibar at Wanda Metropolitano, which has soon become the toughest fortress to breach in La Liga. Madrid won 15 and lost just one of their 19 games at home last term, success again built on the foundations of a miserly defence which conceded just ten goals.

Eibar were in fact one of the four teams to earn anything at Wanda in 2018/19 after battling to a 1-1 draw, however they hold a woeful record against Madrid overall. Los Armeros have never beaten Atleti in the top flight and have lost eight of the previous ten meetings.

After a 2-1 defeat at Mallorca on the opening day and a 0-0 stalemate at Osasuna, Eibar have now won just two of their last 21 La Liga fixtures on the road, losing ten.

Espanyol vs Granada

RCDE Stadium, Barcelona

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @8pm

Details to follow shortly

Villareal vs Real Madrid

Estadio de la Ceramica, Villarreal

Sunday, 01-09-2019 @10pm

With four of the last five meetings between these sides producing over 4.5 goals. This should be another barnstorming game, with Villarreal already looking extremely vulnerable in defence this term and Real Madrid in likely backlash mode after being held at home by Valladolid on Matchday 2.

Real unsurprisingly dominated proceedings last weekend at Santiago Bernabeu, but after they failed to gain an early breakthrough that would’ve probably opened the floodgates, Valladolid’s defence grew in stature and space to create clear-cut chances was soon at a premium.

It took a moment of brilliance from big No.9 Karim Benzema to finally open the scoring 82 minutes in as the Frenchman spun on the edge of the area to hit a low drive past Jordi Masip, but Pucela weren’t to be denied and they deservedly equalised on the basis of their tenacity and teamwork six minutes later through Sergi Guardiola, who netted for the second consecutive week.

It will deeply disappoint Zinedine Zidane and Real fans to drop points this early in the campaign and particularly at home against a side which finished just above the drop zone in 2018/19, but credit has to be given at times to inferior opposition who outperform expectations, and that was certainly the case on this occasion.

So in short, Real shouldn’t worry too much heading into this Sunday’s highly anticipated showdown with Villarreal – especially as they have always found goals easy to come by against El Submarino Amarillo.

Los Merengues have netted 80 times against Villarreal in La Liga which is more than any other team in the competition and they have also won more matches against the Valencian outfit than any other club in the history of the Spanish top flight.

For whatever reason, this fixture always provides thrills, entertainment and an abundance of goals, which Madrid usually come out on the right side of. Last season’s corresponding game ended 2-2, but Real ran out 3-2 victors when the teams last clashed at Santiago Bernabeu in early May.

Villarreal should be worried about the above stats, particularly as they have looked hopeless at the back in their opening two games this term. Javier Calleja’s charges squandered a 4-2 lead at home to newly promoted Granada on the opening weekend to finish up at 4-4, before going down 2-1 at Levante last weekend after conceding two penalties.

El Submarino Amarillo may not have the answers this Sunday night if Madrid click fully into gear, even though the visitors are still without marquee summer signing Eden Hazard who remains side lined with a hamstring injury.

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