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La Liga Preview: Barcelona at home to Valencia headlines match-day 4

Mallorca vs Athletic Bilbao

Iberostar Estadi, Palma de Mallorca

Friday, 13-09-2019 @10pm

La Liga returns this Friday evening following the international break and Estadi Son Moix is the venue as newly promoted Mallorca entertain high flying Athletic Bilbao.

The visitors are the bookies’ favourites for the points in this one, after posting tremendous victories against champions Barcelona and Basque rivals Real Sociedad in the opening weeks of the season, and we also feel that Gaizka Garitano’s side will be too strong for Los Bermellones, who have lost their last two games without finding the net.

The first international break can be a welcome pause for clubs who begin the new season on a bum note, but it can equally be a major annoyance for teams that hit the ground running. The latter certainly applies to Athletic Bilbao, who find themselves in 2nd place with seven points on the board from a possible nine after home wins against Barcelona and Real Sociedad either side of a draw away to Getafe.

Bilbao’s strong start to the campaign isn’t a huge surprise, considering they clawed their way up to 8th from 18th in the second half of last term after Garitano’s appointment in December, but they have definitely exceeded expectations thus far, factoring in the opposition and the strength of their performances.

Los Leones barely gave Barcelona a sniff at San Mames on the opening night and were fully deserving of their 1-0 victory after Aritz Aduriz smashed in what will probably turn out to be goal of the season late in the day. A hard fought 1-1 draw at Getafe followed, before a convincing 2-0 home success in the Basque derby on Matchday 3 – a game which Bilbao effectively had sewn up by the half hour mark, thanks to goals from Inaki Williams and Raul Garcia.

Beating Barca and Sociedad without conceding is seriously strong form, and whilst Los Leones are a far more proven outfit at San Mames, where they’re now unbeaten in 16 La Liga games, they represent a daunting task for Mallorca in Palma this Friday.

Los Bermellones challenged their status as relegation favourites with a gutsy 2-1 triumph against Eibar at Son Moix on Matchday 1, but they have since found life much tougher against bigger sides. Vicente Moreno’s men were edged out 0-1 in Palma by Real Sociedad on Matchday 2, before losing 2-0 against Valencia at Mestalla a fortnight ago.

So after 180 minutes without a goal, Mallorca hardly look well placed to trouble a Bilbao rear guard which has impressed more than any other defence so far this term. The visitors have won just one of their last six top flight games on the road, which is a slight concern, but we expect Garitano’s side to start replicating their San Mames form more frequently on their travels this season.

Real Madrid vs Levante

Santiago Bernabue, Madrid

Saturday, 14-09-2019 @2pm

Levante were one of five teams to turn over Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu in 2018/19 and Granotas will be confident that they can shake up Los Merengues again this Saturday after posting back to back league wins before the international break. Unsurprisingly though, it’s Real who have been chalked up as long odds-on favourites for this clash, but we don’t envisage Zinedine Zidane’s side getting everything their own way.

Real Madrid began their campaign in good style on Matchday 1 with an easy 1-3 win over Celta Vigo at Balaidos, however Zidane’s side have failed to build on that result in their two subsequent outings.

As expected, Los Merengues dominated Real Valladolid at the Bernabeu on Matchday 2, but with only a 1-0 lead to show for their 64% possession and 20 shots on goal, they were pegged back for a share of the spoils three minutes from time.

Last time out, Madrid struggled for large parts of the game at Villarreal, and only managed to escape Estadio de la Ceramica with a 2-2 draw thanks to a Gareth Bale equaliser late in the piece – the second goal of a double salvo for the Welshman. Bale turned in another fine display for Los Merengues in Valencia; however a late red card means he will miss out on this Saturday’s action.

Fortunately for Real, marquee summer signing Eden Hazard is finally fit and should come in as a straight swap to make his full debut for the club. The Belgian will be desperate to hit the ground running, which probably spells bad news for Levante if he’s able to instantly replicate the form shown for club and country over the past two years.

Whilst Real don’t seem to have been clicking 100% in their three outings this term, they have still averaged two goals per game and their overall quality undoubtedly means they are the most likely winners on Matchday 4. Nonetheless, the hosts are terribly under-priced based on the result in last season’s corresponding fixture alone.

And Levante come into this encounter one place above Real in 4th after beating Villarreal (2-1) and Valladolid (2-0) at home  – the two sides which Madrid have failed to overcome.

Levante’s overall travelling record in recent times is fairly poor – their 1-0 loss at Alaves on the opening day was their ninth defeat from their last 12 La Liga matches on the road; however Granotas have managed to find the net in four of their last half dozen matches away.

And their general goal scoring stretching back to the final third of last term is excellent – Paco Lopez’ men have netted in all but two of their last 14 La Liga games, bagging 26 goals in total across that period.

Leganes vs Villarreal

Estadio Municipal de Butarque, Leganes

Saturday, 14-09-2019 @5pm

Two points from a possible nine to start the season was hardly what the doctor ordered for Villarreal after a disappointing 14th place finish in 2018/19; however a 2-2 home draw against Real Madrid last time out represented a decent step forward for Javier Calleja’s side.  El Submarino Amarillo will be optimistic that they can build on that result this weekend to gain their first win of the campaign against a Leganes side who they have beaten in each of the last four meetings between the teams.

Goals from Gerard Moreno and summer acquisition Moi Gomez looked to have sealed a fine victory over Real a fortnight ago, but Los Merengues eventually escaped from Estadio de la Ceramica with a point courtesy of a Gareth Bale equaliser five minutes from time.

Villarreal’s overall performance will have pleased boss Javier Calleja as El Submarino Amarillo were the better side for much of the contest, although the 41 year-old will be deeply frustrated at the result and his team’s apparent inability to hold onto a lead.

Villarreal have thrown points away from winning positions in every match so far this season and that’s why they go into this Saturday’s fixture 16th in the early La Liga table.

Calleja’s side have shipped eight goals in their three games so far which is a major concern, although this weekend’s clash at Butarque offers Villarreal a decent chance to not only get a win on the board, but to start shoring things up defensively as well.

Hosts Leganes have failed to score in each of their last five home La Liga matches, a run which has included 0-1 defeats to Osasuna and Atletico Madrid in the first two weeks of a the season.

A 2-1 loss at Real Betis last time out means that Los Pepineros are rock bottom of the standings heading into Matchday 4 and boss Mauricio Pellegrino desperately needs a result here with pressure mounting on the Argentine.

Lega possess a terrible recent record though against Villarreal having lost each of the last four encounters in all competitions and we envisage Saturday’s clash ending with a similar outcome, factoring in that trend and the standard of performances turned in by the teams prior to the international break.

Villarreal should start climbing the table if consistently able to produce what they showed against Real Madrid and El Submarino Amarillo have far more quality than Lega in their starting eleven. In contrast, the hosts have signaled nothing as of yet to suggest that they are in a false position.

Real Sociedad vs Atletico Madrid

Estadio de Anoeta, San Sebastien

Saturday, 14-09-2019 @7:30pm

Atletico Madrid had a much bigger fight on their hands than was expected at home to Eibar on Matchday 3, but goals from Joao Felix, Vitolo and Thomas Partey dramatically overturned a 0-2 deficit to maintain their 100% start to the campaign. Los Rojiblancos are the stand alone La Liga leaders for the first time since they were crowned champions in 2014 and boss Diego Simeone will be hoping his side can stay at the summit this weekend when they face Real Sociedad at Anoeta.

Things couldn’t have worked out much better for Atleti and Diego Simeone prior to the international break. The club’s raft of new players are bonding quickly and Los Rojiblancos demonstrated their trademark steel and tenacity to tough out three consecutive victories against Getafe (1-0), Leganes (0-1) and Eibar (3-2).

And on top of their own results which have taken them to the top of the embryonic La Liga table, main rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid have dropped nine points between them thus far. It is of course early days, but Atleti really do have a great platform to kick on over the next few weeks to put themselves in charge of the title race.

Whilst finishing as runners-up last term was no disgrace, Atleti’s chances of landing an 11th La Liga title were ultimately harmed by their inconsistent away form. Simeone’s men won just seven of their 19 matches on the road, a number which will probably have to near double if they are to be seriously involved at the business end this time around.

A victory and clean sheet at Leganes on Matchday 2 was a more than satisfactory start on their travels this term though and they head into this weekend’s clash against Real Sociedad at Anoeta as favourites.

Sociedad made a decent start to the campaign with a 1-1 draw at Valencia and a 0-1 victory against newly promoted Mallorca in Palma; however they were brought back down to earth a fortnight ago in the Basque derby.

Imanol Alguacil’s side were outclassed at San Mames from the off and deservedly beaten 2-0, with both goals scored inside the opening half an hour. Four points isn’t a bad haul considering all of Sociedad’s games thus far have been on the road, although such a comprehensive defeat to their main rivals could well have left its mark.

Sociedad would have certainly wanted softer opposition for their first home assignment this weekend to try and get back on track and recent history suggests that the hosts will come out second best. Madrid won both 2018/19 meetings between the sides 2-0 and have bested Txuri-Urdinak in four of the last five La Liga encounters, keeping clean sheets in three.

Additionally, Sociedad have lost 13 of their 18 clashes with Madrid since they were promoted in 2010/11 (including six from nine at home) and have failed to net in ten of those games.

Barcelona vs Valencia

Estadio Camp Nou, Barcelona

Saturday, 14-09-2019 @10pm

It’s hardly been a great opening to the new campaign for Barcelona and Valencia, who both have a modest four points on the board from their first three La Liga outings. Saturday night’s key clash at Camp Nou presents the sides with an excellent chance to kick start their seasons, and unsurprisingly it’s the hosts who have been installed as solid odds-on favourites to land the spoils.

Saturday’s clash at Camp Nou is easily the biggest game of the La Liga season to date, and whilst we’re only three rounds into the new campaign, few would have expected both of these sides to be sitting in mid table having dropped more points than they have won so far.

A slow start won’t necessarily concern Valencia and Marcelino too much – after all they had just two points from their first three fixtures at this stage last term and went onto finish 4th, which will be the main aim again for Los Che this time around.

It’s a little different for champions Barcelona though. This is their worst start to a La Liga season since 2008/09 and they are already five points behind leaders and likely title challengers Atletico Madrid who boast a 100% record. With Atleti fancied to edge out Real Sociedad this weekend, Barca definitely need a win here to ensure they don’t fall further into arrears.

With 16 victories from their last 20 home league matches stretching back to the start of the 2018/19 season, it’s easy to understand why the Catalans are favourites for this one; however they look ridiculously short in the betting.

Valencia were one of the four sides to claim something at Camp Nou last term after they secured a 2-2 draw and they also held Messi and co. to a 1-1 draw at Mestalla. Moreover though, it was Valencia who came out on top when the teams met in the Copa Del Rey final at Benito Villamarin in May, as goals from Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo sealed Los Che’s eighth triumph in the competition.

It’s fair to say then that Valencia have been a bit of a thorn in Barcelona’s side throughout the past few months, and they at least head to Camp Nou this weekend on the back of a win after cosily beating Mallorca 2-0 last time out. In contrast, Barca blew Betis away on Match day 2 but then stuttered to a 2-2 draw at Osasuna a fortnight ago.

Eibar vs Espanyol

Estadio Municipal de Ipurua, Eibar

Sunday, 15-09-2019 @1pm

Sunday’s La Liga action gets underway in the Basque Country and we could be set for a close contest at Ipurua Municipal Stadium between two sides who have struggled massively in the opening weeks of the campaign. Both Eibar and Espanyol occupy spots in the relegation zone after picking up just one point from three games, so a win on Matchday 4 would do much to relieve some pressure on the teams and their respective managers.

The international break will have brought some welcome respite for both of these sides, but in particular Espanyol who appear to have struggled with their Europa League commitments.

It’s been a big thumbs up for Periquitos in that competition so far after comfortable aggregate victories against Stjarnan (7-1), Luzern (6-0) and Zorya (5-3) secured the club’s participation in the Group Phase, but they have suffered domestically for their efforts.

Whilst it’s a given that they have faced stronger opposition in the league, Espanyol have been a completely different proposition on the weekends as typified by their woeful 0-3 defeat to Granada at RCDE Stadium last time out.

After a 0-0 stalemate at Alaves and a 0-2 reversal against Sevilla on the opening day, Espanyol are the only team yet to score in the top flight so far this season and it’s becoming pretty clear already that Periquitos badly miss the services of Borja Iglesias who was sold to Real Betis for 28 million Euros over the summer.

The results and performances in La Liga are heaping a huge amount of pressure on new manager David Gallego, who would have been targeting another step forward this term after the club’s fine 7th place finish in 2018/19.

Things need to change pretty quickly for Espanyol if they are to maintain hopes of European qualification again this time around, but they certainly don’t look a good thing to bag the points this Sunday.

Periquitos have claimed just a single draw from their last four visits to Ipurua Municipal Stadium and have a terrible recent record in the Basque Country having won just of their last 11 trips to the region (D4, L6).

Whilst unbeaten in five away La Liga matches stretching back to last season, Espanyol have won just three of their last 20 top flight games on the road in total, which hardly bodes well for them here considering the start to the season they have had.

Eibar have obviously endured a similarly poor start to the new campaign in terms of results; however they have had to contend with three away matches on the spin. Los Armeros are notoriously poor travellers as their record of just two wins from 19 on the road last season emphasises, so Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side will be pleased to return home this weekend.

Deportivo Alaves vs Sevilla

Estadio de Mendizorroza, Vitoria Gastiez

Sunday, 15-09-2019 @3pm

Sevilla have made a strong start to life under new manager Julen Lopetegui, however they were made to rue missed opportunities against Celta Vigo on Matchday 3. The 1-1 draw at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan brought an end to Sevilla’s 100% record, but they’re still sitting handily in 3rd coming into this weekend’s fixture against an Alaves side who are also unbeaten three games into the new La Liga campaign.

This is a big season for Sevilla who are desperate to achieve a top four finish after missing out for the last two years, and overall it’s been a case of so far so good for the Andalusians since Julen Lopetegui took charge of the club during the summer.

Two composed away wins and clean sheets against Espanyol (0-2) and Granada (0-1) marked a fine start to Lopetegui’s tenure considering Sevillistas diffidence on the road last term, and they really should have kept their 100% record in tact at home to Celta Vigo a fortnight ago.

Sevilla dominated Celestes at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and registered 18 shots on goal, but only broke the deadlock nine minutes from time through Franco Vazquez. The volume of chances created arguably warranted a more comfortable lead, but one goal was all they managed and that was cancelled out just a few moments later by Denis Suarez.

The result will have massively frustrated Lopetegui and his side, but on reflection Sevilla have to be content with the seven points which they have on the board.

Sunday’s hosts Alaves have similarly enjoyed a good opening to the season under new management, and it was badly needed after a major drop towards the end of 2018/19.

They won just one and lost six of their final ten La Liga matches last season, a run which saw them fade from the European qualification race into 11th and ultimately spelled the end for then boss Abelardo.

So a win and two draws thus far represents a decent step forward for El Glorioso and boss Asier Garitano, who failed to deliver during his stint at Real Sociedad last season.

Like Sevilla, Alaves have been keeping things extremely tight with two clean sheets secured from their three games, and the only goal they have conceded came last time out in a decent 1-1 draw at Getafe.

Celta Vigo vs Granada

Abanca Balaidos, Vigo

Sunday, 14-09-2019 @5pm

Granada are second favourites with the bookies to be relegated from La Liga this season, but Diego Martinez’ side have well and truly outperformed those expectations in their first three games.

After a thrilling 4-4 draw at Villarreal and a slender 0-1 defeat at home to Sevilla, Nazaries trounced Espanyol 0-3 at RCDE Stadium a fortnight ago to bank their first success back in the top flight. They head to Galicia this Sunday in great spirits, but hosts Celta will be equally buoyant after collecting four points from their last two outings against Valencia and Sevilla.

With just 52 goals scored in 42 Segunda games, Granada were hardly prolific en route to promotion last term but it’s been a different story so far for Nazaries back in the top flight.

Whilst unable to find the net in a 0-1 home defeat to Sevilla on Matchday 2, Granada have smashed in seven goals from their two away matches against Villarreal and Espanyol, impressing immensely in the latter to beat last season’s 7th placed side 0-3 in Barcelona.

Early evidence suggests that Martinez has recruited extremely well in the summer, with Fede Vico, Darwin Machis and Carlos Fernandez standing out in particular. Fernandez came off the bench to wrap up matters against Espanyol a fortnight ago and the Sevilla loanee shapes as the perfect late replacement for veteran Roberto Soldado, who is unlikely to fulfil 90 minutes too many times this season at the age of 34.

Granada will undoubtedly be searching for all three points again this weekend however they face a stiff test against a Celta side who have won five of their last seven La Liga matches at Balaidos.

Celta’s only defeat in that run was a 1-3 reversal against Real Madrid on the opening day, and they have since bounced back to beat Copa Del Rey holders Valencia 1-0 in Galicia.

Celestes have been a formidable outfit in front of their own supporters dating back to Fran Escriba’s appointment in March and Granada will have to reproduce their performance against Espanyol last time out if they are to take any points back to Andalusia on Sunday afternoon.

Whilst that’s entirely possible, we just fancy the hosts to narrowly edge this contest. Celestes should be full of confidence at Balaidos following their win over Valencia and they’re a much tougher proposition now under the watch of Escriba – as typified by their battling 1-1 draw at Sevilla a fortnight ago where they had to suffer for long periods without the ball.

Granada should definitely play their part based on the attacking quality they possess, but they will be exposed by the likes of Aspas, Suarez and Santi Mina if they defend as they did at Villarreal on the opening night.

Real Valladolid vs Osasuna

Estadio Municipal Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid

Sunday, 14-09-2019 @7:30pm

This Sunday’s tea-time offering in La Liga comes from Estadio Jose Zorrilla, as Valladolid entertain 2018/19 Segunda winners Osasuna. These sides are amongst the favourites for relegation this term, but both have shown in the opening weeks of the campaign that they may be capable of much loftier finishes.

Osasuna waltzed their way to the Segunda title last term, securing the championship by an eight point margin after averaging over two points per game and winning all but two of their home matches.

And the confidence gained from being promoted in such convincing fashion has shone through Jagoba Arrasate’s side so far in their opening three La Liga fixtures. Los Rojillos are unbeaten in 6th place going into this weekend’s contest following a 0-1 success at Leganes on Matchday 1 and subsequent home draws against Eibar (0-0) and Barcelona (2-2).

Osasuna’s display last time out against the reigning champions was by far their most impressive since returning to the top flight and they fully deserved to share the spoils at El Sadar after creating several chances and troubling Ernesto Valverde’s side throughout.

A double salvo from Roberto Torres sealed a precious point and Osasuna will be in great spirits going into this weekend’s clash with such a massive result under their belt.

Valladolid have also enjoyed some tremendous results though in the first month of the season, after beating Real Betis 1-2 at Benito Villamarin on the opening night and then holding Real Madrid to a terrific 1-1 draw at Santiago Bernabeu.

Things fell flat for Pucela last time out as they went down 2-0 at Levante, but a four point haul represents a more than satisfactory start to the season for Sergio’s side considering the opposition they have faced.

Valladolid turn out for their first home game of the season this weekend, but that’s not necessarily a bonus for them as they have won just two of their last nine at Estadio Jose Zorrilla (D3, L4). Pucela won just five and lost nine of their 19 home fixtures in total last term, a record which makes their odds of around evens for Sunday’s encounter seem pretty skinny.

Osasuna were far from infallible on the road in 2018/19 having lost seven of their 21 away starts, but Jagoba Arrasate has clearly improved his squad over the summer. Los Rojillos have indicated so far that they are capable of being more than a bottom third outfit, and that notion is strengthened by the positive results posted by Granada who were a distant second to them last season.

Valladolid can’t be criticised too much for the start they have made, but we have to side with Osasuna in this one based on their results to date and the host’s poor record at Jose Zorrilla. It’s also worth noting that Valladolid have failed to beat Osasuna in their last seven home La Liga game against Los Rojillos – a run stretching back to 2002.

Real Betis vs Getafe

Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville

Sunday, 14-09-2019 @10pm

Getafe enjoyed a tremendous 2018/19 La Liga campaign which brought about a 5th place finish and qualification for Europe, but things haven’t exactly gone to plan for Pepe Bordalas’ side so far this season. The Madrid based outfit managed to gain just two points from their first three league matches and go into this Sunday’s fixture against Real Betis at Benito Villamarin sitting fourth from bottom in the early standings.

It’s probably too soon for Getafe fans to be concerned though. Their side were always going to find it difficult against Atletico Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano on the opening night (1-0) and they then played well in a 1-1 home draw against Athletic Bilbao.

The same scoreline against Alaves at Alfonso Perez last time out was undeniably a poor result for Pepe Bordalas’ men, but the international break will have given Getafe time to regroup and refocus with their Europa League commitments also set to start next week.

One significant positive for Getafe heading into Matchday 4 is their results over Betis last season. They beat Los Verdiblancos 2-0 at home and also ran out 1-2 winners in this corresponding fixture.

That was just one of four victories posted by Getafe on the road last term – a failing which ultimately cost them Champions League qualification. Nonetheless, they only lost four times on their travels in 2018/19 and on nine occasions overall throughout the league campaign.

Betis staggered to another mid table finish last season but have loftier aspirations this time around after the capture of new boss Rubi from Espanyol and a busy summer in the transfer market. The club spent 50 million Euros alone on Borja Iglesias and Nabil Fekir from Espanyol and Lyon respectively, and the latter is already repaying his fee after scoring twice in the first three games.

Fekir hit the winner at home to Leganes (2-1) a fortnight ago to get his new club up and running following defeats to Valladolid (1-2) and Barcelona (5-2) and Betis will have gone into the international break in positive mood.

We feel Los Verdiblancos should be opposed this Sunday though, as Getafe are a solid price in the double chance market based on last season’s encounters between the pair and Getafe’s low defeat ratio on the road.

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