La Liga Lowdown: The Race For Top Four Heats Up

Savage gives us his thoughts on the best of the action from Spain’s Primera División and shares this 13/2 La Liga Treble

Atlético Madrid (4) v Valencia (9)

Wanda Metropolitano, Sat 22 Jan 20:00 (Ireland/UK), 21:00 (Spain)

Valencia are in the midst of a difficult sequence of games that could put a serious dent in their league position. After a crushing loss against the league leaders, Los Murciélagos managed a very credible draw against Sevilla in midweek. However, they must contend with Atlético, Sociedad and Barcelona all within the next month. The previous encounter between these two ended in frantic circumstances as Hugo Duro netted twice in stoppage time to secure a 3-3 draw. Thankfully for Atleti fans they have managed to arrest an alarming slump in league form that saw them lose 4 on the bounce. However, the visit of Valencia will provide little solace to Simeone who also has a trip to Barcelona on the horizon. Madrid are just about clinging on to their top 4 spot so they need a positive result here to boost their European hopes.

Real Madrid (1) v Elche (15)

Santiago Bernabéu, Sun 23 Jan 15:15 (Ireland/UK), 15:15 (Spain)

Real have required extra-time magic to keep their hunt for silverware on track. Both their Supercopa semi-final and Copa Del Rey last 16 ties needed very late goals to see them progress. Isco and Hazard both scored off the bench to put paid to Elche’s Copa dreams for another year. The teams will square off again this weekend. With 29 goals between them Benzema and Vinicius Jr have scored more goals than 13 teams have managed including their visitors from the southeast. Madrid have not lost at home this season and Elche are significantly worse away from the Martínez Valero (W2 D2 L7). In the reverse fixture in October Vini Jr bagged a brace in a 1-2 victory. It is easy to see him getting on the scoresheet again in this one. With Sevilla dropping points during the week Real could potentially open a 7 point gap after this weekend.

Alavés (18) v Barcelona (6)

Mendizorroza, Sun 23 Jan 20:00 (Ireland/UK), 21:00 (Spain)

Alavés had given themselves hope when they managed to ascend to the lofty heights of 14th after round 13. However, a fairly significant downturn in results has seen them record no wins in their last 9 outings (D4 L5). That being said they are still only 3 points from safety as the teams above them have struggled to really pull away. With the arrival of Barcelona this weekend it will be Babazorros’  sixth game in a row against a top 10 side which helps to explain their recent results. The Catalonians are still struggling to find form but there have been signs of a tentative revival of late. In fact they haven’t lost an away league match since Xavi’s appointment in November (W2 D4). A win could potentially see them return to the top 4 so they must go all out against the relegation strugglers.

Game of the Round

Real Betis 4-0 Alavés

Alavés’ resistance only lasted 10 minutes in this one and it really was a case of the floodgates opening after that. Sergio Canales provided the inch-perfect cross from the left wing and Iglesias rose highest to plant a firm header into the top corner. Canales decided he wasn’t happy with just providing assists though. An exceptional solo effort saw him pick up the ball in the centre circle before sprinting to the edge of the Alavés box. He was afforded the time and space to pick his spot before cannoning the ball in off the underside of the crossbar. The Spaniard probably would have claimed the goal of the round were it not for his compatriot Jaunmi who netted his team’s fourth.

The goals kept coming

Borja Iglesias secured his brace 5 minutes before the break with an absolute gift from the away defence. Miazga attempted to play the ball back to his keeper but clearly didn’t spot the forward lurking near the edge of the box. Despite slipping as he connected with the ball Iglesias was still able to sidefoot home beyond Pacheco. The icing on the cake for Pelligrini’s side came in the second half when Juanmi finally got his goal after a devastating counter-attack finished in the most impudent of fashions. It was a good week for Betis as they also managed to claim the bragging rights in El Gran Derbi in the Copa del Rey.

Goal of the Round

Jaunmi v Alavés

This was absolutely textbook counter-attacking football from Betis who were clearly enjoying their night’s work against Alavés. Hector Bellerin picked the ball up deep in his own half and managed to squeeze a pass to Fekir. The Frenchman didn’t need a second invitation, when he saw Juanmi spinting towards halfway, and released an excellent through ball for him to chase. The forward appeared to have the entire pitch to himself as he sized up Pacheco in the Alavés goal. The Spaniard applied the finishing touch with a sumptuous flick over the head of the keeper and into the back of the net.

And the rest…

Espanyol (11) v Real Betis (3), Fri 21 Jan 20:00 (Ireland/UK), 21:00 (Spain)

Levante (20) v Cádiz (19), Sat 22 Jan 13:00 (Ireland/UK), 14:00 (Spain)

Villarreal (8) v Mallorca (17), Sat 22 Jan 15:15 (Ireland/UK), 16:15 (Spain)

Sevilla (2) v Celta Vigo (12), Sat 22 Jan 17:30 (Ireland/UK), 18:30 (Spain)

Granada (14) v Osasuna (13), Sun 23 Jan 13:00 (Ireland/UK), 14:00 (Spain)

Real Sociedad (5) v Getafe (16), Sun 23 Jan 17:30 (Ireland/UK), 18:30 (Spain)

Rayo Vallecano v Athletic Bilbao, Sun 23 Jan 17:30 (Ireland/UK), 18:30 (Spain)

SRD Selections:

Atlético Madrid v Valencia – Both Teams To Score @ 11/10

Real Madrid v Elche – Vinicius Junior To Score @ 19/20

Alavés v Barcelona – Barca To Win & Over 1.5 Goals @ 4/5

The above can be backed in a treble at a little under 13/2