La Liga Betting: Expect action at both ends when Barcelona host Celta Vigo

Iago Aspas has rediscovered his touch in front of goal for Celta
Iago Aspas has rediscovered his touch in front of goal for Celta
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Jack Lang is backing goals galore in three of the weekend's big Spanish games...

"Celta have been something of a bogey team for Barcelona in recent seasons, winning three of the last five meetings between the sides"

Eibar v Real Madrid
Saturday, 15:15
Live on Betfair Live Video

You can read Real Madrid's last two performances in a couple of ways. The optimists will have it that Zinedine Zidane's charges showed remarkable fighting spirit to claw their way back from two goals down against both Villarreal and Las Palmas, claiming four points when they could very easily have ended up with none. Getting results when playing poorly - that's how championships are won, right?

The naysayers can point to countless defensive mishaps in the last 180 minutes of football and, more significantly, at the league table. For just a few short weeks after Madrid looked to have created an unassailable lead, they now find themselves second to a crisis-ridden Barcelona side - and with Sevilla breathing down their necks. The aura of invincibility that defined the first months of their campaign has ebbed away.

On Saturday, Zidane must do without Gareth Bale, who was sent off in midweek for an uncharacteristic rush of blood to the head, and Álvaro Morata, who picked up his fifth booking of the season. That will do the attack no favours, while Raphael Varane's continued absence is bad news for a defence that has kept one clean sheet in four games since he picked up a muscle problem.

Their opponents on Saturday, Eibar, are having a season to remember and have been in commanding form: they have won four of their last six, racking up big wins over Deportivo La Coruña, Valencia, Granada and Málaga. José Luis Mendilibar rested first-choice attackers Sergi Enrich and Adrián against Real Sociedad last time out and still Los Armeros managed to snatch a fine point at the death.

The temptation is to back the hosts to spring an upset, but it's worth noting that most of their best work since promotion to the top flight has come against the lesser lights of the division. Bloodying the noses of the big hitters is not their speciality: in 21 games against Real, Barcelona, Sevilla and Atlético Madrid, their record is a limp W0 D5 L16.

That is hard to ignore and a suspension for key defender Florian Lejeune will not help their cause this weekend. But with Madrid wavering and the goals flowing for Enrich and Adrián - they had scored 11 goals between them in the six games before their midweek breather - we like Eibar's chances of at least getting on the scoresheet.

Recommended Bet
Back both teams to score (2pts) at [1.71]

Barcelona v Celta Vigo
Saturday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 5 and Betfair Live Video

Luis Enrique has cut an abrasive figure for much of his time in the Barcelona dugout and showed again in midweek that he has scant regard for convention. When a manager resigns from one of the biggest jobs in the game, he usually calls a special press conference and does so with a bit of fanfare; Enrique dropped the bomb late on a Wednesday night, in the wake of a 6-1 victory, after calmly answering a host of questions about that match. Reporters must have been cursing beneath the clatter of fingers on keyboards.

Events at the Bernabéu later in the evening only made the timing of the announcement seem more jarring. For all the talk of an institutional crisis, Barça find themselves top of La Liga going into the weekend round and, if their display against Sporting Gijón was anything to go by, Enrique might have stumbled upon a system that reenergises his charges in the final months of his tenure.

Barcelona lined up in a narrow 3-4-3 in midweek, with Ivan Rakitić, Rafinha and Denis Suárez providing some midfield ballast that has been missing at times this term. It worked a treat, allowing them to dominate possession and strangle the life out of (admittedly fragile) opponents. Now they must see how they fare against a side with a bit more attacking thrust.

Celta have struggled for consistency in the league, in part because of cup distractions: they played six Copa del Rey games in little over a month at the start of the year and booked their place in the last 16 of the Europa League with a plucky success over Shakhtar Donetsk. They are safely nestled in midtable, but Eduardo Berizzo will probably be eyeing an upturn in fortunes as the schedule settles down. The Galicians face Krasnodar in midweek, but that's at home and only on Thursday, so rotation is unlikely here.

Celta have been something of a bogey team for Barcelona in recent seasons, winning three of the last five meetings between the sides. They are tempting [20.0] shots to sprung another upset, but a better angle is backing them to get on the scoresheet, as they have in eight of their last nine league games. With Iago Aspas back in form - he has scored in four straight matches - they should have some joy against a Barça side that has shipped home goals to Sporting and Leganés in recent weeks.

Recommended Bet
Back both teams to score at [1.86]

Athletic Club v Málaga
Sunday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 5 and Betfair Live Video

The Barcelona situation could have consequences in the Basque country, with Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde among the favourites to take Enrique's place in the summer. That would be a major blow to the Rojiblancos, who have matured nicely under his stewardship over the last few seasons.

Athletic are a real Jekyll and Hyde outfit: they've won just one in 13 away from home, but are a completely different proposition on their own patch. Only Barcelona have won as visitors to San Mamés this season, and that was back in August; since then, they've won 15 of 17 matches. There's still no Aritz Aduriz, but that didn't hold them back too much against Granada a week ago (3-1) and Raúl Garcia is back after suspension, which improves their chances.

Málaga are a poor side. They've picked up just one win in 14 matches (all competitions) and could very easily be dragged into the relegation fray if they are not careful. An injury to forward Sandro Ramírez has proved to be a massive blow, with no other attacker in the squad capable of finding the net on a regular basis.

The home win is the way to go here, then, but it's worth boosting the odds by looking at the Correct Score market. Málaga, for all their struggles, have scored in eight of ten away games, while Athletic have kept just two clean sheets at home all season. The home win and both teams to score holds some appeal, then, but we're prepared to go one further. Eight of Athletic's home wins this term have been either 2-1 or 3-1 and it's tough to see Málaga scoring twice, so splitting your stake between those scorelines looks a potentially lucrative play.

Recommended Bet
Back Athletic to win 2-1 or 3-1 (split stakes) at [6.05]

Jack Lang's La Liga P/L, 2016/17

Staked: 43pts
Returned: 36.8pts
P/L: -6.2pts

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