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La Liga Betting: Barcelona backlash expected but Valencia can score

Luis Enrique will want a reaction after Barça's latest loss
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The top two in Spain are wavering and Jack Lang thinks they could both face another tricky weekend...

"Funny old game, football. You complete one of the most memorable comebacks ever seen, then you go to Galicia and fluff your lines against one of the league's lower lights"

Eibar v Espanyol
Saturday, 12:00
Live on Sky Sports 5 and Betfair Live Video

Two of this column's most favoured betting propositions should ensure an exciting start to Saturday's La Liga schedule. Both Eibar and Espanyol have been underrated by the market at times this term and there's a good chance that they'll produce a decent spectacle at Ipurua.

The hosts are having a(nother) season to remember. José Luis Mendilibar's charges have been unfairly typecast as sluggers in some quarters but the truth is that they play purposeful, effective football - especially at their cosy home and against those around or below them in the table. They failed to find a way past Osasuna last time out and were beaten by Real Madrid in their last home game, but that should not have dented confidence too much given they were in such fine form prior to that.

Like their hosts, Espanyol are at their best on the front foot. They put four past Las Palmas a week ago, inspired once more by Pablo Piatti, which just about papered over widening cracks at the back. The Argentine schemer misses out throygh suspension this time, but the Parakeets have scored in their last five league meetings with Eibar and have more than enough firepower contribute to a watchable meeting.

Recommended Bet
Back both teams to score at [1.93]


Athletic Club v Real Madrid
Saturday, 15:15
Live on Sky Sports 2 and Betfair Live Video

Where would Real Madrid be without Sergio Ramos? Not top of La Liga, that's for sure, and maybe not in the last eight of the Champions League either. The centre-back has an incredible knack for popping up with a goal just when his team needs it most - which was the case last weekend, when a bullet header from Ramos allowed Madrid to squeeze past Real Betis.

It was another underwhelming performance and Los Blancos would have been in real trouble had Keylor Navas been shown a deserved red card for a challenge that straight out of the Toni Schumacher playbook.

"We kept a cold head in a difficult moment," said Zinedine Zidane, whose ability to look on the bright side in adverse circumstances is commendable if slightly annoying.

There should be an improvement this weekend: Gareth Bale is back after suspension and there's a good chance Casemiro and Karim Benzema will return to the starting XI after being rested. Plus there is the fact that Athletic Club are among their favourite opponents: Madrid have won 12 of the last 14 league games between the sides.

The Bilbao side picked up only their third away win of the season last weekend, seeing off local rivals Real Sociedad in San Sebastián. That they remain in contention for the European places is all about their home form, which has been imperious: only Barcelona have won as visitors to San Mamés this term, and that was back in August.

The hosts will be without midfield powerhouse Mikel San José (suspended), but with Aritz Aduriz returning from injury and both Iñaki Williams and Raúl Garcia in decent nick, they should be expecting to find the net. Against a wavering Madrid side, Ernesto Valverde's men look a solid pick on the Asian handicap market; back them with a one-goal advantage and you'll get your stake back even if they slip to a narrow defeat.

Recommended Bet
Back Athletic +1.0 at [1.75]


Barcelona v Valencia
Sunday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 2 and Betfair Live Video

Funny old game, football. You complete one of the most memorable comebacks ever seen, thrilling fans and lifting spirits higher than they've been in months. Then you go to Galicia to play a team hovering just above the relegation and fluff your lines, surrendering first place in the process.

There's more too it than that, of course: Barcelona had to reckon with the Pepe Mel renaissance at Deportivo La Coruña and were without Neymar, who has been their most influential player in recent weeks. Nonetheless, it was a frustrating comedown after their Champions League heroics and a reminder that one game does not a season make.

On Sunday, they face another resurgent side. Long-time club man Voro has done a fantastic job since taking the reins at Valencia, guiding them away from the relegation dogfight and up to the giddy heights of 13th. Given how bad they were in the first half of the season, the transformation has been nothing short of remarkable, with Real Madrid among their recent victims.

The good news for Barça is that much of Los Che's best work has been done at home; Villarreal are the only top-half side they have beaten on their travels. That record looks unlikely to change here, not least because the Catalans have won their last six at Camp Nou, scoring 4.1 goals per game in that sequence.

Barcelona should win this, then, but they always give their opponents a chance. Valencia have only failed to find the net in five matches all season and can have some joy on Sunday night.

Recommended Bet
Back both teams to score at [1.87]

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

Staked: 51pts
Returned: 42.72pts
P/L: -8.28pts

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