When do Atlético Madrid become genuine title challengers? After all they had a fantastic start last season before fading away from the race. This time out they look to have more depth and variation to both their squad and play, but no one’s getting carried away, especially not manager Diego Simeone.
It was Atléti's best win in 25 years as they put seven past Getafe in the mini-Madrid derby. The highlight was Diego Costa's twisting overhead kick - where his right foot not only connected with the ball, but was used to spring from the ground - which brought back memories of seven years ago, when a similar one was scored by Ronaldinho for Barcelona in his prime.
Real Madrid 1.12, the draw 9.00, Real Valladolid 22.00
'There is life without Ronaldo' read one Marca headline, the Portuguese superstar was withdrawn due to a thigh strain at Almería last weekend. That game featured nine Spaniards on the pitch for Madrid at one point - the highest number in eight years - but it's the 'Galactico' signings that still attract the attention. In the 126 minutes played without CR7, Real Madrid have scored eight goals.
The 4-1 win over Galatasaray was even more impressive when you consider Sergio Ramos was sent-off after half-an-hour with the scores level at 0-0. "When we had ten men we played with courage and personality," proclaimed Carlo Ancelotti proudly. It's been alleged that the Italian might drop Ramos as punishment, but the fitness issues surrounding Raphaël Varane and the controversy it would cause with Iker Casillas also on the sidelines, could see the defender granted a reprise. His relationship with President Florentino Pérez has deteriorated due to a fall out over contract negotiations, with radio programme El Larguero on Cadena SER describing it as ‘non-existent’.
Gareth Bale is continuing to impress, as he described his beautiful free-kick as "One of the best goals of my career." The Welshman is 5.60 for the opening goal at the Bernabéu.
It's just one win in the last eleven for Real Valladolid, who must surely fear the worst as they travel to the capital. Although they have found the net five times in their seven away games during the first 45 minutes, including striking the opener at the Camp Nou. For both teams to score in the first half it's 3.55.
Score Prediction: Real Madrid 4 Real Valladolid 1 (12.50)
Athletic Bilbao 5.10, a draw 4.20, Barcelona 1.62
Things are looking up for Athletic Bilbao, as they head into week 15 brimming with confidence. Their style is a little more pragmatic under Ernesto Valverde compared with former boss Marcelo Bielsa and they are reaping the benefits. They have lost just once in the last six games and sit one point from fourth position. Unbeaten at the new San Mamés, Champions League football is beginning to look a distinct possibility.
Goals are coming from all over the pitch for Los Leones with a number of players sharing the burden. Markel Susaeta was the first on the scoresheet in the contest back in April and he is 12.50 to do so once again.
Gerardo 'Tata' Martino lost his first game in charge of Barcelona, as they were defeated by Ajax. "Lacking intensity" were the key words used to describe the performance by Martino, Xavi, Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué in separate interviews. Whilst Cesc Fàbregas explained: "We have no excuses - the level of performance was simply not high enough for Barcelona." The result in the week was always going to invite negativity, but one defeat in 21 is hardly a cause for alarm.
These encounters are often high tempo affairs, with the work-rate off the ball as important as when in possession. The last two meetings have generated ten goals. It should be an exciting and entertaining game on Sunday, so back over 3.5 goals for a return of 2.40.
Score Prediction: Athletic Bilbao 2 Barcelona 2 (12.50)
Espanyol 2.25, a draw 3.35, Real Sociedad 3.25
Espanyol scored four against Rayo Vallecano, ending a run of four games without a win. The Catalans are a decent proposition at home, with only defeats to Getafe and a surprise Sevilla away performance denting their record at the Cornellà-El Prat.
Carlos Vela became the first player in Europe to score four goals in one game as he started as a striker versus Celta Vigo. He hasn't been used that much in the role, though manager Jagoba Arrasate asserted this was coming due to the way the Mexican had been training. The team has netted nine goals in three La Liga matches when Vela has been given the central position. His pace frightens defenders whilst his movement across to the wide areas does help create space for not only the wingers to cut inside, but for the central midfielders to burst into.
La Real went down 4-0 in Ukraine. "In this competition, you pay for the mistakes you make." admitted the coach upon his teams Champions League exit. With Vela leading the line once more, back the away team to bounce back with over 1.5 goals at 2.95.
Score Prediction: Espanyol 2 Real Sociedad 3 (30.00)
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