La Liga Betting: In-form Barcelona To Coast To Victory At Malaga


Almeria 6.00 The Draw 3.85 Atletico Madrid 1.60

With Atletico's first-choice centre-forward Mario Mandzukic still recovering from a broken nose, Raul Garcia could start up front in place of summer signing Raul Jimenez, who was whistled by his own fans during Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo. 

Almeria are definitely without midfielder Thomas due to the terms of his loan from Atletico, while left-back Sebastian Dubarbier is suspended after being sent off for two yellow cards in Sunday’s 2-1 win at Real Sociedad. 

Defending La Liga champions Atletico have had an up and down start to the new campaign, with two wins and two draws so far. Last year’s previously water-tight defence has been leaking, with five goals now conceded in their last two games in all competitions.

Almeria had started the season with just two points from three games [including home ties with also struggling Espanyol and Cordoba], but that surprise win at Anoeta will have lifted the mood. The Andalucians also know they shocked Atletico 2-0 in this fixture last season.

What the managers say 

Simeone: “The fewer goals conceded the greater chance of winning. I hope we can get back to keeping clean sheets.” 

Francisco: “Against Atletico you must play not just with intensity and aggression, but with intelligence.” 

Key men/factors 

Set-piece sharpness: Five of Atletico’s six goals in La Liga so far have come from set pieces. Opposition teams know what’s coming, but most seem powerless to stop it.

Almeria lacking in attack: Almeria’s players have scored just three times in their first four games, with new centre-forward Tomer Hemed still looking for his first goal for the club. 

Score Prediction: This looks an ideal opportunity for Simeone’s side to get back to basics, and eke out the type of tight win in which they specialised last season. 1-0 to Atletico at 6.10

Best Bet: If Atletico shut up shop there could be few chances at either end. So total goals under 1.5 at 3.20 looks tempting. 

 

Malaga 9.00 Draw 5.25 Barcelona 1.35

Team news

Blaugrana coach Luis Enrique is set to continue to rotate his big squad - with Lionel Messi the only untouchable. Having overcome knocks picked up in Sunday’s 5-0 win at Levante, Ivan Rakitic and Neymar are available but not sure to start.

Malaga boss Javi Gracia has named the same match-squad as for Saturday’s 2-2 at Espanyol, but left-back Vitorino Antunes has a hamstring issue so Miguel Torres is standing by.

Barca’s record so far in La Liga is four games, 12 points, 11 goals scored, zero goals conceded. And they don't seem to have hit top form yet either.

Malaga have begun the season pretty well under new coach Gracia - with their only loss in four games coming at Valencia after Sergi Darder was harshly sent off at 0-0. 

What the managers say 

Luis Enrique: “I would take conceding in each game, as long as we win. The objective is be better than the opponent.” 

Javi Gracia: “Taking on the best teams is always a nice challenge. We trust in what we are doing, and believe we have a chance, while knowing it is difficult.” 

Key men/factors 

More generous Messi: Barca talisman has [just] three goals so far this season, but already racked up six assists in all competitions. His through-balls in behind could cause problems given Malaga’s centre-backs are not the quickest.

Amrabat Ready: Nordin Amrabat was Malaga’s most dangerous player last season, and although not yet 100% match-fit he made an impression off the bench on Sunday at Espanyol. If the direct winger starts he could find space behind Dani Alves or Martin Montoya. 

Score Prediction: Everything is coming up Barca at the moment, and there’s no reason to think that will change at La Rosaleda. Another clean sheet and another victory looks likely. 0-2 at 8.00

Best Bet: Barca have won all five games so far this season without conceding a goal. And they are better than even money - 2.33 - to do so again.