La Liga Betting: Injury hit Barcelona to struggle past Granada

The substitution of the injured Víctor Valdés caused controversy as Spain crashed to a 1-0 defeat against South Africa. He was the seventh replacement in Johannesburg, when FIFA law dictates a maximum of six per team may be used in Category A matches. 

Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund argued with the Spanish bench during the incident: "The referee or the fourth official came and asked me if they could put another player on, so I told him - I’m not the referee and we must follow the rules.”

Barcelona 1.12, a draw 9.00, Granada 22.00

Could we be seeing the beginning of a difficult period for Barcelona? Lionel Messi is out until January after picking up an injury in the 21st minute against Real Betis, Xavi Hernández is likely to be missing having obtained a hamstring strain and now they are without their first choice goalkeeper. It’s certainly set to be an interesting time for the Catalans. Those three important components aren't easily replaced, though with greater emphasis on the individual and a far from testing schedule, it may help the development of others.

One of those who aims to prosper will be Alexis Sánchez. The Chilean's pace enables him to breach opposing defences that decide to push-up either from a wide position or as a striker. His two goals at Wembley last week showed a player high in confidence and in a rich vein of form. It's 5.25 for the forward to get the opener.

Granda defender Allan Nyom is wary of Barça's squad depth: "They have a lot of quality players, they are the best team in the world, but we are eager to do many things." Lucas Alcaraz’s side made it three wins in four games versus Málaga, which saw the Andalusians move into the top half of the table.

They have been drawing 0-0 at half-time in three out of their last five matches, whilst Barça's casualty list and the disruption of the international break could see a slow start. Try a draw at the break at odds of 3.40.

Score Prediction: Barcelona 2 Granada 0 (6.75)

Almería 10.50, a draw 6.00, Real Madrid 1.27

Having failed to win a single game in their first ten, Almería has won three on the bounce to climb out of the relegation zone. Two consecutive clean sheets have made all the difference for a defence that has been conceding too easily. 

At the other end of the pitch, Rodri has seven goals in 13 games, whilst Liverpool's on-loan winger Suso has as many assists as Gareth Bale. Don't expect him to fade away against superior opposition: "They hurt us especially through Suso, who is a very complete footballer," admitted Gerardo Martino when Barcelona met recently with the club.

"Perhaps for the number of goals I have then this is the best moment in my life," acknowledged Cristiano Ronaldo after his four goals in two games sent Portugal to the World Cup finals. The 28-year-old already has 32 goals for club and country in 22 matches, including five hat-tricks. Only a fool would bet against the former Manchester United winger adding to his tally. He is 3.25 for the first goal.

The long-term injury to Sami Khedira is a huge blow for Los Blancos. The German midfielder has his critics, but he gave balance to the midfield alongside Xabi Alonso. Carlo Ancelotti described Alonso as "indispensable" this week, so it appears that the Italian will look to replace the powerful Khedira rather than search for the right partnership.

Recent league outings have seen Madrid fly out of the blocks, scoring in the opening quarter of an hour in the last three games. Back another goal inside 15 minutes at 2.45.

Score Prediction: Almería 1 Real Madrid 3 (11.00)

Sevilla 1.67, a draw 4.00, Real Betis 5.00

Both Unai Emery and Pepe Mel enter into the Seville derby with pressure simmering in the background. Sevilla won their first away game in over a year when they defeated Espanyol a fortnight ago, but that had followed the loss at home to Celta Vigo. Whilst Real Betis’ very high-line was exposed time and time again by a Barcelona team that was able to simply lob the ball over the defence, they prop up the rest of the table and juggle Europa League football simultaneously.

This encounter is always a feisty affair with five red cards in the previous six meetings. There's also plenty of goals, with 15 scored in the last three matches. Over 4.5 goals is available at a profitable 4.90.

Score Prediction: Sevilla 4 Real Betis 2 (38.00)

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