Terry Gibson's La Liga Betting: Athletic to hold Real Madrid as Barca reel in Los Blancos again


Athletic Bilbao v Real Madrid - Saturday 3:15 PM

This is definitely one of the tougher away games left this season for Real Madrid and Zinidine Zidane. Actually, it is their toughest away fixture left this season.

The yet to be rearranged game away at Celta Vigo is next on the list but away fixtures at Leganés, Sporting Gijon, Deportivo la Coruńa, Granada and Malaga will be far easier than visiting the New San Mames to take on Athletic Bilbao.

An away win here would certainly put Real in pole position for the title with home games to come against Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid. 

It's a measure of how tough this game is for Real Madrid that I believe Zidane would be quite happy with a point. There will be no rotation and it will be the full strength starting line-up for Real Madrid.

Athletic Bilbao are a formidable team in their own stadium and will of course rise to the occasion. Importantly for them, they will also have their talismanic striker back fit this week in Aritz Aduriz, who has missed three La Liga games and the surprise Europa League elimination against Apoel Nicosia. With Aduriz ably supported by the abrasive Raul Garcia and exciting wide players in Ińaki Williams and Iker Muniain it is understandable that Real would be pretty pleased with anything in this game.

A good win last week away against Basque rivals Real Sociedad will have put them in a good mood for this game. They have struggled away this season but at home they certainly haven't. It is 33 home points against 11 picked up away. Real Madrid in the same amount of games have only accumulated 36 and they are top!

Barcelona are the only victors in this stadium so far this season with a narrow 1-0 victory courtesy of an Ivan Rakitic goal.

The earlier meeting this season at the Bernabeu was also a tight affair with Morata getting an 83rd minute winner in a 2-1 victory.

I can see this one being very tight, very close and very fractious. It's fair to assume that Athletic will look to get the ball forward quickly out wide and look to get crosses into the box as frequently as possible.

Varane and Pepe are big doubts for this game and this may well be one of the few games where Real Madrid won't have a massive advantage in terms of aerial ability.

Ronaldo has yet to score in the new San Mames and this will be his fourth attempt.

This could be a right old "ding dong" and I'm going for a 1-1 (8.00) draw. I don't think we will finish with the full compliment of players, someone will be sent off.

 

Atletico Madrid v Sevilla - Sunday 3:15 PM

This is a hugely important game for both teams and I'm guessing that Atletico are more aware of that than Sevilla.

In recent weeks, Atletico have closed the gap to third place Sevilla to just five points.

Recent draws for Sevilla in La Liga against Alavés and Leganés have put paid to their title aspirations and on Tuesday evening Leicester City put paid to their Champions League aspirations too.

Atletico will have been grateful for the recent Sevilla slip-ups and will now firmly believe that they can close that gap to just two after this game.

This is all about the guarantee of Champions League football next season by finishing third.

Will that be enough motivation for Sevilla on the back of a couple of poor weeks?

The teams also come into this game in a different frame of mind mentally, with Atletico doing exactly what was needed in the second leg against Bayer Leverkusen, although they were grateful for an unbelievable performance from goalkeeper Jan Oblak. It looks like a return to top form for the keeper after recovering from his broken arm.

Atletico go into this game in good shape, striker Kevin Gameiro returns from a slight injury after missing the midweek game to face his former club, Gabi missed the Leverkusen game with a suspension and Juanfran was rested. Simeone can definitely freshen things up.

Sevilla will be without both central defenders who played against Leicester in Rami and Pareja who are both injured. Vardy did literally run them ragged!

I Atletico will take full advantage of a Sevilla team who are feeling a little bit sorry for themselves and who are also misfiring in front of goal.

It's a big ask for Sampaoli to try to raise them so quickly for a big game like this but that's exactly what's needed but I'm not sure he can.

Therefore I'm going for Atletico to gain a victory in this match (1.67). If they are able to play at a high tempo they might just blow Sevilla away in true Atletico style. I'm going to go for a 2-0 home win (8.00).

 

Barcelona v Valencia - Sunday 7:45 PM

The shock defeat at Deportivo la Coruńa last time out was certainly a jolt to the system for Barcelona.

I thought we had seen the last of the flippant casual Barcelona this season after being allowed back into the title race by Real Madrid. You would have also thought that the comeback against PSG would have also inspired them to continue the fine recent run of form.

How wrong was I?

Losing at Deportivo was a shock but it's exactly what they deserved with that performance. It was another example of complacency. They won in that stadium 8-0 in the closing stages of last season when concluding the title win and they played last week as if it was just a matter of turning up, playing at half pace and rolling Deportivo over. They were wrong to do so and paid a very heavy price.

There were no excuses for that performance last week. Remember this is a team that has been used to playing twice a week in games that matter in the second half of a season for about 10 years now. 

Will the real Barcelona turn up this week to play and beat Valencia comfortably?

Let's assume that will be the case. Unless you fancy the longer odds of a Valencia win!

Valencia have stabilised under current interim coach Voro but should certainly not have enough to seriously trouble a Barcelona who approach this game properly. 

They did get a surprise victory at the Nou Camp last season but I don't see that happening again this weekend.

Recent Valencia results have been a home draw against relegation threatened Sporting Gijon last week, a 1-0 home win against Leganés and a heavy 3-0 defeat away at Atletico. Nothing there to suggest that they can win away at a focused Barcelona.

I'm going for Barcelona to inflict a similar damaging result as to what Atletico did. 

I'm going to assume Barcelona will be on top of their game and that Luis Enrique will pick a stronger team than the one he picked last week. Iniesta, Rakitic and Neymar will definitely be back in and Barca will have too much quality for Valencia.

I'm predicting at least a three goal victory (2.70)