Real Madrid v Barcelona
El Clásico rocks up for the first time this season with Real Madrid looking for revenge after a 4-0 victory for Barcelona in the same fixture in March this year. The Catalan side come into this game top of LaLiga on goal difference, but that isn’t necessarily to say that they are the more likely winners.
Real Madrid stuttered to a 1-1 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk in Poland on Tuesday, but did rest several key players. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois remains a doubt, as does Antonio Rüdiger after having 20 stitches after a nasty facial injury as he scored an injury-time equaliser to equalise against the Ukrainians.
Despite that, Real Madrid remain unbeaten this season and have continued to eke out good results. The game against Atlético Madrid was their toughest test yet this season and was an ideal example of Los Blancos grinding out results without ever getting out of first gear. Their combined xG of 8.52 across the last four games shows that, while they may only have scored five, they continue to create chances.
That quantity of goalscoring opportunities will concern Barcelona, who suffered a massive blow by drawing 3-3 with Inter in midweek to almost knock them out of the Champions League. That reflected their poor defensive state, with Gerard Piqué looking his age and Andreas Christensen and Ronald Araújo both injured. Jules Koundé could be risked after a spell on the sidelines, but quite how fit he is remains to be seen.
That defensive frailty may be something that Real Madrid look to capitalise on, boosted by home advantage. With a range of lethal attackers and a rested Vinícius Júnior, it’s hard to imagine that Xavi will get another one over Carlo Ancelotti this time.
Real Betis v Almería
Real Betis’ form of late has not been at its best, hence the relatively long odds, but they have not performed badly either. Now their former coach Rubi will return to the Estadio Benito Villamarín with an Almería team who will be looking to secure their first scalp of the season since gaining promotion.
What has been particularly encouraging from that run has been Betis’ defensive strength in the face of adversity, with two red cards in their last two LaLiga games. Celta Vigo were unable to score during 70 minutes with a one-man advantage after Luiz Felipe was dismissed and Real Valladolid failed to do so either in 55 minutes against 10 men.
Another reason to back Betis is their brilliant form in Europe, where they have beaten Jose Mourinho’s Roma in Italy before securing an admirable draw at the Villamarín on Thursday night, despite making changes to their line-up for both encounters.
Almería, on the other hand, arrive off the back of an impressive 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano, but that was their first win after four consecutive defeats without scoring. Given that they have just one point from a possible 12 on the road this season, this trip to Seville is likely to be a daunting one.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side will be keen to put an end to a disappointing record in LaLiga and get back to winning ways, and they will be very confident of doing so based on their recent performances and the poor form of Almería.
Villarreal v Osasuna
Villarreal vs Osasuna is the Monday night game and there’s a good chance it could be a dull one. That’s because these are two teams with strong defences that haven’t scored too many goals themselves this season. Villarreal have the second-best defence of the division with just three conceded, while Osasuna have the seventh-best defence with eight conceded. But, Villarreal only have the ninth-most goals, with 10, and Osasuna just the 12th-most, with nine scored.
Translating all this into the total goals per match stats and Villarreal’s games have produced the fewest goals so far this LaLiga season, with an average of just 1.63 goals between Villarreal and their opponents. Osasuna are fourth on that list, with just 2.13 total goals in their matches so far.
This can be explained by the fact that both their goalkeepers, Gerónimo Rulli and Sergio Herrera, have been in great form to start the season, while their attacks have been misfiring and suffering from absences. That’ll be the case again on Monday, with Gerard Moreno out injured and with Osasuna’s wingers Abde Ezzalzouli and Moi Gómez both injury doubts.
Besides the details outlined above about why these teams should be expected to score or concede many, there are two other aspects worth considering for this game. One is that Villarreal are still homeless and playing at Levante’s stadium in Valencia. Although that’s just an hour trip for Villarreal fans, this is a Monday night, so expect an almost empty stadium and little atmosphere to inspire this game into life. Then there’s the fact that the referee is Pablo González Fuertes, who sucks the life out of every game he officiates. His style of refereeing prevents any game from being free-flowing and his needless and countless stoppages could also help achieve the under.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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