Levante vs Real Mallorca
Saturday 8th January – 1:00PM KO
Levante are bottom of LaLiga Santander and haven’t won a game all campaign, but they’re favourites for this one and, actually, with good reason.
In the Levante camp, there is a belief that Monday’s 5-0 defeat at Villarreal was the nadir. The fans and the team captains have had tense conversations afterwards and club president Quico Catalán called an extraordinary press conference. Basically, there was a reckoning after Monday’s result and this weekend’s home match against Real Mallorca has been billed as a “must win”.
On paper, it is a “can win”, as Real Mallorca are nothing special, particularly since they’ll be missing key holding midfielder Iddrisu Baba, who’ll be away at the Africa Cup of Nations. Their entire attacking midfield could be out too, as Dani Rodríguez is suspended and Takefusa Kubo and Kang-in Lee are doubts. Furthermore, Real Mallorca had a physically draining Copa del Rey game away at Eibar on Wednesday.
Levante, on the other hand, had a free midweek since they’d already been knocked out the Copa del Rey. For this league match, they’ll have most of their starters available and will have the backing of a fanbase that views this as the final chance to mount a great escape.
It should also be pointed out that Levante haven’t actually been as poor at home as their record suggests. They haven’t won yet, but they have drawn six of their nine home games, in addition to three defeats. Their last three home matches have been a goalless draw with Athletic, a goalless draw with Osasuna and a 3-4 loss to neighbours Valencia, but Levante had the better xG in each of those matches. They have actually been really close to earning that first victory of the season in their past few homes games and perhaps this is the weekend when they finally achieve it.
Prediction: Levante Win, 2.15 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Real Sociedad vs Celta Vigo
Saturday 8th January – 3:15PM KO
Real Sociedad are the team in Spain’s top flight to have suffered the most absences over the 2021/22 season so far, a mix of suspensions, injuries and COVID-19. Finally, though, there is light at the end of the tunnel and they have almost their entire squad available, with only Nacho Monreal, Ander Barrenetxea and Carlos Fernández set to miss this weekend’s game against Celta Vigo, which isn’t a big deal since all three are backups.
While Real Sociedad are on a poor run of form coming into this game, with six LaLiga Santander games without a win, that’s largely down to how many absences they have had and they have deserved to win a couple of those games anyway. This is why there is confidence in the La Real camp this week, ahead of this clash against Celta Vigo.
Celta Vigo, meanwhile, are missing their midfield anchor Renato Tapia for this one, the player who sits in front of the defence in their non-negotiable 4-1-3-2 system. They tend to struggle whenever he misses out, so that’s a big blow for them as they make this tough trip to the Reale Arena.
Although Real Sociedad’s recent form might put some off, that should be taken with a large pinch of salt given all the absences they were suffering. They’ll be able to put out their strongest XI for this one and maybe even give January signing Rafinha Alcántara a debut against his former club and the former teammates he knows so well. This should be the game where Real Sociedad get back on track.
Prediction: Real Sociedad Win, 1.85 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Granada vs Barcelona
Saturday 8th January – 5:30 KO PM
One of the most intriguing matches of the whole matchday is Granada vs Barcelona. Barça are the favourites, but few will feel confident backing the Catalan side, given that Granada have won their past three home matches, including a victory over reigning champions Atlético, and given that Xavi’s Barça yet to fully convince, never mind the fact they could be missing up to 13 players through injuries or COVID-19.
There is always value to be found, though, and it could be in the total cards market. Since Xavi took over at the Camp Nou, he has installed one of the golden rules of the Pep Guardiola coaching manual: tactical fouling. They are committing a league-leading 16.8 fouls per match since Xavi took over and, in their last outing against Real Mallorca, they committed 24 fouls, their most in a LaLiga game since Guardiola was in charge back in 2008. This is bringing with it bookings, with Xavi’s Barcelona collecting an average of 2.4 yellows per LaLiga game since he took over, up from the 2.1 before he arrived.
Granada, meanwhile, are receiving 2.7 yellows per LaLiga game this season, the fourth-most in the division. Combine all this with the fact that the referee this weekend is Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes, one of the most authoritarian officials in Spanish football and one who is flashing 5.4 yellows each game, including 14 across his past two, and this could be one for the overs on the total cards front.
Prediction: Over 5.5 Cards, 1.83 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Real Madrid vs Valencia
Saturday 8th January – 8:00 PM KO
Real Madrid vs Valencia is the big game of the weekend and this is a fixture that tends to produce fireworks. Over their past 10 meetings, there have been six Real Madrid wins, two Valencia wins and two draws, with an average of 3.3 goals scored per game.
We can expect goals this weekend too, especially given Valencia’s recent form. Coach José Bordalás has become less conversative at Valencia and his teams are scoring and conceding in most matches. That’s why Valencia matches are producing an average of 3.11 goals, the second-most in the league, and why 74 percent of Valencia matches have seen both teams score, which is the most in the league.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, aren’t quite as high on the BTTS rankings, but they are third-highest, just behind Valencia, in terms of average total match goals, with 2.90. In Real Madrid’s case, they’re the ones doing most of the scoring and they should be raring to go after their disappointing 1-0 loss against Getafe last weekend, when Carlo Ancelotti admitted they were “still on their Christmas holidays”. With Karim Benzema having had a midweek rest in the Copa del Rey and with Vinícius back from COVID-19 isolation, Valencia’s defence should be worried.
This should be a match with lots of net ripples, and most of them at Valencia’s goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen’s end.
Prediction: Over 2.5 Goals, 1.57 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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