La Liga Betting: Deportivo can make life tough for bruised Real Madrid
Atlético Madrid v Villarreal
Live on Sky Sports 3 and Betfair Live Video
Saturday's win over Espanyol was pretty much the archetypal Atlético Madrid display, nine parts defensive grit with a dash of Antoine Griezmann magic to get them over the line. It's now eight clean sheets in 11 for Los Colchoneros - proof that they are back to their suffocating best.
Given their form, Diego Simeone would be forgiven for feeling a pang of regret when he glances at the Primera División table. If Atleti had been this ruthless earlier in the season, they would surely be up there making life difficult for Barcelona and Real Madrid, both of whose flaws have been evident in recent weeks. Instead, it's Champions League or bust.
Tuesday's game against Villarreal is unlikely to be a thriller. Only one of Atlético's last seven games has gone over the 2.5-goal mark and the Yellow Submarine tend to be fairly circumspect on the road: just two of their last nine away matches have produced three goals or more. The in-form Cédric Bakambu will test the home defence and Victor Ruiz's suspension may disrupt Villarreal's gameplan a touch, but unders looks a solid pick.
Back Under 2.5 Goals at 1.80
Barcelona v Osasuna
Live on Sky Sports 2 and Betfair Live Video
As a wise man once said, there are three certainties in life: death, taxes and Lionel Messi. The Barça talisman was at it again on Sunday night, scoring a brilliant brace in El Clásico to reignite the title race. His second, stroked home with trademark minimalism in injury time, was his 500th goal for the Blaugrana - a stunning achievement given that he's yet to hit 30.
The win was, in the words of Luis Enrique, "a gargantuan morale boost" for Barça, who had looked so deflated at the end of the Champions League defeat at the hands of Juventus and appeared to have surrendered two points when James Rodríguez planted a late shot into the roof of the net. But for all their shortcomings, one thing this squad clearly doesn't lack is fighting spirit.
Barça top the table going into the midweek round and, courtesy of an early kick-off time, have the chance to pile the pressure on their great rivals by beating doomed Osasuna. With the wind in their sails, we fully expect them do just that, but there's little value to be had backing the home side, even with a handicap.
Instead, it may be worth taking a chance on Osasuna getting on the scoresheet. Petar Vasiljević's charges are enjoying their best spell of the season (this isn't saying much, admittedly), winning seven points from their last four matches. More relevantly, they have scored in 12 of their last 16 games and can take advantage of Barça's propensity for defensive lapses.
Back Osasuna to score one goal at 9/5
Deportivo La Coruña v Real Madrid
Live on Sky Sports 2 and Betfair Live Video
Game management? You've come to the wrong place. At least that's the conclusion you'd have to draw after Madrid's late Clásico collapse, which was as much a product of their own harebrained mentality as it was to Barcelona's attacking brilliance. With the seconds ticking away, the ten men should have been protecting a result that would have all but sealed the title; instead, they threw men forward and paid the price.
Zinedine Zidane must now ensure that defeat does not echo through the rest of Madrid's season, but it won't be an easy task. As well as the psychological consequences, there are new personnel issues: Gareth Bale limped off in the first half and walking red card machine Sergio Ramos must now serve a suspension. With the defence already ravaged by injuries, Zidane may have to get creative in the weeks ahead.
Deportivo La Coruña pushed Real to the limit at the Bernabéu back in December and could provide further resistance on Wednesday night. They have tightened up under Pepe Mel and are tricky to break down on home soil: no team has scored more than one goal as visitors to the Riazor since November. Both Atlético and Barcelona have returned home disappointed in recent weeks.
Depor may not have the attacking quality to win here, but we like their chances of keeping the score respectable. Back them with a 1.5-goal advantage and you'll profit if even if they lose by one.
Back Deportivo +1.5 at 1.80
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