Valladolid no pushovers in the capital

Real Madrid v Real Valladolid
Saturday, 15:15
Live on Betfair Live Video
So long, Julen Lopetegui; we barely knew ye. Yes, Real Madrid parted company with their manager on Monday, bringing to an end one of the great five-month career trajectories in football history. From pain with Spain to his slow-motion march towards the Berbabéu trapdoor, Lopetegui has seen all his dreams go up in smoke in double-quick time. Still, at least Madrid were respectful and classy in their goodbye statement. Oh no, wait.
With their move for Antonio Conte on ice for now - Sergio Ramos will be delighted - Madrid will be led by Santiago Solari this weekend. And while a home game against newly-promoted Real Valladolid looks like the ideal clean slate on paper, Los Merengues would do well not to underestimate their visitors.
The White and Violets were tipped for an instant return to Segunda by many - this column included - after only just sneaking up in the play-offs and failing to make major strides in the transfer window. Yet the arrival of Ronaldo as majority shareholder seems to have breathed fresh belief into the club, and Sergio González's charges have made a commanding start to the season.
With 10 games played, Valladolid sit sixth - just five points off the summit. They're unbeaten in six and, most stunningly of all, actually sit above their hosts in the Liga table. That clearly has plenty to do with Madrid's struggles, but it's a remarkable achievement given the disparity in resources.
Will they win this weekend? It's unlikely: Madrid shook off some dust in the Copa del Rey in midweek (4-0 vs Melilla) and a new-manager bounce could be in the pipeline. But we don't expect the away side to be overwhelmed, with a low-scoring game possibly in store. Valladolid's 10 games have produced just 16 goals (six of them in one game) and with Madrid still struggling in the final third, under 3.5 goals looks like decent value at 1.94.

Goals in store at Vallecas

Rayo Vallecano v Barcelona
Saturday, 19:45
Live on Eleven Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
No Lionel Messi, no problem: that was the bottom line of Sunday's Clásico, won in thrilling style by Barcelona. The Blaugrana ran riot against their old rivals, putting down a major marker in the title race despite the absence of their talisman.
Messi has made a surprisingly early return to training this week, but won't play this weekend. That's probably still just about good news for Rayo Vallecano, but if Luis Suárez is at it again, the relief may be short-lived; the Uruguayan, after a so-so start to the campaign, looked hungry and sharp against Madrid.
Rayo have found the going tough on their return to the big time. Their one win came against fellow new boys Huesca, but it's been slim pickings since then, and they're probably going to have to get used to the view from the relegation zone unless an improvement is seen soon.
For all that, Rayo have scored in all but two of their games, and could contribute to an exciting match on Saturday night. Raúl de Tomás has scored in three of his last four home games, picking up from where he left off last season, and will fancy his chances against a Barça defence that always gives up chances.
Ernesto Valverde will recall the players he rested in the Copa del Rey in midweek, and will want to see his side maintain the Clásico momentum ahead of a trip to Internazionale on Tuesday. If they do, the goals could flow.

Levante can maintain upward surge

Villarreal v Levante
Sunday, 15:15
Live on Eleven Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
We picked up a nice 3.25 winner by opposing Villarreal last weekend, and we're happy to go back to the well on Sunday - not least because their opponents, Levante, are an easy team to side with on current form.
The Yellow Submarine have massively underperformed so far this term, with just two league wins to their name so far. Both of those have come away from home, and results at the Cerámica provide real cause for concern: they've claimed two points from a possible 15, scoring just twice. They're as fragile as their stadium name would suggest.
Their goalscoring hopes haven't been helped by an injury to Carlos Bacca, while Karl Toko Ekambi is also a doubt this weekend. With the midfield not exactly full of goals, that means a lot rests on the shoulders of Gerard Moreno, who has yet to find his best form.
A midweek Copa del Rey draw with Almería won't have helped confidence levels, which could be important against a buoyant Levante side. The Frogs have won four league games on the spin and have now collected a whopping 41 points since the arrival of Paco López - more than any club apart from Barcelona in that time period.
Their tails are up, with playmaker José Luis Morales and striker Roger Martí both in fine form. 5.90 is a tempting price for them to win this one, but we'll play it a bit safer and back them with a goal start on the Asian handicap, meaning we'd only lose if Villarreal triumph by two clear goals or more.
RECOMMENDED BETS
Under 3.5 goals in Real Madrid v Real Valladolid at 1.94
Over 3.5 goals in Rayo Vallecano v Barcelona at 2.16
2pts Levante +1.0 against Villarreal at 1.87

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