Europe's final countdown
Latter-day Samson: Xerez's Nestor Gorosito seems to have special powers.
Recommended Bets: Say ‘No’ to Barcelona Clean Sheet at [2.22] v Real Valladolid; back Xerez at [2.92] to beat Osasuna; back Sevilla, Real Mallorca, Getafe and Villarreal at [5.83] to win in Four-fold Multiple
At least one team has something to play for in nine of the final 10 matches of La Liga's season. There'll be no fiestas just yet, believes Tobias Gourlay.
Barcelona will win their 20th league title on Sunday evening if they beat Real Valladolid at home or if they match Real Madrid's result at Malaga. Their W17-D1-L0 record at the Camp Nou suggests they will be alright, even though Xavi is suspended and Valladolid are one of the five teams still under threat of relegation.
The Camp Nou holds no fear for Javier Clemente, the veteran gaffer Valladolid brought in to save them from relegation, or so he says, but he is working against the club's record of having lost all five of the games they have played away to Spain's Big Two since returning to the top flight in 2007. Los Pucelanos conceded 23 times in those five games, never finishing within a couple of goals of their opponents. But such is the market's emphasis on the Barca win this weekend - a [1.06] shot - that Pep Guardiola's men will need to win by three just to match the Asian Handicap line. They have not won by more than three since belting Racing Santander 4-0 in February.
The absence of Andres Iniesta as well as Xavi makes one wonder if the reigning champions' can take care of the ball as well as usual. If not, the defence, which has now gone four games without a clean sheet, will be vulnerable to Manucho, the visitors' Angolan striker, who should be keen to score at least one of the 26 goals he needs to match last summer's estimation of 30 for the season. Manucho's claim was a bit silly, but hopefully a bet against the Barcelona Clean Sheet ([2.22]) would not be. After all, Xerez and Tenerife, both relegation rivals of Valladolid, scored in the last couple of matches at the Camp Nou.
Barca won those games 3-1 and 4-1 respectively, and the market expects lots of goals again this weekend. Guardiola has started without Zlatan Ibrahimovic in two out of three games since the club went out of the Champions League and the tiny trident of Leo Messi, Pedro and Bojan has thrived, scoring 10 of the team's 11 goals in those matches. All three games have gone Over 4.5 Goals, but even that is only on offer at [2.4]. At least the match should be worth watching.
Real Madrid will finish the season with just under 100 points and just over 100 goals, but probably without a trophy. They are as long as [1.3] to beat Malaga because they are away from home and their opponents are, like Valladolid, still caught up in the relegation battle. El Clasico is the only match Real have failed to win in the second half of the season and they're not going to start going easy on opponents now. They will win then, but consider that they have been level at half-time in 5/6 victories since the crucial defeat to Barca and that 11/14 of Malaga's home games have been the same way. The Draw/Real Half Time/Full Time result is available at [5.2].
The weekend's best betting opportunity might lie in Pamplona, where 12th-placed Osasuna, who have little left to play for, will host Nestor Gorosito's Xerez. The visitors have won three of their last six games to give themselves a chance of surviving their first-ever season in the Primera Division.
They are three points behind the other four imperilled teams. Racing Santander will very likely win - they are on friendly terms with Sporting Gijon, whom it will cost nothing to lose on Sunday - but Xerez might easily end up on the same number of points as Malaga, Valladolid and Tenerife (who are away to full-strength Valencia), in which case the teams' head-to-head records will decide finishing positions and Xerez will finish safe in 17th. Osasuna's players have admitted their opponents' hunger will be greater and their [2.92] win price looks wrong.
Individual betting opportunities are fewer amongst the teams fighting for European places on Saturday, but the closeness of the battles mean they will all be gunning hard for wins. Sevilla are just ahead of Real Mallorca in the race for the final Champions League place; both are up against mid-table sides and should win.
Similarly, Getafe are just ahead of Villarreal in the race for the final Europa League place and both have eminently winnable matches. Villarreal are at Real Zaragoza, whose minds are already on their summer holidays. Getafe are away to the new Europa League champions, Atletico Madrid, whose focus is now on next week's Copa del Rey final against Sevilla. Quique Sanchez Flores will rest some of Atletico's best players and those that do play will be most interested in avoiding injury. A double on Getafe and Villarreal will pay out at [3.14]; a four-fold on those two plus Mallorca and Sevilla is available at [5.83].