Man vs Machine: La Liga Week 13

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The La Liga season is now one-third complete and boy has it been fascinating! We have some surprising names sitting within one game off the pace such as Deportivo Alaves and Espanyol; while Real Madrid, for all the documentation about their worst start to a season in over a decade, still remain just four points off the top. It’s a refreshing change from the Barca-Real duopoly of the last three seasons and long may it continue. 

Who: Leganes v Alaves

When: Sat 24 Nov 7:00am EDT

The Play: Alaves / draw double chance

Leganes haven’t tasted victory in four weeks, but regardless, remain warm favourites to bounce back against the flying Alaves. This writer believes otherwise, particularly with the visitors securing road victories against better form clubs such as Real Valladolid and Celta Vigo this season. 

Granted, Leganes have performed better at home since a breakthrough win over Barcelona in late September, but the fact remains that they have won just twice at home this season and Alaves are sure to test them having scored in their last five away matches. Alaves have not won at Leganes since 1997/98 but have taken three draws from five visits since. 

As far as the model is concerned, the bookies have underpriced both teams getting on the scoresheet (+4%) and combining for an over 2.5 total score (+5%). But with Leganes’ last six games all falling unders, and the hosts scoring just three in that six-game run, it would need to break the recent trend. 

Who: Atletico Madrid v Barcelona

When: Sun 25 Nov 10:00pm EDT

The Play: Over 2.5 goals

League leaders Barcelona visit Atletico for the clash of the round, and at a great time for Aussie viewers. Two in-form sides will be coming out with both barrels with top spot up for grabs. 

Atletico have improved with time after a sluggish start, winning four in a row at home while securing vital points on the road against the likes of Villarreal and Real Madrid. A streak of nine undefeated games has been compiled, with five clean sheets and scoring in all but one. Though still their second-worst start to a season since 2011/12, the surprising vulnerabilities of the big two ensure that they are still on pace to challenge for their first title since 2014. They put three past Athletic Bilbao leading into the break, showing signs of that side that won the UEFA Super Cup 4-2. 

Expect Barcelona to throw a big test at the rock-solid Atletico defence, after 11 goals in their last three league matches, including that 5-1 demolition of a hapless Real Madrid. 88% of Atletico’s goals conceded have been after half-time, and Barcelona have an 11-23 split in terms of goals scored before and after the break, so if either side can find the net early, this has over 2.5 goals written all over it. The model finds a +4% edge in our favour, so more than happy to back it in. 

While Atletico took out both of their home Champions League QF legs against Barca in 15/16 and 13/14, they haven’t enjoyed a home La Liga victory against the champions since 2010 (D2, L6). Their recent form suggests this is one of their better opportunities to snap the long drought. Can’t wait for this one.

Who: Athletic Bilbao v Getafe

When: Sun 25 Nov 10:00pm EDT

The Play: Getafe double chance

Athletic Bilbao are very vulnerable favourites at home to a Getafe side unbeaten in their last five away league games (W2, D3), including results against current top four sides Sevilla (2-0) and Alaves (1-1). 

Bilbao continue to suffer through their worst start to a season this decade, a big part due to an inability to close out matches. Concerningly, they have conceded 12 goals in the 61-90 minute period for a goal difference of -8. A 0-0 result to Valencia in their last home game was, in fact, their first clean sheet of the season. Make it 11 on the trot now without a win.

Getafe, on the other hand, have lost just one of their last ten away - 0-2 at Real Madrid in the opening week. They are one of nine La Liga clubs to have earned more points away from home so far in 2017/18.

In terms of totals betting, the model finds a +4% edge in favour of the overs. 16 of Getafe’s last 17 league games have gone under, as have five of Bilbao’s last six. If you’re willing to back against the form, perhaps there’s a bit of value there for you.

Who: Sevilla v Real Valladolid

When: Sun 26 Nov 2:15am EDT

The Play: Under 2.5 goals

Real Valladolid were the fifth-worst defence in the Segunda Division last season in terms of goals conceded and the highest scoring side in the league in return, so it’s been a great shock to the system to see second only to Valencia and Atletico respectively for fewest goals scored and conceded after 12 games this season.

No value found by the model for this match, but I’m dead confident that the Valladolid trend will continue against a Sevilla side who should win but not with a large margin. Granted, their last four home games have all fallen into the overs (3-0 x1, 2-1 x3), but Valladolid have failed to score in any of their three trips against clubs currently in the top ten. Expecting Sevilla to be too tough a nut for them to crack, though they’ll continue to be their resilient selves in the back third.

Who: Real Sociedad v Celta Vigo

When: Sun 26 Nov 4:30am EDT

The Play: Real Sociedad to win and over 2.5

Real Sociedad are remarkably still winless at home this season and have failed to score in their last three at the de la Ceramica, but have been putting the goals away on the road (six in their last three). 

They are presented with a wonderful opportunity to turn it around against a high-scoring, high-conceding side in Celta Vigo with just one victory on the road this season - early in the season at Levante when Levante got out of the blocks slowly. 

That win at Levante was Celta’s only away league victory in their last 13 on the road, and with the model currently presenting a +4% edge for Real Sociedad to take this out, it’s a good opportunity for man and machine to come together on this occasion!

Six of Celta’s last seven away games have gone over 2.5, and they’ve been involved in consecutive six-goal epics coming into this one, so if you fancy Real Sociedad to break a home goal-scoring drought, you’ve got our blessing.

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Aaron Murphy

Armchair critic in all sports that don't involve tackle counts. Unashamedly biased towards Victorians. Stands up because he loves the darts. Wisden Almanacks are his idea of a good book. If he's not playing sport, watching sport, or talking sport, he's thinking about sport. Sport.

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