Mike Holden previews the three live Sky Sports La Liga matches on Saturday evening.
Espanyol v Villarreal - Saturday 17:00, Sky Sports 3
The visitors have been unconvincing for several weeks, despite equalling a club record of 39 points at the midway point in a Primera season. Marginal victories over Valencia, Deportivo and Sporting presented the fourth-placed Yellow Submarine with an opportunity to go above Real Madrid last weekend but they fluffed their lines with another tepid performance in a goalless draw against managerless Real Betis.
Espanyol are currently bottom of my 16-match ratings but it owes much to a quirk of the fixture list - the Catalans have played eight of the top ten teams away from home. In terms of performance data, there’s not a lot between them. Villarreal’s shot ratio is just 47 per cent, courtesy of the lowest shots per game figure in the division, which indicates added value in SkyBet’s standout 4/1 quote about Espanyol to win to nil.
Granada v Getafe - Saturday 19:30, Sky Sports 3
Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla have both been turned over at Los Cármenes in the past couple of months and eight of the next nine teams to visit El Graná currently sit below those two in the table. The visitors head south on the back of three straight wins but home games against Real Betis and Espanyol were conveniently timed, with Fran Escriba’s men well-rested against opponents wrapped up in local-derby Copa del Rey commitments.
Contrary to my ratings, the market is expecting a low-scoring game and throws open some value on the home side winning with something to spare. Getafe’s last six defeats have all been by two clear goals, so back-up a straight match bet on Granada at 17/10 with some of the 19/4 available on Granada to clear the -1 handicap. My 16-match ratings make it a 7/2 shot.
Rayo Vallecano v Celta Vigo - Saturday 21:05, Sky Interactive
Rayo Vallecano are winless in ten matches (seven in the league) but don’t let that put you off, their form has always been sporadic rather than sustained, and their high-intensity approach can only benefit from a full week of recovery after Atletico ended their interest in knockout competition.
Atletí moved on the Balaídos, where they played out a goalless draw with Celta on Tuesday, and Eduardo Berizzo’s men know a thorough examination of their nerve awaits at the Calderon four days after this game, so might be inclined to hold something back, which could be to their cost. All things considered, odds of 7/4 about the home win are more than satisfactory.
The treble on all three home wins pays over 20/1 with several firms.