Deportivo v Valencia - Sunday 17:15, Sky Sports 2

The Copa del Rey had been a source of respite for Gary Neville, until this week. Winless in nine league matches (six of them under the former Sky pundit), Valencia’s despair had been punctatuated by handsome victories over Barakaldo and Granada, but failure to beat Las Palmas at home in midweek only compounds the problem of spiralling confidence.

Los Che just don’t seem capable of taking a game by the scruff of the neck against anyone, let alone a team as well-drilled as Depor. Copa del Rey aside, they’ve conceded the first goal in each of the last ten successive matches and the last eight league goals they’ve scored have all been equalisers, rarely as the result of any sustained pressure, mostly out of nothing.

Therefore, it’s relatively easy to make a case for backing Deportivo to win to nil at 11/4. The Galicians’ excellent positional play within a 4-2-3-1 set-up is best illustrated by their high chart position for tackles and interceptions, combined with conceding the fewest free kicks outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Based on my season-to-date shot ratings, the bet should be 15/8.

However, Victor Sanchez’s men are hardly brimming with confidence themselves on the back of one win in ten matches, so a high level of uncertainty avoidance should be expected from the hosts as they look to rediscover the cutting edge that had them riding high in sixth going into the winter break. The 7/1 available on the Deportivo 1-0 correct score is another avenue worth pursuing.

Deportivo to win to nil - 1pt @ 11/4
Deportivo to win 1-0 - 1pt @ 7/1

Betis v Real Madrid - Sunday 19:30, Sky Sports 2

When Juan Merido was last in charge of Real Betis, he led them to four successive win-to-nil victories. Admittedly, it was in the second division and the opposition was never Real Madrid but it’s a clue to his modus operandi, and it’s backed up by a goalless draw away to fourth-placed Villarreal in his first game in caretaker charge last weekend.

To put that result into context, consider the fact that Real Madrid were beaten 1-0 at El Madrigal barely a month ago, which was their ninth 1-0 away defeat against non-elite opposition in the last seven seasons. In short, Madrid don’t lose away often but, when they do, it’s usually down to a solitary strike - about once every 14 away games - due to a combination of factors.

Misplaced shooting boots is chief among those factors but wayward finishing has been a theme for the Merengues over the past couple of months, which sounds like an odd thing to say about a team that’s just scored 25 goals in the last five matches. However, subtract the byes that were home matches against nine-man Rayo Vallecano and sorry Sporting Gijon and you’re left with just 36 on-target efforts out of the last 118.

There’s no denying that we’re hoping for a perfect storm in order to land a 35/1 wager about Real Betis winning 1-0 but the Verdiblancos are still carrying a sense of debt to their fans from the humiliation of their 6-0 aggregate Copa del Rey defeat to city rivals Sevilla. With the emotions still raw, beating Madrid would go a long way towards restoring their pride.
Real Betis to win 1-0 - 1pt @ 35/1