Sevilla v Athletic Bilbao – Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium at 17.15 live on Sky Sports 3
As is routine now in Spain, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid take up their customary positions in the top-three of La Liga, leaving the best of the rest to fight, jostle and battle it out for the fourth and final Champions League qualifying position.
Midway through the campaign, Villarreal are the side currently occupying fourth and the Yellow Submarine hold a five-point advantage over the chasing pack. Marcelinho’s men have seen their odds slashed by the bookmakers to conclude the campaign in the top-four.
But with eight away trips to top-half teams to come, I’d be surprised if the Yellows could sustain their challenge until May. That opens up a door for a cacophony of clubs to take advantage and two of those contenders clash on Saturday evening in arguably La Liga’s best weekend match-up.
Sevilla look to overtake sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao with a victory over the Basques in Andalusia and I’m going to invest my faith in Unai Emery’s troops to do just that with quotes of 2.07 in the offing to support Los Nervionenses off a -0.50 Asian Handicap.
Los Rojiblancos have bagged seven successive victories at their atmospheric Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan home, keeping four clean sheets in the process. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia have all left Seville pointless already this season, as have both Juventus and Borussia Monchengladbach in Champions League – neither of the latter managing to score.
It’s been a common theme when following the Andalusians under Emery’s watch. Since the start of 2014/15, Sevilla have recorded a staggeringly strong W20-D5-L3 on home soil – in 19 of those 28 games they struck at least twice, keeping clean sheets in exactly half.
In midweek a much-changed Sevilla side beat bitter local rivals Real Betis 2-0 in the Copa del Rey meaning last weekend’s surprise defeat at lowly Granada was their only reverse in 10 outings. Adil Rami might be suspended here but historical trends suggest the hosts are a decent bet for another three points.
Los Nervionenses have lost just once in 16 against Athletic and although the Basques are unbeaten since mid-December, racking up recent wins against the likes of Levante and Celta Vigo, they’ve struggled to churn out convincing performances away.
The travellers did succeed at Celta but the hosts were without star performer Nolito and that was Les Leones’ only triumph in five at top-eight rivals in La Liga (W1-D1-L3) this term. Indeed, it’s not pretty reading when delving into Ernesto Valverde’s road record at top-half teams.
Since his appointment in the summer of 2013, Bilbao have W3-D7-L8 at the top-10 when excluding results against Barcelona or Real Madrid. And most alarmingly, the northerners failed to notch at all in 10 of those 18 away days.
This promises to be a real spectacle between two quality outfits with their sights set on that fourth position. Both have suffered from inconsistency in 2015/16 but I’ll count on Sevilla showing their teeth this weekend..
Asian Handicap Betting Reocmmendation: Sevilla -0.5 at 2.07
Price correct at the time of writing.
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