Villarreal v Valencia – Estadio El Madrigal at 15.00 Sky Sports 1

A New Year’s Eve derby concludes the 2015 La Liga action as Valencia make the short journey up the east coast of Spain to face Villarreal.

It’s a regional rivalry that’s only really come to the fore in the past 20 years since Fernando Roig’s heavy investment in Thursday’s hosts established the Yellow Submarine as a top-flight club.

Having spent 80 years in the lower leagues, Villarreal were and are no longer Valencia’s friendly brother from down the road. A UEFA Cup semi-final in 2004 saw tensions soar after a controversial penalty decision gifted Los Che a route to the final and they’ve been bickering since.

A decade on from that continental clash, Valencia effectively relegated Villarreal in 2012 and celebrated it like they’d won the title.

The simmering distaste between the duo has soothed a touch but the Derbi de la Comunitat does tend to be keenly contested. Like any sibling or intercity tug of war, this match matters and local bragging rights carry a decent degree of importance.

Villarreal are rated 1.88 shots for this midweek and it’s a fair price considering what they’ve achieved since the start of last season. Already in 2015/16 they’ve dispatched both Real and Atletico Madrid on home soil this season and sit eight points ahead of their neighbours.

Marcelinho’s men have bagged W8-D1-L1 in their past 10 in front of their home supporters with their only loss coming in injury time to Celta back in October. Since the start of last season, Villarreal have W18-D2-L7 when welcoming La Liga opposition, scoring at least twice in 13/27 (48%).

The hosts have Jaume Costa and Mario back and will be confident of extending their excellent run of results on home soil. Villarreal have a 67% success rate at El Madrigal and five of their six triumphs this term have come against top-11 teams.

Visiting boss Gary Neville is still searching for his first league victory following back-to-back draws with Eibar and Getafe but he’s at least able to welcome back Lucas Orban and Javi Fuego from suspension. Dani Parejo should be pushed further forward and Pablo Piatti in line for a start on the left.

Valencia have W0-D4-L1 of their past five in La Liga and are now nine points off the Champions League qualification places. Defensively they’ve struggled; their solitary shutout in 11 came against little Barakaldo in the Copa del Rey and they’ve failed to keep their sheets clean since September when playing away.

Talking of their road record, Los Che have W2-D2-L4 in La Liga this term with six of those opponents residing in the top-11 before Wednesday’s round of fixtures. Since the start of last season, Valencia have W9-D10-L8 on their travels with W3-D5-L4 at top-half clubs that aren’t Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Neville’s troops take on Real Madrid on Sunday and so these pair of fixtures could easily make-or-break Valencia’s season. Their New Year’s Eve trip to El Madrigal certainly won’t be a walk in the park and at the prices, I’d rather be with Villarreal.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Villarreal -0.5 at 1.88

Price correct at the time of writing.

By @MarkOHaire

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