AUG 28, LA LIGA: SEVILLA V MALAGA

THE strike is over and La Liga is finally “go” with opening-day wins for Valencia, Real Sociedad and Real Betis.

Kick-off was postponed for seven days due to a dispute between the Association of Spanish Footballers and the Spanish League over unpaid wages but a meeting earlier this week saw the issue settled and set-up a three-day start to the new campaign.

Tonight Malaga and their millions travel to Sevilla in what looks to be the match of the day.

The Andalucians have been the talk of Spain this transfer window with so much expectation and excitement surrounding Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani’s takeover. The Qatari businessman has already provided Los Boquerones with a staggering 15 new arrivals, on top of luring former River Plate, Villarreal and Real Madrid boss Manuel Pellegrini in as manager.

Pellegrini is an astute appointment. He knows the league well – he racked up a staggering 96 points during his stint at Madrid … Barcelona still won by three points more and he’s the second most successful South American club manager in La Liga within the last 25 years, coming after only Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

Pellegrini has a great reputation and completed the main objective – to stay up – after his appointment late last term. He’s also a man who can handle continental competition, forming one of the greatest ever Villarreal sides then guiding them to the Champions League semi-final in 2006.

The leaky defence was the worst in the top flight last season with an ugly 68 goals shipped. However, the arrival of Nacho Monreal and Joris Mathijsen to partner Martin Demichelis at the back sounds promising and former Lyon midfielder Jeremy Toulalan will add experience and composure to a midfield bursting with creativity and attacking options.

The often overlooked Santi Cazorla could be the key to Malaga’s entire operation. He’s a massive coup and could thrive as the leading light in La Roselada.

Although, I gather Isco and Joaquin may have a point to argue. Up top, Ruud van Nistelrooy seals a return to Spain and at 35 he’s still got it – back in the Holland team, recently adding a rather fitting 35th international goal. The Dutch icon will partner Salomon Rondon who netted 14 times during the last campaign.

Sevilla, meanwhile, managed to claw fifth spot last season despite a year of instability that saw three different men take the hotseat.

Marcelino Garcia Toral, the former Santander and Zaragoza boss, is in charge but a horror start to the season has seen them crash out of Europe already.

Recommendations

I think Malaga can come away with full points and bwin offer 27-10 on an away victory.

If Ruud van Nistelrooy is fit enough to start, I’d back him to find the net (12-5 with Stan James) while Santi Cazorla is always a threat with William Hill offering 11-2.

Julio Baptista is another great look after he found the net nine times in 11 games last term. He’s best 11-5 with sportingbet.

Both teams to score pays 4-6, bet365, while Malaga not to concede is 5-1.

Sevilla have threats of their own with Freddie Kanoute (9-5, Paddy Power) always lively.

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