REMEMBER Terry Gibson? Well, we've signed him and while he won't be kicking a football he'll be looking into his crystal ball and bringing us his best Spanish tips every week.
The ex-Spurs, Coventry and Manchester United striker is probably best remembered for his time as part of the infamous Wimbledon Crazy Gang side of the late 80s and early 90s. Now an expert in all things La Liga he works as a pundit and co-commentator on Sky Sports’ Spanish football coverage and is a contributor to unibet.
Here are Terry's tips for two big Sunday games.
Real Madrid v Deportivo (Sun 3.15pm)
What great opponents for troubled Real Madrid to face this week. Real have defeated Depor in the last 10 at the Bernabeu and despite difficulties in their home stadium this season they should be far too good for their opponents this week.
Depor are now in the relegation zone and I anticipate they will still be there when the weekend ends. They have just the one away victory this season and that was at a beleaguered Las Palmas.
I’m glad to see Florin Andone get some belated playing time and he has now scored in the last three. He generally gets under the skin of Madrid and could be an irritation if Depor have any of the ball in this game.
Real have failed to win half of the 10 games played at the Bernabeu this season but I firmly believe that they won’t go three home defeats on the trot in this fixture.
Incredibly, Real are closer to relegation-threatened Depor in the league table than they are to leaders Barcelona. They are 16 above Depor and 19 behind Barca, they genuinely are looking over their shoulder now at Villarreal and Sevilla.
There is talk of Benzema being fit to return and the BBC linking up together once again, and with players like that up front it’s hard to imagine them not scoring at the Bernabeu, which is exactly what they have failed to achieve in the last two against Barcelona and Villarreal.
I’m hoping that Zidane is a bit more forthright in his team selection and chooses to relinquish Casemiro from the holding midfield role in favour of keeping Isco in the starting line-up. Does he really need a defensive midfielder in this game?
Whatever way he chooses to go, I’m showing faith in Madrid to have the ability to win this one. It was 28 attempts at goal last week and if they have the same amount again, then surely that should be sufficient.
It’s a favourite opponent of Gareth Bale’s with him scoring six times in five games against Depor and I’m backing him to set Madrid on their way in this game.
Real Betis v Barcelona (Sun 7.45pm)
This is a very interesting match-up. Betis are in good form, winning their last two games and scoring plenty. Beating Sevilla away 5-3 and Leganés 3-2 at home clearly shows what sort of team they are. They are currently joint 3rd highest scorers in La Liga with 33 but they also have a negative goals difference conceding 36.
They are a joy to watch, with Quique Setien’s style of attacking football and the atmosphere in the stadium certainly adding to the occasion.
That is reflected in the fact that they are the fourth best supported team this season in La Liga. Monday night fixtures are sparsely attended in general but over 40,000 turned out on Monday to watch the thriller against Leganés.
It will be a full house for the visit of the league leaders and this should be a spectacularly good game. A must watch! However, the style of play plays right into the hands of Barcelona.
If you look at a statistical table of most passes in a La Liga game this season, Betis currently hold the top three places. Jordi Amat went top with 125 in the game against Leganés. Fellow central defender Alissa Mandi was top with 114 against Levante and Amat is also third with 111, also against Levante. Think about it, in one game the two central defenders had 225 passes between!
However, I’ve always believed that the way to beat Barcelona was with quick, rapier attacks. Most of the time Barcelona are prepared to leave just two defenders when they are in possession and it does leave them under the threat of attacks with the ball played in directly behind for quick strikers to chase, and that isn’t the style of Betis.
They do, however, have pacey players in attack, with Sergio Leon and Cristian Tello and let’s not forget the positive impact that 36-year-old Joaquin is having in this campaign. I’m loving watching him this season.
I feel that Valverde will recognise the fact that Betis will play out of the back slowly and precisely and that Barcelona will enjoy either having time to regroup behind the ball or the opportunity to win the ball high up the pitch.
I’m predicting that Barcelona will bounce back from their midweek first leg Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol, which incidentally is the first defeat they have suffered since the two Super Cup matches against Real in August.
An interesting stat is that Thomas Vermaelen is yet to lose a La Liga game for Barcelona. It’s only 18 appearances mind, since he joined from Arsenal in 2014. However, when he has played Barca have only conceded 4 goals, 2 of those were last week!
- Betis 1, Barca 3 (17-2, Unibet)
- Messi to score first (49-20, Unibet)
- Messi to score and Barca win (37-50, Unibet)
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