Buoyed by the derby win over Villarreal, second-placed Valencia aim to extend the impressive run of results and pour more misery on underperforming Athletic Bilbao. Los Leones may have won last two league fixtures, but the midweek loss to Porto is likely to leave a bad taste in the mouth.
Valencia serious top 4 contenders
A lot has changed at Mestalla over the last six months or so and it appears the new financial stability following the arrival of Peter Lim has made the players’ job a whole lot easier. Nuno Espirito Santo does have a very good team at his disposal, but their performances this season have a lot to do with this new-found confidence. It is team’s impressive displays against Spain’s top sides that would suggest los Che can clinch Champions League qualification this term, with 3-1 wins over Atletico Madrid and Villarreal serving as major confidence boosts. Even with attackers misfiring of late, Valencia have kept their results at a very respectable level and everything suggests the trend is set to continue. Unlike their next opposition, los Che will have had an entire week to prepare for the weekend’s clash at Mestalla and that, too, could play a major part. Valencia have been impeccable on home soil this season, winning all five matches, scoring 15 goals and conceding just 3 in the process, meaning they have got to be considered hot favourites to defeat struggling Athletic Bilbao.
Boss Nuno Espirito Santo has no fresh injury worries, but Daniel Parejo and Lucas Orban remain in the infirmary.
Disappointing European campaign
Nobody really knows what has happened to the team that set the Spanish La Liga alight last season, given that Athletic have largely struggled to live up to the billing this term. Team’s Champions League campaign has been a major failure, with los Leones taking just one point from four fixtures in what is one of the weakest groups in the competition, while they have managed to show some improvement in the league following a shocking start. Athletic escaped the La Liga danger zone with narrow wins over Almeria and Sevilla, but they were far from impressive in those two games, which means they are still not in the clear. And with Athletic suffering a 2-0 home defeat to FC Porto in midweek, they clearly go into the Valencia clash low on confidence. Tired legs will also be a problem when facing red-hot los Che, while the absence of key attacker and top scorer Aritz Aduriz is unlikely to help either. Prior to defeating Almeria, los Leones had lost five straight matches on the road, and poor away form is one of the reasons why I don’t expect them to get anything from the Valencia game.
Aritz Aduriz misses out through injury, while Iker Muniain could again start on the bench considering that he is not fully fit.
Valencia have proved they can mix it up with the best of them in Spanish La Liga and having won all five home games with at least two goals to spare, another triumph appears on the horizon. Meanwhile, Athletic largely struggle on the road, they are without Aritz Aduriz and tired after the midweek clash against FC Porto.
Top pick: Home win 1.67 (2/3) @ Coral
Alternative pick 1: Over 2.5 goals 1.95 (19/20) @ Betfair
Alternative pick 2: Valencia/Valencia 2.62 (13/8) @ BetVictor