The first legs of the Copa del Rey quarter finals take place this week and the big boys are lining up to take another step closer to the trophy. Real Madrid were excluded from the competition in bizarre fashion after fielding an ineligible player in an earlier round against Cadiz, and that has left the door open for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to assert their authority on the cup. Both make plenty of appeal to take a first-leg lead this week despite being away from home in their respective matches.
Barcelona take on Athletic Bilbao just days after smashing six past them at the Nou Camp, with Luis Suarez helping himself to a hat-trick. Atletico are also on away ground as they travel to Celta Vigo, but they were successful there by 2 goals to nil just a few weeks ago. Meanwhile Gary Neville’s Valencia may have been hit and miss since his arrival as coach, but they’ve done little wrong in this competition, overcoming Granada 7-0 on aggregate in the last round. The Yellow Submarine face a home tie against lowly Las Palmas on Thursday night, and are fancied to emerge victorious again.
Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona
Barcelona smashed their way past Bilbao in the league on Sunday and are a great price to follow up at -120 with Betfair
This may only be the first leg, so Barcelona don’t need to win, but that has never stopped them in the past and while they’re in such good form it pays to keep them on side. Perhaps the bookies are looking to give them away at that sort of price because they’ve been held to draws at Valencia and Espanyol recently in the league, but they beat their city rivals 2-0 away in the last round of this competition despite already holding a 4-1 first leg advantage. Messi, Neymar and Suarez were all on the scoresheet on Sunday, with Suarez grabbing the matchball after scoring a hat-trick. It remains to be seen if all three turn out again, but Barcelona have a decent record here which has seen them win three of the last four renewals of this fixture.
Bilbao are a much better home side than an away side – they’re unbeaten in ten on home soil – but predictably they tend to lose when Barca or Madrid come to visit, as they have done earlier in the season. The ten sides they’ve faced in that unbeaten run have all been mid-table opposition at best, and there is a clear gulf in class when we talk about Barcelona.
Celta Vigo v Atletico Madrid
Another side we fancy to come away with victory from a tricky away trip is Atletico Madrid who a rated a +130 chance with Paddy Power
Diego Simeone has proved that he’s no flash in the pan, and Atletico currently top the La Liga table, two points clear of Barcelona and four points ahead of Real Madrid. They’ve been on an excellent run of form which has seen them win 14 of 16 games in all competitions, and another win looks more than possible here. It’s difficult even to pick holes in their away form as they’re on a run of seven wins in nine on the road. They’re record on this ground is also good, having won five of the last seven times they’ve visited, and Celta Vigo are by no means insurmountable.
Vigo are having a good season this term and the currently occupy 5th place in the league albeit a full 13 points behind Atletico at the top. They were beaten here by this week’s rival just a few weeks ago on the 10th of January when goals from Griezmann and Carrasco were enough to seperate the sides in a 2-0 Atletico win. Of course there is a worry here that Atletico will leave it until the second leg to secure passage, as they did in the last round when they drew 1-1 away with Vallecano before beating them 3-0 at home, but at such a tempting price it’s worth a punt on Diego Simeone’s men doing the job.
Valencia v Las Palmas
Finally Valencia are worth backing to continue their form in this competition when they take on La Liga strugglers Las Palmas. Gary Neville’s side can be backed at -161 with Skybet, BetVictor and Ladbrokes
It certainly hasn’t been a bed of roses for Neville since his arrival at the famous Spanish club, and some might question his experience and ability to take on such a high profile job for his first foray into management. There have been bright spots though, such as the 4-0 and 3-0 defeats of Granada in the last round of the Copa del Rey, and Valencia still remain unbeaten at home in domestic competition all season.
Las Palmas’ away form has been nothing short of dreadful, with the only bright spark the recent 3-2 away win against Eibar in the last round of this competition. However, they had a 3-2 advantage from the first leg and Eibar were leading 2-1 in the second leg with 37 minutes to go. Inevitable pressing from Eibar led to two late goals from Las Palmas to give the scoreline a flattering look. prior to that they’d only managed to draw three away games in league and cup this season, losing the other seven.
The best bet for Las Palmas will be to keep this tight and hope for a draw to take into the second leg, but Valencia are bound to have other ideas as they try to grab an advantage in the first leg. Former Manchester City striker Negredo has been doing the business for Valencia, and he can lead them to victory again on Thursday night.
Barcelona to beat Athletic Bilbao
Wednesday 20th January, 20:00 GMT
Atletico Madrid to beat Celta Vigo
Wednesday 20th January, 19:30 GMT
Valencia to beat Las Palmas
Thursday 21st January, 19:00 GMT
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