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It’s been a turbulent start to a managerial career for Gary Neville at Valencia, and there’s no doubt that he threw himself in at the deep end by taking on a top-flight side in a new country. He’s starting to look more likely to swim than sink though as he slowly improves his side, and Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Real Madrid could prove to be a significant turning point. The result was also significant for Real Madrid as it saw the Madrid giants dismiss Benitez and replace him with Zinedine Zidane, which also proved profitable for followers as we tipped such a scenario.
This Wednesday, Neville returns to the scene of his only victory for the club so far – the Copa del Rey – and will see it as another chance to gain some much needed confidence. The visitors are Granada, who are embroiled in a relegation battle in La Liga, and Valencia may well prove to be too strong on home soil. Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid travel to Rayo Vallecano – a team they beat 2-0 in the league as recently as the 30th of December; and Eibar welcome Las Palmas in another game which catches the eye.
Valencia v Granada
Valencia can give Neville just his second win since he took charge of the club, at an attractive -161 with William Hill
His first victory came in this same competition against Barakaldo back in mid-December, with Mina and Negredo on the scoresheet to secure a 2-0 win and complete a 5-1 aggregate scoreline over the Spanish minnows. League form has been more difficult for Neville, with Valencia gaining just three points from his first four La Liga games, but Sunday’s 2-2 draw at home to Real Madrid was by far the team’s best performance since his arrival. Valencia twice fought back after going behind, and could even have won the game when Negredo had a late opportunity to make it 3-2.
After the game Neville said he hoped to remain in charge of Los Che beyond the end of the season, and praised his team for looking stronger, fitter and for passing the ball better. He will want to keep the momentum going on Wedensday afternoon, and the visit of a poor-traveling Granada side provides the perfect opportunity.
Granada are 17th in La Liga just two points above the drop zone, and although they secured a brilliant 2-1 win over Sevilla on Sunday, their away from hasn’t been anything to write home about this season. They’ve lost three of the last five on the road, and have been beaten on each of their last five visits to Valencia.
Rayo Vallecano v Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid also look to be a stonking bet when they visit Vallecano, and the price of -161 stands out again with William Hill
Diego Simeone’s men are two points clear at the top of La Liga, and are proving once again to be incredibly tough and resilient. They’ve won 11 of the last 12 games across La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, and they beat Vallecano here 2-0 on the 30th of December. Late goals from Angel Correa and Antoine Greizmann secured the victory, and there’s no reason to think that they can’t repeat the trick on Wednesday night in the cup.
Vallecano have been in pretty terrible form for most of the season which has left them second-bottom of the league table, but things have taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks. They’ve lost five of their last six matches, including a humiliating 10-2 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid, a game in which Gareth Bale hit four, Benzema hit three, and Ronaldo hit two. You have to go back as far as the 2nd of December for their last victory – a 2-0 Copa del Rey win over Getafe – and they only just managed to squeeze through to this round despite losing the away leg 3-1.
Vallecano’s best chance of securing passage to the next round is probably by winning this home leg, and hoping to take a lead into the away leg, but any attacking intent could easily be punished by Atletico’s devastating counter-attack.
Eibar v Las Palmas
These two teams are opposites in terms of form, with Eibar coming off the back of two decent victories, and Las Palmas failing to find a positive result away from home for some time. The league table sees Eibar in 8th position and many of their fans may be dreaming that the small club can earn a place in European competition. With 27 points that may not be beyond the realms of possibility, although it will be a tough task to climb further up the table in the second half of the season.
Nonetheless, they represent a decent bet here after winning three of their last four games in all competitions. A 4-0 win over Ponferradina in the last round of this competition gave them an unlikely turnaround having lost the first leg 3-0. They’ve since beaten Dijon 2-0 and scored a fabulous 4-0 away win at Real Betis on Sunday evening. They’ve lost just once in the last 8 games at home, and will be looking for a positive first leg scoreline.
Las Palmas have been fairly decent at home this season, but away form has been nothing short of awful. Of the nine La Liga games they’ve played on the road, they’ve lost 6 and drawn 3, and they still await the first away win of the season. That form has left them hovering just two points above the relegation zone, and a trip to a buzzing Eibar team doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s as long ago as May 2015 when Las Palmas last won a competitive away match, and at close to even odds Eibar look more that tempting to take advantage.
Valencia to beat Granada
Wednesday 6th January, 15:00 GMT
Atletico Madrid to beat Rayo Vallecano
Wednesday 6th January, 21:05 GMT
Eibar to beat Las Palmas
Thursday 7th January, 19:30 GMT
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