The Spanish season certainly has plenty of miles left to run, but whatever glory lies ahead, 2011/12 will forever pang the memories of Spanish football experts for the miraculous cup run of minnows Mirandes.
The small-town club have knocked out an incredible three Primera Division sides en route to becoming only the second side from the third tier to make the last four in the history of the Copa del Rey.
They are 14/1 to go one miraculous step further and qualify for the final. Tempting, perhaps, considering the way in which they have defied the odds for the whole competition – but on no other criteria.
Mirandes won away at Villarreal in November but have not yet faced a task as tough as needing to overturn a 2-1 first-leg home loss on a trip to in-form Athletic Bilbao.
The Basques are becoming increasingly confident at executing Marcelo Bielsa’s tactically astute brand of football and are developing a real winning knack.
Athletic’s wins this season have been typically workmanlike rather than spectacular, as 11 of their 15 successes in all competitions have come by a single goal.
Bilbao have lost just two out of 23 in Spanish competitions since September and possess a deadly attack with razor-sharp Fernando Llorente (six goals in his last three matches) being supported by the impressive Oscar de Marcos.
For that reason, Athletic Bilbao are worth banking on to win Tuesday’s second leg at 7/25, while Mirandes are at 21/2 and the draw is a 4/1 shot.
However, it should be noted that Athletic’s wins this season have been typically workmanlike rather than spectacular, as 11 of their 15 successes in all competitions have come by a single goal.
Bielsa’s men therefore can’t be expected to run away with the second leg, especially with Mirandes likely to sit back and soak up pressure before striking on the break.
Nonetheless, they will be chomping at the bit to hark back to the club’s glory days with a place in a 36th Copa del Rey final in their proud history.
Given their decent attack and the gulf in class to their opponents, an attractive bet would be for Athletic to win by a margin of two goals. That can be backed at 14/5 by betting on a ‘draw’ in the 0-2 handicap market.
New customers receive a free £25 bet for registering with bwin and placing this on Athletic to triumph by two goals would return if that scenario materalises at San Mames this evening.
An alternative play, but still along the same lines, would be to back a 2-0 Athletic Bilbao win, which offers slightly more tempting odds of 19/4.
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