Real Betis Summary

Real Betis were pleased with the World Cup break given that they suffered two harmful defeats before it, including a hugely disappointing 3-0 loss to Valencia in the last match before the pause.

They played numerous friendlies in South America to retain match sharpness in December, although the results were poor. Betis overall spirits remain optimistic however and the team is well positioned, knowing a win over Athletic sends them ahead of the Basques in their quest for a top-four finish.

Real Betis have significant absences and the defence is particularly damaged as a result. Pezzella was one of two Argentine internationals who are yet to return to the club, while fellow centre-back Edgar González is missing with a suspension.

Paul Akouokou and Juan Cruz are also out along with important holding midfielder Guido Martinez who like Pezzella, has permission to stay in Argentina.

If the experienced defender Victor Ruiz cannot regain fitness which looks set to be the case, then boss Manuel Pellegrini will lean on an untried youngster Felix Garreta to debut in the middle of the weakened defence. Update: Ruiz made the squad for the game but faces a crucial late fitness test before kick-off.


Athletic Club Summary

Athletic Bilbao are in excellent mood and the form is strong as they come back into league action after the season break. The Bsques know a win could see them enter the New Year as high as 3rd position in the division.

A full-strength Athletic won every single friendly game which they used to stay sharp during the month, as well as a competitive cup match last weekend. Their lack of international representatives means the World Cup was a chance to get closer, better prepared, and fitter as close to an entire squad.

The break also has enabled star man Muniain a chance to return to the group, but a well-respected local source has reported that Muniain could find himself increasingly likely to be left out of the best eleven as his importance is dropping in Valverde’s eyes.

Striker Guruzeta is also back from a knock and set to lead the line in what should be close to their full-strength side on Thursday.


Betting Analysis

Looking at the 1×2 market initially where the favourite for this game is the visitor Athletic Bilbao to get the win. The away team is priced @ 2.65 while an understrength Betis are slight outsiders @ 2.80. The two sides look well matched with Betis holding the home advantage, so a draw @ 3.30 would not surprise despite being the biggest price of the three.

Moving onto the Asian handicap market for this contest where the punters are struggling to split the two clubs, with draw no bet (DNB) the offer. Athletic -0 is @ 1.88 while Betis -0 getting the points would return more profit @ 1.98. In both cases a draw would see 100% of the stake returned to the backer.

Looking at The Under/Over market last of all where the line is set at 2.25.  Over 2.25 is a slight favourite @ 1.85. Any punters expecting a low-scoring match can bet the under @ 1.98. It is a big match with both going for the top four places, neither will take risks and so it could be a tight game until the first goal, which normally could lead to an ‘unders’ type contest.