LALIGA

Week 37 predictions: the penultimate round of games

Levante (20) – Atlético (2) Prediction: away win; Result: 2-1; AS: 0/1

Oddly enough Atleti have never managed a win at Ciutat de Valencia under Simeone (2D, 2L) and, as this will be the Frogs’ last outing at home in the top-flight for the foreseeable future, the Rojiblancos are likely to have a battle on their hands. Rubi’s men also have the added incentive of giving club legend Juanfran García, who is widely expected to hang up his boots at the end of the season, a rousing send off. Saying that, if there’s one team capable of grinding out an ugly 1-0 win on the road, its Atlético Madrid.

Photo: CHEMA DIAZ DIARIO AS

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Celta Vigo (6) – Málaga (8) Prediction: home win; Result: 1-0; AS:1/2

A point would secure a top–six finish for the hosts, and with it a Europa League spot. Nonetheless, the Galicians will be setting their sights a bit higher than that as they try to leapfrog Athletic Club to fifth place, which would allow them to bypass the continental competition’s pesky qualification rounds. Plagued with injuries and suspensions (Rosales, Albentosa, Santa Cruz and Juankar are all unavailable), as well as having nothing to play for, Juan Gracia’s charges are more likely to be counting down the days until their summer holidays than focusing fully on the task at hand at Balaídos.

Photo: LALO R. VILLAR DIARIO AS

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Getafe (19)– Sporting (18) Prediction: home win; Result: 1-1; AS: 1/3

Forget the down-to- the-wire title-chase at the top of the table, this is the real match of the weekend. So high are the stakes in fact that the oxymoronic utterance ‘a packed Coliseum’ is being applied ahead of this win-at- all-costs relegation scrap. After many had written them off, the Azulones seem to have hitched onto a wave of good form at just the right moment. With the exceptions of Víctor Rodríguez and Roberto Lago, Juan Esnaider will have a full squad at his disposal. Sporting lack firepower up top and have gone six away league games on the trot without a win.

Photo: LALO R. VILLAR DIARIO AS

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Las Palmas (10) – Athletic (5) Prediction: draw; Result: 0-0; AS: 2/4

Ernesto Valverde’s Lions make the long trip from Bilbao to the Canary Islands with the objective of locking down fifth place ahead of Sevilla’s visit to San Mamés on matchday 38. Beñat is fit to play but the visitors will have to make do without Etxeita in the heart of defence. Meanwhile, reports from Gran Canaria suggest Juan Carlos Valerón is about to call an end to his illustrious playing career, which, if true, would make Sunday’s fixture the 40-year- old’s last competitive appearance in front of the Las Palmas’ faithful.

Photo: CARLOS DIAZ RECIO DIARIO AS

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Sevilla (7) – Granada (16) Prediction: away win; Result: 1-4; AS: 3/5

My cynical tea leaves tell me that Pozzo family-owned Granada will find a way to cling onto their LaLiga status for another season. Los Cármenes hosts a Barcelona side which in all probability will be looking to put the title-chase to bed once and for all on the final day of the season, so by hook or by crook José González’s Nazaríes will be doing whatever it takes to scoop all three points at the Sánchez Pizjuán. With one eye on the Europa League final, Unai Emery is unlikely to play a full-strength team against Granada, who welcome back Success, Cuenca and Biraghi from the sickbay.

Photo: TONI RODRIGUEZ DIARIO AS

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Barcelona (1) – Espanyol (14) Prediction: home win; Result: 5-0; AS: 4/6

Memories of Raúl Tamudo’s heroic performance at the Camp Nou back in 2007, when the Parakeets knocked Barça off the summit of the league table by holding them to a 2-2 draw, will inevitably cross the minds of Galca’s troops as they make the short journey across town to face their arch rivals. While the tension may have died down somewhat since January’s three–part ‘dirty derby’, Espanyol will relish this chance to topple Luis Enrique and co.’s title charge. Nonetheless, and in spite of last week’s lacklustre showing against Betis, los Culés should have enough in their locker to take all three points.

Photo: ENRIC FONTCUBERTA DIARIO AS

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Real Sociedad (11) – Rayo (17) Prediction: away win; Result: 2-1; AS: 4/7

Paco’s men have taken maximum points from their last two league visits to Anoeta and will need to do so again if they’re to ensure survival in the division remains entirely in their own hands going into the final day of the season. Standing in their favour is the fact that they share the same sponsor as La Real. Chinese internet service providers Qianbao have a vested interest in the Vallecas club staying up, so don’t be surprised if the Basques bow down to the corporate pressure for this one. Considering the Madrid side’s brave yet bordering on kamikaze playing style, it’s rather apt that the company describes itself thusly on its official website: ‘We live actively without being afraid of death’.

Photo: RAFA APARICIO DIARIO AS

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Real Madrid (3) – Valencia (9) Prediction: draw; Result: 3-2; AS: 4/8

Back when these sides met for the reverse fixture at the beginning of the year, Rafa Benítez and Gary Neville were the two men pacing up and down the technical areas. Since then Paco Ayestaran and Zinedine Zidane have taken charge and managed to turn both teams’ fortunes around. Zizou’s tactical nous will be put through one of its toughest tests to date though as his Milan-bound Gálacticos, for whom only a win will suffice, take on Los Che, who tend to hold their own at the Bernabéu. Valencia have drawn their last four league encounters in the Chamartín ground.

Photo: J.J.Guillen DIARIO AS

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Villarreal (4) – Deportivo (15) Prediction: home win; Result: 0-2; AS: 4/9

Depor could find themselves in deep doo-doo if they fail to add to their points tally at El Madrigal. However, the Galicians have not kept a single cleansheet since the turn of the New Year and have suffered a string of injuries in defensive positions, including to their first and second-choice goalkeepers. Although Marcelino’s men already have fourth spot in the bag, they’ll still be eager to put on one more show for the home fans before the summer hiatus.

Photo: ALBERTO IRANZO DIARIO AS

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Eibar (12) – Betis (13) Prediction: draw; Result: 1-1; AS: 5/10

The inhabitants of the Basque bicycle-manufacturing hamlet must be perplexed by the manner in which the wheels have come off the Gunners’ season. Eibar were flying high at the beginning of their second LaLiga campaign but 2016 has brought with it a dramatic drop off in form. The José Luis Mendilibar-managed outfit have only taken six points from the last 36 available. Betis are no world beaters themselves either though and have a bad habit of conceding on the road. A point would mathematically keep the relegation wolves at bay for the Andalusians so a sharing of the spoils is expected at Ipurua.

Photo: AMAIA ZABALO DIARIO AS

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10 / 10