Primera predictions: week 10
Once again the AS Oracle casts an eye over the weekend's fixtures with a view to conning the bookies out of a few bob, more in hope than expectation.
Leganés – Real Sociedad (Friday 20.45) Prediction: away win
Leganés were thrashed on the south coast last weekend, bringing an end to an eye-catching run of away form in which nine points have been accrued by the Madrid side. Unfortunately for the Cucumber Growers their home form has been sketchy so far this season, reaping just one draw, and La Real have been playing well in recent weeks, rising to seventh in the table. The home side will not be too adventurous and will aim to stifle a Sociedad side who put three past Alavés last time out. La Real, though, are firing.
Sporting – Sevilla (Saturday 13.00) Prediction: away win
Sevilla go into El Molinón as the filling in a Real Madrid and Barcelona sandwich at the top of the table. The rojiblancos are in fine form under Jorge Sampaoli, who has quickly assuaged any lingering concerns that Unai Emery was some kind of sorcerer. Sporting are in dire straits and the antithesis to the US band’s tune Solid Rock, having shipped 18 goals already this season.
Alavés – Real Madrid (Saturday 16.15) Prediction: draw
Alavés host a Real Madrid side with a few recent goleadas under their belt but the quality of opposition in those games tells its own tale. Athletic were a more accurate barometer of where Zidane's side are and Alavés, who are in the top five sides in Europe in terms of tackles per game, could get something out of this. Marcus Llorente, who is the home side's most prolific player in that regard, is ineligible due to the so called “fear clause” Real always insert in loan deals, which is a bit mean-spirited given the uneven balance of resources. That might just serve to inspire his teammates to an extra tough bit of midfield marauding.
Atlético – Málaga (Saturday 18.30) Prediction: home win
Atleti suffered their first defeat in all competitions last weekend and Diego Simeone will be eager to redress that at home against Málaga. With Yannick Carrasco in such lively form Juande Ramos’ side, who have picked up just two points on the road and haven't won in the Calderón since 2011, will have their hands full.
Barcelona – Granada (Saturday 20.45) Prediction: home win
When a point gained at home against a side in the relegation zone is a bit of a morale boost you know your team is in trouble. Granada did just that last week when Sporting visited – in a 0-0 draw -- but the brief respite from a run of miserable results will make way for a dose of stark reality in Camp Nou where Barcelona will fancy their chances of racking up a cricket score, even in the absence of half their defence, against a side that has leaked an average of 2.5 goals per game this season.
Eibar – Villarreal (Sunday 12.00) Prediction: draw
Eibar have been beaten only once at home and have one of the best defensive records in the division in the sanctuary of Ipurua while Villarreal have the joint-best goals conceded away from home tally in the division, and yet have scored only four. The home side will happily settle for a point against top-four opposition and the visitors may find themselves on the end of a frustrating bit of pre-prandial prudence on the part of Eibar coach José Luis Mendilibar.
Athletic – Osasuna (Sunday 16.15) Prediction: home win
Athletic arguably deserved a point at the Bernabéu and once again highlighted the incredible job Ernesto Valverde has done at San Mamés in fashioning such a resolute side. In a mini-derby against Osasuna, who are 19th but find most of their goals away from home, Athletic are the clear favourites but it will an idea to keep a close eye on Sergio León, who has bagged five goals in as many games for the visitors.
Betis – Espanyol (18.30) Prediction: draw
Betis picked up a much needed win last weekend with Rubén Castro the surprise omission from the side after 60-odd consecutive starts for the club as Gus Poyet switched to a 4-4-2. The Uruguayan tinkerman has used several formations this season but still hasn't fixed a worryingly permeable back four and Betis suffer from a crippling case of stage fright in the Benito Villamarín. However, Joaquín shone as one of a front two at Osasuna and Poyet may try the same thing again against an Espanyol side who conceded three times in the first half last weekend, only to snatch a point by scoring three in the second -- which sums up Quique Sánchez Flores’ utterly unfathomable team so far this season.
Las Palmas – Celta (Sunday 20.45) Prediction: home win
Fresh from thrashing local rivals Depor in the Galician Derby last weekend Celta travel to the Canaries to take on Las Palmas, who narrowly lost to Villarreal in El Madrigal in the last round of fixtures through a 91st-minute Cédric Bakambu strike. Back on home soil Quique Setien’s side are slight favourites as they remain unbeaten at the Estádio de Gran Canaria while Celta have struggled away from home this season, scoring just three times.
Deportivo – Valencia (Monday 20.45) Prediction: draw
The dreaded Monday night fixture throws up a fascinating duel between a Depor side licking their wounds and Valencia, who were incensed by some refereeing decisions in their loss to Barça in Mestalla last week -- a game where they thoroughly deserved a point. Depor have slumped to 17th and will be more interested in avoiding defeat in Riazor, leaving Cesare Prandelli with a Gordian Knot: does he play a lone striker as he did against Barça, or a front three as in the side’s last away game, a 2-1 win in Gijón?