Leganés – Athletic (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: draw. Result 0-0
First up this weekend is a potential humdinger at Butarque where the home side will be missing several players. Leganés have struggled at home this season but are currently unbeaten in three and should be able to add to that run against a visiting Bilbao who emptied the tank in the Copa game against Barça.
Barça – Las Palmas (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: home win. Result 5-0
Luis Enrique has his full complement of players available for this one while Las Palmas, after finally winning an away game at the Calderón in midweek, will be eager to build on that. The spirited but ultimately pointless 3-2 Copa win may though prove a Pyrrhic victory considering the kilometres Quique Setién’s side have put in on and off the pitch. Kevin Prince-Boateng is back from injury and Marko Livaja bagged a brace in the Calderón but it’s hard to see past a home win at Camp Nou.
Atlético – Betis (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Betis have improved considerably under new boss Víctor Sánchez, picking up three wins and a draw in his six games in charge to date. Those three wins have all been at the Villamarín though and although Atleti have not been at their best of late, losing four of their last nine, Betis have been hammered 5-0 and 5-1 in this fixture over the last two seasons. Atlético are due a goleada and will fancy one against a side that have failed to keep a clean sheet away from home all season.
Deportivo – Villarreal (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: draw
Villarreal are missing several key players, not least suspended top scorer Nicola Sansone and Cédric Bakambu, who would have been expected to partner Alexandre Pato in attack but is at the Africa Cup of Nations. Depor’s home form is currently keeping them out of the mire and Gaizka Garitano’s side gave high-flying Real Sociedad a proper roasting last month and then backed that up by dispatching Osasuna. The visitors may decide that keeping the ball is the best form of defence in a game that could be a low-scorer.
Valencia – Espanyol (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: away win
Valencia are in serious trouble. Even with Voro’s usually steady hand on the tiller the Mestalla outfit look destined to clatter into every available iceberg. Despite being without divisional top-assister Pablo Piatti, who is unavailable due to a very wise fear clause in his loan deal, Espanyol should be too much for a side who haven’t won a league game since mid-October and haven’t managed a clean sheet all season. The visitors sit joint-fifth in the away form league table.
Celta – Alavés (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: draw
Celta beat Valencia home and away to reach the last eight of the Copa, where they will face Real Madrid and the suspicion lingers that Eduardo Berizzo may hold some of his key players in reserve to have a right old pop at Zidane’s side next Wednesday. It’s a tricky balancing act for sides like Celta at this stage. They have more chance of winning the Copa and securing a Europa League spot next season than they have of winning the league, the second-tier Euro competition or finishing in the top four. But Alavés are no mugs away from home as Berizzo will be well aware and they also have the Copa del Rey to consider after they were paired tantalizingly with second-tier Alcorcón. A cautious draw will suit both sides.
Sporting – Eibar (18:30) Prediction: home win
Sporting have won just once since September (at home against Osasuna) while Eibar are the very model of inconsistency. As Forest Gump said about chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. He was of course wrong: all you have to do is look at the little card that tells you what each one is. The visitors are pretty comfortable in 10th and the ineptitude of others means they’re basically safe and while they have a winnable Copa del Rey quarterfinal tie against Atlético, with the away leg next week, they won’t be pulling up any trees in Gijón.
Granada – Osasuna (18:30) Prediction: draw
This is a veritable six-pointer and no mistake. Whoever comes out on top will take a huge stride towards salvation while trampling their rival underfoot. Two birds, one stone. Osasuna have won one (1) game all season. Granada have won one (1) game all season. They sit 19th and 20th respectively, four and five points adrift of Valencia and safety. If there are more than three shots on goal it’ll be a major surprise as both sides will far more concerned with not losing than trying to win.
Sevilla – Real Madrid (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: draw
The Copa del Rey second leg clash produced some fireworks and more of the same can be expected when the sides meet again in La Liga placed second and first. Jorge Sampaoli’s side have caused problems for Madrid in the Supercup and in Thursday’s Copa clash and should be expected to make life difficult for the visitors again. Cristiano Ronaldo will return for Real but Sampaoli’s three-at-the-back system has been working remarkably well, Sevilla having conceded a miserly 10 goals at home while winning seven of eight to date.
Málaga – Real Sociedad (Monday 20:45) Prediction: home win
There’s a pleasing symmetry to Sociedad’s away form this season: four wins, four defeats, no draws, 13 scored, 13 conceded. It’s a bit of a recurring theme this week, but with Sociedad hosting Barcelona in the cup on Wednesday – and the Txuri-urdin know a thing or two about beating Barça at Anoeta – Eusebio will be tempted to stick out the under-16s in La Rosaleda but he also has a potential top-four finish to consider as well. Málaga’s home form has been excellent this season (better so far than Barça’s and equal to Atlético’s) so a home win smacks of logic.