Osasuna – Málaga (Friday 20:45) Prediction: home win
It’s fair to say things haven’t been going well for El Gato Romero since he took over at Málaga: three games, three losses, seven goals conceded. Whatever was said to make Juande Ramos take his ball home during the winter break could prove very costly indeed for the Anchovies. Meanwhile Osasuna have staged something of a revival over the same period under Petar Vasiljevic with two precious draws and a hugely unfortunate loss to Sevilla last weekend. The home side will still be seething about that one and could well exact their wrath on a very shaky Málaga.
Villarreal – Granada (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
Having defied all logic last time out by getting mugged at home by Valencia, only their second loss of the season in El Madrigal, Villarreal owe Quiniela punters a banker this weekend and will duly deliver against Sporting who, like Málaga, have yet to win away from home in 2016-17.
Alavés – Atlético (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: draw
Atlético have been desperate to push their case for the cup final to be held in the condemned Calderón and many will feel that it already is: Diego Simeone’s side face Barcelona in the semis next week in a repeat of the 2014-15 quarter-final clash. Barcelona won that 4-2 on aggregate and everyone at Atlético will be desperate to ensure they have the best chance possible of a potential home final against Celta or Alavés. Inevitably, the home side here will have an eye on next week’s Copa matches as well. You suspect a fairly uneventful draw would suit everybody.
Eibar – Deportivo (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Eibar have suffered consecutive defeats at Ipurua, albeit to Barcelona and Atlético, and will be keen to return to winning ways after previously losing just once at home in the league. Depor will have other ideas though and have made carving out valuable draws on the road the difference between them and a room with a downward view in the bottom three.
Leganés – Celta (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: home win
The Cucumber Growers’ home form has been worse than patchy this season, the promoted side winning only once in Butarque. However, fortune has smiled on them here with Eduardo Berizzo likely to send out the under-12s to keep his side in one piece for a very inviting Copa semi-final against Alavés. Leganés finally broke their duck against Osasuna a few weeks ago and have since then embarked on a run of three draws with just one goal conceded. They won’t have a better chance this season to score another home triumph.
Betis – Barcelona (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: away win
Luis Enrique is a “game by game” man and in view of his growing injury list the Barça boss will not tinker too much for the trip to the Benito Villamarín. The probable absence of Javier Mascherano and Sergi Roberto will mean a couple of enforced changes from the Copa line-up against Sociedad but we imagine Enrique’s approach will be to get this one sewn up as quickly as possible and ring any Copa-based substitutions around the hour mark. You have to go back to 2008 for the last time Betis won this fixture and although they have improved immeasurably at home under Víctor Sánchez they failed to put one past Sporting last weekend.
Espanyol – Sevilla (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: draw
It will be fun just to watch and compare the managers in this one, Quique Sánchez Flores elegantly brooding in silence as Jorge Sampaoli erupts from the confines of his puffer jacket, eyes and veins bulging with fury, at every kick of the game. Sampaoli admitted this week that Sevilla consider themselves in the title race and rightly so. One point off leaders Real Madrid and with a spectacular home record, Sevilla are also second in the away table behind Barcelona. A bonkers 3-4 win in El Sadar last weekend embellished that record somewhat and a similarly mental goal-fest can’t be ruled out here. Espanyol have not been beaten at home since September though so X should mark the spot in Cornellà.
Athletic – Sporting (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Athletic have gone off the boil a bit with three consecutive draws but were stirring in the absence of Beñat and Aritz Aduriz in last week’s 2-2 against Atlético. The return of the multiple-yellow miscreants and Iker Muniain’s recent form should be too much for Sporting to handle as the visitors seek to add to their pitiful haul of three away points this season.
Real Madrid – Real Sociedad (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: draw
Real Madrid are in a spot of bother. One win from their last five games in all competitions, knocked out of the Copa and beaten in consecutive fixtures for the first time since November 2015, Zinedine Zidane needs a convincing win to stave off a growing sense of unease. We don’t fancy he’ll get it here though. The Bernabéu boo boys will be at it from the first whistle and Sociedad are in excellent shape in the league, although they do seesaw away from home: five wins and four losses. They have to draw one at some point and may do so on Sunday to add to Zidane’s woes.
Las Palmas – Valencia (Monday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Las Palmas’ slide down the table has been steady rather than spectacular but Quique Setién’s side dropped out of the top 10 for the first time last weekend as Depor picked up a point in the Estadio de Gran Canaria. Still, they remain unbeaten at home with five draws and five wins and it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Valencia to win consecutive away games - let alone three on the trot - this season.