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Málaga – Espanyol (Sat 13:00) Prediction: draw - Result: 0-1
Málaga are in desperate straits and the installation of new coach El Gato Romero has done little to arrest the slide. The former La Rosaleda favourite has overseen three defeats and a draw – against Osasuna – and could really do with a positive result against Espanyol, who have been pretty solid on the road with three wins and three draws from nine. El Gato will probably settle for a draw under the circumstances. No side concedes more in the first half than Málaga and no side has seen more red cards either: avoiding doing both on Saturday will be key to the outcome.
Barcelona – Athletic (Sat 16:15) Prediction: home win - Result 3-0
Luis Enrique’s side have rediscovered some of their verve but are still capable of putting in a less than stellar shift, as in the Benito Villamarín last weekend. Aside from that 1-1 draw and another in El Madrigal, Barça have scored three, four, five and four in their last six games and with Leo Messi in sparkling form Athletic will be up against it. Another setback for Barcelona can’t be entirely ruled out but the betting on a home win will be heavy.
Atlético – Leganés (Sat 18:30) Prediction: home win - Result: 2-0
Atlético are stumbling through the season by their own lofty standards and have more or less kissed goodbye to a title challenge after 20 weeks of the season. Leganés reinforced more than any other Liga side in January and should be ok when the dust settles in May but it’s too soon for the new arrivals to make more than a cursory impact in the Calderón and the home side have to be considered a shoo-in for the win, even if Leganés will get stuck in and try to battle to a point.
Valencia – Eibar (Sat 20:45) Prediction: draw - Result: 0-4
Voro was within 90 minutes of equaling Cesare Prandelli’s win record for the season in just three games last weekend but Valencia’s defensive fragility was laid bare again in Gran Canaria. Eibar will fancy getting something out of Mestalla and as the Liga side with most crosses slung into the proverbial mixer, Voro will have been drilling set-pieces all week. The home side are lacking a little firepower in the absence of the suspended Munir and the injured Rodrigo while professional ship-steadier Dani Parejo has also fallen foul of accumulated cards.
Sevilla – Villarreal (Sun 12:00) Prediction: home win - Result: 0-0
The game of the weekend and little mistake as title-chasing Sevilla host sixth-placed Villarreal. The visitors are without some decisive players, not least chief goal threat Nicola Sansone, while Sevilla have added Stevan Jovetic, Gabriel Mercado and Walter Montoya to a squad already brimming with talent. If Jorge Sampaoli is to maintain Sevilla’s charge this is the kind of game he will need to mastermind victory from.
Sporting – Alavés (Sun 16:15) Prediction: home win - Result: 2-4
After Alavés weathered a storm at Celta in the Copa semi-finals to hold for a 0-0 draw Eduardo Berizzo confirmed he will be rotating players for the return leg in Mendizorrotza. Alavés boss Mauricio Pellegrino is bound to do the same with the prospect of a first-ever domestic cup final just 90 minutes away and his side not involved in the relegation battle. If Sporting, who very much are, can’t beat a half-strength Alavés at home then they’re as good as down already.
Sociedad – Osasuna (Sun 18:30) Prediction: home win - Result: 3-2
It’s hard to see Osasuna troubling a Real Sociedad side sitting a point off Atlético in fifth but the Navarrese have enjoyed a decent run under new boss Petar Vasiljevic, who took over on the back of six consecutive defeats and has guided the relegation strugglers to three draws in four. Sociedad have lost just twice at home this season, against Real Madrid and Sevilla, and will be too canny to let Osasuna have a sniff even if the visitors have scored nine goals under their new coach in four games when they managed just 12 in 16 this season under their previous two.
Celta knocked Madrid out of the Copa on the basis of resting players for their league game in between the two legs and Berizzo, with the scent of the final in his nostrils, will do the same again. Real should have Luka Modric, Marcelo, Pepe and James Rodríguez available and now find the boot on their foot. That should be enough to ensure they avenge the knock-out exit with three points in Vigo even with Toni Kroos suspended.
Granada – Las Palmas (Mon 20:45) Prediction: away win
Las Palmas had a pretty impressive transfer window, bringing in Alen Halilovic and Jesé Rodríguez on loan to bolster the side’s attacking options. Granada were also busy as they strive to avoid the drop and addition of the experienced Adrián Ramos on loan from Borussia Dortmund should help their goals-for column. Las Palmas’ away form is dreadful and Granada’s form in general equally so, but the visitors have to be considered favourites for the win.