Espanyol – Real Sociedad (Friday 20:45) Prediction: draw
Both sides are in the mix for European football next season but Espanyol’s home form is only marginally better than their away record. Quique Sánchez Flores’ side have drawn five matches in Cornellà so far while Real Sociedad have yet to pick up a single point on the road this season, winning five and losing five outside Anoeta. The time for that to change feels ripe and Espanyol will be without match-winner Pablo Piatti for this one.
Betis – Valencia (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
The Voro effect has very much ceased to be and Valencia were woeful last weekend as Eibar plundered four goals without reply in Mestalla. Betis meanwhile have fully recovered from an aversion to playing well at home under Gus Poyet and are unbeaten under Víctor Sánchez at the Villamarín, knocking off Las Palmas and Celta while holding Barcelona in a 1-1 draw that flattered the visitors two weeks ago. Betis have also had an unexpected rest after the postponement of last weekend’s trip to Riazor and should be odds-on to heap more trouble on a Valencia side languishing in 16th and just a single point better off than Leganés.
Alavés – Barcelona (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: away win
The camel coats have given Alavés short shrift for the Copa del Rey final dress rehearsal in Mendizorrotza on Saturday afternoon but if one thing is certain, the home side will set up to avoid a shellacking. El Glorioso were just that in reaching a first-ever domestic cup final and they also shocked Barça in Camp Nou earlier in the season with a 2-1 win. Practically assured of safety in the league, Alavés will play for a draw – Barça’s last two visits to Vitoria ended 0-0, although those were over a decade ago – and while Luis Enrique’s side will be hard pressed they should sneak this one. That said, Quinielistas may want to consider an X-2 double just in case.
Athletic – Deportivo (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Athletic go into this one at pretty much full strength and have dropped just nine points at home this season. The Lions have been held in two of their last three fixtures at San Mamés and will be eager to get a faltering European tilt back on track against a Depor side who haven’t won an away game in 2016-17 and are not so much flirting with relegation as sitting in the Segunda lounge bar, checking the mirror, adjusting their tie, ordering a drink and turning the mobile off.
Osasuna – Real Madrid (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: away win
On paper last versus first should be a foregone conclusion. Osasuna have picked up three points just once this season and have yet to win a league game in El Sadar. The Rojillos have though scored 10 in five games under new boss Petar Vasiljevic and there is little quite like the white shirts of Real Madrid to get the backs of players and a raucous home crowd very much up. Manuel Pellegrini, José Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti al dropped points in Pamplona and Zinedine Zidane wasn’t merely giving lip service when he said he knows what his side will up against. Real’s top assist-maker Toni Kroos is suspended but even so the logical cash is on both teams to score but Real to score one more in a 1-2 win.
Villarreal – Málaga (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
El Gato Romero has cashed in four of his nine lives already since taking over from Juande Ramos, who had it away on his toes during the winter break. A 1-1 draw at Osasuna did little to dispel fears that Romero is in slightly over his head and a vote of confidence from his players is hardly the sort of news he needs. Points win prizes and El Gato requires some in double quick time. Málaga haven’t won an away game in 2016-17 and Villarreal’s Champions League pursuit has faltered somewhat after an unexpected mugging by Valencia. Fran Escribá will be eager to get his side back on track and there is little to suggest he won’t against a side that have scored three in five games under their new boss.
Leganés – Sporting (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Leganés haven’t won a game since November 21 and have been victorious just once at Butarque all season, against Osasuna needless to say. Lying in 17th place, five points clear of Sporting in 18th, this is a game the Cucumber Growers simply have to win.
Las Palmas – Sevilla (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Las Palmas remain unbeaten at home but fell to Granada last time out while Sevilla have a few injury concerns and are on a slightly worrying run after shipping three in Pamplona and winning only under controversial refereeing conditions, then being roundly beaten by Espanyol and held at home by Villarreal. Leaving the stats aside, this one just whiffs of a draw.
Atlético – Celta (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Celta will have to pick themselves up after the body blow of missing out on the cup final, having avoided Sunday’s opponents and Barça in the semi-finals, for the trip to the Calderón, a stadium where the Galician side have not tasted victory since returning to the top flight in 2012-13. It’s far from all roses at Atlético at the moment with Diego Simeone’s side four points adrift of Sevilla in third and Real Sociedad snapping at his heels, but the visitors’ Copa exertions tip the balance in favour of the home side, who have been beaten only once at the Calderón this season, by Real Madrid, and that game aside have conceded only four while popping in 22 at the other end.
Eibar – Granada (Monday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Eibar are flying at the moment, sitting seventh and just three points off the Europa League places. That might do at season’s end if Barcelona win the Copa del Rey final and this is exactly the sort of game that José Luis Mendilibar will look at as a good opportunity to add a bit of cement to those designs. Granada scored an unlikely win against Las Palmas last weekend in Los Cármenes, their second of the season, but apart from an anomaly against Osasuna only Barça and Atlético have left Ipurua with three points this season.
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