Real Betis – Real Sociedad (Fri 20:45) Prediction: Away win
Real Betis put a miserable run of six games without a win behind them on Tuesday when they beat a struggling Málaga side while Real Sociedad were unlucky not to win against Eibar in the lashing rain as they were outdone by a late Pedro León goal. The latter will be buoyed by Eusebio’s commitment to them amidst Barcelona speculation and will look to repay that faith by jumping Atletico Madrid and putting themselves fourth in the table with a win at the Villamarin. Real Sociedad welcome Willian José back and are playing some exciting football this season, which might be too much for a Betis side struggling for an identity and consistency. Real Sociedad have not drawn away from home this season so it is either win or bust and I think they might just have enough to win this one.
Leganés – Granada (Sat 13:00) Prediction: Away win
Leganés helped put the final nail in Gaizka Garitano’s coffin with a spectacular 4-0 win over Deportivo last weekend but returned to losing ways just a couple of days later against Valencia midweek to put themselves right back into the relegation battle. Granada, a team lacking consistency, are coming off a win - their third in five - and are slowly climbing the table when it seemed all hope was lost. Granada’s away form is appalling with 10 losses and no wins but Leganés’ home form is equally as bad with six losses and just two wins in 12 games. This one will come down to momentum and after Granada’s win over Alavés mid-week they might be in a quirky enough mood to pull it off.
Eibar – Real Madrid (Sat 16:15) Prediction: Draw
What is happening at Real Madrid? Regardless of the late heroics on Wednesday night, Zidane’s side were outplayed against Las Palmas and would have been put to bed if their opponents finished one of the several chances they had when 1-3 up. Eibar are reaching for Europe and are excellent at home with eight wins in 13 at Ipurua; their two losses at home in recent memory coming against Atlético Madrid and Barcelona. Gareth Bale will serve a suspension and neither Benzema nor Morata have taken opportunities when afforded them, which leaves Zidane with a selection headache; Ronaldo will not be fit. Varane remains out too meaning there is a place up for grabs at the back making it a perfect storm for Real Madrid, and Eibar should capitalise.
Villarreal – Espanyol (Sat 18:30) Prediction: Home win
Villarreal’s dismantling of Osasuna can only tell you so much as the latter seem to have already accepted their relegation this season. Roberto Soldado is back, which gives them an option that they were lacking up front since Pato departed in January. Espanyol seem as though they need one more transfer window under Quique Sánchez Flores to truly find an identity. They have been hot and cold and with just one win in their last four might struggle against an organised home side. Of Villarreal’s 11 wins this season, seven of them have come at home, which could spell trouble for an Espanyol side, who have been patchy once they leave the confines of the RCDE Stadium.
Barcelona – Celta Vigo (Sat 20:45) Prediction: Home win
Barcelona have struggled against Celta Vigo in recent times but the 6-1 victory over Sporting Gijón and the news that Luis Enrique is to leave at the end of the season might give them an added freedom when they take to the field on Saturday night. Iago Aspas is in scintillating form and has scored in back-to-back games but the edge gained from home advantage is too much to ignore for Barcelona. Celta Vigo are an entirely different proposition away from home than they are in Vigo, and not in a good way. Iniesta and Pique were rested mid-week, and Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were also taken off early in the second half so their main attractions would be ready for Celta’s visit on Saturday.
Sporting Gijón – Deportivo (Sun 12:00) Prediction: Away win
Pepe Mel has immediately improved Deportivo after they had fallen into a serious slump under Gaizka Garitano. Sporting were promising for very short spells against Barcelona but suffered a collapse when Burgui went off and never threatened again. The Real Madrid loanee suffered an ankle injury and if he is absent, expect another tame performance from Rubi’s side. Depor, on the other hand, have their best players playing in the best positions after some of them fell out of favour under previous management. Not immensely threatening away from home, they are starting in a clean slate under their new manager. A win here should help them stave off talk of relegation and expect them to fight to the death for Mel.
Atlético Madrid – Valencia (Sun 16:15) Prediction: Home win
The mystery that is Voro’s Valencia continues to confuse as much as they can delight. A win over Real Madrid was followed by a loss to Alavés before Léganes were dispatched of during the week. Fabián Orellana is back but Atlético need this win to keep up their battle for a Champions League spot so don’t expect them to lose at home to a flaky Valencia side. They have lost seven games away from home this season and don’t tend to do well against the top better teams in the league. Saúl is back for Atlético and expect a spirited performance as they try to lay down a win for the stricken Fernando Torres.
Las Palmas – Osasuna (Sun 18:30) Prediction: Home win
It is just like watching Brazil, at times, when the Islanders play. They opened up Real Madrid and created chance after chance against their opponents on Wednesday night. If they could finish, we might be talking about them as contenders for a Champions League place. Jesé adds dynamism to an already dynamic attack and Osasuna could be in trouble against their open style. They are currently 10 points from safety and Deportivo have a game in hand, which could increase that to 11. They should and probably will keep up the good fight but there is merit in starting preparations now for life in the second division.
Athletic Club – Málaga (Sun 20:45) Prediction: Home win
As they huffed and puffed in the finals stages of the Sevilla game on Thursday, they were unable to blow Sevilla’s house down but they came very close. Ernesto Valverde’s side have struggled this season with consistency but their home form is almost immaculate with just one loss all season. The only spark Málaga might offer is that they are fighting for their lives now and relegation is very real for them, having been an abstract concept earlier in the season. A loss against Athletic Bilbao will plunge them closer to the drop with Granada showing signs of life. Athletic Bilbao are too good though and have a better side. Home win on Sunday night.
Alavés – Sevilla (Mon 20:45) Prediction: Away win
There are shades of Atlético Madrid’s miraculous title win in 2013-14 about Sevilla in recent weeks. Slowly but surely, and by hook or by crook, they are gathering three points at every turn. Sampaoli’s side got out of jail on Thursday night with a close win over Athletic Bilbao in the absence of Steven N’Zonzi, Pablo Sarabia and Nicola Pareja, who were all suspended. Clement Lengley could also be back in contention and have a rested and ready side along with the chance, on Monday night, to extend their title challenge and once again show off their title credentials.
Follow the coverage match of the week 29 of the Liga Santander between: Real Madrid-Alavés
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