Mid-week LaLiga predictions for match-day 5
After last weekend's gallant effort, the regular AS English crystal ball gazer is back with his mid-week preview as there is no let up in LaLiga action.
Just as match-day four comes to a close last night with Espanyol beating Celta in Barcelona, another round of fixtures come our way with two games tonight in the 2017/18 LaLiga Santander campaign. This is how we see it ...
Valencia – Málaga (Tuesday 20:00) Prediction: home win
Míchel defied our Liga season predictions by lasting longer in his post than Luis Zubeldía did at Alavés but the combustible former Madrid midfielder is surely on the brink after overseeing four defeats in Málaga’s opening four games with a return of a single goal in 360 minutes of football. To be frank, the chances of Míchel outfoxing the wily Marcelino in Mestalla are roughly the same as the winter Olympics being hosted in Hades. Valencia have been struggling to convert draws into wins but remain unbeaten and will add a couple of millstones to Míchel’s sinking ship here.
Barcelona – Eibar (Tuesday 22:00) Prediction: home win
Eibar have rarely made a dent in Barça in six Liga attempts but did go 2-0 up on their last visit to Camp Nou, only to leave on the wrong end of a 4-2 scoreline. Over the course of those six games Barça have racked up an aggregate score of 20-3, an average of 3.3 goals a game. Pichichi leader Leo Messi will be licking his lips over the prospect of this one and a second hat-trick of the season for the Argentinean trickster is not out of the question. Eibar getting anything out of Camp Nou is.
Athletic – Atlético (Wednesday 20:00) Prediction: draw
LaLiga’s other Clásico, often overlooked as the big boys steal all the sweets but nonetheless there is always a decent amount of intrigue when the clubs that used to be one entity square up. Athletic’s admirable recruitment policy has been enough to ensure that The Lions have never slipped out of Primera but it does also leave them with a thin squad and their perennial Europa League travels do affect their Liga performance adversely season after season. However, having suffered that blip last weekend at Las Palmas they should be refreshed enough to get a point out of Atlético in San Mamés: José Ángel Ziganda’s side have conceded just once so far this season.
Leganés – Girona (Wednesday 20:00) Prediction: home win
The Cucumber Growers have defied expectations early on and sit handsomely in 10th – a position Asier Garitano would surely settle for when the dust settles in May. In order to remain above the flotsam and jetsam floating about in the division’s lower reaches this is the sort of game Leganés will be targeting for three points. Girona’s good start to the season has tailed off in two non-scoring defeats; Lega have also lost their last two by a single strike but the Madrid side have had two days longer to prepare for this one.
Deportivo – Alavés (Wednesday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Depor are in big trouble early on and Pepe Mel’s position looks increasingly vulnerable – as vulnerable as his defence has been this season in the worst start to a Liga campaign at Riazor in 50 years. The home side have conceded 11 already, the only club to have broken double figures on that unwanted front. Alavés, meanwhile, have failed to score at all this season and were wretched in defeat at Mendizorrotza when Villarreal tore their back four apart at will and could have scored five or six. Put simply, if Mel can’t engineer victory against the division’s poorest side on current form Depor should seriously consider alternatives.
Real Madrid – Betis (Wednesday 22:00) Prediction: home win
Real Madrid have been beaten just twice at home in LaLiga under Zinedine Zidane, by Barça and Atlético. That is a daunting prospect for any visitor to Chamartín and lends Real something of an aura of invincibility on their turf. Add in the return of Cristiano Ronaldo after five games on the naughty step – a player Carlo Ancelotti once described as effectively giving Real a one-goal head start in every game – and Betis will have to pull something pretty magical out of their hat to pick up a first victory in the Bernabéu in 20 years. Joaquín is in excellent form and should cause the Real back line some problems but it’s difficult to look past a comfortable win for the home side.
Sevilla – Las Palmas (Wednesday 22:00) Prediction: home win
Two wins on the bounce has turned Las Palmas’ fortunes around after a 5-1 drubbing at home at the hands of Atlético and the visitors will go into this one with a fair amount of confidence. Sevilla though have been quietly excellent under new boss Eduardo Berizzo and have moved into second in LaLiga after a run of three victories without conceding. Las Palmas may have turned a corner but lurking around it are a side streets ahead of Manolo Márquez’s fledgling project and with the firepower to run up a similar score to the 3-0 victory over Eibar two weeks ago at the Sánchez Pizjuán.
Villarreal – Espanyol (Thursday 20:00) Prediction: home win
Espanyol recorded a first win of the season last time out but failed to capitalize on their first-half dominance to put the game out of reach against Celta, who clawed their way back into it in the second period. It’s unfair to judge a side on their last away performance when it was a 5-0 drubbing by a Leo Messi-inspired Barcelona but the suspicion here is that Villarreal, who have scored six in their last two games after an underwhelming start to the season, will beat Quique Sánchez Flores’ side with some ease.
Celta – Getafe (Thursday 21:00) Prediction: draw
Getafe were exceptional in the first half against Barcelona at the weekend, pressing high up the pitch and making the visitors very uncomfortable indeed while taking the lead through a Gaku Shibasaki thunderbolt that will feature in the goal of the season stakes. Geta also possess one of the most underrated keepers in the division in Vicente Guaita, who made some excellent stops to keep Barcelona to a two-goal response. Celta have lost three already and without the goals of Maxi Gómez would be in considerably worse shape than their current position of 17th. Unfortunately for Geta, Shibasaki is out for at least a month and the visitors will miss his creativity but are too solid defensively for misfiring Celta to pick off.
Levante – Real Sociedad (Thursday 22:00) Prediction: draw
Levante remain unbeaten this season and have shown all the signs of launching a solid survival campaign after topping Segunda last campaign and have still to play their trump card, last season’s top scorer Roger Martí, who is out until January with a cruciate ligament tear. In the meantime Juan Muñiz’s side have beaten Villarreal and held Depor, Real Madrid and Valencia in their opening four and are good value to do the same to Sociedad in the Ciutat de Valencia after Eusebio’s side suffered their first defeat of the season at the weekend.
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