Alavés – Valencia (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: away win
Marcelino has Valencia purring and has watched his side hammer in 21 goals in their last five Liga outings. The frankly underrated tactician must be champing at the bit to get stuck into Barcelona at Mestalla in a few weeks but in the meantime, as an aperitif, Valencia travel to Alavés, who have lost eight of nine this season and whose only consolation is that they have leaked fewer than their relegation-threatened peers - a small crumb of comfort that won’t help Gianni De Biasi’s cause in Saturday’s early kick-off.
Atlético – Villarreal (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Atlético coach Diego Simeone pinpointed his side’s recent issue when he identified a lack of goals as the chief obstacle preventing his side turning one point into three in recent outings. Fernando Torres and Luciano Vietto had 24 attempts in Atleti’s 1-0 Copa win at Elche without bothering the onion bag and overall Simeone’s side are averaging 1.23 goals per game this season. Whatever Javi Callejo has said to his Villarreal players has obviously had the desired effect, the Submarine knocking in nine in three consecutive wins under the new gaffer. Put simply, this is the sort of occasion for Simeone to prove that the blockage in front of goal will not derail his side’s domestic and European campaigns before the first chill wind of winter. Lose, and Atlético could be nine points adrift of leaders Barça by Monday.
Athletic – Barcelona (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: away win
Two statistics will clash in San Mamés in Saturday’s showpiece: Athletic have won this fixture once in the last decade and Ernesto Valverde has never been on the winning side as a player or manager when visiting El Catedral. The Lions have been pretty tight at the back at home, conceding only against Atlético, but have only scored four times in those four games. Against a side averaging two a game on the road and with Leo Messi in such foreboding form, one probably won’t be enough.
Sevilla – Leganés (Saturday 22:30) Prediction: home win
The odds on Leganés being in the European spots ahead of Sevilla at this stage of the season would have paid for a few cucumbers but the uncomfortable truth for Eduardo Berizzo is that after sustained success over recent seasons, Sevilla fans and the men in suits will have limited patience after an historic drubbing at Spartak Moscow was followed up Liga losses to Athletic and Valencia. A 3-0 Copa win away at Cartagena has bought the former Celta boss a bit of breathing space but anything other than victory against the Madrid side will raise the sort of questions that Berizzo is running out of answers for.
Getafe – Real Sociedad (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: draw
Getafe have been dreadful at home so far this season, picking up just three points in the Coliseum and scoring the same number of goals (5) as they have on the road. Whether it is the distraction of having people turn up to watch this season is unclear but La Real have three wins from four on the road with nine rattled in while Getafe’s 4-0 defeat of Villarreal in Madrid is looking ever more like a brief respite from a downward trend for José Bordalás’ side, who even conspired to lose at home to Alavés in the Copa del Rey. A backs to the wall draw against a side who are the epitome of unpredictable will be top of the Geta boss’ to-do list this weekend.
Girona – Real Madrid (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: away win
Real Madrid’s second XI didn’t exactly set the world alight against Fuenlabrada in the cup but a fully rested Liga and Champions League-winning first-choice side with plenty to prove will provide a stern examination of Girona’s Primera survival chances. Pablo Machín’s side are winless since August - and that was against Málaga – but have faced a tough run of home fixtures against Sevilla, Barcelona and Villarreal, losing all three. The home side will put up a decent fight, as they have against all of the division’s more illustrious sides this season, but ultimately Madrid’s greater resources will carry the day.
Eibar – Levante (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Eibar are in serious trouble already this season, shipping 20 and scoring just three to hold the dubious honour of the division’s worst goal difference record after nine games and only once have the Ipurua crowd been able to celebrate a rippling net. No side have drawn more games than Levante, who have managed to breach the opposition defence once in three attempts away from home. José Luis Mendilibar has a staggering injury list and won’t be tempted to try anything fancy. No score draw? We rather think so.
Málaga – Celta (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: away win
To death and taxes can be added Míchel surviving yet another week in his post as Málaga boss: nine games, one draw, eight defeats and six points from safety, an away defeat at Segunda División Numancia, with the home side scoring twice in stoppage time to cancel out a 20th-minute Recio strike, surely had Abdullah Al Thani flicking through his file-o-fax for potential candidates. Who would possibly volunteer to replace Teflon Mick is another matter, but Celta should provide the final straw on Sunday after finding their scoring boots with 12 in their last three Liga fixtures.
Espanyol – Betis (Monday 21:00) Prediction: draw
Betis have hit 13 in their last four games and look a decent bet for European football next season having climbed to seventh, nicely sandwiched between Sevilla and Villarreal. Quique Sánchez Flores knows a thing or two about shutting up shop at home though and has seen his Espanyol side concede just three times in four games in Cornellà with the dapper tactician opting for a solid 4-4-1-1 in two of those fixtures. Against Quique Setién’s swashbuckling side, who have managed double figures in shots in their last five, there is little to suggest he won’t do the same with possession nine-tenths of the home draw.
Las Palmas – Deportivo (Monday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Pako Ayesterán finally got off the mark in the Copa with a 4-1 victory in midweek after three straight Liga defeats. His opposite number? Deportivo’s interim boss Cristobál Parralo, who replaced Pepe Mel the day before the game. And that was at Riazor, with Las Palmas enjoying 65 percent of possession and scoring with four of their six shots on target. The Canary Islanders have been awful this season, with seven defeats out of nine, but Depor have yet to claim victory on the road. A famous double beckons for Ayestarán.