Málaga – Levante (Friday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Going purely on last week’s performances Málaga would seem to be favourites in La Rosaleda. Míchel’s side gave Madrid a roister-doister of a game in the Bernabéu and would have deserved a point while Levante were brushed aside by Atlético at the Ciutat de Valencia and conceded five for the first time this season. This fixture has ended in a draw just once in the last 16 meetings between the sides and seeing as Málaga have won their last two at home we’re obliged to lean that way, however much we don’t fancy betting the farm on this one. The visitors also have a colossal injury list.
Barcelona – Celta (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
Celta won this fixture in 2014-15 and have had the better of Barça at Balaídos in the past two seasons, winning 4-3 and 4-1. At Camp Nou, Celta have been pumped 6-1 and 5-0 in the last two campaigns. The obvious bet is a home win and both teams to score. You fancy if the league leaders are going to be tripped up it won’t be at home, where they’ve scored 20 and conceded two. You also suspect it won’t be the outstretched boot of Juan Carlos Unzué’s side, who have lost four of six on the road this season, doing the tripping.
Atlético – Real Sociedad (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Atlético seem to have rediscovered their Groove in recent weeks, beating Roma to throw their Champions League campaign a lifeline, holding Real at the Metropolitano and rattling five past Levante last week. We’ve been loath to back the Rojiblancos of late but Sociedad do not enjoy playing Atleti in the capital. Since a 1-0 win in March 2013 Saturday’s visitors have been turned over four times without finding the net in response to the home side scoring two or more on all but one occasion.
Sevilla – Deportivo (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
In the home form table Sevilla sit in third place on 16 points, one behind Valencia and two adrift of Barça. In the Sánchez Pizjuán, Eduardo Berizzo’s side have won five and drawn one, conceding just three times. Depor, who have won just once on the road this season, face a daunting run of away games with Barça, Villarreal and Real Madrid following in succession. Their current position of 17th may look positively healthy by mid-January. Sevilla’s defence remains depleted by injury so there could be a few goals but the home side should come out on top.
Athletic – Real Madrid (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: away win
Athletic are languishing in 16th place, are out of the Copa after losing to Formentera – enjoying their first season in Segunda B after promotion from Tercera last year – and are still not assured of progress from a fairly amenable Europa League group. It is not unfair to suggest that Cuco Ziganda was promoted above his skill set after six years at Bilbao Athletic and although San Mamés will remain on side, Ziganda needs a positive performance. Real have won two of four in the new San Mamés, where Cristiano Ronaldo has still yet to find the net, and both of those were 2-1 wins, which sounds about right.
Leganés – Villarreal (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: away win
The Submarine have lost only once under new boss Javi Calleja, last weekend against Sevilla in a closely contested game. Cédric Bakambu can’t stop scoring and bagged another brace in the Copa win over Ponfe and it’s difficult to see past an away win in Butarque, despite Leganés’ relative solidity at home where they’ve conceded just five. The problem for the Cucumber Growers is that they’ve scored only three at home all season. Against a side that have scored two or more in five of their last seven Liga outings, the home side may have to match that total just to secure a point.
Getafe – Valencia (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: away win
Alarm bells sounded when we saw this one, keenly aware as we are that this very fixture two seasons ago sent a 500-euro accumulator into the buffers. And it was the last game on the coupon. Anything other than an away win would be a ballsy bet though: Geta haven’t drawn one at home this season and Valencia are unbeaten, hitting 16 on their travels, more than Barcelona or Madrid. And they owe us.
Eibar – Espanyol (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Eibar have won back-to-back Liga games for the first time since April while Espanyol have yet to win away from home this season. The home side have an extensive injury list but were extremely unlucky to be knocked out of the Copa to an 89th-minute penalty at Celta after dominating the game. It’s by no means a proven science but the old gut feeling here is a draw, and one involving very few goals.
Las Palmas – Betis (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
This one could be a case of which side plays less poorly than the other, rather than any merit in their own performances. Betis appear to be in freefall, shipping five against Eibar, six at home against Valencia and managing to get knocked out of the Copa in a 5-3 home defeat by Cádiz, which earned the Verdiblancos a round booing off at half time. Las Palmas are not in much better shape. Pako Ayestarán salvaged a draw with a 2-2 result away at Sociedad last week, arresting a run of eight consecutive defeats stretching back to his predecessor. Will that spark a revival? Possibly, but it won't be under the stewardship of the former Valencia boss, who was sacked in midweek. Either way, Betis are about the best chance they’ll have at home this side of Christmas.
Girona – Alavés (Monday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Girona continue to surprise in their debut season in Primera and this is the sort of game that they’ll be targeting as must-win. Despite their lofty and deserved position in the top 10 Pablo Machín will be aware that the likes of Alavés are still direct rivals until the 40-point mark is reached. Girona are unbeaten in five and knocked off Real Madrid at home a few weeks ago so should be a shoo-in to beat a side on their fourth manager of the season (Javi Cabello is in his second stint of the campaign) and with two wins in 13 games.