Atlético – Getafe (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
Diego Costa is back. The feisty Spain international was in typically combative mood in the Copa and found the net against Lleida, as well as finding time to pick a fight and half-injure himself. He is expected to be fit for Saturday’s early game though and may partner Antoine Griezmann in attack, something not just Atlético fans will be eager to witness. Getafe have tricky Japanese number 10 Gabu Shibasaki available again but have been struggling for goals in recent weeks and it’s hard to see the Azulones making much of a dent in a more or less full-strength Atlético away from home.
Valencia – Girona (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Valencia have lost only three games all season, but worryingly for Marcelino those have all come in his side’s last four Liga outings. Top scorer Simone Zaza is suspended for the visit of Girona, who continue to defy pre-season expectations of struggle and gloom but were hammered 4-1 by Eibar at Ipurua before the break. Marcelino knows his side have to regain that winning feeling before tricky away trips to Depor and Las Palmas ahead of Real Madrid’s date in Mestalla, which closes a key month in Valencia’s aspirations for the season.
Las Palmas – Eibar (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Paco Jémez enjoys a reputation as a bit of a Spanish Sam Allardyce. The former Rayo coach does not so much carry a chip on his shoulder as a full sack of potatoes but like his English counterpart, he can’t half re-organise a shambolic side. That much was in evidence against Valencia in the Copa where a late Rodrigo goal denied Jémez a win in his first match in charge of the Canary Islanders. That should come this weekend when Eibar visit despite the Basques being on a run of five wins from six: they have won only twice on the road so far and the “Efecto Paco” cannot be underestimated.
Sevilla – Betis (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Former Sevilla boss Eduardo Berizzo could not quite get a grasp on the curious anomaly of Sevilla’s home and away defensive record. At the Sánchez Pizjuán Sevilla have the meanest back five in the league, conceding just three in eight games. Away, they have shipped 19. Incoming coach Vincenzo Montella went some way to solving the conundrum with a clean sheet away in the Copa at Cádiz and his first Liga game in charge is nothing less than the Seville derby, assuring the Italian an instant does of goodwill if he can guide his side to glory in one of the world’s most hotly contested local rivalries. Betis coach Quique Setién described it as special, "because unlike in many other cities in Spain, here, there is no Real Madrid and Barcelona. There is only Betis and Sevilla.” The home side are unbeaten on their own patch but will have to up their game after a lacklustre 0-0 draw against Levante last time out. Setién’s credit is rapidly evaporating in the Betis hot seat after two wins in 10 Liga games. This will be the game of the weekend and there may be a few goals in it, but Sevilla are the slight favourites.
Leganés – Real Sociedad (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: draw
The Cucumber Growers give little ground for free at Butarque and only Barça so far this season have really put them to the sword on home turf. Three wins, two draws and a narrow loss to Getafe make up the rest of their results in Madrid and Asier Garitano’s side took a first-leg advantage over Villarreal in their Copa del Rey tie in midweek. Real Sociedad were eliminated rather spectacularly by Lleida in the previous round so have had a fair time to prepare for this one after picking up a first win in six at home against Sevilla before Christmas. Leganés don’t concede many but don’t score many either and may be content to shut up shop in Sunday’s early kick-off with next week’s return leg and a place in the Copa quarterfinals a bit of a distraction.
Barcelona – Levante (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Barcelona are storming to the title and barring a collapse coupled with an astounding run of form by one of the current top four the Liga trophy will be back in the Camp Nou cupboard in May. At home, Ernesto Valverde’s side are a formidable prospect, winning nine and drawing one, scoring 26 and conceding four. Juan Muñiz has made Levante extremely tough to beat – The Frogs lead the stalemate stakes with nine draws from 17 games. Getting to double figures in that regard would suit Muñiz very nicely indeed but only the very brave will mark anything other than home win on the coupon.
Athletic – Alavés (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Athletic have arrested their slide by going six games unbeaten but remain bizarrely terrible at San Mamés, where they haven’t won since October and haven’t scored since November. Given Alavés’ precarious position in 17th, level on points with Depor, El Glorioso probably won’t be going for it in the other Basque derby and a fourth 0-0 of the season can’t be ruled out as not much of a Magic Kings gift for the Bilbao faithful.
Villarreal – Deportivo (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Cédric Bakambu’s decision to leave Villarreal for Chinese Super League outfit Beijing Guoan leaves Javi Calleja in a bit of a pickle. The DR Congo striker has bagged 14 goals in all competitions this season with the remainder of the Submarine’s squad managing 21 between them. Although a popular figure, it isn’t hard to imagine a few rude words being muttered about the place. Without Bakambu in the side Villarreal still scored two excellent 1-0 victories before the break and that sounds about right against a struggling Depor side who won’t be giving too much out for free.
Celta – Real Madrid (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Long gone are the days when any game featuring Real Madrid and any of the 17 sides in LaLiga other than Barça or Atlético was an automatic pick on the coupon in their favour. The league has probably already been lost and Zinedine Zidane’s back-ups have been made to look extremely ordinary against lower-league opposition in the Copa del Rey. While Real were labouring to victory against Numancia, Celta were holding an admittedly weakened Barcelona to keep the tie alive going into Camp Nou. That may lead to a few changes in Juan Carlos Unzué’s plans for this one but Celta do enjoy sticking it to the big boys and dumped Real out of the Cup last season. Not since 2014 have Celta beaten Real in the league but with Zidane’s side struggling on several fronts that could be ripe for a change. Iago Aspas is back in business and Unzú may decide to unleash John Guidetti to bully the Real back line, which will be missing Sergio Ramos.
Málaga – Espanyol (Monday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Espanyol give the impression of a club simply waiting for the season to end to regroup and figure out where it all went wrong. After an eight-placed finish last season Quique Sánchez Flores’ side have not graced the top 10 since week one and are in danger of being dragged into the mire at the bottom. The Parakeets lost their midweek Copa first leg at home against Levante for good measure and another setback could await on the south coast with Málaga desperate for the points themselves and aware that this is exactly the sort of game where they will most likely be available.