Real Sociedad – Deportivo (Friday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Sociedad have yet to win in 2018 and will be reeling from Athletic’s cheeky purchase of arguably their best defender, Iñigo Martínez. Four straight defeats has left La Real down in15th but Depor are hardly faring any better and threw away a two-goal lead in five minutes last weekend at home against Levante. On paper Sociedad are favourites for this one against a side in the relegation places and without an away win since October, with just five points accrued on the road this season and in the absence of both Celso Borges and Florin Andone for the trip to Anoeta.
Eibar – Sevilla (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: draw
Sevilla have a bit of an issue between the sticks, with Vincenzo Montella not ruling out a spot of rotation after Sergio Rico’s howler in the Copa. That 1-1 result leaves Leganés in a good position to progress to the final and the Sevilla boss may have half an eye on the return leg, enough to allow Eibar to build on their impressive home record, the Gunners having been beaten just three times at Ipurua. Neither side are exactly banging them in and rank 9th and 10th in the top 10 in terms of onion bag-bothering so a low scoring draw seems a decent punt.
Betis – Villarreal (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Betis had a decent window, signing Marc Bartra to help tighten things up at the back and welcoming Rubén Castro home from the CSL after a loan to add another goal threat. Quique Setién’s side will also be buoyed by Fabián’s contract extension and even in the absence of talismanic captain Joaquín should have enough at home to get past a Villarreal side with an injury list few sides could cope with. The visitors have won their last three on the road against Real Madrid, Valencia and Celta, all by a score of 1-0. Carlos Bacca and Pablo Fornals accounted for those and if Betis can keep them quiet the same result the other way around seems likely.
Alavés – Celta (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Abelardo has breathed new life into Alavés since taking over as the club’s fourth manager of the season and is unbeaten in four at home with three wins and just two goals conceded. Shoring up at the back was the main priority and a side like Celta, who thrive on space to exploit, could find themselves frustrated in Mendizorrotza despite their recent free-scoring success. Expect a solid set-up from Abelardo and the home side to look to set-pieces to settle the affair.
Levante – Real Madrid (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: away win
Cristiano Ronaldo is doubtful for the trip to the Ciutat de Valencia but it’s difficult to see the Frogs scoring more than one: they’ve managed only 10 at home in 11 games. Real have scored three or more in their last three visits and will be unlikely to hold back after banging in 11 in their last two Liga outings.
Getafe – Leganés (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
Like Sevilla, Lega will prioritise next week’s Copa return at the Sánchez Pizjuán as the Cucumber Growers have pretty much ensured Liga safety already. Goal scorer against Sevilla, Dimitris Siovas, is a doubt for the home side, as are Rubén Pérez and Alexander Szymanowski. None will be risked and Getafe should be poised to take advantage of their opponent’s distraction having not lost a game at the Coliseum since October 14.
Espanyol – Barcelona (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: away win
Espanyol have not won this fixture since February 2009, when Mauricio Pochettino confirmed his status as a managerial magician by beating Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering tiki-taka merchants. A 1-0 win in the Copa quarterfinals was a short-lived celebration as Barça turned the tie around at home to go through and goal-shy Sevilla knocked three past the Parakeets in their last outing in Cornellà. Ernesto Valverde may hand Luis Suárez or Leo Messi a rest with the Copa in mind but just one of those two on current form can win a game on their own.
Girona – Athletic (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Girona are only five points off the European places and have lost at home only once since October, while Athletic are unbeaten in 10 but have won only three of those. The Lions have drawn their last two away from home and a score draw looks likely in Montilivi given that Girona can hardly be expected to whack six in every week as they did against a hapless Las Palmas in their last home game.
Atlético – Valencia (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Diego Simeone has never been beaten at home by Valencia in the league and his side scored three in their new stadium for the first time last week against Las Palmas. They have also conceded only four times and remain unvanquished in the Metropolitano this season. Valencia will be missing their wide men, Gonçalo Guedes and Andreas Pereira as well as midfield anchor Geoffrey Kondogbia and also have a Copa semi-final to consider. El Cholo’s record looks safe.
Las Palmas – Málaga (Monday 21:00) Prediction: home win
A quick glance at Málaga’s injuries and suspensions highlights an issue: Chory Castro, Juankar, Samu García, Diego Rolán, Adalberto Peñaranda… there’s a reasonable amount of creativity in there and Málaga have created the square root of sod all this season. No side has scored fewer goals and although José Manuel González has tightened things up at the back, a winter splash on Isaac Success, Brown Ideye and Maxime Lestienne – all attacking players – suggests he has identified goals as the next necessity. It may be too soon for the new boys to make much of an impact though and Las Palmas did unexpectedly beat Valencia in their last home game. It’s 19th vs 20th and it won’t be pretty but the home side are narrow favourites.