Deportivo – Espanyol (Friday 21:00) Prediction: draw
There are no one-man teams but Gerard Moreno is doing a pretty decent job of keeping Espanyol in the races on his own this season. The Spaniard has banged in 13 while among the rest of the squad only Leo Baptistão (5) has scored more than two. Depor have tightened up under Clarence Seedorf but don’t score many so if they can keep Moreno shackled a valuable point is on the cards in Riazor.
Celta – Eibar (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: draw
Eibar have lost only twice since November 5, against Atlético and Barcelona, and have Villarreal in sixth well within their sights. Celta are not entirely out of the European running at eight points adrift of the Submarine but haven’t won in three and were thumped last time out by Getafe. The Gunners are unbeaten in five on the road but have not won a game by more than a single goal during that run and the spoils look likely to be shared on Saturday lunchtime.
Real Madrid – Alavés (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Madrid are seeking a fifth consecutive win in all competitions for the first time this season and welcome resurgent Alavés to the Bernabéu with El Glorioso having won seven of 11 under Abelardo since he took over in December. Only Barça, Atlético and Athletic have got the better of Alavés during that run and Real can expect a tough game with Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and possibly Marco Asensio missing for this one. Alavés have never beaten Madrid but gave them a stiff test in Mendizorrotza and a repeat of that 2-1 score line can’t be ignored in the betting stakes.
Leganés – Las Palmas (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
The Cucumber Growers have suffered a bit of a slump after their Copa del Rey disappointment and have lost their last three but the visit of a Las Palmas side who haven’t won an away game since September 11 is a perfect opportunity to bounce back. Paco Jeméz’s side lost their most creative player, Jonathan Viera, to the Chinese Super League this week and that is hardly the sort of morale boost needed in a relegation shoot-out. Three away games under the former Rayo coach have reaped a single point and his side are yet to score on the road under his tutelage. Leganés to sneak this one by a single goal looks like a decent punt.
Barcelona – Girona (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Barcelona remain unbeaten in La Liga and were this game being played at Girona’s Montilivi stadium then an upset would not be out of the question. At home though, Ernesto Valverde’s side have a formidable record of 31 scored and five conceded and with no injury concerns the home side are at extremely short odds to continue their march to the title against Girona.
Villarreal – Getafe (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
Villarreal’s home record is more than decent, the Submarine having been beaten only by Barça and Sevilla before Alavés pulled off a minor shock two weeks ago. Getafe are unbeaten in six but have still only picked up one away win, on September 8, and seem to have a mental block when playing away from the comfort of the Coliseum. It should be a pretty even contest in the Cérmica but with the home side smarting from a 4-1 aggregate loss to Lyon in the Europa League and fully aware that they are by no means guaranteed to hold on to sixth unless they arrest their recent run of one point in three games, Villarreal will look to get back to winning ways against the second lowest-scoring side away from home in the division.
Athletic – Málaga (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: draw
Minute of silence in the match against Málaga CF in San Mamés in memory of the Ertzaina deceased yesterday. #athletic— Athletic Club (@Athletic_en) 23 February 2018
The Sunday lunchtime game in San Mamés will be overshadowed by the tragic events of Thursday night, when the ugliest side of football was on display in the streets of Bilbao. There will be a minute’s silence for the police officer who lost his life during the violence surrounding the Europa League match against Spartak Moscow and a very subdued atmosphere in San Mamés. Málaga are all but condemned to Segunda while Athletic are not finding the net with ease and under the circumstances a no-score draw seems a likely outcome, with the focus rightly away from the pitch and on the mindless behaviour of a minority that continues to blight the game.
Valencia – Real Sociedad (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Los Che are back on track after consecutive wins and although a top-four finish was the aim before the season started the briefest flicker of a title challenge was evidence of what Marcelino is capable of. There is still the carrot of finishing above Real Madrid to chase through and against a Sociedad side who have lost their last three on the road, conceding 10 in the process, and were knocked out of the Europa League on Thursday, Valencia should be backed to win this one.
Sevilla – Atlético (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: away win
1-0 to the Atlético hasn’t caught on as a badge of honour chant among Colchoneros yet but the number of narrow wins Diego Simeone’s side are chalking up is impressive nonetheless. Another, against Copenhagen in midweek, added to seven in La Liga this season with three of those coming since the turn of the year. Atlético have conceded just once over the same period and Sevilla are likely to keep it tight at the back so more of the same can’t be ruled out.
Levante – Betis (Monday 21:00) Prediction: away win
Betis are banging in the goals and travel to the Ciutat de Valencia with 18 in their last seven games. They also concede just as many but Levante, who are one place clear of the relegation mire, are among the most goal-shy sides in the division and average one a game at home. Betis should be able to manage more than that on Monday night.