AS English LaLiga predictions: 2017/18 week 30
Having dieted solely on Creme Eggs all week the AS Oracle is in optimistic mood after the international break as he offers his humble predictions for this weekend's LaLiga action...
Girona – Levante (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
Paco López said that Levante “have to win a league of four” when he took over from Juan Muñiz a few weeks ago and he has been as good as his word, masterminding victories over Getafe and Eibar to open up a six-point gap over 18th-placed Las Palmas, who are next up for the Frogs after their trip to Montilivi. López would like to keep his run going but will prioritise a home game against the side immediately below him and one that could all-but ensure Levante’s survival. Girona, meanwhile, have been in a state of grace at home since December, winning six on the bounce with a return of 15 goals scored and none conceded.
Celta’s form since February has been erratic to say the least: LDLWLWLD. Over the same period Athletic’s reads: LDLWDLWL. So fair play to anyone who aces this one in San Mamés. The Lions have been solid at home since losing to Barça last October and are undefeated in nine. The problem is that they have only scored eight in that time. Celta know where the sticks are away from Riazor, netting more on the road than in Galicia, but struggle to keep clean sheets. Having lost their last four away with a return of one goal, a narrow Athletic win may be the punt de jour in Bilbao.
Las Palmas – Real Madrid (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: draw
There are many question marks surrounding Real’s trip to Las Palmas, but one thing is assured: if Paco Jémez can mastermind a result he will be swift to light another scented candle in the temple he has constructed to his own ego. Las Palmas are in desperate need of points with Levante pulling clear of the mire and Zinedine Zidane will field an unfamiliar side in Gran Canaria with Juventus on the horizon. Sergio Ramos and Isco have been ruled out, Dani Carvajal is suspended and Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric likely to be rested. That may be enough for Las Palmas to carve out a fourth draw in six games with Real’s priorities firmly in the European sphere.
Sevilla – Barcelona (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: draw
Leo Messi has been included for the trip to Sevilla after sitting out the international break but Ernesto Valverde won’t be taking any risks with his star player ahead of the Champions League game against Roma next week. Luis Suárez has been to China and back during the international break while Sergio Busquets is suspended, Marc-André Ter Stegen is struggling with a knee problem and Andrés Iniesta will probably be reserved for the Estadio Olimpico. Barça can afford to lose this one and still win the league at a canter so Valverde will err on the side of caution in the Sánchez Pizjuán, where Vincenzo Montella will also be considering the onerous task of guiding his side past Bayern Munich in Europe.
Espanyol – Alavés (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: draw
Quique Sánchez Flores had a bit of a chat with the board during the international break and the Espanyol manager appears to be skating on thin ice after chalking up just eight league wins all season. It's also telling that not one of Sánchez Flores' in-game substitutes has produced a single goal and if it were not for Gerard Moreno, who has scored one shy of half of his side's total in 2017-18, the Parakeets would be in serious trouble. The Abelardo effect at Alavés has worn off slightly after three straight defeats but El Glorioso have at least found the net in all of them and fans of a 1-1 draw may want to tune into Sunday's aperitif at the RCDE Stadium.
Leganés – Valencia (Sunday 16:15) Prediction away win
The Cucumber Growers are back on track at Butarque after two consecutive wins and have conceded fewer at home this season than Real Madrid, Sevilla and Villarreal. Valencia are unbeaten in seven and haven't conceded more than once in a game during that run so it could be a fairly tight affair in Madrid. With Valencia at full strength and on a decent run of six wins in seven, Marcelino’s men may just have too much for a side who beat Sevilla before the international break but had only tasted victory against a woeful Málaga in the two months before that.
Málaga – Villarreal (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: away win
The only questions left to be answered for Málaga this season is when relegation will be mathematically confirmed and whether The Anchovies can escape the ignominy of sinking into Segunda with a “1” at the start of their points total. Málaga will be 16 points from safety with eight games to go if Levante win this weekend and they fail to do so, making the likely answers are “very soon” and “probably not.” A resurgent Villarreal, who beat Atlético before the international break, should hasten the inevitable in La Rosaleda.
Eibar – Real Sociedad (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Eibar's European dream has unravelled in recent weeks but their home form is deceptive: losses to Atlético, Barcelona and Real Madrid since the turn of the year are the only blemishes on a report card that reads six wins in their last 10 in Ipurua. Real Sociedad's season has turned so sour that Eusebio, previously iron-clad in his job, has been jettisoned with Imanol Alguacil stepping up from the reserves to try and salvage something from a miserable campaign. Sociedad won't go down, but they have little left to play for than pride and that may not be enough against an Eibar side who are still only six points shy of the Europa League places and have beaten Sunday's visitors at home in each of the past three seasons.
Atlético – Deportivo (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
More of a competition to see who can field an XI than anything, both Atlético and Depor go into Sunday night’s game with a raft of injury concerns and suspensions. It’s a case of bring your boots for both sets of fans… you never know. Half of Diego Simeone’s defence and Diego Costa are doubtful while Antoine Griezmann and Vitolo are suspended. Clarence Seedorf has Fede Valverde, Eneko Bóveda and Fernando Navarro definitely out with Fede Cartabia and Florin Andone facing fitness tests. Perhaps a goal-fest shouldn’t be expected but Depor’s woeful run of 14 games without a win seems unlikely to come to an end in the Metropolitano, where Atlético are unbeaten and have conceded just four all season.
Getafe – Betis (Monday 21:00) Prediction: away win
Getafe suffered their first home defeat since late October in their last game at the Coliseum against Levante, then went and claimed a first away win since September the week after that. That really sums up Geta’s season: solid at home, dreadful away, sitting comfortably in ninth. Betis, meanwhile, are somehow up in eighth despite leaking more goals than every Primera side other than two of the three in the relegation zone. That sums up the Verdiblancos’ season: plenty of big wins, a fair number of heavy defeats. The international break has allowed both sides to empty their treatment rooms and we fancy Betis to maintain the momentum they had before the stoppage: they’ve won five of their last seven away and have the added incentive that a win could take them above Sevilla and into the European places this weekend.