Deportivo – Málaga (Friday 21:00) Prediction: draw
Both Depor and Málaga are occupying stools at the last chance saloon and the likelihood is that both will be drinking in Segunda next season. The Anchovies grabbed an unlikely victory last weekend against Villarreal to inject fresh hope into a demoralised squad but with 11 points between them and Levante in 17th it was probably too little, too late. Depor boss Clarence Seedorf rightly remarked that his side are not playing badly, but they're also not turning decent performances into points. As ever with this sort of game the suspicion is that both sides will be more eager to avoid defeat than adventurous in seeking victory, leading to a draw that will do neither any favours.
Alavés – Getafe (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
The appointment of Abelardo last December had the desired effect at Mendizorrotza and the former Sporting coach has dragged his side from 20th up to 16th and opened up an 11-point gap to the relegation places. Job done. All that remains for Alavés is to aim for a cash windfall by getting as close to the top 10 as they can, a target they are currently just eight points short of. El Glorioso have lost only one of eight home games under their current coach while Getafe have tasted victory only once in their last 12 on the road. That both of those results came last weekend is perhaps indicative of a close one in Vitoria and we fancy the home side to sneak this by a goal.
Celta – Sevilla (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Sevilla will naturally be a little distracted by their impending trip to the Allianz Arena and with a single-goal deficit on Bayern Munich Vincenzo Montella will reserve his full armoury for a winnable tie against Jupp Heynckes’ side, who are far from their imposing best in Europe this season. That should be enough of an invitation for Celta to go all-out as they seek to close a six-point gap to the European places and with a full attacking complement at Juan Carlos Unzué’s disposal and the excellent Daniel Wass back available again, the home side should grasp the opportunity.
Betis – Eibar (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Quique Setién has done an incredible job of breathing new life into a Betis side that have been wallowing in mediocrity for far too long. Currently sixth after a run of three consecutive wins, the Champions League is beyond them but 99.9 percent of Betis fans would have taken finishing above Sevilla and earning a Europa League spot at the same time at the start of the season. Eibar are still in the mix for Europe but have dropped off a little in recent weeks with one win in seven and having failed to beat the sides in 19th and 17th in their last two away games should probably be avoided on the coupon to pull off anything surprising in the Villamarín.
Barcelona – Leganés (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Barça’s 4-1 win over Roma in the Champions League means that Ernesto Valverde can concentrate on maintaining his side’s unbeaten season domestically, and if his side avoid defeat they will match Real Sociedad’s Liga record of 38 games without defeat – no small source of motivation for a former player and coach of Athletic Club. Leganés haven’t won on the road since October 15 – against Málaga – and are priced at anything up to 31/1 to pull off a huge shock.
Levante – Las Palmas (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
There have been fewer clearer cut matches than this at the foot of the Liga table over the course of the last decade: win, and Levante move 10 points clear of Las Palmas, essentially securing their Primera status. Paco López has done an excellent job in his role as caretaker, probably excellent enough to be offered a one-year contract. Hammer the final nail in the coffin of the Canary Islanders’ woeful campaign and he can rubber-stamp both at home on Sunday.
Real Madrid – Atlético (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Both sides go into the Madrid derby with their work in Europe more or less completed, Real holding a 3-0 advantage over Juve and Atlético carving out a 2-0 win over Sporting. That means neither side need concern themselves too much with rest and rotation, although of the two Zinedine Zidane is the more likely to tinker: Diego Simeone’s squad is so thin he had to call up five cantera players last weekend to make up his list. The league is gone and the chance of messing up a Champions League place negligible so this is a free wallop for both combatants with four points separating them in Primera and not much else but local bragging rights to consider.
Real Sociedad – Girona (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: draw
This will be Imanol Alguacil’s first home game in charge after the former Sociedad right back replaced Eusebio last month and he managed a clean sheet away at Eibar last weekend. Girona’s home form has been exceptional this season but Pablo Machín’s side have struggled on the road and his three-at-the-back formation has leaked more away goals than any other side in the top 10. Only two sides have conceded more than La Real in total this season and as a defender Imanol will be primarily concerned with keeping it to nil at the back as he was in Eibar, where his side didn’t register a shot on target.
Valencia – Espanyol (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
The Marcelino effect has played out in stark contrast to the Quique Sánchez Flores version this season, with the Valencia manager in demand and his Espanyol counterpart on thin ice. The Parakeets’ victory over Real Madrid many have been expected to belatedly spark a revival at the RCDE but other than a win over struggling Sociedad it’s been back to business as usual for Sánchez Flores with two draws and a defeat. With Valencia now 15 points clear of fifth-placed Villarreal every game from now until the end of the season is just a chance for Marcelino to flex his tactical muscles and give the fans a show, the Champions League next season already assured. Espanyol are the same distance from the drop zone but on a gradual decline under Sánchez Flores, who has managed just one away win all season at – quelle surprise – La Rosaleda.
Villarreal – Athletic (Monday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Villarreal will be looking to bounce back from handing Málaga a first win in 15 games last weekend with Betis, Sevilla and Girona closing in on their precarious hold on fifth and automatic Europa League qualification. Athletic have lost their last four on the road 2-0 and something down those lines sounds feasible in the Cerámica, with The Lions barely mustering a shot on goal during those 360 minutes.