LaLiga predictions: 2017/18 Primera División week 36
AS English's resident crystal-ball gazer reckons Barcelona and Real Madrid might just serve up a Clásico classic this weekend in LaLiga.
Sevilla – Real Sociedad (Friday 21:00) Prediction: home win
The arrival of old warhorse Joaquín Caparrós on the Sevilla bench should inject the squad with the kind of steel they were lacking under the suave but defensively suspect Vincenzo Montella, so La Real will be up against it to make a dent in the Sánchez Pizjuán on Friday night. Caparrós’ objective is fairly straightforward – get the side into Europe for next season. With games against Real Madrid and the small matter of the derby against Betis coming up, Sevilla need a win and Caparrós will get it if only because his players won’t be keen to go into the dressing room at full time without three points to face his considerable wrath.
Girona – Eibar (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: draw
Both sides are still in the running for Europe, Getafe occupying seventh and Girona a point behind in ninth, with Sevilla sandwiched in between. Assuming Caparrós and the ancient law of new manager bounce do the trick on Friday this could be a cagey affair and a low-scoring draw is currently the shortest odds being offered by the bookies.
Athletic – Betis (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: away win
Athletic have been out of sorts almost since day one under Cuco Ziganda and face a Betis side on an historic Primera run of seven victories and a draw, scoring 12 and conceding just twice. The Lions are barely whimpering, let alone roaring, and their confidence will be somewhere between rock and bottom after being thoroughly beaten by local rivals Sociedad last time out. The smart money is on Quique Setién’s Betis revolution to add further opprobrium to a miserable campaign for the San Mamés outfit.
Celta – Deportivo (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Iago Aspas didn’t get through a late fitness test and will be absent for this one but Maxi Gómez and Pione Sisto have been on target in the Galicians’ last two and together just about make up for the absence of LaLiga’s top Spanish scorer. Depor are already down and won’t be particularly fired up for this one, while Celta still retain an outside chance of European football next season.
Villarreal – Valencia (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: home win
The Submarine blew Celta out of the water last weekend with Carlos Bacca helping himself to a hat-trick. The Colombian is desperately seeking to state his case for a World Cup place and he won’t be lacking confidence against Marcelino’s side, who are staggering over the line like a marathon runner in full diving suit. Betis can still hit the tape ahead of Valencia and that is the sort of pressure that in recent seasons has hamstrung Los Che. Villarreal are far from safe in sixth either but the wind is firmly in the home side’s sails and Marcelino may have to wait another week to confirm Champions League qualification if the same side that thrashed Celta – and could have done so by a considerably larger margin – turn up in the Cerámica against a side without a win in four.
Málaga – Alavés (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: draw
There is always the possibility that a relegated side can turn it on for 90 minutes, largely because their better players are considering a season in Segunda and wondering if a mid-table Primera side may be willing to relieve them of that fate. The Anchovies have beaten Villarreal and Celta at home in the last month and could carve out a point against El Glorioso, whose work for the season is done and surely can’t sustain a run of seven points from nine available in their last three away games without conceding. Sans goals looks a decent bet in La Rosaleda.
Atlético – Espanyol (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: home win
How ironic that Atlético eliminated Arsenal from the Europa League with a gritty 1-0 victory – the Gunners’ signature result before Arsene Wenger rocked up and prescribed a little less sauce and a bit more pasta. Arsenal are now entirely incapable of grinding out those 1-0s that would have seen them into the final while Diego Simeone has that score framed in his office. Espanyol are entirely reliant on Gerard Moreno for goals but Atleti have conceded just four at home in the league this season. Going forward, Simeone is likely to rest a few players after Thursday and betting on another win by the minimum is a decent way to make a few quid on this one.
Las Palmas – Getafe (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
The same “we’re down so what the hell” thesis applies to Las Palmas, but by all the gods Paco Jémez’s side are awful. Without a win since February 5, Alavés annihilated the Canary Islanders in front of a stadium a third-full in their last home game and Jémez and (the mostly absent) board can expect some fruity observations from the stands on Sunday. That is hardly the atmosphere to drive a group of players that gave up on the “project” some weeks ago against a side within touching distance of Europe.
Barcelona – Real Madrid (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
The Clásico. The big one. Except that it really isn’t on this occasion. The Liga champions host the Champions League finalists, so there is a fair amount of scope for bantz. But essentially, short of this being Andrés Iniesta’s final game against Madrid – if he is fit – and the standard Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo side-narrative, the result is irrelevant, which could lead to the most entertaining Clásico in years. Both sides have no reason not to play their strongest XIs, and can pretty much shelve defending for 90 minutes. Expect goals. And a 3-2 home win.
Leganés – Levante (Monday 21:00) Prediction: draw
The Cucumber Growers have ensured their patch of Liga allotment for next season and Levante are now officially safe. That the Frogs’ board are even considering their options for next season in the dug-out seems remarkable considering the job Paco López has done since stepping into the breach from the reserves. He should be handed the job on a permanent basis for keeping them up – a feat worth the squad’s entire weight in gold. There isn’t much to get excited about in Butarque on Monday and the graveyard slot rarely throws up anything for the season highlights reel so a fairly sedate 1-1 could be worth a pop.