Primera División predictions: LaLiga 2018-19 week 1
The 2018-19 season gets underway on Friday night and the Oracle is back at his rune-casting, predicting Sevilla and Atlético to get off to winning starts away from home.
Girona – Valladolid (Friday 20:15) Prediction: home win
Last season’s surprise package have not been particularly active in the transfer market but still contain a blend of youth and experience and have added Manchester City winger Patrick Roberts to a side already containing plenty of Etihad prospects. Newly promoted Valladolid will be hoping they can pull off an act similar to Girona’s in 2018-19 but Sergio González may find goals hard to come by with just two forwards in his current squad. It’s going to be a long season for the Blanquivioletas and Girona should get off to a winning start in Montilivi.
Betis – Levante (Friday 22:15) Prediction: home win
Betis are LaLiga’s dark horses this season, a fluid attacking unit under Quique Setién who last season racked up a few eye-catching scores on their way to Europa League qualification. The problem was at the back, Betis regularly needing to score three or four to ensure victory, and even that wasn’t enough half the time. Little wonder then that Setién’s business in the transfer market was concentrated on that end of the pitch and William Carvalho will certainly add a bit of steel while Sidnei is an experienced hand in central defence. Levante lost their star man, Jefferson Lerma, during the summer and have done little to suggest anything other than another season of struggle, unless Paco López can conjur fresh miracles from the same base ingredients.
Celta – Espanyol (Saturday 18:15) Prediction: draw
Celta and Espanyol finished 13th and 11th respectively last season and it’s hard to see either lighting up the league after typically uninspiring transfer activity in Vigo and Barcelona (although Fran Beltrán from Rayo is a decent addition for the home side). Rubi is the latest coach to take on the Espanyol job and he will find it a tough prospect after the club sold Gerard Moreno to Villarreal. He scored 16 last season; the rest of the squad managed 20.
Villarreal – Real Sociedad (Saturday 20:15) Prediction: home win
The Submarine have lost two of their best players – Rodri and Samu Castillejo – and spent over 50 million euros in strikers in response. Javi Calleja’s remit this season is to go one better and get the club back into the Champions League and he has a strong squad to fight on three fronts. Sociedad are largely unchanged from last season, Mikel Merino and Theo Hernández their only new faces with Álvaro Odriozola moving to Real Madrid and probably won’t be taking anyone by surprise in what looks like another season of mid-table mediocrity.
Barcelona – Alavés (Saturday 22:15) Prediction: home win
It’s been two years since Alavés beat Barça at Camp Nou and since then the sides have met four times in the league and once in the Copa del Rey final with the champions victorious on every occasion. After buying up half the world’s supply of central midfielder Barça arguably have the strongest squad in the division. Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal were all on the bench for the Spanish Super Cup and with Leo Messi, Luis Suárez, Ousmane Dembélé and Malcom jostling for places up front it’s hard to see many sides making a dent in Barça at Camp Nou this season.
Eibar – Huesca (Sunday 18:15) Prediction: home win
Huesca have never played in Primera before and few are giving the Aragónese much of a chance of remaining there despite a few decent loan signings arriving at El Alcoraz, the shall we say – problematic – Rubén Semedo among them. However, the new boys can look to Eibar for inspiration and travel for their first ever top-flight game to the only stadium in the division smaller than their own. Leo Franco has said he is aiming to build a tough unit and his squad certainly contains a few bruisers. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen but Eibar will prove a decent opening test.
Rayo – Sevilla (Sunday 20:15) Prediction: away win
Rayo have not strengthened considerably in the window and will find it hard to replace Raúl de Tomás’ goals as they aim to consolidate in Primera. There may yet be new arrivals in Vallecas but as things stand the Madrid-based side have a largely Segunda-quality squad and a lack of numbers – a couple of injuries to key men like Adri Embarba and Álex Moreno and things may get very ugly very quickly. Sevilla already have the competitive bit between their teeth and go into this one with a 5-0 drubbing of Zalgiris in the Europa League under their belts. Pablo Machín’s side looked in excellent shape against Barcelona and will have too much firepower for Rayo here.
Real Madrid – Getafe (Sunday 22:15) Prediction: home win
Julen Lopetegui needs a kind opening fixture after becoming the first Real Madrid manager since Bernd Schuster in 2007 to lose his first competitive game and Getafe will provide the perfect fodder for a soothing Sunday stroll. We at AS Towers still think he’ll be lucky to last until Christmas and Geta have a couple of players who can chuck a cat among the pigeons in Gabu Shibasaki and Jorge Molina while Real failed to keep a single clean sheet in pre-season. Still, you have to go back to 2012 for the last time Getafe won this fixture and 2008 for their last victory at the Bernabéu. So no problem for Lopetegui then…
Valencia – Atlético (Monday 20:00) Prediction: away win
The game of the week and an early chance for Atlético to lay out their credentials as title challengers this season take place at Mestalla on Monday, where Marcelino will be looking to get off to a decent start. Valencia have retained the core of the side that finished fourth last season and added a little more firepower in Kevin Gameiro and Michy Batshuayi while Daniel Wass was an excellent buy at just over five million euros. Atlético have had arguably the best market of all Liga sides and Thomas Lemar looks like an instant Simeone player after snapping at Real Madrid’s heels during the Super Cup. These are the kind of games that Atlético need to win to push for the title and there’s nothing Simeone enjoys more than a grafting 1-0 away win.
Athletic – Leganés (Monday 22:00) Prediction: home win
The only way for Athletic is up after the failed Cuco Ziganda experiment and the addition of Yuri Berchiche was a fine piece of business at a club where recruitment is a little more specific than others. The loss of Kepa to Chelsea wasn’t ideal, the 23-year-old’s saves proving instrumental in The Lios narrowly avoiding the drop for the first time in their history, but Iago Herrerín is a more than capable replacement. The Cucumber Growers finished 17th last season but 14 points clear of Deportivo. It will be a lot closer this time around and home form will be the key for Mauricio Pellegrino.
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