Atlético will attempt to beat Barça for the first time under Diego Simeone as Real Madrid travel to Eibar in the latest round of Liga fixtures.
Leganés – Alavés (Friday 21:00) Prediction: draw
Set-piece specialist Alavés have won three on the road, two of them by a single goal, and travel to Butarque to face a Leganés side whose heads are just about above water purely based on their home form. The Cucumber Growers have only lost once in five in Madrid and even though El Glorioso will be fired up by the prospect of going top with victory, Mauricio Pellegrino knows that he must maintain Butarque’s aura against a team punching well above their weight at the moment.
Eibar – Real Madrid (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: away win
Santiago Solari has had a fairly easy ride of it so far with soft opposition in the Copa and Europe but his Real Madrid side finally clicked away at Celta last time out and with the international break providing him with a few returnees the visitors should be considered favourites against an Eibar side who are averaging a goal a game. That said, Real’s defensive issues remain unsolved, the woodwork saving them against Valladolid and Celta harrying the back four at will, so the home side may get on the score sheet. Do that first and they have a chance of an upset, having never beaten Madrid before. Fail to do so and Solari’s side could run away with it.
Valencia – Rayo (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: home win
A Valencia draw was added to the old saying about death and taxes in LaLiga’s opening weeks, Marcelino’s side racking up eight in 10 games. Whether a 1-0 win over Getafe will have been enough to get last season’s entertainers back in the ring remains to be seen, but they will have few better opportunities to secure back-to-back wins – and a first of the season in Mestalla - before the winter break than the visit of Rayo, who have had more joy on the road than at home but have still shipped 25 goals already. Valencia are at full strength, minus Denis Cheryshev, for this one and Marcelino will find excuses hard to come by if he doesn’t deliver.
Huesca – Levante (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Huesca have scarcely improved under new boss Francisco, who has picked up a single point from his four games in charge, and remain without a win since the opening weekend. The visiting Frogs have plenty of injury concerns, with Paco López missing five key players in José Luis Morales, José Campaña, Rubén Rochina, Antonio Luna and Cheick Doukouré. If Huesca are to stand any chance of staying up they need something from opportunities like this and Levante may well be happy to settle for a draw as they edge towards their own likely salvation with almost 20 points on the board already.
Atlético – Barcelona (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: away win
Diego Simeone has never beaten Barcelona in the league in 13 attempts, recording nine defeats and four draws against the reigning champions. To do so on Saturday night, he will have to stage a defensive masterclass in the probable absence of his first choice central defensive partnership of José Giménez and Diego Godín. Stefan Savic, Lucas Hernández, Koke and Thomas Lemar are also struggling for fitness, leaving Simeone with a patched up back four, half a midfield and a pair of misfiring strikers: Diego Costa hasn’t scored a league goal since April and Antoine Griezmann has managed just three this season. Barça, although with equal defensive concerns, have rattled in 34 league goals and have the two top scorers, Leo Messi and Luis Suárez, fit and firing.
Athletic – Getafe (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
Athletic remain the only side outside the bottom three to have won a single game this season, and that came on the opening weekend. A string of draws have been punctuated by heavy defeats against Villarreal and Real Sociedad but against Atlético last time out there were signs of life. If The Lions are to turn the situation around they need a win and quickly, having decided, as is the way with Athletic, to keep the faith with Eduardo Berizzo when other clubs would have pulled the trigger during the last international break. Getafe are no mugs on the road but Berizzo knows he has to pull something out of the hat in San Mamés.
Sevilla – Valladolid (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Valladolid continue to exceed expectations and are three points off Real Madrid in seventh, but that lofty position does mask a worrying trend and one that Ronaldo, the club’s majority shareholder, recently suggested he would strap on his boots on the training ground to address: the Pucelanos have scored just nine goals this season, and five of them cane in two games. They don’t concede many either – only Atlético have a meaner back four – but Sevilla’s armoury up front has plundered 24 this season and with the visitors’ recent results playing out in binary code, the home side probably only need two to assure victory.
Espanyol – Girona (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: draw
The Parakeets have flourished under Rubi, who has made a real marksman out of Borja Iglesias while tightening things up at the back to make Espanyol almost unrecognizable from the final throes of Quique Sánchez Flores’ reign. Rubi’s side boast a perfect home record but visiting Girona hold the distinction of being the only unbeaten side in the division away. Espanyol have conceded once in the RCDE; Girona have scored just five outside of Montilivi but also have the best defensive record of any side on the road.
Villarreal – Betis (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: away win
Two sides that should be in the European reckoning find themselves firmly in the wrong half of the table and Villarreal have yet to win a home game this season. Betis, fresh from a famous 4-3 win in Camp Nou led by the evergreen Joaquín, are favourites to edge this one against a side that can’t score in the Cerámica and are without a win in their last six.
Real Sociedad – Celta (Monday 21:00) Prediction: away win
Real Sociedad are another side that defy categorization this season, picking up 13 of their 16 points away from Anoeta. The remodelling of their stadium may well have been carried out by a work crew from Bilbao, such has been La Real’s fortune at home, where even Rayo eked out a point despite Asier Garitano’s side scoring twice, something they have managed only once in front of their own fans. Celta have managed only one win on the road themselves and without the driving force of Asier Illarramendi to guide La Real and Pione Sisto returning for Celta more Monday night misery looks to be in store for the home support.