With Real Madrid otherwise engaged Barcelona, Atlético and Sevilla have the chance to move further ahead while Athletic and Rayo look to stay afloat.
Girona – Getafe (Friday 19:30) Prediction: home win
Girona were unfortunate not to claim a point against Atlético last weekend, VAR working against the Catalans as Diego Simeone’s side eked out a 3-2 win in Montilivi. A run of three games without a win has seen Girona drop to tenth but they remain only four points off fifth and in Cristhian Stuani have the league’s joint-highest scorer on home turf, alongside Leo Messi. Girona will launch an opening salvo in search of an early cushion and if they go ahead it is hard to see Getafe getting back into it, José Bordalás’ side having scored more than once only twice on the road this season.
Real Sociedad – Alavés (Friday 21:00) Prediction: draw
La Real have lost their last three while Alavés’ last three away days have also resulted in defeat. Since the remodelling of Anoeta the home side have suffered a mental block on their own turf, a 2-1 victory over Celta their sole triumph. That was swiftly followed by a 2-1 defeat against Valladolid. Both sides average about a goal a game home and away and that hums of a 1-1 draw between two sides desperate to at least avoid defeat.
Betis – Eibar (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
Betis are rolling again after a shaky start to the season and put Espanyol to the sword last time out despite going behind early on. That capped a run of three consecutive victories and the Verdiblancos have lost only once since October, Setién’s fluid formations and the brilliance of Joaquín propelling Betis to fifth. A win will bring the home side to within a point of Real Madrid in fourth and Eibar have been struggling away from home, a 1-0 defeat at Rayo and a 4-0 drubbing by Celta sandwiching a 0-0 draw at Valladolid in their last three.
Atlético – Espanyol (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Injuries are taking their toll on Diego Simeone’s side and the Atlético boss will be forced to play Saúl at full back in a patched up defence with Nikola Kalinic up top in the absence of Diego Costa. However, the Croatian has found his feet in recent weeks and Antoine Griezmann has rediscovered his touch. At home – where they have scored 15 and conceded four - Atlético should have few problems in seeing off an Espanyol side in freefall after five straight defeats in which the Parakeets have conceded two or more on every occasion.
Barcelona – Celta (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
A few goals are almost guaranteed at Camp Nou as the league’s highest and third-highest scorers go head-to-head. Last season both fixtures ended in a 2-2 draw and the three before that reaped 5-0 and 6-1 wins for Barça and a 4-3 Celta victory in Balaídos. Barça have scored 28 at home but have hardly been solid at the back, leaking 12 at Camp Nou, while Celta concede an average of two a game on the road. Luis Suárez has scored in both of his games since returning from injury and Leo Messi has five in his last two while Barça have scored 11 without reply in their last three outings.
Athletic – Valladolid (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: draw
The introduction of Gaizka Garitano in place of Eduardo Berizzo has made Athletic a tougher side to break down but there are still a worrying lack of goals with the Lions having scored more than one in a game only once since September and totalling eight at home. Valladolid are no mugs on the road, picking up 12 of their 20 points outside the José Zorrilla, but they don’t find the target often either with just seven away from home so a no-scoring or low-scoing draw appears to be the shout in San Mamés.
Valencia – Huesca (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
The losses of Geoffrey Kondogbia and Gonçalo Guedes will not have helped to improve the normally chipper Marcelino’s mood as he heads into the winter break with his side 10 points off the Champions League places and out of this year's tournament. Los Che have chalked up a staggering 10 draws in 16 games with only one of those featuring a result other than 0-0 or 1-1. The visit of Huesca, who have shipped 32 already and have a single victory on the opening day of the season to their name, is basically a must-win if the mastermind of Valencia’s stunning 2017-18 isn’t to spend Christmas nervously fingering his collar.
Leganés – Sevilla (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: draw
Sevilla will miss the influence of Éver Banega and Pablo Sarabia, who provided both goals in the 2-0 win over Girona last weekend, in Butarque: between them they have scored a third of Sevilla’s goals this season and provided nine assists. The Cucumber Growers’ home form has been excellent since they beat Barcelona 2-1 in September, a return of two wins and two draws easing them out of the relegation zone. Pablo Machín has a far better squad to choose from than his opposite number, Mauricio Pellegrino, but without his two stalwarts and against a side who have conceded just six at home the Sevilla boss may find it tough going.
Rayo – Levante (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Levante are just eight points off a total that would have achieved safety last season and should be looking up rather than down at this stage. A 5-0 thrashing by Barcelona is perhaps no cause for concern, but conceding four away at Eibar should be, even if Paco López’s side still emerged with a point. Both sides could do with a win in the final game of weekend, but equally neither can give too much away. Rayo need to stay in touch with Athletic and Villarreal above them and if they can keep a clean sheet they might be in with a chance. The home side have won just twice this season, both 1-0 victories.