Primera predictions: LaLiga 2018-19 week 19
Eibar travel to Barcelona on the back of four draws. Atlético host Levante, Sevilla meet Athletic for the second time in four days and Real Madrid have a tough trp to Betis.
Rayo – Celta (Friday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Rayo have been playing some decent stuff of late and finally turned style into substance with succesive wins over Levante and Valladolid to haul themselves into touching distance of safety. Celta meanwhile have become even more erratic under Miguel Cardoso, equally capable of sticking five past Huesca and the Submarine in succesive games or drawing a blank against Leganés at home. With momentum on Rayo's side and Celta grimly hanging on for a second away victory of the season after taking a 3-0 lead at La Cerámica two weeks ago, Michel will be eyeing this as a perfect opportunity to draw level with Athetic and Leganés on 19 points, halfway to safety with half the season gone.
Leganés – Huesca (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
Huesca picked up just a second win of the season against Betis last weekend in Francisco's 10th game in charge but that is, unfortunately, a case of putting off the inevitable. It will take more than a miracle for the promoted side to turn 35 goals conceded into enough for the five thousand and they have looked terribly out of their depth at times, hardly surprising when they have a budget roughly equivalent to Leo Messi's bootlace allowance. Against a direct rival, the Cucumber Growers will call on the experience that kept them in the division with two 17th-placed finishes in the last two campaigns to inch the visitors closer to the trap door.
Valencia – Valladolid (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: home win
By all accounts, this could be Marcelino's last stand. The thoroughly likeable tactician has seen most of the goodwill generated last season erode as Valencia have stumbled from one draw to another and a 2-1 defeat to his former club Sporting in the Copa did not help his cause. A win at Mestalla is a must, turning around the cup tie a potential bonus. Marcelino will have to conjure something without Geoffrey Kondogbia and Gonçalo Guedes but he can hardly point to a lack of options as an excuse against a side who sit three places below Los Che and have scored eight on the road this season.
Girona – Alavés (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Girona's position isn't a reflection of home form, where the Blanquivermells have picked up only two wins this season. Alavés meanwhile are unbeaten in Mendizorrotza but completely impossible to second guess away, with five wins and four defeats. Neither side score a huge amount of goals and an off-day for Cristhian Stuani or any of the several forwards who have contributed to El Glorioso's meagre total of 10 on the road will spell a goalless draw in Montilivi.
Villarreal – Getafe (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: draw
Two sides with wildly differing priorities meet at La Cerámica, where the home side have managed just a single win this season. Getafe, sniffing around the Europa League places, have been decent value outside the Coliseum, losing just once in nine, but have chalked up six draws on the road and there seems little to suggest that either side will be hugely bothered by a similar result on Saturday. The Submarine's need is greater, but when you're averaging a goal a game at HQ beggars can't be choosers.
Atlético – Levante (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
Antoine Griezmann has found his scoring boots at the perfect time for Atleti with few coming from elsewhere recently. As ever, Diego Simeone will be forced to patch up his defence, with emergency full back Saúl suspended for this one. Levante boss Paco López may have half an eye on next week's Copa return leg against Barcelona having already practically guided the Frogs to safety and will shuffle his pack in the Metropolitano accordingly, where Simeone's side will not make it easy for themselves but should win by a goal or two.
Athletic – Sevilla (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Sevilla may have done the Lions 3-1 in the Copa but team selection in San Mamés on Thursday clearly shows the priority level being afforded the knock-out competition, however storied Athletic's historic participation may be. Since pulling the lever marked “promote B team manager,” Gaizka Garitano has rewarded his employers with an unbeaten run of four and would have his side in the European places in a table based on results during his brief tenure. As it is he has pulled Athletic out of the relegation zone and can back that up by ignoring a more-or-less unwinnable cup date in the Sánchez Pizjuán by delivering victory with the rested wile of Iker Munian and Iñaki Williams. The Basque side face a wait on Aritz Aduriz, who hobbled off after taking a knock to his right knee in Thursday's meeting.
Barcelona – Eibar (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Ernesto Valverde will be keenly aware with his contract up in the air that getting knocked out the Copa by Levante won't be a good look next week. Five points clear at the summit of LaLiga and largely injury-free, the Barça boss won't be chucking the like of Carles Aleña, Juan Miranda and Malcom at the visiting Gunners and will pull out his usual armoury, which recent results suggest will be nore than sufficient. Eibar have never beaten Barça and have shipped 10 in their last two visits to Camp Nou. They do tend to score though, for fans of both teams to bother the onion bag.
Betis – Real Madrid (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Madrid dressing Vinicius up as the second coming of Ronaldo Nazário after the Real Sociedad defeat was indicative of where the European champions stand at the moment, as was the arrival of a player with 16 senior appearances under his belt being sold as the new Zidane. Simply put, the decision not to adequately replace the other Ronaldo and to blindly assume Gareth Bale would remain fit for an entire season has backfired spectacularly. Madrid are disjointed in midfield, shaky at the back and toothless in attack. Throw in a rusty Casemiro, the absences of Toni Kroos, Lucas Vázquez, Bale, Marcos Llorente, Mariano and Marco Asensio and the flu Vinicius has picked up – added to the barracking likely starter Dani Ceballos can expect - and Quique Setién will be rubbing his hands together with glee ahead of this one.
Real Sociedad – Espanyol (Monday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Real Sociedad are on a bit of a roll and were excellent value – dodgy VAR penalties aside – for their victory in the Bernabéu last weekend in new coach Imanol Alguacil's first game in charge. The Parakeets by contrast have been dreadful of late, a fortuitous 1-0 home win against Leganés arresting a run of six straight defeats during which 16 goals were shipped. Imanol can scarcely have asked for a more accommodating first home fixture, where he will attempt to add just a second Anoeta victory to La Real's tally this season.
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