Barcelona and Real Madrid will be limbering up for a Copa Clásico this weekend while two undefeated managers go toe-to-toe in the Basque derby.
Huesca – Valladolid (Friday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Huesca are now 11 points off Rayo in 17th and in reality any chance of the battling Aragonese remaining in the division evaporated before the brandy on the Christmas pudding. But while there’s a mathematical chance of survival Huesca will keep punching and hope something lands and the visit of Valladolid is a pretty decent free hit. The Castillans have been out of form and out of luck in recent weeks and after taking a surprise point from Anoeta last weekend Huesca can add another three against a side who are hardly free-scoring on the road.
Levante – Getafe (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
It promises to be a right old ding-dong at the Ciutat de Valencia with the league’s leakiest defence going up against the most robust side in the division; Getafe lead the fouls committed stakes by a country mile and have more reds on the books than the next most-carded team, who host them on Saturday. Getafe have been in decent form on the road, picking up 15 points, while Levante have been fairly solid at home, defeat to Sociedad and a Barça thrashing aside. Getafe are missing both their starting central defenders, Djené and Leandro Cabrera, through suspension so the Frogs should edge this one.
Real Sociedad – Athletic (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: draw
The Basque derby arrives with both sides on an upwards curve after the promotion of their B team coaches to replace those that started the season. Sociedad’s Imanol Alguacil and Athletic’s Gaizka Garitano are both unbeaten since stepping up and after a brief flirtation with the relegation places for the Lions and an extended period of mid-table mediocrity for the txuri-urin it’s 9th vs 11th at Anoeta in what is always a hotly contested encounter. As is the general rule with derbies, if in doubt go middle for diddle so we’ll have a punt on both managers to retain their untarnished records when the dust settles.
Barcelona – Valencia (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Barça laid down something of a marker against Sevilla in midweek with a 6-1 drubbing of the Andalusians seeing Ernesto Valverde’s side into the semi-finals of the Copa. Leo Messi said afterwards that the reigning champions are going for the lot this season and few would bet against them. Valencia traditionally stick up a decent scrap in this fixture; Barça have won three of the last seven, with Valencia triumphant in Camp Nou three seasons ago and three draws at Mestalla since then. Marcelino’s side are on the up but as Sevilla found out, even playing well against Barça at the moment won’t prevent a spanking. Valencia may emerge less scathed than Sevilla, but the points will remain in Catalonia.
Celta – Sevilla (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: draw
Celta have lost their last five on the trot and haven’t tasted victory since a 3-2 away win at Villarrreal in December, leaving them in the unfamiliar surroundings of the drop zone. That Iago Aspas has been absent for the last four defeats is no surprise; there are no one-man teams in Primera but Celta are close as it gets and their reliance on the Spain striker is self-evident. The Gailicians need a result on Saturday and will settle for a draw against a Sevilla side who will probably still be a little shell-shocked after their Copa defeat at Camp Nou.
Villarreal – Espanyol (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
High noon on Sunday could be spell the end of Rubi’s reign at Espanyol with the RCDE suits getting itchy trigger-fingers after a run of one victory in 10 Liga outings. The Parakeets are still not in relegation trouble but considering that form has seen them slide from second to 15th Rubi can have few arguments when the chop is presented on Monday morning if he leaves the Cerámica with anything other than three points. Javi Calleja is back in the dugout for the Submarine after a disastrous 49-day experiment with Luis García and that should be enough for a home win.
Betis – Atlético (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: away win
Atlético have found their groove again of late, scoring three or more three times in their last seven, which have reaped six victories for an aggregate score of 13-2. Naturally, this being Atlético 2018-19, the one game they didn’t win was a 1-1 draw, Diego Simeone’s bogey result this season. Quique Setién won’t put out the reserves for this one but he will have half an eye on a very winnable Copa semi-final against Valencia, the first leg of which is next Wednesday at the Villamarín.
Eibar – Girona (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Eibar have been fairly solid at home this season, picking up 19 points in Ipurua where they have been beaten just twice, by Huesca on the opening day of the season and Sevilla in September. Girona meanwhile have earned just a single point from their last four away games and have a lengthy list of injured and suspended for this one.
Real Madrid – Alavés (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Karim Benzema has found his form again at the perfect moment for Madrid and Santiago Solari suddenly finds himself with a full complement of players – minus Jesús Vallaejo – as the season enters the business end. Alavés have been excellent value this season given their resources and if they end the season where they are now, in the European places, Abelardo should get the manager of the year award. Were this game at Mendizorrotza all bets would be off but at the Bernabéu and with Benzema on song there should be no unpleasant surprises for Solari on Sunday evening.
Rayo – Leganés (Monday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Rayo have bagged more points in their last five games than they had managed in 16 previously and the great escape is most definitely on in Vallecas, Michel’s side pulling themselves up to 17th last weekend after spending the entire season until then in the relegation zone. Leganés have been heading in the other direction, dropping from 13th to 16th over the past couple of weeks to make this a bit of a six-pointer. Lega’s home form is decent but the Cucumber Growers have picked up just six points on the road and the prevailing wind is blowing very much from the south of Madrid.