Real Madrid will be attempting to break Atlético's unbeaten home record in Saturday's derby while leaders Barcelona travel to Bilbao to meet Athletic Club.
Valladolid – Villarreal (Friday 21:00) Prediction: draw
Only two sides have a poorer home record than Valladolid this season and one of those is Friday's visitor Villarreal, who sit bottom of that particular table and are only one place better off in the one that matters. Valladolid are coming off a 4-0 hiding in Huesca and while Villarreal will improve under Javi Calleja - they can scarcely get any worse - anyone tuning in for a classic might find a pair of Vs is all they get for their trouble.
Getafe – Celta (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
Geta have been bloodying a few noble noses this season and sit deservedly among the great and the good in the European places. In what has been a topsy turvy campaign all round, the Madrid side have done most of their good work away from home but welcome a Celta side in genuine trouble and without any sort of coherent formula to get out of it, other than praying that the long-awaited return of Iago Aspas is not another false dawn. A 1-0 win over a depleted Sevilla last week papered over the cracks at Balaídos and Geta are fairly short odds to add a fourth home win in five even with the Galician goal machine likely to feature at some stage.
Atlético – Real Madrid (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: draw
Not since 2016 has either side managed more than a single goal in the Madrid derby in LaLiga, and that was a thumping 3-0 win for Real Madrid in the Calderón, one of Diego Simeone’s darkest derby afternoons. The visitors have to be considered slight favourites after winning four on the bounce with 11 goals scored after Atlético suffered their second defeat of the season away at Betis but if there is one man who knows how to – and loves nothing more than – chucking a spanner in whatever Madrid are working on it is the Argentinean. The last four derbies have ended 1-1, 0-0, 1-1, 0-0 and we see little reason to punt any serious coin on a different scoreline this time around.
Espanyol – Rayo (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Espanyol have been having a rough ride lately but are keeping the faith in Rubi and a 2-2 draw away last weekend won't have done morale at the RCDE any harm at all. For their part Rayo have been tearing it up in recent weeks, winning four and drawing one before being turned over by Leganés last time out, which dumped the Madrid side back into the relegation mix. Little momentum shifts can go a long way and if Borja Iglesias is in the mood, Rubi can do his position a favour by adding a couple between his Parakeets and the bottom three.
Girona – Huesca (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Huesca gave El Alcoraz plenty to cheer last weekend, sticking four past Valladolid without reply. That was their best league result since a win by the same margin over Oviedo in Segunda back in November 2016 and a real shot in the arm for Francisco's task of keeping the skintest side in the top flight where it is. That it was “only” Valladolid doesn't matter: the visitors will make a fist of this. Girona have been pretty awful at home of late but Eusebio will know he simply can't allow three points to go begging against a side without a win on the road since day one of the season.
Leganés – Betis (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: draw
At some point, Betis’ Copa heroics will come back to bite a fairly threadbare squad in the backside and a trip to Leganés is a potential banana skin for any side these days. Quique Setién may be the great resuscitator of careers – see the evergreen Joaquín for details – but even the Betis boss may have his work cut out with Jesé, who we can only assume is down on the south coast with a large cheque and thank-you note from PSG in his pocket. This has to be last-chance saloon for the rapper / striker, and he may be required here to hand Loren or Tony Sanabria a rest. The Cucumber Growers haven’t been beaten at home since September and look good value for a point.
Valencia – Real Sociedad (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: home win
The same of course could be said about Valencia, the other half of the “other” Copa semi-final that almost inevitably was much more fun than the Clásico. Marcelino has greater resources at his disposal than his opposite number at Betis and Rubén Sobrino and Facundo were a couple of January bargains that could come into the side on Sunday. The return to fitness of Geoffrey Kondogbia - who came on to good affect against Barça last weekend - and Gonçalo Guedes are practically new signings after lengthy spells out and although Real Sociedad have been a different side under Imanol, Valencia are firmly back on track and were extremely unlucky not to take three points from Camp Nou last weekend.
Sevilla – Eibar (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Eibar have lost just twice in their last 12; a 1-0 loss away at Rayo can be put down to luck of the draw and a 3-0 tonking at Ipurua by Barcelona down to Barcelona being Barcelona, but whatever Eibar are this season, they are not easy to beat. Most Gunners fans would have taken 10th at the start of the campaign and that’s exactly where Eibar are, right in the middle. Out of danger, and not really posing any to anybody else higher up the pecking order. Having been knocked out of the Copa and essentially the title race after three defeats in four, Sevilla need to give someone a walloping to keep the Champions League-chasing pack at bay and Eibar are no strangers to the occasional eye-watering away defeat.
Athletic – Barcelona (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: away win
Athletic and Barça’s decades-long duel for Copa del Rey supremacy (and that 5-1 aggregate hammering Athletic dispensed in the Super Cup a few years back) paints a picture of equality that in the league is a bit misleading. The last time Athletic won this fixture was in 2013 and the Lions didn’t earn a point after that until the sides met five months ago. Leo Messi may be a doubt for the game and the home side have been excellent value since Gaizka Garitano took over, but Barça have basically paid the mortgage on this one.
Alavés – Levante (Monday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Alavés fans are planning a protest against Friday and Monday night football and who can blame them? Neither are particularly traditional or convenient but the suspicion is that LaLiga won’t stop until teams are trotting out at 3am to satisfy the Martian market by 2030. Anyway, another off-shoot of the Monday game, coincidence or not, is that they are either fairly dull or completely bonkers goal-fests. We’ll go for the former and a 1-0 home win with a little side wager (odds are unavailable) that the attendant cameras studiously fail to broadcast any sign of dissent in the half-deserted stands.