Primera predictions: LaLiga 2018-19 week 30
Barcelona travel to struggling Villarreal while Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid face a test at Valencia, who are on an historic unbeaten run.
Atlético – Girona (Tuesday 19:30) Prediction: home win
To the surprise of many, not least a shell-shocked Alavés, Atlético hit four for the first time in the league this season away at Mendizorrotza to maintain their two-point advantage over local rivals Real Madrid in what is now a chase for the runners-up spot. At home against a Girona side who are probably safe but have no higher aspirations and who are missing top scorer Cristhian Stuani, there should be only one outcome in the Metropolitano. However, Eusebio's side have won their last three on the road and favour a lone striker outside of HQ so another four-goal stroll is unlikely and Antoine Griezmann may not be risked as he is a caution away from missing the Barcelona game.
Espanyol – Getafe (Tuesday 20:30) Prediction: draw
Both sides are coming off the back of derby defeats of which Getafe's failure to see off Leganés at home was by far the more damaging with Alavés and Valencia breathing down their necks. José Bordalás' side have been as regular as a Swiss watch made out of All-Bran on the road this season, racking up nine draws, of which six have finished 1-1. The Azulones have a tough run-in and will eye this as a chance for three points, but Espanyol will be looking to hit the 40-point mark as swiftly as possible. It's pretty much a shoot-out between Borja Iglesias and Jaime Mata and given recent results for both sides a draw seems a likely outcome.
Villarreal – Barcelona (Tuesday 21:30) Prediction: away win
Villarreal are in a very odd position: in an extreme set of circumstances, the Submarine could sink to Segunda and yet be playing Champions League football next season. Javi Calleja's side tackle Valencia in a Euro-derby next week and the Villarreal boss will have half an eye on that and winnable games against Girona and Leganés either side as he juggles an extraordinary set of priorities. Gerard Piqué, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal are all a yellow away from missing what is potentially a title-sealing date with Atlético next weekend so Ernesto Valverde may shuffle the pack a bit, but it probably won't make much difference for the home side, who haven’t won this fixture since 2007 and will be faced with the "unrestable" Leo Messi plus 10 others in a side that haven’t been beaten since early November.
Athletic – Levante (Wednesday 19:30) Prediction: home win
Levante are one of the more attractive sides to watch in Primera but that has not been translated into points and the Frogs remain only four clear of an improving Celta in 18th. Athletic meanwhile have sturdily if unspectacularly crept up to eighth and three points off Valencia in the final European spot after an eye-catching run of just two defeats in 15 under Gaizka Garitano. Other than pummeling Celta 4-1 in February, Paco López’s side have been largely amenable on the road and Athletic are understandably short odds for the win at San Mamés.
Eibar – Rayo (Wednesday 20:30) Prediction: home win
The Pacolution at Rayo didn’t get off to the dream start hoped for in Vallecas, a late Cristian Tello goal denying the return of Jémez three points. That leaves Rayo precariously placed in 19th, five points adrift of safety and with only four teams in the bottom half left to play. Eibar are pretty much secure for the season and really have no reason to hold back against a side who have won three on the road this campaign and the Gunners could do with bouncing back from a rare home defeat against Valladolid two weeks ago that halted a 10-game unbeaten run at Ipurua.
Huesca – Celta (Wednesday 20:30) Prediction: draw
Things don’t look too rosy for Huesca, which is a shame because the Navarre side have not looked out of place in Primera for much of the season. Francisco’s side really deserved a point in the Bernabéu but the “Flor de Zidane” intervened to seal a third consecutive defeat. Seven points now separate Huesca from safety but there is a ray of light: their run-in presents six games where points can be obtained. First up are Celta, who still cannot defend but have Iago Aspas back, which is how they scraped three points at the weekend after going 2-0 down at home against Villarreal.
Valencia – Real Madrid (Wednesday 21:30) Prediction: home win
This is not a game Zinedine Zidane would have chosen at this moment in time: the Real Madrid manager has had a fairly easy reintroduction, even if his side beat Huesca by the seat of their pants at the weekend. Los Che are on a run of 16 games without defeat in all competitions and 11 without loss in LaLiga. Valencia being Valencia, a lot of those games have finished in draws but with the bit between their teeth and absolutely no reason not to go for broke against the visiting European champions, Marcelino’s side could be a decent punt for a minor upset in Mestalla.
Sevilla – Alavés (Thursday 19:30) Prediction: draw
A huge game for both sides as the battle for fourth hots up, Sevilla and Alavés are both coming off the back of defeats and could be caught by Athletic and leapfrogged by Valencia respectively. Joaquín Caparrós has installed some order at the Sánchez Pizjuán since taking over from Pablo Machín for another caretaker stint and the veteran schemer will fancy his chances of outwitting Abelardo on home turf. Sevilla’s injury problems saw Jesús Navas start at right back against Valencia, who required a penalty to beat Sevilla 1-0 at the weekend, while starting keeper Tomas Vaclik remains doubtful for the hosts. Jonathan Calleri is in decent form for the visitors and a score draw wouldn’t be a huge surprise in this one.
Leganés – Valladolid (Thursday 20:30) Prediction: home win
Leganés took a huge stride towards safety with derby victory over Getafe and could all-but seal their survival by knocking off Valladolid at Butarque on Thursday evening. Only Rayo have scored fewer on the road than Sergio’s side, who will have taken heart by beating Eibar on their last away day to arrest a run of four consecutive defeats and a single goal scored stretching back to January. Leganés lost their last home game against Girona but were unbeaten on their own patch since September 16 until then. Valladolid’s list of absentees should see them get back to winning ways here.
Real Sociedad – Betis (Thursday 21:30) Prediction: away win
The Imanol effect has worn off slightly in recent weeks, Sociedad losing two and drawing two, while Betis remain in a similar state of inconsistency with two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six. The visitors have been missing the marauding runs of Júnior Firpo, who remains out injured, but La Real have plenty of injuries and would be 14th in a table based on home form, having scored just 15 at Anoeta this season. Quique Setién needs a result to quell the growing discontent around his tenure and can lay down a marker with a third away win in four games.