There should be no major surprises this week but Atlético and Real Madrid may drop points while Barça face erstwhile bogey team Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.
Alavés – Valladolid (Friday 21:00) Prediction: home win
Alavés have dropped out of the European places after a run of one point in four games but haven’t lost out entirely on the prospect of a few continental jaunts next season. However, with Barça, Athletic, Valencia and Real Sociedad stil to come, that four-point gap to Marcelino’s side in sixth does look rather daunting. There will be no better chance to get back on track than the visit of relegation strugglers Valladolid, who are the lowest scorers in the division on the road.
Celta – Girona (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
Iago Aspas his signed a new contract at Celta running to 2023, which he described as “closing the door” on any idea of retiring elsewhere. And how the Galicians need their talisman and record goal-scorer as the season draws to a close. Since returning from injury he has scored five in three games, with two assists, that aided a haul of seven points from nine. It was no coincidence Atlético beat Celta 2-0 last weekend with the Spain striker suspended. Girona are in 14th but could find themselves looking down at the home side by the end of Saturday lunch-time in defeat. Two more wins should be enough to ensure Aspas remains a Primera striker next season and with Barça and Athletic still to play they need to make sure this is one of them.
Eibar – Atlético (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: draw
Finishing above Real Madrid may be a little boost to the Atlético ego but a season that briefly promised more than last, when Diego Simeone’s side did not get out of the Champions League group stage and spent the majority of the campaign on Barça’s coat-tails, has floundered again. There will be changes this summer but in the meantime Atlético travel to Eibar without the suspended Costa and Antoine Griezmann, which suggests there won’t be many away goals in Ipurua. José Luis Mendilibar has made the tiny ground a formidable place to visit and can squeeze a point out of a blunt Atlético on Saturday.
Rayo – Huesca (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Rayo are determined to go down swinging, if they go down at all, and were perhaps unlucky not to earn a point against Athletic last weekend. The visit of Huesca is a relegation six-pointer and no mistake: Lose, and the visitors are basically down despite a slightly softer run-in. Do likewise, and Rayo will have used their last cartridge. A draw suits nobody. It should be a frantic affair but home advantage and the exhortations of Paco Jémez on the touchline should see Rayo home to keep them in the chase with tougher assignments to come.
Barcelona – Real Sociedad (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Ernesto Valverde was able to field his B team in a 0-0 draw away at Huesca last weekend precisely because he will be well aware that his leading actors need only win their remaining games on the home stage to be crowned champions. La Real have traditionally been Barça’s bogey side at Anoeta, at one stage holding an unbeaten run of almost a decade, but Barça have won the past four league meetings between the sides and Leo Messi won’t be watching this one from the bench or the stands.
Levante – Espanyol (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
The Sunday midday kick-off is often a bit of a damp squib and there is little to suggest this will be a classic. Levante could do with just a little more light between them and the trap door while Espanyol have more or less missed out on the chance of anything more tangible than a top-10 finish. The Parakeets have won only two on the road this season and scored just eight times outside the RCDE so a narrow win for the hosts seems a fair punt.
Getafe – Sevilla (Sunday 14:00) Prediction: home win
It is a measure of how his star has waxed that José Bordalás has been linked with the Sevilla job this week. The Getafe manager’s success in taking a side that averages an attendance of little over 10,000, has a negligible budget and a squad valued by Transfermarkt at 90 million euros to the verge of the Champions League should have him in the running for manager of the year. Sevilla’s campaign has tailed off badly since the heady heights of first and Pablo Machín was shown the door weeks ago. Sevilla Caretaker Joaquín Caparrós will steer the ship home just fine – and in all likelihood grab fourth place given Geta’s horrible run-in - but this a perfect first-hand audition for Bordalás should ge decide to jump his in the summer if his current side miss out.
Real Madrid – Athletic (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: draw
If this was at San Mamés… Athletic’s home record under Gaizka Garitano warrants repeated mentioning: 10 games, three draws, seven wins, six goals conceded. But away from home, The Lions have lost to Sociedad, Valencia and Getafe in recent weeks – decent sides all – and their past form in the Bernabéu is hardly convincing with their last victory coming in 2005. There have though been three draws between the teams in their last three league fixtures with just four goals shared out. Madrid are without Sergio Ramos and Vinicius with Toni Kroos a doubt; Athletic have Iñaki Williams and Iker Muniain firing on all cylinders, as well as Real-disliking Raúl García.
Villarreal – Leganés (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
#UEL | It wasn't to be, 'groguets'. 💛 A big thank you to all the Yellows fans that helped support the team at Mestalla under the heavy rainfall tonight! Together until the end!! 🤝#YourVoiceOurStrength#LaTeuaVeuLaNostraForça pic.twitter.com/UK1cynvobx— Villarreal CF English (@Eng_Villarreal) 18 April 2019
Villarreal are not yet in the last chance saloon, but a seat is being kept warm and the pianist cracking his fingers over the ivories as the shoot-out at the bottom approaches high noon. The Submarine rose three places just by beating Girona 1-0 away last weekend and the morale-boost of that cannot be underestimated. A run-in that includes Eibar and Huesca at home gives Javi Calleja’s side a little bit of a safety net over their rivals but a win here would see them onto 37 points and probable safety. With Europe no longer a distraction and Leganés hardly formidable on the road, that will be drummed into his players before kick-off.
Betis – Valencia (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: draw
This could be the game of the weekend, hence the Sunday evening slot. Valencia are absolutely on fire right now, losing just once in their last 20 games in all competitions to find themselves in with a shout of Copa and Europa League glory, with a fourth-placed finish still also a possibility. Domestically from here neither Betis or Marcelino’s side have any reason to bother too much with defending, which doesn’t come naturally to either club, so they might as well try and crank up the goals-for tally in case it comes down to that when the dust settles.