Primera predictions: LaLiga 2018-19, week 35
Barcelona can sew up the league against a porous Levante defence, Getafe continue their push for Champions League football against beach-watching La Real and struggling Rayo play host to an indifferent Real Madrid.
The As Oracle rocks up to offer his pearls of wisdom for week 35 in LaLiga.
All kick-off times CET.
Athletic – Alavés (Saturday 13:00) Prediction: home win
Athletic remain unbeaten at home under Gaizka Garitano and the Lions boss will want to maintain that record until season’s end. He won’t have too much trouble against an Alavés side on a six-game winless run and who average a goal a game on the road: Athletic have hammered in eight in their last three games at San Mamés.
Atlético – Valladolid (Saturday 16:15) Prediction: home win
Atlético’s stirring 3-2 win over Valencia in midweek was in stark contrast to the laboured victories over Eibar and Celta and may have given Diego Simeone’s side a much-needed pump of the blood as the likely runners-up look for reasons to turn it on as the season winds down. Six points clear of Madrid and nine behind Barça, it is easy to see why Atleti may be half-hearted at best in the final few games but even a 70-percent Simeone side will be too much for Valladolid at the Metropolitano, where only Real Madrid have won this season and just four other sides have so much as bothered the onion bag.
Leganés – Celta (Saturday 18:30) Prediction: draw
Only Atlético (nine), Real Madrid (11), Getafe (11) and Valencia (10) have conceded fewer goals at home this season than the Cucumber Growers but Mauricio Pellegrino’s side have gone off the boil since they reached the 40-point mark with two draws and two defeat in their last four. With Celta needing four more points to get to 40 and having picked up four in their last two Fran Escribá will be eyeing this is a must win with Barça and Athletic up next. He may have to settle for a draw against the masters of a home 1-1 though.
Barcelona – Levante (Saturday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Barcelona can sew up the title with victory in front of their own fans and there seems little likelihood of Levante, who have shipped seven, five, four and three goals in their last four trips to Camp Nou and were beaten 5-0 at the Ciutat de Valencia earlier this season putting off the inevitable. Games against Girona and Rayo should be enough to secure Levante’s survival and Paco López may even follow Valverde’s suit by benching some of his key men for an unwinnable fight.
Valencia – Eibar (Sunday 12:00) Prediction: home win
The Valencia suits may well still wake up in the night, cold sweat drenching the sheets, with visions of Voro prowling the touchline for the 23rd time in his role as perennial caretaker to the trigger-happy Mestalla board. It really was that close earlier in the season, Marcelino apparently a loss away at Valladolid from getting the boot. Now Los Che are three points off the Champions League, two games away from a potential European final and in the Copa del Rey showpiece. A lesson in staying your hand for any pestering presidente to consider. And they should be a shoo-in at home against an Eibar side who still have just the one win on the road to their name this season.
Girona – Sevilla (Sunday 14:00) Prediction: away win
Girona are, to put it bluntly, heading back to Segunda. Confidence is shot, the goals have dried up, they’ve lost their last six and allowed Valladolid to pass them as they’ve slipped into the relegation places. Huesca, in 19th, are unbeaten in five by comparison. It’s not too late for a final surge but Eusebio has been on the brink for weeks now and only the fact there is absolutely no point in sacking him at this stage is preserving his gig on the Montilivi touchline. Expect Sevilla to capitalize on a club deep in crisis.
Real Sociedad – Getafe (Sunday 16:15) Prediction: draw
Many a neutral is willing Getafe to cling on for a Champions League berth, which would be a fantastic achievement and provide a bit of group stage interest in a competition that has long since gone stale between September and February. The last time Geta were in Europe they took Bayern Munich to the wire in the UEFA Cup quarters back in 2007-08. To get there, with Sevilla hard on their heels and likely to pick up points in Girona, Geta will need something from this one against a La Real side who have been staring at the clock for weeks.
Villarreal – Huesca (Sunday 18:30) Prediction: home win
Three wins on the trot has pretty much saved Villarreal, who without the distraction of the Europa League should now end the season fairly comfortably with the same manager they started it under, via the failed initiative to sack him in favour of Luis García. Javi Calleja has won six of his 12 Liga games since returning to the fold and although Huesca are making a decent fist of it their recent resilience has come too late to feasibly alter their fate with Valencia, Betis and Leganés the Aragón side’s final three fixtures.
Rayo – Real Madrid (Sunday 20:45) Prediction: home win
Real Madrid’s home record since the return of Zinedine Zidane: four games, four wins (against Celta, Eibar, Huesca and Athletic) with a goal difference of +7. Real Madrid’s away record since the return of Zinedine Zidane: one defeat (Valencia) and two draws (Leganés and Getafe) with a goal difference of -1. We’ve said it before and it’s very plain to see that many of Real’s players no longer give a shiny one and Toni Kroos perhaps best exemplifies this: the energy-conserving German was in particularly environmental mood against Getafe. If Karim Benzema - the only Real player worth his salt and colossal wage at the moment - has an off-day Rayo could complete a suburban hat-trick of nicking points off a side currently playing out of a call centre.
Betis – Espanyol (Monday 21:00) Prediction: draw
Betis manager Quique Setién got the old vote of confidence from the Villamarín board this week so he’ll probably be sacked on Tuesday morning if he fails to deliver in front of a set of particularly mutinous home fans. It’s been a funny old season for the man who some are quick to forget brought stability and decent football to a club that had had neither for several years but a 4-0 drubbing at Levante in midweek to cap a three-game losing streak suggests all is not well at some level and that 4-3 triumph at Camp Nou seems an awfully long time ago. Perhaps a point here, victory over Huesca in Betis’ final home game and something from the Bernabéu on the last day will earn Setién a solid top-10 finish and another season.