Celta Vigo vs Levante
Abanca Balaidos, Vigo
Saturday, 16-02-2019 @03:00pm
This Saturday’s early game in La Liga features two sides who are certainly in the relegation picture. Celta Vigo have been in woeful form over the past month or two but have at least been boosted by the return to fitness of key man Iago Aspas. Levante have also been on the slide but carry a three point advantage on their opponents heading into this game.
For perhaps the second time in a fortnight Celta boss Miguel Cardoso faces a game which he may regard as a must-win if he wants to guarantee himself a job come Monday. He won the first, with Celta seeing off Sevilla 1-0 but a 3-1 defeat at Getafe last time out has piled the pressure back on. The Galicians have lost 6 of their last 7 in La Liga.
Levante haven’t been much better in truth. It’s just 1 win in 9 league games for them and early season hopes of a surprise European challenge have faded. That was always likely to be the case in truth as they don’t really possess the sort of quality needed for that but Paco Lopez is still doing a good job, nearly one year on from his appointment.
Overall though, the home team look the more likely victors here. The return of Iago Aspas is key. He was missing throughout January as Celta went on a miserable run but was fit enough to come off the bench last weekend. He will surely start here and he is not only Celta’s biggest goal threat with 10 goals in 18 league appearances this term, but also a real leader for the side. All of his last 6 goals in all competitions have come at home.
Levante’s poor away form is another reason to fancy Celta. The Valencia club have lost their last 4 road games in La Liga, scoring just once in the process. Their counter-attacking style caused problems earlier in the season but teams appear to have wised up to what they are doing.
Rayo Vallecano vs Atletico Madrid
Estadio de Vallecas, Madrid
Saturday, 16-02-2019 @6:15pm
Another Saturday brings another Madrid derby for Atletico. This time they travel to Vallecas to take on Rayo Vallecano looking to put their first points on the board since the January signing of Alvaro Morata. Back-to-back defeats have seriously damaged their chances of winning La Liga for the second time under Diego Simeone.
They felt hard done by last weekend against city rivals Real after some major VAR calls went against them but in truth it was a poor performance from Atletico Madrid. The likes of Thomas Lemar are not really delivering and even their trusty defence was breached 3 times for an extremely rare home defeat. They will be desperate to respond with a win here to take some confidence into their Champions League clash with Juventus next week.
Rayo Vallecano are also looking to bounce back from successive losses. 2-1 defeats to fellow strugglers Leganes and Espanyol were damaging ones and particularly tough to take, given late goals sealed both defeats. They have slipped back into the relegation zone as a result but had been performing pretty well prior to that, particularly at home where they put 3 straight league wins together around the turn of the year.
The result markets might be ones to steer clear of here with Atleti not totally convincing on their travels, although they are still much the more likely victors. Ideally they might have liked to rest some players with the Juve tie in mind but with no momentum, Diego Simeone may be more inclined to just try and get a morale-boosting win on the board.
Rayo home games are invariably pretty open and they will take some risks to try and get at this Atleti defence. A huge 92% of Rayo Vallecano home matches this season have seen both teams score and with the likes of Raul de Tomas in attack, they do have a goal or two in them. Indeed they’ve netted in every single home league game since returning to the top flight last year.
Atletico Madrid may still be a team best known for their defensive qualities but an away clean sheet ratio of 27% is well below their usual standards.
Real Sociedad vs Leganes
Estadio Municipal de Anoeta, San Sebastian
Saturday, 16-02-2019 @8:30pm
On the surface, this Saturday’s game in La Liga is a mid-table clash. Real Sociedad in 9th are two points better off than Leganes in 11th. However this is a congested league with La Real only six points off the Champions League places, while Leganes are just six points above the drop-zone heading into this round of fixtures.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s side will be very content with that. They were tipped to struggle again and started the season slowly when it appeared they were missing the touch of Asier Garitano, who joined Sociedad in the summer. However, gradually, solid defensive foundations have returned and they’ve been firing at the other end too of late with Martin Braithwaite and Youssef En-Nesyri forming a surprisingly effective partnership up top.
As for Sociedad, they quickly ran out of patience with Garitano and their decision to appoint Imanol as his replacement has largely been an inspired one. La Real are still unbeaten under their new boss, having played 8 games under him in all competitions. They’d lost 4 of their previous 5 in the latter days of Garitano’s reign but some of the old problems do remain.
Their inability to win home games has been the main issue this season. They average just 1.18 points per game in front of their own fans. Only four teams in La Liga have picked up fewer points at home and a 0-0 draw with bottom club Huesca at the end of last month was the latest source of frustration for fans of the Basque club.
It’s 4 draws from their last 5 games in all competitions and a repeat is very plausible here. Leganes are a tough side to break down and will most likely come with a defensive set-up. Greek defender Dimitrios Siovas has been doing an excellent job of marshalling their back-line and has been a big factor in them losing just 3 of their last 17 games in all competitions.
That’s an excellent record, particularly when you consider that they’ve travelled to Camp Nou and the Bernabeu over that period.
Barcelona vs Real Valladolid
Estadio Camp Nou, Barcelona
Saturday, 16-02-2019 @10:45pm
Barcelona head into this game under a touch of pressure after three straight draws in all competitions. They will be strongly expected to get back to winning ways here against a Real Valladolid side that is battling against relegation in La Liga. This Saturday’s game is not one they will seriously be expecting points from but they did push Real Madrid close at the Bernabeu earlier this term.
It took Los Blancos until the final 10 minutes to break the deadlock that day but Valladolid haven’t been quite as impressive in recent months. They still clearly are short on creativity in midfield and the chances they do create are by no means guaranteed to be converted with a lack of clinical forwards.
That’s not a problem Barcelona have with Leo Messi and Luis Suarez the top two scorers in La Liga again. However neither could force a breakthrough as Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw at Athletic Bilbao last weekend. They created just 0.43 Expected Goals in that game, their second lowest tally of the season and were dependent on their keeper to keep things tight at the other end.
Ernesto Valverde would have been very relieved to have a rare midweek off heading into this game. However it is followed by four straight road games against Lyon, Sevilla and then two against Real Madrid in league and cup. It doesn’t get much tougher than that and with one or two injuries already, Barcelona may still rest a few key men here, perhaps including Leo Messi who wasn’t 100% fit last weekend or when he came off the bench in the Copa del Rey Clasico.
Even so, the result shouldn’t really be in doubt. Valladolid have lost 5 of their last 8 away in all competitions, with the two most recent seeing them beaten to nil at Levante and Huesca. That doesn’t exactly bode well for a trip to Camp Nou. They’ve scored 4 fewer goals than any other team in the division and have failed to net in half their away games. Overall backing Barcelona to Win to Nil looks good here against La Liga’s least effective attack.
Despite that one major off-day at Huesca, Valladolid are pretty solid defensively though, conceding only 5 more times than Barcelona this term.
Real Madrid vs Girona
Estadio Santiago Bernabue, Madrid
Sunday, 17-02-2019 @2:00pm
This Sunday’s game in La Liga is a repeat of the Copa del Rey Quarter-Final tie between Real Madrid and Girona. Los Blancos won that convincingly in the end but they were made to sweat in the 1st Leg with the score level at 2-2 at the Bernabeu heading into the final fifteen minutes. Since then though, Real have only got better while the Catalans have been in freefall so a home win is strongly expected here.
Los Blancos made it 7 wins out of 8 in all competitions in Amsterdam on Wednesday night. It was actually one of their worst performances since the turn of the year but they still got the job done, as is invariably the case in the Champions League. A fourth straight European crown remains a possibility but they won’t be ruling out a league title push now either following an impressive Madrid derby win last weekend which cut the gap to Barcelona to 6 points.
Girona meanwhile are only focused on one thing and that’s staying in the Primera Division. They head into this game following 6 straight defeats in all competitions and they are winless in 13. Not since late November have they won in La Liga and that’s something that is very hard to see changing here. The Catalans are now just a point and a place above the drop-zone and the reality of a relegation battle is starting to dawn on them.
Real Madrid have a week off following this one so they’ve no real incentive to rest players but they do have genuine competition for places now with the likes of Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez hoping to dislodge either Gareth Bale or Vinicius from the midweek eleven. We may also see Marcelo return to add more attacking options at left-back and they should have far too much class for Girona.
Santi Solari’s men have been scoring plenty of late. They became the first ever visiting team to score 3 goals at the Wanda Metropolitano in La Liga last week and have netted 3 or more in 5 of their last 7 games in all competitions. That includes both legs of their Copa del Rey tie with Girona. Eusebio’s men have gone 16 without a clean sheet heading into this game.
Valencia vs Espanyol
Estadio Mestalla, Valencia
Sunday, 17-02-2019 @6:15pm
Valencia return to league action this weekend after an impressive win at Celtic Park in Europe. They are favourites to see off Espanyol this Sunday in La Liga. The Barcelona club have been in poor form over the past few months but they are only 3 points behind Valencia thanks to an impressive start to the season.
Espanyol could start with Wu Lei here and there’s a fair degree of interest in the Chinese striker who moved to the RCDE Stadium last month. He is the all-time record scorer in the Chinese Super League but inevitably some people are a bit cynical about the move due to the club’s Chinese ownership. Either way they could do with somebody to take the burden of goalscoring responsibility off the shoulders of Borja Iglesias, with the next most prolific Espanyol player having scored just twice in La Liga this term.
Valencia have also had their problems in that regard but the likes of Rodrigo and Kevin Gameiro have shown signs of a return to form of late. Neither started in Glasgow but Valencia’s unlikely strike pairing of Denis Cheryshev and Ruben Sobrino both scored to seal a 2-0 win. That not only effectively kills off the tie but means Valencia have fresh legs to bring in up top here.
Overall, the home team look well capable of winning this. Valencia have really improved since the turn of the year and look much more like the side that easily secured a top four finish last term. They won’t be ruling out a repeat this time around and with 5 wins from 9 in all competitions and just 1 defeat, they should be full of confidence heading into this game.
Espanyol did pick up a much needed win last weekend, seeing off Rayo 2-1 at home to just ease away from the relegation scrap again. However their away form is poor and it’s just 1 win in 15 away games this season overall. They’ve only taken 1 point from their last 6 on the road in La Liga and that’s a record that looks unlikely to improve at the Mestalla.
Villareal vs Sevilla
Estadio de la Ceramica, Villareal
Sunday, 17-02-2019 @08:30pm
This Sunday’s game in La Liga sees two sides meet who secured impressive wins on the road in the Europa League on Thursday night. It’s debatable whether that was particularly good news for Villarreal who in truth just need to focus on staying in the top flight but it was a boost to Sevilla, who have started to come under a bit of criticism from their own supporters.
Some of that is unfair in truth. They are in 4th place heading into this weekend, about as good as would be realistically achievable and have made decent progress in the cups with a Europa League last 16 tie now on the cards after they won in Rome against Lazio on Thursday night. However their away record of La Liga of late isn’t great and they could do with a response here with several sides not putting pressure on them in the battle for Champions League qualification.
Villarreal would have expected to have been in the mix at the start of the campaign but instead they find themselves battling for their very future in this league. They re-appointed Javi Calleja a couple of weeks back now but his league games, both against fellow strugglers, have produced two frustrating draws and the Yellow Submarine may need to at least double their current points tally over the remaining 15 games if they are to survive.
It’s hard to seriously fancy either team to bag the win here. Villarreal have won just 1 of their last 17 league games. Therefore it’s virtually impossible to see much sense in backing them as favourites here. They’ve won just once at home in La Liga all term and their average of 0.75 points per home game is the worst in the entire division.
Sevilla though don’t exactly boast an away record that reflects their status as a side challenging for the top four. They average just 1.08 points per game on the road, inferior to sides like Valladolid, Getafe and Real Sociedad. Their last 8 away games in La Liga have yielded just 4 points, a very poor return for a side of their quality.
Villarreal will have been boosted by a morale boosting win away to Sporting Lisbon but the pressure of a relegation battle is a totally different thing and they just haven’t really responded to it well. They are at least helped by the suspension of Ever Banega for Sevilla here and the visitors will miss the influential midfielder.
Real Betis vs Deportivo Alaves
Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville
Sunday, 17-02-2019 @10:45pm
This Sunday’s late game in La Liga comes from the Benito Villamarin where Real Betis take on Alaves. The hosts will be grateful for the kick-off time given this game comes 3 days after their Europa League trip to Rennes but we could still see some rotation from Betis here. It’s a significant game in the battle for European qualification though with just 3 points separating the sides.
Alaves are the higher of the two which is a bit of a surprise but is testament to how good they were in the first half of the season. They lost a few players in January but did sign Takashi Inui on loan from Real Betis. He is eligible to feature here along with Darko Brasanac, who made the same move in the summer. It’s slightly odd that Betis didn’t opt to include a clause in the contracts of both players to prevent them playing in this game.
It has been a mixed week for Betis so far. They were beaten 3-0 at Leganes last weekend with Quique Setien responding by criticising the Madrid side’s style of play in no uncertain terms. He has since apologised but again witnessed his team concede 3 in midweek at Rennes in the Europa League. They were 3-1 down at the break but fought back brilliantly to draw 3-3 and seize the advantage in the tie.
We may see some rotation here but they do look capable of getting back to winning ways. Betis are in pretty good form at home with just 1 defeat in their last 13 matches at the Benito Villamarin. They’ve won 7 of their last 11 at home in all competitions and they are likely to dominate the ball here against an Alaves side that is unlikely to take too many risks.
The Basques did pick up a win on Monday night, seeing off Levante at home but they don’t really convince on their travels. Their most recent away league games have ended in 3-0 and 4-0 defeats and they have been beaten in 6 of their last 8 on the road overall.
Alaves have lost 58% of their away games in La Liga this term. That’s really poor for a top six side and they are unlikely to maintain that position as the season draws to a close.
Huesca vs Athletic Bilbao
Estadio El Alcorez, Huesca
Monday, 18-01-2010 @11:00pm
The Monday night game this week in La Liga comes from the tiny Aragonese town of Huesca. The visitors are Athletic Bilbao and it sees two sides who have had impressive recent runs meet. They have already met three times this term with Athletic winning the last two by 4-0 margins in the Copa del Rey but Huesca effectively gave up on that competition by fielding fringe players and we should see a much closer game here.
Huesca are playing as well as they have done all season and come into this match looking for a 3rd straight win. Remarkably they failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their opening 20 league games but have kept 3 on the spin since then. Their 2-0 victory at Girona last weekend has given them a genuine glimmer of hope in their battle for survival although they remain rooted to the foot of the table with 15 games to play.
Athletic Bilbao are 9 points better off but still have work to do in order to avoid a nervy end to the season. They were impressive last weekend, drawing 0-0 at home to Barcelona in a game they could easily have won. They’ve lost just once in 9 league outings since appointing Gaizka Garitano, who has made them much tougher to break down with only 5 goals conceded in those matches while they restricted Barca to hardly any openings last time out.
This is another game that doesn’t exactly look likely to produce much goalmouth action. Huesca will be wary of the pace of Inaki Williams so are unlikely to push too far up the pitch. Having gone almost 300 minutes without conceding, they will back themselves to limit Athletic to few chances but they do remain a bit short on quality in the final third.
Heading into match-day 24, only Real Valladolid have scored fewer league goals than these two clubs, who both average exactly one per game. Both Huesca and Athletic have made coaching changes this term that have effectively seen them change to a more defensive approach and overall backing Under 2.5 Goals & Both Teams to Score – NO looks good here with Athletic Bilbao league games averaging just 1.55 goals per game under Garitano.
-Eibar 2-2 Getafe
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