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Football

Sevilla out to halt Barca title charge as La Liga heads into Match-Day 25

Getafe vs Rayo Vallecano

Coliseum Alfonso Perez, Getafe

Saturday, 23-02-2019 @03:00pm

This is the latest in a long list of Madrid derbies this season in La Liga. Getafe and Rayo Vallecano have very different priorities heading into this Saturday’s match. The hosts are making a strong push for European football, while the only objective for Rayo is to stay in the top flight in their first season back at this level.

This is Rayo’s 3rd derby clash in the space of 4 matches. The other two were both at home and both ended in agonising defeats, with Atletico and Leganes scoring late goals to seal narrow wins at Vallecas. Rayo weren’t terrible at all against Atletico Madrid last time out but they have slipped back down to 19th and this is the time in the season when results are far more important than performances.

Getafe are certainly in the results business. Their fairly direct and often aggressive style doesn’t win them many friends in Spain but it has been very effective for Jose Bordalas and his side ever since they won promotion to the Primera Division in 2017. Victory here would see them move into the Champions League places for a few hours at least and with 4th placed Sevilla up against Barcelona, there’s a good chance they would stay there.

Overall, a home victory looks the most likely outcome here. Rayo hit some real form in January but all the momentum has gone after 3 straight defeats. It’s not quite back to square one as they are in touching distance of safety still but they’ve been losing tight games of late. They have also lost 64% of their away league matches this season and that figure could well increase here.

Getafe are a side that is perhaps now reaping the benefits of their dramatic late Copa del Rey exit to Valencia in the Quarter-Finals. They wouldn’t have felt like that at the time after conceding twice in Stoppage Time to go out and they really lost their rag at the end, with two players sent off for the second match running. It was always going to be interesting to see their response to that and it has been good, despite a few suspensions. They are unbeaten in 3 outings in La Liga since that crazy cup tie at the Mestalla and they’ve been going very well at home of late.

Sevilla vs Barcelona

Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville

Saturday, 23-02-2019 @6:15pm

This is the standout fixture this Saturday in La Liga. Barcelona’s trip to Sevilla represents one of their biggest remaining tests as they seek to defend their Primera Division crown. After Real Madrid lost last weekend, Barca have a 7 point advantage again at the top and they will have one hand on the trophy if they can come through this next week relatively unscathed, with the clasico to come next weekend.

Both clubs were involved in European action on Wednesday night. Sevilla saw off Lazio with a comfortable 3-0 aggregate win to lay the foundations for another strong push in that competition. They have a real battle on their hands for 4th in La Liga now though with just 1 win in their last 8 Primera Division outings. Talk of a possible title challenge already seems like a very distant memory now and they find themselves jostling with the likes of Alaves and Getafe for that final Champions League place.

Barcelona haven’t been setting the world on fire of late either but they would probably have been content to draw 0-0 away to Lyon in the Champions League on Wednesday night. They have been nursing one or two injury problems so they will be keen to just keep churning out results in this tough phase in their season of four straight away games and back-to-back clasicos following this.

Ernesto Valverde rested several key players including Leo Messi and Luis Suarez when they played here a few weeks back in the Copa del Rey Quarter-Finals. They were beaten 2-0 by Sevilla that night and this will be another tough game. Barca have only won 1 of their last 5 in all competitions, scoring just 4 goals in those matches, so it’s pretty clear they aren’t at their best right now.

With those two games against Real Madrid coming up next week, there may be fresh temptation to rest legs and Sevilla are capable of taking advantage, to some extent at least. Their home form is basically holding their season together as they’ve been dreadful on the road. Their excellent home support is always a factor though and a record of just 1 defeat in 16 competitive home games suggests they are good enough to frustrate a Barcelona side that isn’t firing in the final third as much as they might like.

Deportivo Alaves vs Celta Vigo

Estadio de Mendizorroza, Vitoria-Gastiez

Saturday, 23-02-2019 @8:30pm

This game features what is certainly La Liga’s most under-pressure coach in the form of Celta Vigo’s Miguel Cardoso and the Portuguese boss will be desperate for a result here against high-flying Alaves. The hosts are making a surprise push for Europe and are favourites to pick up the win that could fire them into the top four positions if other results go in their favour this Saturday.

Alaves’ success this season has been one of the great surprises of this campaign. Even after a difficult January and some notable departures, they have managed to largely keep on track with 4 points from their last 2 league outings keeping them in the frame for European qualification. That would be a remarkable achievement as they certainly don’t have as much quality as other sides but they continue to operate effectively as a team.

That’s not something you could say about Celta Vigo right now. They had what could only be described as a nightmare weekend last time around. Not only were they hammered 4-1 at home by Levante in surprising circumstances but star striker Iago Aspas suffered a fresh injury that will rule him out again here. Many expected Cardoso to be sacked in the week but he has perhaps surprisingly kept his job.

Celta have picked up just 10 points from 12 games under him. By note of contrast they picked up 14 from their opening 12 matches this season under Antonio Mohamed, a run which ended with the Argentine being sacked. Defensively in particular they have been very poor with an average of 1.79 goals per game conceded, the joint worst record in the division. Meanwhile so much of their creative and goal threat at the other end goes through Aspas and you seriously have to worry for their future in this league unless he can get back to full fitness soon.

Alaves look well capable of winning this match. Takashi Inui has impressed since his return from the Asian Cup and the man brought in to replace Ibai Gomez offers them a bit more threat out wide again which was missing during their tough run in January. Striker Jonathan Calleri may not be a prolific scorer but he has enough physical qualities to unsettle one of the worst defences in the division and Alaves look capable of improving on an excellent 55% home win ratio this term.

Athletic Bilbao vs Eibar

San Mames Barria, Bilbao

Saturday, 23-02-2019 @10:45pm

The final game this Saturday in La Liga is a Basque derby from San Mames. The region’s biggest club Athletic Bilbao takes on its smallest top flight outfit Eibar. However it is the visitors who are currently a point and a place better off heading into their short trip to Bilbao and they will be stern opponents here for their more illustrious neighbours.

Athletic were 1-0 winners at Huesca on Monday night to ease any lingering relegation concerns. If they could win again here, they’d really start to fancy a late push for European action. They are only 4 points off 7th placed Real Sociedad with that position likely to be enough for European football depending on the winner of the Copa del Rey. Gaizka Garitano has done a terrific job since he came in, particularly in making them tougher to break down defensively.

José Luis Mendilibar continues to work wonders at Eibar meanwhile. They are also in the European mix-up and qualification would be the latest chapter in the remarkable rise of this tiny club from obscurity to the top flight. One thing they haven’t managed since reaching the Primera Division, is a victory at San Mames and this would be as good a time as any to break that particular duck.

Overall though, this is a game that has all the makings of a close contest and there is plenty of reason to think it could end up all square. Only Valencia have drawn more times in La Liga this term than Athletic Bilbao. The Basque giants have seen 50% of their matches this term finish level and all their recent games have been tight affairs with their last 6 matches in all competitions producing just 8 goals in total.

Eibar games have been a bit more open but they’ve also developed a real drawing habit. 8 of their last 11 matches have finished all square, including their two most recent league outings against Sevilla and Getafe. They only lost one of those 11 games, away to Barcelona, so they certainly look to be playing well enough to get a result from this one.

Leganes vs Valencia

Estadio Municipal de Bertaque, Leganes

Sunday, 24-02-2019 @2:00pm

Leganes played hot and cold throughout the entire season and they continued in the same fashion in the last couple of weeks.

A brilliant display in the 3-0 thumping of Real Betis was followed by a tough 3-0 loss away at Real Sociedad last weekend.

The Legionaries thus quickly returned to the old habits after snatching back-to-back wins over Rayo Vallecano and Real Betis. Their main problems are connected to the lack to defensive meticulousness.

Mauricio Pellegrino’s men now hold the 13th place in the Primera Division standings. They are still on a safe six-point distance from the danger area but a potential thread of losses might out their top flight status in jeopardize.

Can Leganes stay unbeaten on Sunday when they host Valencia in the first la Liga match of the day?

Valencia can rely heavily on the head to head tradition here.

The Bats won six and drew one of seven meetings with Leganes.

The lone draw, however, came in this term of Primera Division as the Legionaries held Valencia to a 1-1 draw in mid-October at Mestalla.

Atletico Madrid vs Villareal

Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid

Sunday, 24-02-2019 @6:15pm

This Sunday’s match sees the 2nd placed team host a team that is currently in the drop-zone but if history is anything to go by, this one is no foregone conclusion. Villarreal have a terrific record against Atletico Madrid, not losing any of the last 7 meetings between the sides. Rarely have they needed the points more than this though with their very future in the Primera Division on the line.

Villarreal picked up a vital win last weekend, seeing off Sevilla 3-0 at home, a result that suggests they may just have found some form in time to save themselves from a shock relegation. They are now unbeaten in 5 matches since the return of Javi Calleja and at least have a platform from which to build from.

Atletico Madrid also come into this one on a real high. They’ve flattered to deceive for much of this season but pulled a huge performance out of the bag on Wednesday night, beating much fancied Juventus 2-0 in the Champions League. Diego Simeone will certainly back his side to defend that lead in Turin but will be less confident about their chances of catching Barcelona in La Liga, with the Catalans currently 7 points clear.

It’s certainly hard to see many goals in this one. Villarreal haven’t been great defensively this term but they have tightened up of late with just 1 goal conceded in their last 4 matches. They’ve also only conceded 1 goal in the space of 4 league visits to Atletico Madrid, which is outstanding when you consider what a force Atleti have been over that period.

It almost goes without saying now that Atletico Madrid have the best defensive record in La Liga again with just 0.71 goals per game conceded. They are only the 6th highest scorers though and it’s telling that it was their two centre-backs who delivered the goals to down Juve with Alvaro Morata yet to open his account since joining Atletico Madrid despite having two strikes chalked off by VAR.

Real Valladolid vs Real Betis

Estadio Municipal Jose Zorrilla

Sunday, 24-02-2019 @08:30pm

This Sunday’s clash in La Liga sees Real Valladolid and Real Betis meet at the Jose Zorrilla. There is plenty riding on it for both clubs with the home team battling against relegation while Betis are targeting European qualification for the second year running. Neither side is in great form though so a lack of confidence may be a factor in both camps.

It has been a really poor couple of weeks for Betis. Their league form has dipped with a heavy defeat at Leganes and a draw at home to Alaves. Quique Setien has made a real point of targeting the cups which was fine until they were surprisingly knocked out by Rennes on Thursday night in the Europa League. They have the 2nd Leg of their Copa del Rey Semi-Final against Valencia also to come this week so Setien really has a decision to make as to whether or not to rest players here and throw all his eggs in that basket.

Some rotation certainly seems likely but that shouldn’t change the fact that they have more quality than Valladolid. However the hosts are stubborn characters who won 1-0 at the Benito Villamarin in the reverse fixture. They were only beaten 1-0 at Barcelona last weekend but they are only 3 points above the drop-zone heading into this weekend so they have plenty of work to do before they can start planning for another season at this level.

The bookies are struggling to call this one and it is likely to be a tight game but Valladolid are the sort of side that are capable of frustrating Betis. They will defend deep and be content to let Setien’s men have the ball and too often Betis struggle to break teams down who play like that. Worryingly for Betis, they’ve been leaking goals at the other end with 3 conceded in 3 of their last 4 matches in all competitions and the opposition hasn’t exactly been of the highest calibre either with mid-table French side Rennes and lowly Leganes exposing their frailties.

Valladolid are organised and have only suffered 3 defeats in their last 11 at home. They are a bit short on creativity but they can unsettle Betis by going direct and should take confidence from that victory in Seville earlier this term.

The visitors are desperate to reach the Copa del Rey Final, mainly because it will be in their own stadium and that trip to the Mestalla on Thursday is a big focus for them. They look like a team that is now struggling a bit to deal with the volume of games having played two games per week throughout 2019 so far. Against a team battling the drop, who are sure to play in an intense fashion.

Levante vs Real Madrid

Estadio Cuiadad de Valencia

Sunday, 24-02-2019 @10:45pm

Real Madrid’s bid to get back into the title race came to a shuddering halt last weekend with a shock home defeat. They head to Levante this Sunday hoping to respond ahead of a crunch week with two clasicos in the space of four days. The hosts though are hoping to complete a historic league double over Los Blancos.

They are actually unbeaten in 3 games against Real Madrid having won 2-1 at the Bernabeu earlier in the season. They were also impressive 4-1 winners away to a woeful Celta Vigo side last weekend so Santi Solari’s men certainly can’t afford to take this one lightly.

That said Los Blancos may already be in a position where the cups are of increasing importance with a comeback from a 9 point deficit in La Liga unlikely now given there are only 14 games to play and Barcelona will almost certainly end the season with the superior head-to-head record. Real’s 2-1 defeat to Girona last time out ended a sequence of 7 wins from 8 in all competitions.

We’ve certainly got plenty of reason to expect goals in this one. Levante are having a good season overall but they still have La Liga’s joint worst defensive record with 1.79 goals per game conceded. They’ve actually conceded more at home than they have away so there should be plenty of space for Real’s frontline to exploit. 73% of Levante home matches this term have produced over 2.5 goals while 45% have produced 4 or more.

Half of Real Madrid’s away games have done likewise and they have looked sharper in the final third over the past few months although clean sheets haven’t been all too regular. 6 of Real’s last 8 games have seen over 2.5 goals and both teams score. They will be without Sergio Ramos here too after his 20th La Liga red card last weekend which could have a slightly unsettling effect on the defence.

Levante have plenty of pace and a fair bit of quality too in attack with Jose Luis Morales, Roger Marti and Borja Mayoral competing for starts. The latter is on loan from Los Blancos and won’t feature here as a result so top scorer Marti should return to the team.

Girona vs Real Sociedad

Estadio Municipal de Montilivi

Monday, 25-01-2010 @11:00pm

The Monday night game this week in La Liga comes from Catalonia where Girona take on Real Sociedad. The home team are still in a bit of trouble despite a fine win at the Bernabeu last time out. They could do with backing that up here and Girona boss Eusebio will be keen to land a blow against the team that sacked him last season.

Girona were really starting to get that sinking feeling with 6 straight defeats in all competitions before their away game against Real Madrid, the form team of 2019 in La Liga. Therefore Girona’s 2-1 victory was an enormous shock but it was a 2nd Half performance full of quality as the Catalans came back to seal a famous win. They still have plenty of work to do in order to extend their top flight stay into a 3rd season though and could do with turning their home form around.

Real Sociedad have been going along very nicely under Imanol. He replaced Eusebio as boss of La Real on an interim basis at the end of last season. He did well but not well enough to land the job permanently in the summer. However Asier Garitano’s failure handed him another chance and again Sociedad have impressed under the 47 year old. They’ve not lost any of the 9 matches since he was appointed.

They look well capable of extending that run here. Girona are a bit of a peculiar side and they’ve struggled for any real consistency this term so we probably shouldn’t read an enormous amount into their win over Real Madrid. Their most recent home game after all saw them lose to bottom club Huesca and their overall home form has been very poor for a long time now.

The Catalans have won just 2 of their last 17 home matches in La Liga. That’s a really poor return and only Huesca have picked up fewer home points than them this term. By contrast Sociedad are away specialists. Only Real Madrid and Barcelona have picked up more points on their travels in La Liga this season than the Basques and their unbeaten record in 2019 in all competitions.

Friday’s result:

-Espanyol 1-1 Huesca

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