Third classico in three weeks headlines La Liga Match-Day 26

Rayo Vallecano vs Girona

Estadio de Vallecas, Madrid

Friday, 01-03-2019 @11pm

This Friday’s game in La Liga comes from Vallecas and it’s a really significant one at the bottom end of the division. It features two sides who have been in poor form. Girona have at least found a couple of results over the past fortnight but they have slipped down into trouble. Rayo Vallecano’s plight is more serious but they would move out of the drop-zone with victory here.

The Madrid club have suffered 4 straight defeats in La Liga. That sequence actually followed a run of 13 points from 5 games so they’ve been brought down to Earth with a bit of a bump after such a good run which offered them real hope of scrapping their way to safety. Those 4 losses add a bit of pressure on Michel again but it seems likely now that the Rayo board and fans will keep faith with their boss for the duration of this campaign, for better or worse.

Girona coach Eusebio must have been starting to get a bit edgy too after his side went 13 without a win in all competitions and suffered 6 straight defeats. However almost out of nowhere they went to the Bernabeu and won 2-1 to stop the rot but they could only draw at home to a weakened Real Sociedad side on Monday.

Their home form has really held them back this term but they do have a decent record on the road. They average 1.33 points per game on their travels, the 5th best record in the division. Rayo meanwhile have lost 46% of their home league games and their current 4 game losing streak does include defeats to possible relegation rivals Espanyol and Leganes.

Espanyol vs Real Valladolid

RCDE Stadium, Barcelona

Saturday, 02-03-2019 @3pm

The first game this Saturday in La Liga comes from the RCDE Stadium on the outskirts of Barcelona where Espanyol are in action against Real Valladolid. Both sides have lingering relegation worries but victory for either side here would go a long way to easing them so it’s a significant game in the bottom half.

Espanyol were flying high in the top six earlier in the campaign but they’ve lost their way pretty badly. Even so back-to-back home games against Huesca and Valladolid, both promoted last year, appeared to give them a good chance to kill off any relegation fears. They were held by the bottom club last weekend though and this is on paper a slightly tougher game.

Valladolid aren’t scoring many but they are tough to break down and they still hover just above the drop-zone. However a 2-0 home defeat to Real Betis last weekend was a major setback for them. They come into this game in 16th but defeat would give the sides below them a real chance to make ground in their games.

Overall this is just not a game that promises to deliver many goals. Valladolid have failed to score in each of their last 4 matches. They average just 0.76 goals per game in La Liga this term and that is the worst record by some margin. Even bottom club Huesca, the side with the next worst return, has scored 5 more goals than them.

Valladolid are pretty solid at the back though. They tend to park the bus on the road and have let in just 1.23 goals per game away, a very impressive record for a newly promoted side. 77% of their away fixtures in the Spanish top flight this term have produced under 2.5 goals in total and given they’d be content with a point here, a repeat seems very possible.

Espanyol are by no means the most creative team in the division and you wouldn’t back them to create that many chances here, particularly with a few of the wingers out injured right now. Their new Chinese signing Wu Lei has shown glimpses of quality but is yet to score while the goals have also dried up a bit for top scorer Borja Iglesias, who has only scored once in his last 6 matches.

Villarreal vs Deportivo Alaves

Estadio de la Ceramica, Villarreal

Saturday, 02-03-2019 @6:15pm

This Saturday’s clash in La Liga features two sides who are at the opposite end of the table to what might have been expected. Top six regulars Villarreal find themselves battling the drop in 18th while Alaves are riding high in 6th heading into this game. There is certainly plenty at stake here as the hosts aim to climb out of the drop-zone while Alaves look to further their surprise European push.

Villarreal lost for the first time since the reappointment of Javi Calleja last time out. They were beaten 2-0 by Atletico Madrid but overall the level of their performances have improved since Calleja returned just 50 days on from his sacking. They have made progress in Europe and beat Sevilla 3-0 in their most recent home league game, a huge confidence boost in their bid for survival.

Alaves meanwhile are still accumulating points after a difficult January. They come into this match unbeaten in 3 and they refuse to budge from the top six where they’ve surprisingly spent most of the season. Victory here would push them onto that magic 40 point figure and then they could really start to focus on trying to secure European qualification.

This isn’t a particularly easy one to call but Villarreal certainly look short at around 4/6 for the win with most bookies. Only Huesca have a worse home record than them this season in La Liga with the Yellow Submarine averaging less than a point per game in front of their own fans. They’ve won just 1 of their last 7 at home in all competitions and it’s probably too soon to say they are a revitalised force on the back of just one impressive home win.

Alaves have been written off all season but keep grinding out results and you can still get generous odds for them to get something from this game. They had a 3 game losing streak around the end of January but they were their only losses in their last 10 outings. That streak could in part be explained by the departure of Ibai Gomez and an injury to Jony, which left them without their two most creative players.

Since then though, Jony has returned to fitness and new signing Takashi Inui has come back from the Asian Cup giving them much more quality out wide again. They still look a tough side to beat and backing Alaves Double Chance could be worth considering here, mainly because of Villarreal’s dreadful home record this season.

Huesca vs Sevilla

Estadi El Alcoraz, Huesca

Saturday, 02-03-2019 @8:30pm

This Saturday’s game sees two sides who really need a win meet. Huesca’s battle for safety has stepped up a notch over the past month but they still remain rooted to the foot of the table and 6 points off safety. They need to take full advantage of their home games but Sevilla will be hungry for the win too having slipped out of the top four on the last match-day.

They’ve been in a Champions League position virtually all season however it is just 1 win in 9 league games now for the Andalusian side. It’s also just 1 point in 4 matches after Barcelona came from behind to win 4-2 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan last time out. Pablo Machin’s side would have been grateful for the week off here to prepare for this but their heavy cup schedule does appear to be really taking a toll on their league form.

This isn’t a particularly good time for them to be catching Huesca. The top flight debutants looked absolutely nailed on for relegation a month back but they now have a glimmer of hope. They come into this match having lost only 1 of their last 5 matches with their latest game seeing them get a 1-1 draw at Espanyol.

Overall there does look to be value in backing the hosts to get a result from this game. Even when they weren’t getting results, their performances weren’t as bad as the league table suggested. They average 1.1 xG per game, giving up 1.31, which are Expected Goals, stats you’d be more likely to see from a side in mid-table or slightly below not from one that has been rock bottom for virtually the entire campaign.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

Saturday, 02-03-2019 @10:45pm

For the third time in less than a month and the second time in four days, Barcelona and Real Madrid face off this Saturday. This time it’s La Liga in which they meet and Los Blancos will be out for revenge having been emphatically knocked out of the Copa del Rey in midweek with Luis Suarez scoring twice in a 3-0 Barca win.

It was a result that looked improbable at Half-Time. Real Madrid had created the better openings and had managed to negate the huge threat of Leo Messi and Luis Suarez effectively. Even by the end, the shot count read 14-4 in Real’s favour but the Catalans were absolutely clinical in the 2nd Half, sealing a 4-1 aggregate win and yet another Copa del Rey Final appearance.

Barcelona now are very well placed to seal a domestic double for the second season in succession. Even if they lose this game, they will have a 6 point advantage on Real Madrid with almost certainly a superior head-to-head record after their 5-1 win at Camp Nou earlier in the season. If they can win it, they will put a potentially terminal dent in the title challenges of both Madrid clubs.

Overall, they look well capable of doing that. While it’s true Real Madrid had the better of large chunks of Wednesday’s meeting, the match again highlighted how Barcelona are simply much better at finishing chances. Leo Messi and Luis Suarez have netted 41 league goals between them already this term, just 2 fewer than the entire Real Madrid team.

While Karim Benzema, Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius may all reflect on good seasons in many respects, they simply aren’t anywhere near as ruthless. That leaves Santi Solari with a tough call to make as to whether or not to recall out of favour Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio or even forgotten man Isco for this game. Bale could perhaps provide some cutting edge in the final third but in truth hasn’t done it regularly enough this term.

Despite an overall upturn in their form and level of performance, Real Madrid have still lost 4 of their last 10 home games in all competitions. Up against a Barcelona side that has only lost 3 times in 63 league fixtures under Ernesto Valverde.

Eibar vs Celta Vigo

Estadio Municipal de Ipurua, Eibar

Sunday, 03-03-2019 @2pm

*Details to follow shortly

Real Betis vs Getafe

Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville

Sunday, 03-03-2019 @6:15pm

*Details to follow shortly  

Real Sociedad vs Atletico Madrid

Estadio Municipal de Anoeta, Donostia

Sunday, 03-03-2019 @08:30pm

*Details to follow shortly

Valencia vs Athletic Bilbao

Estadio Mestalla, Valencia

Sunday, 03-03-2019 @10:45pm

*Details to follow shortly  

Leganes vs Levante

Estadio Municipal de Bartarque, Leganes

Monday, 04-03-2019 @11pm

*Details to follow shortly




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