Espanyol vs Deportivo Alaves
RCDE Stadium, Barcelona
Saturday, 13-04-2019 @2pm
The opening game on match-day 32 in La Liga comes from Barcelona. It sees Alaves travel to play Espanyol with the visitors hoping to bolster their European hopes after a few recent setbacks. Rubi’s men meanwhile have little left to play for now having picked up an important victory last weekend to take the pressure off this Saturday’s game.
That victory came in a Catalan derby away to Girona, a rare success on the road for Espanyol. It moved them onto 38 points, which is likely to be about the mark needed to stay up. Unless they literally lose every game between now and the end of the campaign, they should be safe. Their season has petered out somewhat after a bright start but 13th is probably a fair reflection of the level they are operating on.
As for Alaves, they have been punching above their weight for virtually the whole campaign. However having only taken 1 point from their last 3 matches, it looks like their surprise top four push is now over. Making the Europa League is still a realistic possibility but in terms of quality, there are certainly stronger teams than them that may well edge them out.
One problem right now is that a few injuries and suspensions have crept in, making them much easier to break down. Key centre-back Guillermo Maripan has been carrying an injury and remains a doubt here while full-back Martin Aguirregabiria and midfielder Tomas Pina are suspended after five Alaves players were booked last time out. They’ve gone 6 matches without a clean sheet heading into this and they’ve been a lot more vulnerable away than at home all season, letting in 1.56 goals per game on their travels compared to less than 1 per game at home.
With the pressure now off, Espanyol can afford to take a few more risks and really take the game to Alaves here. With recent signing Wu Lei alongside Borja Iglesias, they now have a more dangerous strike-force. They’ve scored twice or more in 4 of their last 8 home games and will feel as though they can breakdown a weakened Alaves defence at least a couple of times here.
Huesca vs Barcelona
Estadio El Alcoraz, Huesca
Saturday, 13-04-2019 @5:15pm
The basement boys host the league leaders here as Huesca take on Barcelona this Saturday in La Liga. The Catalans are now on the brink of winning another Spanish title, while Huesca’s first ever top flight season now looks destined to end in relegation. However, with the visitors expected to rotate heavily, this could be a closer game than many are expecting.
Barcelona have had an excellent week. They effectively clinched the Spanish title with a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid last weekend as Luis Suarez and Leo Messi netted late goals to open up an 11 point advantage at the top. Barca backed that up with a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford and will have a firm eye on the 2nd Leg of that Champions League Quarter-Final which takes place just three days after this game.
Huesca meanwhile will give it all they’ve got and it should be a lot closer than the 8-2 defeat they suffered at Camp Nou earlier this season. They have reverted back to more of a gung-ho approach in recent weeks but wins have eluded them. Their last two have ended in 2-2 and 3-3 draws against fellow relegation rivals to leave them 6 points from safety heading into this weekend.
Even though it’s Barcelona, they really still have to try and chase a shock win here and that should open this game up. Huesca are better than the league table suggests. They’ve actually scored more goals than 7 teams in this division, including 6th placed Valencia. They play some genuinely good football at times and they’ve only failed to net in 1 of their last 10 matches.
Their chances here are aided by the suspension of Gerard Pique. That should see Samuel Umtiti come in but he looked desperately short of match fitness in the 4-4 draw at Villarreal the week before last. Barcelona could certainly be vulnerable but even without the suspended Luis Suarez and quite possibly Leo Messi, who is carrying a knock, they should have enough quality to create chances against this Huesca defence.
Atletico Madrid vs Celta Vigo
Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid
Saturday, 13-04-2019 @7:30pm
Relegation-threatened Celta Vigo travel to play Atletico Madrid this Saturday in La Liga. They do so on the back of their best week of the season which has seen them jump out of the drop-zone. However they won’t be expecting a great deal here, despite being up against an Atleti side that has very little left to play for.
The main motivation now for Diego Simeone’s side will be trying to finish as the top team in Madrid for the second season running. That’s still a decent achievement for a club that has spent so much of their history playing second fiddle to Real in the Spanish capital. However there will be a real sense of disappointment that they are now a huge 11 points behind Barcelona and with no realistic chance of winning the title after a late defeat at Camp Nou last weekend.
Celta meanwhile come into this one having taken 7 points from their last 3 games in pretty dramatic fashion. They scored 3 goals in each of those games, coming from behind to win twice and squandering a 2-0 lead to draw the other. Unquestionably the return to fitness of Iago Aspas was the main reason for their improvement. Aspas scored 5 times in hose 3 matches having not been fit enough to start in 2019 prior to that.
Crucially though, Aspas is suspended here. Cynics might suggest he deliberately took off his shirt last weekend when celebrating his second goal to spark a one-match ban that occurs here in a game that won’t be pivotal in determining Celta’s chances of survival. The Galicians have only taken 4 points from their 11 games without Aspas this season and that’s unlikely to improve here.
Atleti are also missing three men to suspension, including Diego Costa who was sent off for something he said to the referee last weekend early on at Camp Nou. However, they have the squad to cope and with no more cup commitments, there’s no reason to really expect them to run into trouble here.
Sevilla vs Real Betis
Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville
Saturday, 13-04-2019 @9:45pm
The feistiest city derby in Spanish football takes place this Saturday as Real Betis make the short trip to take on neighbours Sevilla. Not only will local pride be on the line, it’s also a really big game in the race for European football. 5th placed Sevilla are currently 6 points better off than their 9th placed rivals but both sides will be targeting at the very least Europa League qualification.
Any more than that is probably out of Betis’ grasp now. They’ve struggled with the volume of games in 2019, having advanced to the Copa del Rey Semi-Finals and featured in Europe. With just 2 wins in 12 matches, their season was in danger of badly petering out but they picked up a key victory last weekend, beating Villarreal 2-1, with Santi Cazorla missing a late penalty for the Yellow Submarine.
That could prove really significant for Betis this season and it at least sends them into this fixture with a bit of momentum. Sevilla though have also turned a corner with 3 wins from 4 games since they appointed Joaquín Caparrós in a caretaker role for the second season running. He guided Sevilla to a 2-2 draw at Betis late last term to help secure European football and his passion for this club will ensure he drills the importance of this game into the players.
Betis though have taken 7 points from 3 Seville derbies under Quique Setien, famously winning this fixture 5-3 last term. That result will ensure they make the short trip with belief and they rarely veer from a naturally pretty attack-minded game-plan. All of their last 4 matches have seen both teams score and they are perhaps a top quality striker away from being a genuinely very good side.
Sevilla have made improvements in that department this term. Wissam Ben Yedder has really stepped up and cemented his status as the Andalusian side’s main man in the final third. He has already got 14 goals in all competitions in 2019 alone and has 16 for the season in La Liga. Backing Ben Yedder to score anytime could be worth a punt here.
Real Valladolid vs Getafe
Estadio Municipal Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid
Sunday, 14-04-2019 @1pm
The early game this Sunday is a significant one for matters at both ends of the table in La Liga. Getafe head into the weekend in 4th place and still on track for a surprise Champions League qualification although still with plenty of work to do to secure it. Real Valladolid meanwhile are now looking very nervously over their shoulder with the relegation battle likely to go right to the wire.
They suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to another of the Champions League contenders last weekend as Sevilla won at the Jose Zorrilla. Both goals came in the closing minutes and a similar thing happened in their previous game, a last gasp defeat at Leganes. They are now only outside of the drop-zone courtesy of a superior head-to-head record in their meetings with Villarreal but an immediate return to the Segunda Division is starting to look quite likely.
Getafe meanwhile are dreaming of Europe and they should get there one way or another now. They responded well to a 3 game winless streak by beating Athletic Bilbao 1-0 last time out with Angel netting a fine winner. They have a crunch game with 5th placed Sevilla next time out and they’ll be determined to head into it on a positive note.
Overall, the visitors look much the more likely victors here. They’ve been excellent travellers this season, losing just twice on the road in La Liga. You have to go back over a year for the last time they lost away in the league to a team other than Atletico Madrid or Real Madrid and overall they have a lot more quality than Valladolid.
The hosts are perhaps fortunate to not be in the drop-zone as at times even Huesca and Rayo Vallecano show far more than they do going forward. Valladolid have only managed 0.77 goals per game this term and that record is almost identical at home and away. They’ve scored 7 fewer goals than the next lowest scorers and you wonder how they are going to break down the side with the division’s 3rd meanest defence.
As a result, backing Getafe Draw No Bet looks good here, a smart move when you consider that while Getafe don’t lose many away, they do draw plenty with 10 away draws already this term in La Liga.
Athletic Bilbao vs Real Vallecano
Stadio San Mames Barria, Bilbao
Sunday, 14-04-2019 @3pm
There are several key games this weekend in La Liga between teams chasing Europe and teams battling the drop. This is certainly one of them as 8th placed Athletic Club host 19th placed Rayo Vallecano. It is though only Rayo who come into this Sunday’s game on the back of a victory and they will be out to cause a shock here as they look to mount a dramatic escape.
Paco Jemez is back in charge of the Vallecas club and he is the sort of character who could potentially inspire something like that to happen. Rayo had only taken 1 point from 9 games prior to last weekend’s surprise win over Valencia but they are now only 3 points off safety heading into this weekend, with a host of their relegation rivals still to play.
Athletic meanwhile suffered a setback in their seemingly relentless charge up the table last weekend. A 1-0 defeat at Getafe has perhaps ended talk that they could even have ended up sneaking that 4th spot, having looking in real danger earlier in the season. Europa League qualification does though look like a realistic target with the Basques impressing under Gaizka Garitano.
Overall, it’s hard to look past the home team here. Athletic are yet to lose at home in La Liga under Garitano and are unbeaten in 11 games in La Liga at San Mames overall. They’ve won 5 of their last 7 in front of their own fans and have played with a real belief since the change in coach.
Rayo meanwhile have lost all of their last 5 away games. No side has picked up fewer points on their travels this season in the Spanish top flight, so on the surface this is still a bit of a mismatch. Defensively Rayo aren’t really operating at the level required to compete in this division and Athletic look capable of making them pay here so backing a Home Win could be the way to go.
Real Sociedad vs Eibar
Estadio Municipal de Anoeta, San Sebastian
Sunday, 14-04-2019 @5:15pm
This is a weekend of derbies in La Liga. This may not be the biggest of them but it is a pretty significant game as two sides from the same part of the Basque Country go head to head this Sunday. Real Sociedad and Eibar are both looking comfortable in mid-table but it will take something special if either of them are going to make Europe now.
Sociedad have been struggling with some selection problems of late and the last thing they needed was star striker Willian Jose getting sent off in Vigo last weekend. His dismissal helped spark a comeback victory for Celta and La Real have now won just 1 of their last 7 games. They will be without Willian Jose here as a result which could mean a start for Sandro Ramirez up top. That’s not exactly good news for Sociedad fans given the striker hasn’t scored since the 2016/17 season for Malaga. He has now played for three different clubs without netting since.
Eibar meanwhile come into this following a 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid last time out at the Bernabeu. They are just one point shy of 40 though and with seven games to play, it has been another impressive season from the Basque minnows, who continue to punch well above their weight at this level.
There is plenty of reason to think they can get something from this game. Eibar do draw a lot of games but they have become really tough to beat. Indeed it’s just 4 losses in 17 league games for them now. 2 of those defeats came at Camp Nou and the Bernabeu with another away to in-form Athletic Bilbao. In games against teams on their level or below, they’ve very rarely slipped up which certainly suggests they could get something here.
The suspension of Willian Jose is a big blow for Sociedad and they still have quite a few other notable absentees. They are also a side with a pretty poor home record this term. They average just 1.33 points per game in front of their own fans with just a 33% home win percentage. Only six teams have picked up fewer home points.
Girona vs Villareal
Estadio Municipal de Montilivi, Girona
Sunday, 14-04-2019 @7:30pm
This is one of the biggest games this weekend in La Liga. Villarreal head into Sunday’s clash in 18th, four points below Girona. Victory for the Yellow Submarine would really suck the Catalans into the thick of the relegation scrap. However Girona would feel virtually safe if they manage to secure maximum points.
Villarreal opted to field a very strong team in the Europa League on Thursday despite survival being their main goal. The plan backfired as they lost 3-1 at home to Valencia to leave them with a mountain to climb at the Mestalla in four days time. They conceded twice in the 90th minute or later in that match having done likewise against Barcelona in La Liga a couple of weeks back. Conceding late goals is becoming a real problem for them and is a major reason why them remain in the drop-zone and not out of it.
Girona haven’t been much better in that regard though. A freak own goal from their keeper in the 89th minute saw them lose at home to Espanyol last weekend. Their next 3 games are all against relegation strugglers so they will have chances to move clear of danger but the Girona camp will certainly be getting a bit jittery now with only 7 games to play and work to do if they want to playing top flight football next term.
Their dreadful home record is the main reason why they are in trouble. Girona haven’t won at home in La Liga since way back in October. They’ve lost 6 of their last 7 at Montilivi in all competitions and playing at home has become a real problem for them. With just 2 wins from 21 home league games, it’s hard to see any reason to fancy Girona to win this one.
Villarreal have defensive problems but they are the better footballing team and they’ve started looking much more threatening going forward. They scored four unanswered goals either side of Half-Time against Barcelona recently and have scored in all of their last 9. They can take some confidence from having won 3 of their last 6 competitive away games and overall backing Villarreal Draw No Bet could be worth considering here.
Valencia vs Levante
Estádio Mestalla, Valencia
Sunday, 14-04-2019 @7:30pm
The final game on Sunday in La Liga is the Valencia derby at the Mestalla. It’s a fixture that invariably favours the home team with Valencia often struggling on trips across the city to play Levante. However at the Mestalla it is a very different matter and Levante have never ever won a derby clash away to their city rivals.
Their chances of them breaking that duck appear pretty slim here. Valencia suffered a setback in La Liga last weekend losing 2-0 at Rayo, but overall they are in exceptionally good form. They bounced back well on Thursday night winning 3-1 away to another of their local rivals Villarreal in the Europa League. They will probably be able to afford to make changes in the 2nd Leg of that tie now and that’s bad news for Levante you’d imagine.
The visitors have now gone 7 games without winning a league match. That sequence has seem them slide dangerously towards trouble. They head into the weekend with a 3 point advantage on the bottom three but that may be significantly less by the time this one kicks off depending on other results.
Overall, it’s hard to see any outcome other than a home win here. Valencia are one of the form teams in Spain with just 1 defeat in 19 matches in all competitions. They are starting to play much more like the side that eased into 4th place last term with the likes of Goncalo Guedes back to form and fitness and providing a much greater all-round threat.
Levante meanwhile have been struggling results for many months now. They were in the top six during the opening couple of months of the season but their flaws have been exposed since the turn of the year. They will carry some threat on the break so Valencia will have to be careful not to over commit, but the hosts should be the dominant force in this match.
Leganes vs Real Madrid
Estádio Municipal de Bartaque, Leganes
Monday, 15-04-2019 @10pm
Leganes and Real Madrid meet for the eighth time since the start of last season this Monday. Los Blancos make the short trip to Butarque with a victory in mind as they hope to edge out Atletico for 2nd place in La Liga. It won’t be easy though against a Lega side that is having an excellent season and is tough to beat at home.
Leganes will be hoping to upset their illustrious neighbours again here. They knocked them out of the Copa del Rey last term and won the 2nd Leg of this season’s cup meeting at Butarque. They’ve also beaten Barcelona at home this season and held Atletico, so they’ve got nothing to fear here, not least having taken 7 points from their last 3 league outings.
Real Madrid meanwhile you sense are just keen to get this season over with. They are all but guaranteed Champions League qualification now but aren’t going to catch Barcelona. If motivation was going to be a problem, Zinedine Zidane hasn’t really helped matters by saying that performances over the remaining games won’t necessarily have a bearing on the futures of players with a big summer overhaul perhaps in the pipeline.
The return of Zidane hasn’t really produced a significant increase in the level of performances and it’s hard to really fancy them to leave Butarque with all the points. Real Madrid’s last 3 games have seen them need late goals to beat Eibar and Huesca at home, either side of a defeat at Valencia. 6 points was probably more than their performances merited in those matches and they could be vulnerable again here.
Leganes have been exceptionally strong at home. They’ve suffered just 1 defeat in 13 home league games heading into this match. Only 3 teams can better their record of just 2 home league defeats overall this term. Their direct style has caused Real problems in the past and you have to wonder whether this laboured Real Madrid side is going to be up for the derby battle they are sure to get here.
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