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Barcelona derby highlights La Liga week 29

Girona vs Athletic Bilbao

Estadio Municipal de Montilivi, Girona

Friday, 29-03-2019 @11pm

La Liga returns this Friday with a clash between Girona and Athletic Bilbao at Montilivi. Both sides are in pretty good form heading into this one. Victory for the visitors would propel them into serious European contention. Girona meanwhile will be able to start planning for a third season in the top flight if they can claim all the points here.

They’ve picked up some key wins in recent weeks over struggling teams to ensure they’ve moved clear of the relegation scrap. They’ve already recorded victories at Rayo Vallecano and Leganes this month and it should be a fairly comfortable end to the season for Eusebio’s side. However the coach may feel under some pressure now with Pablo Machin having been let go by Sevilla. Many Girona fans would love to see him return in the summer and we have seen a host of coaches return to former jobs in Spain already this year.

Gaizka Garitano won’t be fretting over his future. He has done an excellent job since taking over in Bilbao in the autumn. Athletic had just one win to their name at that point and were looking in considerable relegation trouble. Garitano has now been in charge for exactly the same number of games as his predecessor Eduardo Berizzo but he has managed to collected 7 league victories to the Argentine’s 1 to fire Athletic up the table.

This game promises to be very even and the odds reflect that with the bookies struggling to decide on a favourite. It’s certainly hard to see Girona winning it when you consider their awful home record over the past year or so. They’ve won just 2 of their last 19 home league games which is a dreadful run for any side to have, although they have at least managed to get draws from 5 of the last 8. They’d be in a huge mess were it not for their impressive away form.

Athletic have also been drawing plenty this season. 46% of their league fixtures have ended level and only Valencia have a higher draw ratio. That has come down a bit since the change in coach but they do lack a bit of cutting edge at times and when Inaki Williams isn’t firing, they are a bit light up front with few back-up options of the desired quality.

Getafe vs Leganes

Coliseum Alfonso Perez, Getafe 

Saturday, 30-03-2019 @3pm

While the big Madrid derby may generate much more buzz, Getafe and Leganes have arguably a more bitter rivalry admittedly on a much smaller scale. Just three miles separates the two clubs on the southern fringes of Madrid and this will be only the fourth time the clubs have met in the top flight so it’s a big deal for both camps.

Leganes are yet to record a top flight victory over their rivals and they will be even bigger underdogs here than in any of the previous three clashes. Even so they are having a pretty good season overall and boast an 8 point cushion on the relegation zone heading into this weekend. For a team that was among the three pre-season favourites to go down, they’ve done very well.

Getafe are also outperforming even their most optimistic of pre-season expectations. They ground out a hard-fought 0-0 draw at the Mestalla before the international break to hold onto 4th place and maintain a decent cushion on their most likely rivals for it. Clearly local pride is a factor here but they will also be desperate for three points with Champions League qualification looking an increasing possibility.

Overall, all the value looks to lie with the home team here. Getafe have won 9 of their last 10 home matches in all competitions, an outstanding return that has helped propel them up La Liga. The only slip-up came against leaders Barcelona and they’ve been confidently dispatching mid-table and bottom half sides at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez.

Leganes meanwhile have also done well at home but they’ve been much less convincing travellers. They’ve lost 5 of their last 6 away in all competitions. They also have the joint worst away record in La Liga with just 0.64 points per game on the road this term and they won’t make the short trip full of confidence.

The sides player a similar style of football in that they are very direct for Spanish teams. However Getafe have much more variety to their game and they are not only solid defensively but starting to score a decent amount of goals. Indeed only 5 sides have scored more than them in La Liga this term while only 2 have conceded fewer.

Barcelona vs Espanyol

Estadio Camp Nou, Barcelona

Saturday, 30-03-2019 @6:15pm

It’s Barcelona derby day this Saturday at Camp Nou as one of the most uneven big city rivalries in European football plays out again. Espanyol have a dreadful record against Barca and they are aiming for a first league win over them in more than a decade here. Ernesto Valverde’s side though will be determined to put three more points on the board as they edge closer to another title.

The priority now for Barcelona will be to win that as quickly as possible or at least put themselves in a virtually unassailable position by the time their Champions League trip to Old Trafford comes around. They have 3 league games to play before them with tricky games away to Villarreal in midweek and at home to Atletico Madrid immediately following this. Valverde is likely to shuffle his pack across the period to ensure players are fresh for Manchester.

Espanyol meanwhile have 34 points and are on course for another unremarkable but safe bottom half league finish. They’ve only lost 1 of their last 7 in all competitions so they take reasonable form into this game. However that defeat did come in their most recent match, at home to Sevilla.

They were hammered 4-0 at home by Barcelona earlier in the season and this might not go a great deal better. Luis Suarez and Leo Messi both picked up minor knocks over the international break but are training again and are both expected to play. They were both outstanding last time out as Barca hammered Betis 4-1 away with the duo contributing all the goals. On that kind of form, they could really tear into this Espanyol side.

The visitors are also struggling with a few injuries and the absence of central midfielder Sergi Darder to suspension is also significant in a game like this. They may have recovered from their mid-season slump but they don’t inspire a lot of confidence and with a record of just 3 wins and 10 defeats from their last 17 in La Liga, it’s hard to see any reason why this match will go any better than any of their recent derbies at Camp Nou.

Celta Vigo vs Villareal

Abanca-Balaidos, Vigo

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

This is a massive game at the bottom end of La Liga. It features two sides who wouldn’t have expected a relegation battle this season but find themselves in one nonetheless. Celta Vigo are 18th and 4 points shy of Villarreal, the side directly above the drop-zone, heading into this Saturday’s showdown in Galicia.

Celta Vigo have a former Villarreal boss at the helm. Fran Escriba was appointed earlier in the month but is yet to collect a point from his two games in charge. As a result, Celta find themselves with just 1 win and only 5 points from their last 13 games in La Liga. No other side has such a poor record and it’s absolutely vital that they turn a corner here and at the very least get something from this match.

Ideally they really need to start picking up wins but it won’t be easy against a revitalised Villarreal. The Yellow Submarine have reeled off 4 straight wins in all competitions and their decision to re-appoint Javi Calleja now looks pretty inspired. They’ve used their excellent Europa League form as something of a platform and they picked up two vital wins over fellow bottom half sides before the international break seeing off Levante and Rayo.

That has given them a cushion on the drop-zone for the first time in months and they could take a huge leap towards safety by winning this match. Suddenly the pressure is off to some extent and that should help them. There is still plenty of quality in this Villarreal side and significantly summer signings Gerard Moreno and Karl Toko Ekambi have started firing in a few goals up front which has made a big difference.

Celta have been missing Iago Aspas badly but should have their talisman back here. Whether he is fit enough to play 90 minutes is more doubtful and Escriba may be cautious with that given Celta have another huge game in midweek away to bottom club Huesca. They have gone 4 games without scoring heading into this though and they can’t expect Aspas to single-handedly fire them to safety.

Deportivo Alaves vs Atletico Madrid

Estadio de Mendizorroza, Vitoria-Gastiez

Saturday, 30-03-2019 @10:45pm

Atletico Madrid are likely tobe 13 points behind Barcelona by the time this match kicks off. They travel to Camp Nou next weekend in La Liga and if they are to stand any chance of remaining in the title race, they have to make real ground over the next week with 3 matches in total. This Saturday’s trip to Alaves won’t be easy though with the Basques making a surprise push for Champions League qualification.

March has been a pretty desperate month for Atletico Madrid supporters. They’ve seen their team knocked out of the Champions League and fall all but out of the title race with a 2-0 defeat in Bilbao last time out. They’ve also had to deal with fresh transfer speculation over the future of Antoine Griezmann, while Lucas Hernandez’s summer move to Bayern was finally confirmed this week, ensuring they will be without at least one of their brightest young stars next season.

Alaves meanwhile are basking in the glory of one of their best ever top flight seasons. They are currently 5th heading into this weekend which marks the start of a busy period as La Liga nears its conclusion. They head into this match unbeaten in 6 games and at the very least will see Europa League qualification as a genuine possibility.

Overall, they look well capable of getting a result here. They’ve already beaten Real Madrid at home this season and they take confidence into this with 7 points from their last 3 league outings. At home, they are always tough to beat and they’ve only suffered one home league defeat all season, bizarrely against 2nd bottom Rayo Vallecano. They are clearly a team that relishes the underdog tag and given their excellent home record, Atletico look very short with the bookies for the win here.

The visitors are also missing Rodri to suspension. The holding midfielder has been one of the few bright lights this season for Atleti and will be a big miss here. Atleti’s away record has improved but a 36% away win ratio in La Liga this term is still poor for a side of their considerable talent. They average just 1.14 goals per game away which is putting a lot of strain on their defence.

Levante vs Eibar

Estadio Ciudad de Valencia, Valencia

Sunday, 31-03-2019 @1pm

Two sides who  haven’t been in totally convincing form meet this Sunday as Levante take on Eibar in Valencia. The hosts are in a little bit of peril now but three points would still ease them away from the thick of the relegation battle. Eibar are in the middle part of La Liga and look destined to finish there with a European push perhaps beyond them now.

Levante come into this game with just 1 point from their last 4 matches in La Liga. That came courtesy of a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad last time out. They have been quite inconsistent this season overall with just 2 goals in their last 4 matches having netted 4 in the game prior to that away to Celta Vigo. They have a 6 point cushion on the drop-zone but could use another couple of victories to ensure they get over the line and are in the top flight again next term.

Victory here and Eibar can be very confident that they will be in the Primera Division for the 6th straight season next term. That in itself is extraordinary. They have actually bettered their previous season’s finishing position in every year since 2012 when they were a Segunda B outfit and they will be targeting 8th or higher this term to keep that run going although it won’t be easy.

The bookies make Eibar the slight favourites. That’s a bit surprising given they’ve only won one away league game all season. That was back in October and since then they’ve drawn 56% of their road games in La Liga. 8 of their last 14 league games overall have also finished level and that has prevented them from really mounting a European push but has at least kept the points ticking over.

That is all Levante really need to do now to ensure they avoid the drop. They’d be content to average a point per game from here on in which would take them past the magic 40 figure which should certainly be enough to stay up. They’ve not been brilliant at home this term with only a 31% home win ratio and in some respects they are more suited to playing on the road when they can use their pace on the break.

Rayo Vallecano vs Real Betis

Stadio de Vallecas, Madrid

Sunday, 31-03-2019 @3pm

La Liga has given in to fan pressure and has decided to scrap Monday night games which has created a new time-slot on Sunday afternoons. This is the first match to take place in it and it sees Rayo Vallecano under new management take on Real Betis in Madrid. The hosts desperately need a win as they try to mount a dramatic late escape.

Rayo have lost all of their last 7 matches in La Liga. That led the club to reluctantly sack Michel, a legendary figure at the club but one whose position has looked under threat for much of the season. The worry may be that they’ve left it too late to make the switch with Rayo now 6 points from safety. The new man is former Rayo boss Paco Jemez. He was in charge of the club between 2012 and 2016 and did a great job of keeping them in the top flight for 3 seasons before they finally went down in the final year.

Real Betis have also been linked with making a coaching switch with Quique Setien not the most popular man with sections of the club’s fanbase. That’s a bit harsh given they achieved an impressive European qualification last term and are very much in the frame for a repeat this term despite the distractions of two decent cup runs. They can concentrate on La Liga having been knocked out of both cups and that may aid their chances of securing Europa League football again.

This promises to be a lively enough game and we should see plenty of goalmouth action. That has generally been the way of things for Rayo at home this term. 71% of their matches in Vallecas have produced over 2.5 goals while 79% have seen both teams score. The return of Paco Jemez, a very attack-minded coach is unlikely to change that and with draws not much use, we can expect Rayo to be positive over the remainder of the campaign.

Betis matches this season have been lower scoring than last but that has largely been the result of teams defending deep against them, something they’ve struggled to break down. Rayo are likely to come onto them and that could create an end-to-end game which makes a relatively high scoring match look a distinct possibility.

Sevilla vs Valencia

Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville

Sunday, 31-03-2019 @5:15pm

This Sunday’s clash in La Liga sees two clubs with Champions League ambitions meet as Sevilla take on Valencia at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. It’s a significant game in the race for 4th but both sides have ground to make up on Getafe, the current occupiers of that position. The Andalusians are currently 3 points ahead of Valencia so the visitors really need to get something from this fixture.

Valencia do at least have two potential paths into next season’s Champions League. They will be favourites to win their Europa League Quarter-Final against regional rivals Villarreal but there is some fierce competition that could lie ahead so the league may still be their easiest option. They suffered a blow last time out though as they were held to a 0-0 home draw by Getafe.

Sevilla meanwhile boosted their European hopes by winning 1-0 at Espanyol. They are back under the guidance of Joaquín Caparrós. He did a good job of guiding them to 7th in a caretaker capacity at the end of last term and has been given a similar task this time around following the sacking of Pablo Machin.

There looks to be value in backing Valencia to get something from this match. They are now unbeaten in 15 games overall, an excellent run particularly when you consider how many competitions they’ve had to juggle. The international break has at least allowed some of their players to rest up for the run-in although the likes of Dani Parejo and Rodrigo started for Spain at the Mestalla last weekend in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Sevilla have played even more matches than Valencia due to their early start in Europe. They really have started to look jaded and it was a bit of a surprise to see them win last time out, just days after a damaging Europa League exit that led to the dismissal of their coach. Caparrós is a safe pair of hands but there are weaknesses in this side and it’s hard to fancy them to get the win against an in-form Valencia outfit that has perhaps slightly more all-round quality.

Real Valladolid vs Real Sociedad

Estadio Municipal Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid

Sunday, 31-03-2019 @7:30pm

This Sunday’s clash sees Real Valladolid hoping to complete a league double over Real Sociedad. They picked up a vital three points last time out to boost their survival prospects and could really open up an advantage on the bottom three if they can win this one. La Real meanwhile are hovering in the middle of La Liga and would move closer to the European battle with a win.

The international break came at a pretty good time for them. Sociedad were suffering with some injuries to key men that left them short on options throughout the team. That contributed to a run of just 2 points from 4 league games that has seen them drift out of Champions League contention. They could do with three points here if they are to get their European push back on track.

Valladolid’s sole ambition this season was always going to be survival and they will be happy enough with their current position. They ended a 4 game losing streak last time out by winning 2-1 at Eibar to move them 4 points clear of the drop-zone. However they are still the team that the bottom three will all have their sights on and their battle for survival may well go to the wire.

The bookies make the home team the favourites here but there’s reason to doubt that. Valladolid are the lowest scorers in La Liga with only 0.82 goals per game. They’ve also been pretty poor at home all season, winning just 3 times and taking only 12 points, the joint worst tally in the division. Therefore they do little to justify their status as favourites here and they’ve only won 1 of their last 9 at home in La Liga.

That should offer the visitors plenty of hope and Real Sociedad have tended to be better away in any case. They average 1.36 points per game away this term compared to just 1.29 overall. They are also hoping to have Willian Jose back here which is also very significant. They’ve been playing with Sandro up top, but the former Everton man has failed to score a league goal since May 2017 which is a shocking record when you consider he has had 3 different clubs over that period.

Real Madrid vs Huesca

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

Sunday, 31-03-2019 @9:45pm

The late game this Sunday in La Liga comes from the Bernabeu where minnows Huesca make their first ever league visit with an improbable escape act looking increasingly unlikely. They’ll be huge underdogs against Real who will be out to make it two wins from two since the return of Zinedine Zidane.

They won their first match back under the Frenchman by beating Celta Vigo 2-0 at the Bernabeu last time out. Gareth Bale and Isco both started and both scored as Zinedine Zidane rang the changes from the desperate final weeks of the Santi Solari regime. Marcelo and Keylor Navas also returned as Zidane put his faith in the players that delivered so much success for him on the continent during his first stint.

Real Madrid were actually a little bit lucky to win 1-0 at Huesca earlier this term but this ought to be slightly more comfortable. Huesca had been making a decent fight of their survival battle but a 3-1 home defeat to Alaves last time out coupled with other results leaves them in a bit of a mess again. They are 7 points from safety heading into this match-day.

With key games against Celta Vigo and Levante to come this week, Huesca may be tempted to rest a few players here and save them for those much more winnable fixtures. They are likely to defend pretty deep and it’s hard to see them really causing many problems for Real Madrid.

Their average of 0.64 points per away game is the joint worst record in the division. Meanwhile for all their problems, Real Madrid have actually been pretty good defensively at home this season. They’ve a 64% home clean sheet ratio at the Bernabeu in La Liga and given that, backing Real Madrid to Win to Nil looks good here.

Zidane may use this period to assess his squad again and decide who he wants to take forward next term. While there is nothing really at stake for them in La Liga, motivation shouldn’t be lacking for any of the players. Even players who may in all likelihood be heading for a summer exit, will be hoping to attract new employers by playing well.

They shouldn’t really have any trouble winning this match.

BET ON ALL THESE GAMES AND MANY MORE @Bunga Bet

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