Real Sociedad vs Levante
Estadio Anoeta, San Sebastian
Friday, 15-03-2019 @11pm
The Friday night game this week in La Liga comes from San Sebastian where Real Sociedad play host to Levante. The Basque side had been mounting a real charge up the table following a managerial switch. However their progress has come to a halt over the past fortnight with a couple of damaging defeats.
Sociedad were beaten 5-2 at Sevilla last time out in the biggest blow to their hopes of European qualification this term. They have a significant advantage on some of their rivals in that they have no cup distractions but with La Real now 10 points off 4th placed Getafe it is pivotal that they bounce back with a win here having also lost their most recent home game against Atletico Madrid.
Levante are only 5 points behind Sociedad but they will be much more concerned with maintaining a cushion on the drop-zone. They will probably sense that 3 more wins will keep them up but they head into this game following 3 straight defeats. Their only points in their last 5 games came via a 4-1 success at Celta Vigo and they do seem to be a side that can pull a performance out the bag which makes predicting their results a tricky business.
Overall though with 6 defeats from their last 7 away games, it’s difficult to place much confidence in Levante here. They suffered a really damaging late 2-0 home defeat against neighbours and fellow strugglers Villarreal last time out and that will send them into this match on a negative note and there may now be a few relegation jitters for pretty much the first time this season.
Sociedad’s recent poor results can partly explained by the quality of the opposition and also a few injury problems. They’ve been without the likes of Willian Jose and Illarramendi but they do still have enough quality on paper to win this game. Adnan Januzaj is having his best season since his initial breakthrough at Manchester United while Mikel Oyarzabal has also emerged as one of the brightest prospects in Spanish football. They’ve won 3 of their 5 home league games since the change in coach.
Huesca vs Deportivo Alavés
Estadio El Alcoraz, Huesca
Saturday, 16-03-2019 @3pm
Huesca are hoping to take another step in the direction of a miraculous escape when they host Alaves this Saturday in La Liga. The Aragonese minnows have defied the odds to creep back towards the sides above them and they will end their long stay in bottom spot if they avoid defeat here,although it’s a game they really need to win.
Alaves will have a similar thought. They are in the midst of an unlikely European push and victory here would guarantee they end the weekend in 5th place, above the likes of Sevilla, Betis and Valencia. They did though lose ground on their main rivals last weekend after they were held to a home draw by Basque rivals Alaves.
Huesca suffered a defeat last time out as they surrendered a 2-1 lead to lose away to Getafe, the side who Alaves are currently hoping to catch. Huesca’s overall results are much improved though and they currently lie in the top half of the form table for the last 8 games. They’ve taken 2 more points than Alaves over the course of that period.
The bookies make Huesca the slight favourites here and that’s probably about right but it’s hard to really strongly fancy either side to take maximum points from this one. Alaves have had a wonderful season but they have tailed off a bit and have only won 2 of their last 10 on the road which isn’t great for a side that is pushing for a top four finish. They have at least rediscovered an ability to be tough to beat with no defeats in their last 5 matches overall.
3 of those games finished level though and a repeat looks likely here. Huesca were fortunate to beat Sevilla in their most recent home game with their 98th minute winner coming against the run of play. They’d only won twice all season at the Estadio El Alcoraz prior to that.
Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo
Estadio Santiago Bernabue, Madrid
Saturday, 16-03-2019 @6:15pm
All eyes will be on Zinedine Zidane this Saturday as the Real Madrid legend makes an unlikely return to the Bernabeu hotseat. His return should lift some of the gloom hanging over the club after a desperate fortnight and it’s most likely bad news for struggling Celta Vigo who are battling just to stay in La Liga.
It was no great surprise that Real Madrid were keen to appoint Zidane. They never really wanted him to leave in the first place after he delivered three straight Champions League crowns. While the team has certainly declined since his departure, Zidane returns in a stronger position with a host of key concessions almost certainly granted to him by Florentino Perez in order to entice him back. This summer could be a very interesting one in the Spanish capital and we are likely to get a few clues from Zidane’s team selection here as to which players may have no future at the club.
Celta Vigo really need a change of fortune with key man Iago Aspas suffering from injuries that have kept him out for most of 2019. Having to face Real Madrid on the occasion of Zidane’s return was not the break they were looking for. They already head into this match in the relegation zone after they lost at home to Betis last weekend in their first game since appointing Fran Escriba as their new boss.
It seems quite likely we will see some kind of reaction here from Los Blancos, who did also awake from their slumber to score 4 in a win at Valladolid last weekend in Santi Solari’s final match. Zidane’s return appears to be good news for the likes of Isco and Marco Asensio and both players will be hungry to make the most of a chance to revive their Real Madrid careers. With Vinicius and Gareth Bale carrying injuries, they could both start here.
Up against a Celta Vigo side that has the league’s 3rd worst defensive record with 1.67 goals per game conceded, Real Madrid could take full advantage and claim a convincing win on Zidane’s return. They’ve had a week off to prepare for this so should be fresher from a physical perspective too.
Athletic Bilbao vs Atletico Madrid
Estadio San Mames Barria, Bilbao
Saturday, 16-03-2019 @8:30pm
It has been a really tough week for Atletico Madrid after familiar foe Cristiano Ronaldo sent them packing from the Champions League on Tuesday night in Turin. They return to action in La Liga here away to Athletic Club and could really do with a win as they bid to hang on to slim title hopes heading into the business end of the season.
Atletico Madrid have had some wonderful European nights over the past few years, not least the 1st Leg of their Champions League last 16 clash with Juventus, which they deservedly won 2-0. However their attempts to park the bus in Northern Italy this week backfired spectacularly and Diego Simeone has been on the end of some rare criticism. All they really have left to play for now is La Liga but even if they win all their remaining games, it may not be enough to catch leaders Barcelona.
As for Athletic Bilbao, they find themselves in mid-table. Another couple of wins will ensure they avoid a first ever relegation, which did look a real possibility at one point this term. However any European ambitions have been put on hold for now after they lost to Valencia and were then held at home by Espanyol last time out.
This game doesn’t have the makings of a classic by any means. A lack of Basque strikers has left Athletic in a tough position both in the transfer market and on the pitch. They’ve been using Inaki Williams as a number 9 for most of the season but he is a more natural winger and it’s no great surprise that Athletic have La Liga’s second worst goal-scoring record with an average of just 0.96 goals per game.
Atletico Madrid may have conceded 3 in midweek but that was largely down to the exceptional qualities of Ronaldo and Athletic have nothing like the same firepower as the Italian champions. Atleti have the best defensive record in La Liga again and 85% of their away games this season have produced under 2.5 goals. 71% of Athletic Bilbao’s home games have done likewise and with a tight game likely.
Leganes vs Girona
Estadio Municipal de Butarque, Leganes
Saturday, 16-03-2019 @10:45pm
The final game this Saturday in La Liga comes from Butarque. It’s not exactly a glamour fixture between Leganes and Girona, two small clubs who have done well to establish themselves in the top flight. Barring any late season collapse, both will be in La Liga again next term and the hosts could even move into the top half with victory here.
Leganes were beaten 1-0 in a dreadful game against Atletico Madrid last time out. They have though been continuing to churn out the results at home. You have to go back to mid September for the last time they suffered defeat at Butarque in any competition. Their direct and at times physical style, isn’t particularly pleasing on the eye but it has been very effective at home and few visitors to the South Madrid club have had an effective answer.
Girona will be the latest to try here. They also rely on the physical presence of Cristhian Stuani to get a foothold in games but they tend to move the ball wide and attack the byline rather than punt long balls forward.
Stuani has had another exceptional season and he comes into this match with 16 league goals. Only Leo Messi and Luis Suarez have managed more in the Spanish top flight this season and he’s in good form heading into this one, with 4 in his last 4 games. Given that, backing Stuani to score anytime could be worth a punt in this one.
There also looks to be value in backing the visitors to get a result. Leganes may be strong at home but they have drawn as many games as they’ve won in La Liga at Butarque this season. 5 of their last 6 home wins have been by 1-0 margins so they’ve been edging games rather than dominating them and this has the makings of a close match.
Girona are a team that seems to relish playing away. They’ve taken 1.46 points per game on their travels this season, a record only the ‘big three’ can better. 61% of their points and 71% of their wins this term in La Liga have come away.
Eibar vs Real Valladolid
Estadio Municipal de Ipurua, Eibar
Sunday, 17-03-2019 @2pm
This Sunday’s early game in La Liga comes from Ipurua where Eibar take on struggling Real Valladolid. The Basque side are the favourites to claim a victory which would lift them onto the brink of the European battle. The visitors meanwhile are merely desperate to stop the rot as they try to keep themselves out of the relegation zone.
They were very impressive for half an hour last week as they had Real Madrid on the ropes. Were it not for disallowed goals, Valladolid could easily have been 3-0 up on the defending European champions. However only one counted and Los Blancos came back to win 4-1 and inflict on Valladolid a 4th straight defeat. They did also face Barcelona over that period but these are worrying times now for the club and they head into this weekend just one point above the relegation zone.
Eibar meanwhile come into this game following a 1-1 draw at Alaves last time out. They have been drawing plenty this season with 11 so far in La Liga. Only Athletic and Valencia have drawn more but they are well on track in terms of their overall goal of staying in the top flight, something which always has to be their main objective given the size of the club relative to even the other smaller sides in this league.
They look well capable of chalking up another win and a few goals here. Worryingly for Valladolid, who had been relatively solid at the back for much of this season, they’ve started leaking a few goals of late. They’ve conceded 9 in their last 3 matches alone and confidence in their camp will be low heading into this crunch clash.
Eibar meanwhile score plenty at home. They average 1.79 goals per home game in front of their own fans in La Liga this term which is a very good record. They’ve scored 3 or more on 4 separate occasions and have enough attacking quality to cause problems for struggling opposition.
Espanyol vs Sevilla
RCDE Stadium, Barcelona
Sunday, 17-03-2019 @6:15pm
*Details to follow shortly
Valencia vs Getafe
Estadio Mestalla, Valencia
Sunday, 17-03-2019 @08:30pm
*Details to follow shortly
Villareal vs Rayo Vallecano
Estadio de la Ceramica, Villareal
Sunday, 17-03-2019 @8:30pm
*Details to follow shortly
Real Betis vs Barcelona
Estadio Benito Villamarín, Seville
Sunday, 17-03-2019 @10:45pm
This Sunday’s clash in La Liga is a repeat of perhaps the game of the season so far, a 4-3 Real Betis win at Camp Nou earlier this term. The Seville club were brilliant that day but haven’t really kicked on and find themselves battling to make Europe as they gear up for a rematch with Barcelona this weekend.
The Catalan giants are well placed to end this season with a host of trophies and the treble is still on after they beat Lyon 5-1 in the Champions League in midweek with Leo Messi absolutely instrumental again. Barca are 7 points clear of Atletico Madrid in the title race heading into this weekend and they have come through a number of tough tests in recent weeks.
Despite their success, many Barcelona fans are still not happy with Ernesto Valverde and are quite keen for Betis boss Quique Setien to replace him given his style is much more from the Cruyff or Guardiola playbook. The irony is that many Betis fans would happily send him on his way and there were audible chants for Setien to go during their most recent home match, a defeat to Getafe.
With an international fortnight, consisting purely of friendlies for his South American contingent following this, Ernesto Valverde has no major reason to rest players. They are currently operating on another level to the rest of Spain and Barca should have enough to clinch all the points here. They’ve won their last 5 in all competitions and that has included two trips to Real Madrid, one to Sevilla and a Champions League knockout game. A return of 16 goals scored over that period is outstanding and the return to form of Philippe Coutinho in midweek was also a major boost for them.
Betis right now aren’t playing as well as they were earlier in the campaign. They’ve lost 3 of their last 5 matches in a run which has seen them exit two cup competitions and lose to Getafe in a key league game between fellow European hopefuls. They executed the perfect counter-attacking gameplan in Barcelona but they will have to come out a bit more here with home advantage and we may see the Catalans take advantage of that.
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