Leganes vs Espanyol
Estadio Municipal de Bartaque, Leganes
Sunday, 22-12-2019 @2pm
Both Leganes and Espanyol are odds-on with the bookmakers to be relegated from La Liga this season, and it’s easy to see why based on what we’ve seen throughout the first half of the campaign.
The sides have identical records going into this Sunday’s crucial six-pointer at Butarque, with two wins, four draws and 11 defeats posted in 17 outings. Only goal difference separates the pair at the foot of the table, with Lega marginally better off by a four goal difference.
Nonetheless, the teams are fortunate to only be five points behind the safety line as we approach the halfway stage of the season. The likes of Mallorca and Eibar are within striking distance following woeful runs of form, and a win for either side here this weekend could see the gap dramatically reduced.
As such, a draw isn’t much use to either Lega or Espanyol this Sunday morning, which could lead to an exciting encounter, despite the obvious lack of quality possessed by the teams.
The records of these two sides may be identical, but it’s Leganes who are in better nick heading into this weekend’s clash.
Los Pepineros have picked up four points from their last two La Liga outings; beating Celta Vigo 3-2 at Butarque a fortnight ago, before securing a 1-1 draw away to Alaves last weekend.
Prior to those engagements, Javier Aguirre’s men lost by only a single goal margin to 3rd placed Sevilla (1-0) and champions Barcelona (1-2), whilst they have also won two of their last four league fixtures at home.
In comparison, Espanyol are without a win in seven La Liga matches, following two draws and five defeats since the end of October. Periquitos have lost their last three La Liga outings on the road by an aggregate score of 8-1, and that’s why they are rated outsiders at around the 3/1 mark for this Sunday’s trip to the capital.
Only goal difference separates these two sides, who are five points adrift of safety at the bottom of La Liga heading into this weekend’s game. Both teams have identical records this term; winning two, drawing four and losing 11 of their 17 league matches so far. Leganes have picked up seven of their ten points at home, whilst Espanyol have earned eight of their ten points on the road.
Osasuna vs Real Sociedad
Estadio El Sadar, Iraneu
Sunday, 22-12-2019 @4pm
Real Sociedad played out a highly credible 2-2 draw at home to champions Barcelona last weekend; however they are now down to 6th in the table after winning just one of their last five La Liga games. 10th placed Osasuna have also struggled for wins of late, beating only bottom side Espanyol in their last five La Liga outings. Nonetheless, the hosts will go into this game confident that they can achieve a positive result, after losing just one of their eight matches at El Sadar this season.
Last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Barcelona at Reale Arena proved what a talented outfit Real Sociedad are, but they need to build on that result now heading into Christmas and the New Year.
Txuri-urdinak have been extremely inconsistent over the past month or so in failing to beat the likes of Valladolid (0-0) and Leganes (1-1) – results which have ultimately seen them lose their grip on a top four place.
Imanol Alguacil’s charges are still only two points behind the Champions League spots despite winning just one of their last five league matches, but a lengthy unbeaten run is now called for if they are to get firmly back in the hunt.
Sociedad have lost five of their 17 matches this season and have been beaten three times from nine outings on the road, so their status as favourites for this Sunday’s game is questionable as there is no guarantee that they will replicate last weekend’s performance against the champions.
Furthermore, Sunday’s hosts Osasuna have been extremely solid at El Sadar since returning to the top flight, losing only to Athletic Bilbao (1-2) in eight matches so far (W3, D4, L1).
Los Rojillos have beaten Valencia (3-1), Villarreal (2-1) and Alaves (4-2) in Pamplona, whilst they have also earned decent draws against Barcelona (2-2) and Sevilla (1-1) last time out.
Like Sociedad, Osasuna have also won just one of their last five La Liga matches, and they go into this Matchday 18 clash after suffering their fourth defeat of the campaign away to Atletico Madrid (2-0) last weekend.
That result was no disgrace, however, as most La Liga sides come away from Wanda Metropolitano empty handed, and Osasuna’s confidence is unlikely to have been dented too badly.
Real Betis vs Atletico Madrid
Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville
Sunday, 22-12-2019 @6pm
Real Betis go into this Sunday’s game in great form after amassing ten points from their last four La Liga matches. Los Verdiblancos have also won three out of their last four games at Benito Villamarin.
Atletico Madrid beat Osasuna 2-0 at Wanda Metropolitano last weekend to end their run of three La Liga games without a win. However, Diego Simeone’s side have failed to win their last seven away fixtures in all competitions, including their last five in La Liga.
Last weekend’s 2-2 draw away to bottom side Espanyol was unquestionably a poor result for Real Betis, and boss Rubi will have been disappointed not to get one over on his former club, who had picked up just one home point from eight going into the contest.
Nonetheless, Betis have been in great form overall of late, winning three La Liga games on the bounce prior to their visit to RCDE Stadium and three from their last four at Benito Villamarin, including a thrilling 3-2 triumph over Athletic Bilbao a fortnight ago.
A much changed side recorded a facile 0-4 victory away to Antoniano in the Copa Del Rey on Wednesday, and there is a real feeling around the club now that good things can be achieved this term, following what was a dismal start to Rubi’s tenure.
One of the highlights of Betis’ mediocre 2018/19 campaign was their 1-0 home win against Atletico Madrid, and Los Verdiblancos will be optimistic that they can repeat the feat this Sunday based on their recent results, and Atleti’s lengthy winless run on the road.
Second half goals from Alvaro Morata and Saul Niguez sealed a much needed 2-0 win for Atletico Madrid at home to Osasuna on Matchday 17; the result lifting Los Rojiblancos back up to 5th in the standings.
But its Atleti’s away form that desperately needs addressing, with a run of five consecutive league draws on the road causing significant damage to their title credentials.
Simeone’s side drew too many games last term as they finished a distant second to Barcelona, and they are already seven points off the pace after failing to beat the likes of Valladolid (0-0), Alaves (1-1) and Villarreal (0-0) on their travels in recent weeks – teams all currently positioned in the bottom eight.
Nothing short of three points will do for Atleti this Sunday if they are to stay in touch, but their immediate goal will be to reclaim a top four spot going into the Christmas period. They are currently two points behind 3rd placed Sevilla and a point shy of 4th placed Getafe, so a win at Benito Villamarin could see Simeone’s side move northwards if either of those sides slip up on Matchday 18.
Levante vs Celta Vigo
Estadio Cuidad de Valencia, Valencia
Sunday, 22-12-2019 @8:30pm
Host’s Levante have won two of their last three matches at Ciutat de Valencia. Paco Lopez’ side are 11th in the standings heading into Matchday 18, nine points ahead of the visitors who are languishing in 18th. Celta Vigo have won just one of their last nine La Liga matches and just one of their nine games on the road this season.
Levante endured a miserable start to December with a 4-0 hammering at Getafe and a 2-4 derby defeat at home to Valencia, but they showed their resilience and battling qualities away to Granada last weekend.
With Granada averaging two points per game at home, Granotas’ trip to Los Carmenes looked tricky considering they had lost six from eight on the road this season, but they ground out an important 1-2 victory thanks to a late winner from Enis Bardhi.
The result solidified Levante’s mid-table position, and boss Paco Lopez will be content overall with how his side have performed in the first half of the campaign. They have an opportunity to move into the top half of the table over the Christmas period if they can beat Celta Vigo this Sunday, and they look overpriced to do just that based on last weekend’s performance, their 3-1 November home win against Barcelona, and the sizeable gap between the teams in the La Liga standings.
Celta are nine points behind Levante in 18th, and they missed a real chance to move out of the relegation zone when they entertained 17th placed Mallorca at Balaidos last weekend.
A win for Celestes would have seen them leapfrog the Balearic Islanders, who travelled to Galicia on the back of seven away defeats from seven this season.
But Celta could only manage a 2-2 draw despite twice taking the lead through Rafinha and Iago Aspas, and they remain in the drop zone going into the final round of fixtures before Christmas.
The bookies rate Oscar Garcia’s side at around 13/8 to make amends this Sunday – odds which make zero appeal considering Celta have won just one of their last nine La Liga matches.
And Celestes’ current plight is largely due to their abysmal away form, with just one win and five defeats posted from their nine outings on the road so far this term.
Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao
Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
Sunday, 22-12-2019 @11pm
Athletic Bilbao haven’t beaten Real Madrid away from home since 2005, drawing one and losing 14 of their last 15 trips to the Bernabeu. Los Leones have won just one of their last ten La Liga games on the road. Real have won six and drawn two of their eight home matches in La Liga this term, scoring 20 goals and conceding just six.
In contrast to last season, Real Madrid have been keeping pace with Barcelona from the off this term, and they secured arguably their most important result of the campaign in El Clasico on Wednesday.
Aside from Sergio Ramos’ tremendous goal-line clearance, Zinedine Zidane’s charges were relatively comfortable at Camp Nou, as the sides played out their first 0-0 stalemate since 2002.
The main aim for Los Blancos was to avoid defeat in Catalonia to stay level pegging with Barca at the top of the table, and they will now look to overhaul the champions as we move towards the second half of the season.
With Barca expected to beat Alaves at home this weekend, Real need maximum points against Athletic Club to stay on track going into the festive period, and they are long-odds on favourites to come out on top.
Los Blancos have won six and drawn two of their eight home La Liga matches this term, and they are unbeaten in their last 15 meetings against Bilbao at the Bernabeu, winning 14.
Athletic Bilbao have been excellent overall at San Mames this term with six wins, two draws and just one defeat posted from nine outings, but it’s been a different story altogether for them on the road.
Los Leones have really struggled on their travels, winning just one and losing three of their eight away games so far, including a 3-2 defeat at Real Betis a fortnight ago, where they fell 3-0 down inside the opening 30 minutes.
Gaizka Garitano’s side managed to bag a cosy 0-3 Copa Del Rey win away to lower league Intercity in midweek, but they simply can’t be fancied to get anything this Sunday based on their away results in the league and past visits to the Bernabeu.
Bilbao haven’t beaten Real Madrid in their own backyard since 2005, drawing one and losing 14 of the teams’ 15 meetings in the capital during that time. Los Leones look set to suffer the same fate this weekend, unless they can miraculously start mirroring their superb home performances on their travels.