The Spanish La Liga started off badly for me with Getafe beating Espanyol on Friday night instead of drawing and Barcelona shockingly losing to Malaga. However, the rest went as planned and eight out of ten wasn’t so bad at all. It was a weekend filled with drama, late goals and the biggest of all, Barcelona slumping to defeat at Camp Nou to Malaga. The standings at the top of the table remains unchanged but Real Madrid were the big winners in Week 24 as they moved four points clear of Barca, while Atletico’s win means they now lie just three points off the Catalans. There are some exciting fixtures lined up this weekend with the log leaders facing sixth-place Villarreal and Atletico travelling to fifth-place Sevilla, meanwhile Barca have an easier fixture at Granada.
Mid-table Espanyol will play host to bottom of the log Cordoba in gameweek 25’s opening fixture on Friday night. Espanyol went down 2-1 away to Getafe last Friday after winning 2-0 at Malaga the week prior. Cordoba lost their fifth consecutive match by letting in a late goal at home to Valencia. The reverse fixture was drawn 0-0 but Espanyol should dominate with home advantage. They have accumulated six home wins this season while Cordoba have been dreadful on the road. The home win is tipped.
Barcelona will look to get back to winning ways this weekend as they travel to nineteenth-place Granada, who have arguably looked the weakest team this season. Granada were beaten 2-1 away by fellow relegation candidates Levante on Monday night despite holding the lead from the thirteenth minute right up until the final two minutes of normal time. They have scraped up just fifteen goals in 24 matches this season and will be hosting a side that have banged in more than four times that with 67. Lionel Messi was largely anonymous in Barca’s 1-0 home defeat to Malaga. The Catalans failed to break down a Malaga side who went into full defence mode after Dani Alves nonchalantly side-footed a volley back-pass in the seventh minute that didn’t reach Claudio Bravo. Barca have won six of the seven previous meetings between the sides but interestingly lost this fixture 1-0 last season. However, Barca annihilated them in the reverse fixture this season and it looks almost impossible that the giants will drop more points after what happened last weekend. With Granada’s bad goal scoring record this season and Barca having the best defensive record in the league, I’m backing Barcelona to be the Only Team To Score at 7/10.
Rayo Vallecano 13/20
Rayo Vallecano fell to a 1-0 loss away to Athletic Bilbao last weekend but will be confident against eighteenth-placed Levante at home, where they managed a 2-0 victory over Villarreal last time out. Levante scored two late goals on Monday night to seal a 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Granada in a heated encounter that saw three players sent-off and the hosts claiming 88th and 94th minute goals to earn the victory. Levante have been poor on the road, losing seven of their twelve travels and managing just one win. Vallecano won the first round meeting between the sides 2-0 and with home advantage they should pull the double over the visitors.
Almeria and Deportivo will clash in a fixture in which it looks hard to separate either side. Almeria lie a place and a point below Deportivo with both sides scoring and conceding a similar amount of goals. Both sides are coming off losses where they did not score – Almeria losing 3-0 away to Atletico Madrid and Deportivo suffering a 2-0 home defeat to Malaga. Almeria are favourites with home advantage and the fact that they won the reverse fixture 1-0. However, Deportivo have played well in their last two travels, losing just 2-0 at the Bernabeu to Real Madrid and beating Rayo Vallecano 2-1. The draw looks the way to go.
Malaga are coming off a phenomenal 1-0 win at Camp Nou over Barcelona. Having drawn 0-0 in the first league meeting with Barcelona last September, Malaga became the first team since Getafe in 2007/08 to keep Barca scoreless over two games. Malaga will face a Getafe side who have battled on the road this season. Getafe moved into fourteenth place after beating Espanyol 2-1 at home last Friday, but will need to carry that performance to the road where they have lost seven times this season, winning and drawing just twice. Malaga are unbeaten at home against Getafe since 2006. Since then the teams have played eight matches at La Rosaleda Stadium and Malaga have won six times. Malaga should back up their win at Barca with another victory.
Real Sociedad 42/10
Valencia tightened their grip on fourth place by beating Cordoba 2-1 thanks to a late winner. It was a hard-fought but deserved victory for Valencia, who have now won back-to-back away games for the first time this season, and picked up a third straight win. Real Sociedad are also coming off a last gasp victory, beating high-flying Sevilla in a seven-goal thriller. David Moyes’ side have now beaten the top three in Spain at home and fifth-placed Sevilla also left empty-handed, losing 4-3. Valencia have been phenomenal at home, winning ten of their twelve games while Sociedad are the only team in the league without an away win. The reverse fixture was drawn but Valencia should make the most of home advantage once again.
Athletic Bilbao 27/20
Eibar’s nightmare continues as they suffered their fifth consecutive defeat, losing 1-0 at Villarreal. Their opponents this weekend have had a bad season thus far, failing to show any signs that they finished amongst the Champions League positions last season. These sides have drawn all three previous meetings and with Eibar’s bad form that result looks likely. However, backing Under 2.5 Goals at 5/10 looks safer as both sides have struggled to score goals on a regular basis this season.
Atletico Madrid 27/20
Sevilla’s Champions League ambitions took a blow as their 4-3 loss away to Real Sociedad means they now lie five points adrift of fourth spot. Spanish champions Atletico Madrid kept their slim title hopes alive by moving just three points off second-place Barcelona, but still lie seven points away from leaders Real Madrid. Antoine Griezmann struck twice after fellow summer signing Mario Mandzukic converted an early penalty to secure a comfortable win at the Vicente Calderon. Atletico showed the intensity that was missing in their defeat two weekends back by Celta Vigo. Diego Simeone’s squad will be stretched once more as they have to contend with a tough Champions League tie against Bayer Leverkusen in Germany midweek. Sevilla are unbeaten at home this season, winning nine of twelve games while Atletico have been inconsistent on the road winning only six of their eleven travels and losing four. The draw is tipped.
Real Madrid 2/9
Carlo Ancelotti celebrated his 100th game in charge of Real Madrid by moving four points clear at La Liga's summit courtesy of a 2-0 win at Elche. Barcelona's surprise loss at the hands of Malaga on Saturday gave Real the chance to extend their advantage the next day and they overcame a wasteful first half to seal maximum points. They face a potential banana skin this weekend in the form of sixth-place Villarreal. The Yellow Submarines were 1-0 winners at home to Elche on Sunday and will be searching for their first win at the Santiago Bernabeu. Los Blancos have never lost at home to Villarreal, winning eleven times and drawing thrice. Real won the reverse fixture 2-0 and are firm favourites for a victory at home. They have not conceded a goal in their last four matches in all competitions and their defence will be tested against a Villarreal side who have scored in twenty of their 24 matches this season. Both Teams To Score is tipped at 17/20.
Celta Vigo 5/10
Celta Vigo and Elche complete this week’s fixtures on Monday night. Celta Vigo are one of the league’s in-form teams. They claimed a 2-0 derby win over Deportivo at the weekend to extend their unbeaten run to four games in which they have won three times. Elche did well to lose only 2-0 to leaders Real Madrid last weekend. They have not been convincing on the road and having lost the reverse fixture 1-0 at home, they look big outsiders here. The home win should be backed.