Barcelona experienced a fierce threat from Valencia, but managed to win 2-0 and make sure they stayed in top spot over Real Madrid who saw off Malaga. The victory means Barca maintain their two-point lead over Real after Week 32 while Valencia’s first defeat in eleven matches gives Sevilla a boost in the race for Champions League places. Where Los Che fell back, Atletico Madrid strengthened their grip on third place by opening a four-point lead on Valencia. Atleti of course have the Champions League to worry about next. Their fixtures up to the end of the league season are fairly straightforward other than the clash against Barcelona in the penultimate gameweek, by which time third place could already be assured.
Friday 24 April
Athletic Bilbao 1/1
Bottom of the log Cordoba earned a valuable point away to Villarreal in a goalless draw last weekend. They moved to twenty points for the season but are eight points from safety with six games remaining and are without a win in the second half of the season. They will face an in-form Athletic Bilbao side that have propelled themselves to eighth spot after five wins from their last eight games. Aritz Aduriz struck a brace as Bilbao returned to winning ways last weekend with a resounding 4-0 victory over Getafe. Cordoba might be on a long winless run but they have shown some promise by drawing two of their last three games, while Bilbao have lost their last two travels to Sevilla and Espanyol. Cordoba managed a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture and are tipped to end their bad form with a win here.
Saturday 25 April
Saturday sees the Catalan derby between Espanyol and Barcelona. This match means more to Espanyol than Barca as the league leaders see Real Madrid as their main rivals. Espanyol come into this match in some decent form having not been beaten in their last six matches. Lionel Messi scored his 400th goal for Barcelona in last weekend’s 2-0 win over Valencia as his side maintained their two-point lead over Real Madrid. Luis Suarez continued on his excellent goalscoring exploits by getting Barca’s opener. Espanyol have not beaten Barcelona in six years and the Catalan giants have managed six wins in the last seven derbies. The reverse fixture ended 5-1 and I see Espanyol falling short on all fronts once more.
Atletico Madrid 1/5
Atletico got their winning run back on track by beating Deportivo 2-1 away from home. Malaga had halted Atleti’s three game win streak by holding them to a 2-2 draw the weekend prior but a brace from the ever impressive Antoine Griezmann ensured that the champions strengthened their hold on third spot. Atletico opened a four-point lead over Valencia after the latter lost 2-0 at Barcelona. Elche took a big step in cementing their place in the top flight next season by beating Real Sociedad 1-0 on Monday night and move six points clear of the relegation zone. Atletico have won 2-0 in the last three meetings between these sides since Elche’s promotion last season. The home win is priced up too short so I suggest backing Atletico to be the Only Team To Score at 11/20 as Elche have scored just 27 goals in 32 matches this season.
Getafe are coming off a 4-0 humiliation from Athletic Bilbao. However, they look to have cemented their top flight status for another season as they lie eight points away from relegation with just six games left. Levante twice came from a goal down to hold Espanyol to a 2-2 draw last Friday. The draw sees them move two places above the relegation zone, but just a point away. The last two meetings between these sides have ended in draws. However, Levante’s sixty goals conceded is the worst in the league so I’m backing Over 2.5 goals here which is available at a tasty 29/20.
Real Sociedad 2/1
Real Sociedad once again failed to deliver on the road as they slumped to a 1-0 loss at Elche on Monday night. David Moyes’ team will return to their home stadium hoping to replicate the form that saw them beat both Madrid giants and Barcelona at the Anoeta. They will fancy their chances here as Villarreal have struggled on the road winning just four times, drawing nine and losing on three occasions. Villarreal are also winless in their last six games, losing four times. The Yellow Submarines were unable to beat bottom of the log Cordoba at home last weekend, drawing 0-0. The home win is tipped at a valuable 2/1.
Sunday 26 April
Malaga will welcome this match hopeful of three points against relegation contenders Deportivo. The Albicelestes (White and Sky Blue) are without a win in their last five games having suffered three losses. Deportivo are winless in their last ten games, losing six times. Malaga’s last two home games against Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid may not have gone as planned but they did earn two points against good sides. Malaga won the reverse tie 1-0 and also beat the promoted team 4-1 at home in the Copa del Rey. They occupy seventh spot and are expected to clean up here against a Deportivo side who sit ten places lower and have won just twice on the road all season, losing eight of their fifteen travels.
Almeria and Eibar will go to battle in a match that could be seen as a six-pointer as both sides find themselves threatened by relegation. Eibar are slightly better off as they lie three points above Almeria and the relegation zone. Both sides are coming off disappointing losses with Almeria losing 2-0 at Rayo Vallecano while Eibar were unable to claim points at home to Celta Vigo, losing 1-0. Eibar won the reverse fixture 5-2 but their away record doesn’t give much confidence. The minnows have failed to win one of their last seven travels, losing five times and scoring a measly two goals. Almeria won their last home game 3-0 against Granada and are tipped for a similar performance.
Rayo Vallecano 6/1
Sevilla will look to keep intact their impressive record as the only team unbeaten at home this season when they host mid-table Rayo Vallecano. Sevilla could only manage a point away to Granada last weekend but will look to get back to winning form after also drawing with Barcelona the weekend prior. Vallecano scored goals in either half to beat Almeria 2-0 at home. Sevilla have dominated head-to-heads with Vallecano, beating them in the last four meetings despite collecting four red cards in three of those matchups. Vallecano were beaten 6-1 by Celta Vigo in their last travel. Sevilla should claim their eleventh home win of the season.
Celta Vigo 4/1
Real Madrid 11/20
Title-chasing Real Madrid travel to Celta Vigo on Sunday in a fixture that they lost 2-0 last season. Celta Vigo are coming off two good wins, beating Rayo Vallecano 6-1 at home and collecting a 1-0 away win over Eibar. Gareth Bale and Luka Modric picked up injuries and Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty in Real Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Malaga last Saturday. Ronaldo did make amends by scoring in the 90th minute with Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez claiming a goal apiece. Initial reports suggest that Bale has a possible calf muscle tear and will be out for up to three weeks, while Modric faces five to six weeks on the sidelines with strained ligaments in his right knee. Madrid might struggle to cope with Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League in midweek but they should do enough to claim the win here. They won the reverse fixture 3-0 back in December.
Monday 27 April
Valencia will be looking to get back to winning ways after losing 2-0 at Camp Nou to Barcelona. They have been superb at home winning thirteen of their sixteen matches, losing just once and will host nineteenth-place Granada. Their last home match ended in a 3-0 win over local rivals Levante. Granada have been dreadful on the road, winning just one away match from sixteen and losing eleven times. They have conceded 46 goals which is the worst defensive record on the road in La Liga. These sides have met seven times with Valencia never losing to their smaller opponents, winning six encounters. The home win looks a banker bet.