Barcelona’s tough run starts now
Eight games and 24 points remain as La Liga reaches its big climax and the next two matches could have a huge say in where the title ends up – Barcelona or Madrid.
La Liga leaders have similarly tough matches remaining this season, with both having to host high-flying Valencia and visit Champions League chasing Sevilla.
Barcelona also have to visit champions Atletico Madrid in their penultimate match of the season.
If the Catalans remain top after the next two league matches, however, they will be big favourites to become champions.
Luis Enrique’s men visit Seville this weekend before hosting Valencia.
In contrast, Madrid face two home matches against struggling Eibar and mid-table Malaga.
The Camp Nou club still have a four-point cushion heading into Saturday night’s match but they face a Sevilla side who have not lost in their last 23 home matches in the league.
Unai Emery’s men are also just a point away from the top-four and will be looking for maximum points against Barca.
Sevilla are 19/5 for the win but a draw, at longer odds of 7/2 may be more tempting given the current form of both teams.
Barcelona are looking for their tenth win on the spin and have lost just once in 20 matches in all competitions.
Both teams to find the back of the net looks a good shout at 9/20 given the attacking qualities both possess.
Luis Enrique will need 33-goal man Lionel Messi at his devastating best this weekend and the Argentine bagged a hat-trick in his side’s comprehensive 5-1 victory over the Andalusians back in November.
He also scored the opener in the 4-0 win over Almeria in midweek and is 16/5 to do the same on Saturday.
Former Liverpool man Luis Suarez scored a brace in midweek to take his league tally to ten goals this season and he is 4/1 to score first or 10/11 to score anytime.
Sevilla top-scorer Carlos Bacca started on the bench in his side’s 2-1 win at Levante on Tuesday but the Colombian is expected to start and give the Barca defence a big headache at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
He has 17 league goals this season and is 19/10 to add his 18th.
Real Madrid look to be rampant against Eibar
Second-placed Real Madrid will be without a number of key players for Saturday afternoon’s match against Eibar at the Santiago Bernabeu but that should not stop Carlo Ancelotti’s men winning comfortably against the Basque minnows.
Eibar have been Spanish football’s latest success story – the Bernabeu could hold the small town’s population more than three times over – but there will be no sentiment from Madrid as they look to kick-on from their stunning 9-1 demolition of Granada last time out.
A home win, at 1/12, is all-but a given, even with Madrid missing James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos through suspension. Madrid to win with a handicap of one goal offers improved odds of 1/4.
Former Spurs man Gareth Bale could join the pair on the sidelines with an injury but Cristiano Ronaldo’s midweek booking against Rayo has been rescinded and he will be eligible to play.
Ronaldo scored five last time out on home soil and he is a good bet to score first this weekend at 11/5.
That quintet of goals came as his side hit nine and given Eibar’s struggles since the turn of the year odds of 19/5 for six goals or more to be scored at the Bernabeu look attractive.
The Basque club did at least end their long winless run last time out as they beat Malaga 1-0 but Madrid are big favourites for all three points and to keep the title race alive.
The rest of Spanish football
Atetico Madrid have not thrown in the towel on retaining their title just yet but Diego Simeone knows nothing less than three points will do for his side at Malaga on Saturday.
Given the Costa del Sol club’s 1-0 loss at Eibar last time out, and the fact Atleti have hit good form again with three wins on the spin, the capital club look good odds at 1/1 to make it a fourth on the spin at La Rosaleda.
Atleti are set to be without injured 12-goal man Mario Mandzukic again but Antoine Griezmann has scored in his last two matches and has 16 for the season.
The former Real Sociedad man is 9/2 to score first against Malaga.
Simeone’s side have won their last three matches by the same 2-0 scoreline and are 33/5 for another at La Rosaleda.
They have also kept a clean sheet in their last five matches in all competitions and are 23/20 to thwart Javi Gracia’s side this weekend.
Celta Vigo host Rayo Vallecano in a mid-table match and the visitors’ odds of 18/5 for the win look enticing given their form and Celta’s run of one win in their last five matches.
The Galicians were unfortunate not to get anything from the match against Barcelona last time out at Balaidos but Rayo have been in good form, having won four of their five matches before their midweek defeat against Real Madrid, a match which they were on top for 60 minutes.
Alberto Bueno had a rare off day in front of goal against Ancelotti’s men in midweek but he remains the top Spanish scorer in the division and is 15/2 to score first in Vigo.
There’s a real relegation six-pointer at the bottom of La Liga as Almeria host Granada on Saturday night.
Out of the two, the Andalusians are the form side thanks to picking up five points from their last five matches, while Almeria have failed to win in their last eight matches.
Almeria fell to a 4-0 loss to Barcelona in midweek but they could be handed a boost with Sergi Barjuan taking over from Juan Ignacio Martinez as coach.
That coaching change could give the hosts the boost they need and they are 7/5 to claim all three points.
Villarreal’s form has dropped off alarmingly in recent weeks, with just one win in their last eight matches in all competitions.
The Yellow Submarines will hope to resurface when they visit mid-table Getafe on Sunday lunchtime.
Marcelino’s men risk dropping out of the European places unless their form picks up and the Villarreal coach will demand a big improvement from his side following their 3-0 home loss against Espanyol in midweek.
In contrast, Getafe have won back-to-back matches and will fancy getting a share of the spoils at 95/40.
Espanyol will be looking for some revenge for their Copa del Rey semi-final exit when they welcome Athletic Bilbao to the Estadi Cornella-El Prat on Sunday.
Athletic progressed to a final date with Barcelona after seeing off this weekend’s opponents at the semi-final stage but Sergio’s side are 29/20 to build on their impressive 3-0 victory over Villarreal and secure all three points this time out.
Felipe Caicedo scored twice in that 3-0 win to take his tally to eight for the season and the former Manchester City man is 11/2 to score first on Sunday.
Deportivo La Coruna are hovering precariously above the relegation zone but the Galicians will hope the appointment of former player Víctor Sánchez del Amo as boss will help steer the to safety.
Victor was unveiled on Thursday and he will take his side to San Sebastian to face David Moyes and his Real Sociedad side on Sunday.
The Basque club fell to a 2-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid in midweek but former Manchester United and Everton boss Moyes has turned around the fortunes of the Anoeta club since his arrival.
La Real are strong on home soil, having seen off all of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, and are 5/6 to claim all three points this weekend and pile the pressure on Depor.
Cordoba look all-but doomed to Segunda Division football thanks to a run of picking up just two points from a possible 36 and that should give Elche a good chance to give their own survival hopes a big boost this weekend.
Elche sit three points above the drop and will be going all out for three points against the basement side. They are 9/4 to claim a first win in five matches.
Striker Jonathas has not scored in six games but he has at least given his side hope with nine goals this season.
Sunday may be his chance to rise back to the fore and he is 6/1 to open the scoring with what would be a crucial goal in his side’s battle for safety.
A Valencian derby wraps things up on Monday night at the Mestalla as Valencia host Levante.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have been one of the successes of the season but they have dropped points in recent matches to let Sevilla back into the battle for the Champions League places.
Los Che have been formidable on home soil, however, and should be able to see off their city rivals at 7/20, despite Levante securing the bragging rights with a victory the last time the sides met.
Paco Alcacer is a good bet to score first at 3/1 after he netted in midweek. Levante are not as freescoring and for Valencia to keep a clean sheet you can get odds of 3/4.