Barca face one of their biggest hurdles to win the title
Barcelona face one of their toughest obstacles between now and the end of the season when Champions League-chasing Valencia visit the Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon.
Luis Enrique’s side sit at La Liga’s summit with a two-point advantage over second-placed Real Madrid and seven games to go. As well as chasing a return to the Champions League, Valencia will also have a big say in the title race thanks to having to face both of the top two away from home.
First up is a trip to Catalonia and Madrid will hope Los Che can take crucial points from Barca this weekend. Even a draw would give Carlo Ancelotti’s side the advantage owing to their superior head-to-head record this season. For Los Che, it is a chance to leapfrog third-placed Atletico Madrid and extend their advantage over fifth-placed Sevilla.
Valencia took a 3-2 win away from the Camp Nou last season and are unbeaten in their last ten Liga matches. While Barcelona are 2/9 to bag three crucial points, something they could not do last weekend against Sevilla, the 27/5 for a draw or even the 10/1 for a win looks more attractive, especially given Barca’s midweek efforts in the Champions League.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have kept a clean sheet in five of their last seven Liga matches and for them to steal a 1-0 win you can get tempting odds of 30/1. Paco Alcacer’s opener in the 3-0 derby win over Levante on Monday took him joint top-scorer at the club with eight to his name so far this season. He is 10/1 to score first, while Manchester City loan man Alvaro Negredo is at 12/1.
Barcelona are not expected to rest star trio Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar despite the heavy load of fixtures. The former Liverpool forward shone in the midweek win at Paris St Germain with a sublime brace and he is 4/5 to score anytime while Messi is 4/9 to close the gap on La Liga’s leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.
Madrid out to remain hot on Barca’s heels
Real Madrid welcome Malaga to the Santiago Bernabeu just hours after Barcelona’s clash against Valencia and they can afford no slip-ups in the race for the title.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men closed the gap on the leaders to two points last weekend and will look to keep the pressure on the Catalans with another three points against the Costa del Sol club.
Madrid are understandably short odds at 1/6 for the win. Slightly shorter odds are available for the hosts to be winning at half-time and full-time, as they have been in
nine of their last ten home games in La Liga, at 2/5.
Malaga have failed to score in their last three away matches and that makes odds of 5/6 for one of the teams to not find the back of the net attractive.
Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the match through injury and that should give Javier Hernandez another chance in attack. The Mexican complained about a lack of match action but now the Manchester United loan man is set to play back-to-back matches. He scored in the 3-0 win against Eibar last weekend and is 7/2 to do so again on Saturday.
Ronaldo will not want to miss out on the goal trail and he is 5/2 to score first and take his tally for the season to 39 in La Liga. Former Tottenham Hotspur man Gareth Bale is 9/2 to open up the scoring.
The rest of La Liga
Levante and Espanyol kick things off in Valencia on Friday night and the hosts will be desperate for three points to ease their relegation fears.
Mid-table Espanyol go into the game on the back of a five-match unbeaten run but Levante have been relatively strong on home soil this season – home performances have kept them above the relegation zone.
At 2/1, a draw looks a good bet and a low-scoring one given Levante’s lacklustre attack and Espanyol’s impressive record of keeping five clean sheets in their last seven league matches. A 1-1 draw at 21/5 looks a good shout.
Atletico Madrid may have one eye on next Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid but Diego Simeone’s side should still have plenty to see off a Depor side who have not won in their last nine league matches.
Atleti are 4/5 to return from Galicia with three points that would keep them third in La Liga and odds of 28/5 for a 2-0 away win look appetising given the capital club’s defensive record this season coupled with the fact they have kept a clean sheet in six of their last seven matches against Depor.
Mario Mandzukic is a doubt but top-scorer Antoine Griezmann should start and he is 4/1 to score first. Fernando Torres could be handed a run out and the former Chelsea and Liverpool man is 5/1 to open the scoring and bounce back from the own goal he scored last weekend.
Getafe make the trip to Athletic Bilbao with two wins and a draw from their last three matches but Ernesto Valverde’s men, who are without a win in their last three outings, should still have enough to see the rejuvenated capital club off.
The Basque outfit are 5/8 for the win but a close-fought win is likely given Athletic have scored more than one goal in their last nine home matches just twice. A 1-0 win is 4/1.
Aritz Aduriz has 12 Liga goals to his name so far this season and he is the man most likely to get that winner for his side at 4/1.
Almeria will be desperate for points at Rayo Vallecano on Sunday lunchtime as they look to climb away from the bottom three.
Sergi Barjuan’s men won their last match in comfortable fashion with a 3-0 win against Granada but although Rayo were thumped 6-1 at Celta Vigo last weekend, Paco Jemez’s side have been in good form.
Jemez is expected to leave Vallecas at the end of the campaign and he will not want to do so with his men coasting through until the end of the campaign. Rayo should bounce back this weekend and are 3/4 to claim all three points. The Madrid club are also 6/4 to be winning at half-time and full-time.
Alberto Bueno has 16 goals to his name this season and is a good bet to bag his 17th at 6/4.
There is an Andalusian derby on Sunday afternoon when struggling Granada play host to high-flying Sevilla at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes.
Unai Emery’s side may have been put through their paces by Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday night but Sevilla should still have enough to see off a Granada side who look destined for the drop and have not won in five matches.
Sevilla are 5/6 to claim all three points that will keep them in the race for the Champions League spots but the longer odds are with the correct score. Emery’s men have scored twice in each of their last six matches and a comfortable enough 2-0 win in Granada brings odds of 27/4.
Colombian Carlos Bacca scored in the 2-1 Europa League success against Zenit and has 17 to his name in La Liga. He is 4/1 to open the scoring with his 18th goal of the campaign.
Villarreal’s form has taken an alarming dip recently with no win from their last five matches but the visit of rock-bottom Cordoba brings the ideal chance to end their winless run.
Cordoba are nine points adrift of safety and look destined for Segunda Division football next term. The Andalusians have taken just two points from a possible 39 and their last win came back in mid-January.
Villarreal are a side packed full of opportunity and they should be able to take full-advantage of their visitors’ demise. Marcelino’s men are 3/10 for the win but the more attractive odds come with a high-scoring victory. A convincing 3-0 win bring 6/1 while a 4-0 win has odds of 11/1.
Ikechukwu Uche scored his sixth goal of the season to help Villarreal to a point at Getafe last time out and he is 16/5 to score first this weekend.
Celta Vigo will be buoyed by their big 6-1 home win against Rayo Vallecano last time out ahead of their trip to Eibar on Sunday night.
The Galicians are safe in mid-table but their hosts are just three points above the drop zone owing to picking up just one win from their last 13 matches. That home win came on their last outing on home soil against Malaga and the same 1-0 shoreline brings 29/4.
Celta should have too much for their Basque hosts, however, and are 11/10 to claim all three points.
Santi Mina scored a stunning four of his side’s six goals against Rayo in Vigo last time out and he is 11/5 to score at anytime in Eibar.
Elche and Real Sociedad wrap things up on Monday night at the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero and the form of both sides suggests a draw looks the most likely outcome at 43/20.
Former Manchester United and Everton boss David Moyes has enjoyed a decent first season in Spain with La Real and his men are 9/5 to collect all three points. Despite a pick-up in recent months, the Basque club have not been great on their travels, however, and that could allow Elche to take a point from the contest.