Barcelona out to overcome Espanyol in Catalan derby
Barcelona will look to move a step closer to winning La Liga and in-turn take the Catalan bragging rights when they make the short trip to the Power8 Stadium to face city rivals Espanyol on Saturday afternoon.
The match against Sergio’s side is one of Barca’s trickiest remaining fixtures in their quest for the title, with a trip to Atletico Madrid on the penultimate day of the season the other, but their current form and past meetings with their neighbours make Luis Enrique’s men big favourites for the win at 1/4.
Barca sit top of La Liga thanks to eight wins in their last nine matches and they have won all six of their previous Catalan derby matches, conceding only one goal along the way.
They have not lost a derby match since 2009, a 2-1 defeat on home soil, a run of eleven matches without defeat.
The odds are against Espanola but not only will they hope Barcelona’s midweek Champions League exploits ensure tired legs amongst Luis Enrique’s men, but they will look to build on good home form that has seen them keep clean sheets in five of their last seven home matches.
For an outside bet, odds of 24/5 are worth looking at for Espanyol to cause a shock and in-turn give Real Madrid a boost in the race for the title.
That defensive solidarity is countered by Barca’s brilliant attacking play, which has seen them score more than two goals in seven of their last eight matches.
Lionel Messi, who scored a hat-trick in his side’s 5-1 victory over Espanyol in the reverse fixture, has 35 league goals this season and is 13/5 to score first.
Neymar will be keen to add to the two goals he netted against Paris St. Germain in midweek. The Brazilian is 4/1 to open the scoring.
Former Liverpool man Luis Suarez has also found his feet at the Camp Nou with eight goals in his last ten appearances. The Uruguayan is 7/2 to break the deadlock.
Real Madrid face tricky Celta challenge
Second-placed Real Madrid will get the chance to reply to Barcelona’s derby performance when they face Celta Vigo in Galicia on Sunday night.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have the favourites tag at 4/7 for the win but Balaidos has been a tricky place to visit for La Liga’s best teams this season.
Celta beat reigning champions Atletico Madrid, held fourth-placed Valencia and pushed Barcelona all the way.
Madrid cannot afford any slip-ups in the title race but the Vigo club will be out to dent their visitors’ title hopes and odds of 39/10 look attractive for an outside bet.
The European champions exerted plenty of energy in their midweek victory over Atletico Madrid and will be without star names such as former Tottenham Hotspur man Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.
Manchester United loan man Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez saved the day against Atleti with his late winner to send Madrid through to the semi-finals and the ‘Little Pea’ is 4/1 to score first in Galicia.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s scoring rate this season is such that he is 1/2 to score anytime and add to the 39 league goals he already has this season.
If Celta are to enjoy a memorable day at the office they will need front man and former Barcelona player Nolito in top form.
The 28-year-old bagged the winner for his side at Eibar last weekend and he is 15/2 to open the scoring with his tenth league strike of the campaign.
The rest of La Liga
Athletic Bilbao make the long trip to Cordoba on Friday night looking for three points that will give their chances of qualifying for the Europa League a big boost.
Ernesto Valverde’s men can reach Europe in seventh place if Sevilla retain their title or if Barcelona beat them in the Copa del Rey final.
They sit three points behind Malaga going into the weekend but should have few problems in seeing off a Cordoba side bound for the Segunda Division.
Athletic are 19/20 for the win and that should be as comfortable bet as you will get all weekend in Spain given the Andalusians have not won in 14 matches are and eight points adrift of safety.
The Basques should also be strong enough to win by a margin of more than two goals.
They saw off Getafe 4-0 last time in La Liga and are 31/4 to win by more than two against the league’s worst team on form.
Striker Aritz Aduriz scored twice in that comfortable win last time out and he is a good bet at 4/1 to open the scoring in Cordoba.
Atletico Madrid must turn their attentions to La Liga after being knocked out of the Champions League by rivals Real Madrid in midweek.
They welcome Elche to the Vicente Calderon and they could take their frustrations out of the relegation-threatened side.
Elche have given their survival hopes a big boost with back-to-back wins but Diego Simeone’s men should be too strong for them as they look to secure third place in La Liga.
Atleti are 2/11 for the three points but better odds are offered for Simeone’s side to have the lead at both half-time and full-time (8/15).
They have been able to achieve that feat in seven of their last eight matches at the Calderon.
Star man Antoine Griezmann had an off day in midweek but at 13/5 for first goal scored the Frenchman is a good bet to add to the 20 league goals he has already this season with the opener.
Levante continue their battle for survival when they visit the Spanish capital to face mid-table Getafe on Saturday night.
The Valencia club are desperate for points to move them away from the relegation trapdoor but their form away from home has not helped their efforts.
Lucas Alcaraz’s men have lost seven of their last eight Liga matches on their travels and they have also failed to score in five of their last seven.
Getafe may have numerous injury and suspension concerns but they should edge the encounter at 23/20.
Do not expect a thriller and odds of 23/5 for a close-fought 1-0 victory for the hosts looks appealing.
Real Sociedad and Villarreal have both shown good form in patches and across prolonged spells this season but they meet at Anoeta on Saturday night looking to end their respective winless runs.
David Moyes’ La Real have not won in four and are destined for a mid-table finish, while Villarreal’s superb season has come off the rails in recent weeks with no win in eight matches.
A draw looks the best bet at 9/4 given the form of both sides, especially with Villarreal drawing their last four away matches. Both are capable of finding the back of the net, making a 1-1 stalemate attractive at 22/5.
Malaga will look to keep their European aspirations on track by ending a five-game winless run and securing three points against struggling Depurative La Coruna at La Rosaleda on Sunday.
Javi Gracia’s men have not won in five league matches but they welcome a Depor side who have not won in ten and who will be without suspended pair Sidnei and Toche.
The Galicians will scrap for every ball as they look to haul themselves out of the bottom three but the Costa del Sol club should be able to keep their hopes of securing seventh place in tact with three points this weekend. They are 8/11 to bag three points.
Juanmi and Nordin Amrabat, both at 9/2, are Malaga’s likely goalscorers.
There is a real relegation ‘six-pointer’ at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterraneos on Sunday when Almeria welcome Eibar.
Both sides are struggling for crucial points to help them preserve their top-flight status but home advantage should be kind to Almeria, who saw off Granada 3-0 in another crunch battle at the bottom last time out on home soil.
The hosts are 23/20 to claim a crucial three points and pull the Basque outfit further into trouble.
Eibar are also struggling for goals, having failed to score on five of their last sic trips away, and an Almeria clean sheet looks good odds at 7/5.
An entertaining clash awaits at the Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday when Europa League semi-finalists Sevilla host Rayo Vallecano.
Both teams are two of the most entertaining to watch in Spanish football and while attacking coach Paco Jemez seems to be playing out his final matches as coach of the Madrid club, Sevilla will also be buoyed by their midweek European success against Zenit.
The Andalusians may have some tired legs from that gruelling encounter and long trip but their home base has been a fortress, having gone unbeaten for 24 matches.
That has resulted in odds of 4/11 for Unai Emery’s men to continue that run with three more points.
Expect goals, and that leaves odds of 85/40 for both halves to produce more than 1.5 attractive.
Colombian Carlos Bacca celebrated his 100th Sevilla appearance with a crucial goal in Russia on Thursday night and he is 3/1 to open the scoring on Sunday.
Valencia and Granada wrap things up at the Mestalla on Monday night and Nuno Espirito Santo’s men will look to hit back from their defeat at Barcelona last weekend and move a step closer to securing their return to the Champions League with victory.
Los Che are 3/10 for the victory and to pile more woe on relegation threatened Granada, who have lost nine of their last ten away matches in La Liga.
The Andalusians have also conceded at least two goals in their last ten matches on their travels while Valencia have kept clean sheets in their previous five matches at the Mestalla, making it a huge challenge for Granada.
Valencia are 8/11 to keep a probable clean sheet and a winning margin of more than two goals looks attractive at 21/10.
Paco Alsace is set to lead the line and is joint top-scorer for Valencia with eight league goals to his name. He is a good bet to open the scoring at 16/5.