With the last international break of the season wrapped up, Europe’s most reputable leagues make a comeback this weekend with Espanyol vs Real Betis getting us underway on Friday and Real Madrid will be looking to extend their current 2 point lead at the top of the table.
Espanyol vs Real Betis
In the curtain raiser to the weekend of Spanish football, Quique Sánchez Flores’ men host Real Betis in a match that both sides head into in similar form.
Espanyol have only suffered defeat 3 times at home in the league this season and that has served them well again recently with their only 2 home games in their last six fixtures securing 6/8 points that the club have won in that time.
On the other hand, Real Betis have collected 7 points from their last six games but that doesn’t tell the whole story. As well as wins against Osasuna and Malaga, Real Betis have given a decent account of themselves against Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and Sevilla, losing to each of them by the single goal margin.
In this mid-table clash, you’d have to think that either Gerard Moreno or Rubén Castro will be amongst the goals with the strikers being involved in 35% and 39% of their team’s goals respectively.
Villarreal vs Eibar
The Yellow Submarine have had a strong season thus far and currently sit in 5th place with 48 points. However, Eibar, who are having a tremendous season under José Luis Mendilibar on 41 points have only suffered defeat to Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla in their last 10 league games. Villarreal will be well aware of the threat that Pedro León (8 goals and 5 assists) and Sergi Enrich (10 goals and 5 assists) especially, can cause but will hope Sergio Asenjo who has been one of La Liga’s best goalkeepers this season, keeping the joint-most clean sheets (11) will be equal to them.
Osasuna vs Athletic Bilbao
For a while it has looked a formality, with just 1 win all season and having shipped 67 goals, Osasuna are rock bottom of La Liga with just 11 points and are heading for relegation. Their opponents, however, are looking to finish in a European place and an expected win amid talk of Ernesto Valverde being the man to replace Luis Enrique at the Nou Camp despite Barcelona denying the rumours would put Bilbao a point behind their Basque rivals Real Sociedad, temporarily.
Real Sociedad vs Leganes
It seems La Royal have totally vanquished their David Moyes demons as they sit pretty in 6th place, level on points with Villarreal on 48 points. A mix of the goalkeeping heroics from Gerónimo Rulli, the recapturing of form from Asier Illarramendi (rewarded with a call up to Lopetegui’s Spanish squad) and the end product from Carlos Vela and William José, Real Sociedad could finish the weekend 4 points off the top four if results go their way.
Eusebio’s side won’t have it their own way though with Leganes picking up a modest 8 points from their last 6 games, including a 2-1 scare at the Nou Camp, the new boys are on a mission to escape an end of season relegation battle.
Malaga vs Atlético Madrid
Atlético haven’t quite hit the dizzy heights of the last couple of seasons and don’t look capable of winning La Liga this season but Champions League qualification is well within their own hands and Simeone’s side are still in this season’s competition having been drawn against the Premier League Champions Leicester City in their quarter-final tie.
Week 28 in La Liga could be a bleak one for struggling Malaga who have been decimated by injuries and have won just once in their last 15 and now face the man of the moment, a red hot Antoine Griezmann (linked heavily with José Mourinho’s Manchester United) who has found the net 5 times in his last four league games as well as scoring for his country in their World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg on Saturday.
Sevilla vs Sporting Gijon
It has been a fantastic season for another man, and many people’s favourite for the Barcelona position but Jorge Sampaoli’s season has broken down somewhat in the last few weeks. Despite sitting 3rd and being on course to match their best league finish since the 2008/09 season, there have been signs that Sevilla are running out of steam. There will also be no European success for the 4th consecutive year as goals from Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton condemned the Spanish side to a shock defeat.
For Sporting Gijon, time is running out in their battle for survival and even an unlikely win would keep them in the relegation zone but 9 goals from on-loan striker Duje Cop gives them a glimmer of hope.
Real Madrid vs Alaves
Another side impressing this season are Alaves in 10th place well away from danger and in good form. However, Real Madrid are boosted by the returning Luka Modric and Gareth Bale as well as Cristiano Ronaldo in goalscoring form as he became the joint second highest all-time goalscorer in Europe in a 2-3 defeat to Sweden on the weekend.
Valencia vs Deportivo
The last few seasons have been horribly uncertain for Valencia fans but they can now breath a sigh of relief as barring a real shock, the club will be staying up.
A breathtaking start in their last match secured a 2-1 win over Real Madrid but this summer’s recruitment will be key for Valencia this season and the addition of a central, natural striker who can comfortably reach double figures will make all the difference.
For Deportivo La Coruña, a change was required after an embarrassing 4-0 thumping by Leganes which made it four defeats on the bounce and 2 points above the relegation zone. On the 28th February, former West Bromwich Albion manager Pepe Mel was handed the reins and the improvement has been stark.
5 games prior to Pepe Mel taking charge –
Las Palmas 1-1 Deportivo
Eibar 3-1 Deportivo
Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Deportivo
Deportivo 0-1 Alaves
Leganes 4-0 Deportivo
5 games since Pep Mel took charge –
Deportivo 1-1 Atlético Madrid
Sporting Gijon 0-1 Deportivo
Deportivo 1-1 Real Betis
Deportivo 2-1 Barcelona
Deportivo 1-2 Celta Vigo
Granada vs Barcelona
It now looks a safe bet to suggest that Granada will also be relegated this season as they find themselves the second lowest goal-scorers behind Leganes and 7 points adrift of safety.
A whole string of loan signings such as Andreas Pereira, Rúben Vezo, Adrián Ramos, Sergi Samper, Ezequiel Ponce and Guillermo Ochoa amongst others looked promising but haven’t been able to come up with enough as of yet.
Barcelona need the win to put pressure on Real Madrid and will need to do it without the suspended Lionel Messi who is the league’s top scorer with 25 goals but have looked far from convincing since their 6-1 miracle against Paris Saint-Germain.
Celta Vigo vs Las Palmas
The final game of week 28 sees Celta Vigo take on Las Palmas and an away win would see the teams swap positions in the table.
Both sides have a mixed record in their last six with Celta Vigo picking up 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats and Las Palmas managing 2 wins, 3 defeats and the incredible 3-3 draw against Real Madrid on March 1st.
The danger man is, without doubt, Iago Aspas who has been revitalised from his days at Liverpool with 15 league goals and 21 in all competitions for Celta this season. The Spaniard also netted twice in the previous encounter between the two sides.