Espanyol v Mallorca
Vicente Moreno will face up against his former team at the RCDE Stadium and will be hoping to make it four games unbeaten in La Liga on home turf in the process, as Mallorca arrive in Barcelona to face Espanyol.
Espanyol will be without young attacker Javi Puado just as he has found his finest form of the campaign, but in Raúl de Tomás they have a very capable striker. The Spanish international remains LaLiga’s joint-third highest scorer this season with 13 goals, despite his longest league goal drought since July 2020, consisting of four games without a goal.
The former Real Madrid youngster will fancy his chance up against a Mallorca side who have lost their last five consecutive away fixtures and will be without one of their star defenders this season, Pablo Maffeo. It comes at a time in which Mallorca have conceded more goals than anyone else in LaLiga over the last six games, with 14 goals scored against the side from the Balearic Islands.
Only Alavés, Levante and Rayo Vallecano have lost more away fixtures than Mallorca this season, but a 10th defeat in Catalonia could see Mallorca draw level with them. It would be no surprise to see Espanyol come out on top, adding to their impressive home record.
Cádiz vs Villarreal
Following the high of a 3-0 thrashing of Juventus in Turin, Villarreal return to LaLiga action with a trip to the south coast to face an improving Cádiz team who will not be easy to beat.
New coach Sergio González has shored up Cádiz’s leaky defence, with three clean sheets in their last five outings. They deserved at least a point from their most recent game, a 2-1 defeat to Atlético Madrid, and remain unbeaten at home under Sergio’s command.
Villarreal come into this one on a high and will also be boosted by the return of Gerard Moreno to action in the league after the forward has been out for several months. Whether he is fully fit or not could prove crucial in deciding this result, given that Arnaut Danjuma’s goalscoring heroics have dried up somewhat with no goal in his last three in LaLiga.
Only 21% of Cádiz fixtures in LaLiga at the Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla this season have ended with over 2.5 goals, and that looks unlikely to increase this time around. Villarreal have averaged only one goal per game away this season and failed to score last time they played away in LaLiga against Osasuna.
Celta Vigo v Real Betis
Real Betis suffered late heartbreak in Germany on Thursday night as they crashed out of the Europa League to Eintracht Frankfurt thanks to a winner in injury time of extra-time. Now, a trip to Galicia will put their abilities to the test.
Celta’s defence will be losing and gaining, with one of LaLiga’s best full-backs, Javi Galán, suspended, but they do recover Hugo Mallo on the right. Iago Aspas will continue to lead the line in attack and will hope to replicate his performance earlier this season at the Estadio Benito Villamarín where he scored twice. At 5.6 for first goalscorer, former Liverpool man Aspas is good value.
Betis will be without playmaker Nabil Fekir due to suspension following his red card against Athletic Club, but have plenty of attacking talent in the team. Promising young talent Rodri could start on the right flank should Cristian Tello fail a fitness test. With 49 goals scored, compared to 41.58 xG, no other side in LaLiga has outperformed their xG by the same number of goals.
Over half of Celta Vigo’s home fixtures this season have seen both teams score, while Betis rank 5th for matches with both teams scoring when away from home. Celta’s defensive strength earlier on in the campaign has vanished, and the most recent fixture saw seven goals between the Galicians and relegation-fighting Mallorca.
Sevilla v Real Sociedad
Sevilla are in arguably the worst form of their season to date following Europa League elimination to West Ham on Thursday, but in LaLiga they remain without defeat since November when they travelled to face leaders Real Madrid.
Injuries will again deprive Julen Lopetegui of regular starters Papu Gómez and Diego Carlos, among others, while Joan Jordán will serve a suspension, but Marcos Acuña is expected to return at left-back. In attack, Youssef En-Nesyri, Tecatito and Lucas Ocampos form an impressive frontline, even if they have been lacking their usual confidence of late.
Real Sociedad are also reeling but due to every different reasons as captain Mikel Oyarzabal tore his anterior cruciate ligament in training in midweek. As the team’s top scorer by a five-goal margin, that’s a huge blow for a team who have struggled for goals of late. Their away form is respectable, but only one of their five away wins has come in 2022.
A safe bet this weekend would be to go for Sevilla to win, draw no bet. The Andalusian side are yet to taste defeat and have averaged 2.6 points per game at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán this season in the league. Lopetegui’s team are not at their best, but have been grinding out results, and Real Sociedad are unlikely to pose too much of a challenge on home turf.
Real Madrid v Barcelona
There can be no doubt that this tie is the headline fixture of the weekend, yet it’s an unusually difficult one to predict ahead of this meeting. In what will be Xavi’s first league Clásico and his first in Spain. The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu will host a fixture which has much more riding on it for Barcelona than it does for Real Madrid.
The home team boast a 10-point lead at the top of LaLiga, while Barcelona could drop out of the top four with defeat and face second-placed Sevilla at Camp Nou after the international break. Both come into this tie in strong form, with Real Madrid unbeaten in the league since 2nd January, while Barcelona’s run goes even further back to 4th December. In fact, neither team has dropped a single point in LaLiga for over a month heading into this meeting.
The most important piece of team news is that Karim Benzema is a major doubt for Real Madrid. That could see Luka Jović, Mariano Díaz or even Gareth Bale come into the side in the number nine role. Most reliable sources say that Ancelotti will opt for Benzema and gamble on his fitness, but such rolls of the dice on the Frenchman’s fitness have failed to get the desired result at other times this season. In defence, Ferland Mendy will be replaced by Nacho due to injury.
Barcelona’s injury worries are less prominent in their expected line-up, given that Sergiño Dest’s absence is the only news and he was unlikely to start. Gerard Piqué could make a welcome return in the heart of defence.
The best bet for this tie is to follow the example of January’s 3-2 Supercopa meeting, where Real Madrid emerged victorious in extra-time following a goalfest. Both teams are expected to make changes in defence and will face this knowing that between both teams they have kept just one clean sheet against another top four side between them all season, for Real Madrid in their 2-0 win over Atlético in December. Averaging a goal every 92 minutes in a Barcelona shirt, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be good value as an anytime goalscorer at 2.6.
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