LaLiga Matchday 24: Atletico Look to Close Gap on Barca as European Fatigue Kicks in7 min read
After consecutive league draws for Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona side, Atletico Madrid might just fancy themselves to make the title race a little more interesting if they can keep up their consistent, no-frills form. Diego Simeone’s men have quietly been closing the gap with unspectacular score lines, and when they welcome Athletic this weekend they will be confident of blunting what has been a relatively dull forward line this campaign. Barcelona head to Ipurua to face Eibar, which is one of the biggest banana skins left for them to avoid in LaLiga.
Real Madrid will be looking for revenge after dropping points against Real Betis at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu earlier in the season, but Quique Setien’s side are full of youthful enthusiasm and goals. Zinedine Zidane has a Champions League second leg versus Paris Saint-Germain to worry about, as well as a midweek league game against Leganes, which could see some rotation.
Valencia, meanwhile, stopped the rot last weekend in their local derby versus Levante, with some poor refereeing decisions helping to earn Los Che their first victory after a run of six consecutive defeats. A Champions League finish is still the aim for Marcelino’s men, and they head to La Rosaleda to face a Malaga side that already appear to be dead and buried at the foot of the table.
Eibar vs Barcelona
Ipurua has been something of a fortress for Eibar this season, with Los Armeros one of the more in-form teams in the division since the turn of the year. Their Europa League push is very much realistic, with Barcelona having a real contest on their hands this weekend. The hosts are unbeaten in 11 of their last 12 league games, but Barcelona do boast a good record against the Basque club. After consecutive LaLiga draws, however, Ernesto Valverde’s side are faltering slightly.
Eibar have beaten the likes of Sevilla and Girona by 5-1 and 4-1 scorelines in recent months on their own patch, with the hosts having plenty of firepower and quality from the wide areas. Barca have the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in excellent form, but they might be caught short at the back on occasion given Mendilibar’s tendency to press high and get in opponents’ faces.
Over 3.5 Goals @
#PriceItUp – 90 Mins:
Atletico Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao
Diego Simeone still boasts an unbeaten record at the Wanda Metropolitano in LaLiga, with Athletic not looking likely to pose an immediate threat to such an impressive run. Both of these teams had Europa League matches on Thursday evening, which could lead to rotation, with Los Colchoneros definitely having the squad depth to add fresh legs into the equation without severely affecting the quality of their starting eleven.
Both Aritz Aduriz and Raul Garcia are missing due to suspension for the away side, taking a big part of Athletic’s physicality with them in a game that will see the Basque club face up against an uncompromising defence. Diego Godin should be fit to feature in LaLiga action again, with Jan Oblak expected to recover from illness in time for the weekend. The visitors have failed to score in their last two league away games and look very low on inspiration and creativity.
Atletico Madrid to Win to Nil @
#PriceItUp – 90 Mins: Under 2.5 Goals, Both Teams to Score – No, Antoine Griezmann to Score @
Real Betis vs Real Madrid
The fixtures keep coming thick and fast for Zinedine Zidane’s men, who haven’t had much time to readjust after a very important Champions League result against Paris Saint-Germain midweek. After playing Real Betis this weekend, they then have a midweek game versus Leganes to think about too, which could lead to some rotation as Los Blancos try and keep their players fresh and fully fit for their attempt to retain their European title for the third campaign running.
Real Betis recorded a 1-0 victory at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu earlier this campaign, with Quique Setien knowing that his team can both press high and also retain possession with plenty of confidence. After a poor run at home, recent weeks have seen Betis beat Leganes and Villarreal, with their coach blooding a lot of debutants to brilliant effect this season. If Zidane is forced to rotate with other matches in mind, the hosts will be confident of doing the double over the reigning league champions.
Real Betis to Win (Draw No Bet) @
Malaga vs Valencia
Malaga look to be as good as relegated already, with Jose Gonzalez’s men now cut four points adrift at the foot of the table. The hosts have failed to win their last eight league matches and haven’t even hit the back of the net in their last five outings at La Rosaleda. Things are looking bleak for the Andalusian club, with their latest managerial appointment appearing to have been something of a mistake.
Valencia still have defenders Ezequiel Garay and Jeison Murillo missing due to injury, but Marcelino’s side limited Levante to just five shots on goal last time out in the Spanish top flight, with things beginning to improve a little for Los Che. Their derby win ended a run of six consecutive losses, stopping the rot and setting up Valencia to try and close out a Champions League finish for themselves between now and the end of the campaign.
Valencia to Win to Nil @