LaLiga Preview: Real Madrid Looking for Another Shot of Confidence Against Levante7 min read
The Copa del Rey is something of a distraction and a hindrance to LaLiga’s top teams at present, with Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla and Leganes having to balance their league commitments with putting out competitive sides in their midweek semi-final clashes. Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will be keen to knuckle down and aim for a top two finish, with their European responsibilities yet to commence in 2018.
Valencia are struggling with a lot of injuries, while Barcelona need to be wary after slipping up in a recent Catalan derby. Atletico still boast a very strong home record and welcome Diego Costa back into the fold after injury, while Levante hope that their morale won’t take another beating at home when Real Madrid come to town.
Espanyol vs Barcelona
This is a fixture that has been played out a few times recently, with the Catalan derby taking place in the quarter-final stages of the Copa del Rey in January. When Barcelona paid a visit to Cornella stadium in that competition, they suffered their first domestic defeat of the campaign, with a late Oscar Melendo goal securing a 1-0 first-leg advantage for Quique Sanchez Flores’ men. The away side will know that they cannot afford to underestimate their opponents on a second occasion, with there being no luxury of another 90 minutes to turn things around at Camp Nou.
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Espanyol are organised and tough to break down, with their LaLiga position being almost entirely down to the points that they have picked up at home this campaign. They will take the game in stages, with a clean sheet by the half-time break definitely a good milestone to try and hit against a Barcelona side that have both Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in excellent form. The home side won’t be able to pull off another shock as they did in the cup, but they can certainly force Ernesto Valverde’s side to work very hard for the three points on Sunday.
Half-Time Draw, Full Time Barcelona Win
#PriceItUp – Barcelona to Win, Espanyol Over 3.5 Cards, Luis Suarez to Score
Atletico Madrid vs Valencia
Diego Simeone’s side remain unbeaten at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in LaLiga, with their overall league unbeaten record only falling at the tail end of 2017. Since the return of Diego Costa to action, Atletico have had a new freshness and confidence about their play, and come into this match off the back of four league wins in their last five at home. Against Las Palmas, Getafe and Deportivo Alaves they managed to keep clean sheets, with Los Colchoneros certainly tough to break down.
Valencia have got a Copa del Rey semi-final second leg versus Barcelona to think about heading into this weekend, with Marcelino’s resources being stretched very thin indeed. Ezequiel Garay has a knock, while Jeison Murillo is still working his way back to fitness. Goncalo Guedes has a groin problem, with Geoffrey Kondogbia and Andreas Pereira struggling too. Los Che may well put all of their eggs in the cup basket, but they’ll still arrive in Madrid with resolve after only conceding once at Camp Nou on Thursday evening.
Atletico Madrid to Win and Both Teams to Score
Diego Costa to Score Anytime
Levante vs Real Madrid
The home side find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle, and another poor result would be enough to allow a couple of teams below them in LaLiga’s standings to plunge them into the bottom three. Ivi bagged two goals last time out versus Deportivo, but otherwise Levante have been really struggling to find the back of the net of late. They’ve added Pazzini, Rochina and Sadiku late in the window, but for them to click immediately in attack is a big ask.
Real Madrid are feeling a little more confident after travelling to this same city last week and recording a 4-1 win against Valencia. They weren’t at their best, but with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale all back fit, they certainly are in the best position that they have been in for a while in terms of looking to bounce back into form. Zinedine Zidane is still under pressure, but Levante are winless in their last nine league fixtures.
Real Madrid to Win to Nil
Eibar vs Sevilla
Vincenzo Montella’s first couple of matches as Sevilla boss didn’t encourage much in the way of optimism, but since losing their local derby against Real Betis, Los Nervionenses have finally found some consistency. For much of the season, Eduardo Berizzo was chopping and changing the line-up, but Montella has found his go-to starting 11 and it has started to pick up some impressive results.
Although the away side come into the weekend off the back of a midweek Copa del Rey fixture, which could mean that there will be some rotation on the cards, they have enough quality to do the hosts some damage, especially after adding Sandro Ramirez, Roque Mesa and Miguel Layun to their ranks on deadline day.
Eibar have been strong at home since October, but an injury to Sergi Enrich has left Los Armeros a little bit short in terms of striking options. One defeat in their last eight at home in LaLiga sets the tone, with Eibar looking like a real banana skin for a squad that have their eyes on a domestic final.
Both Teams to Score (Yes)
Eibar to Win (Draw No Bet)