Barcelona - Malaga - Saturday 15.00 GMT
Barcelona take on Malaga on Saturday with the chance to [for 24 hours at least] go top of La Liga for the first time since early November. Luis Enrique’s side can also set a new club record of 12 consecutive victories - and it’s hard to see how that won’t happen.
Back in September Malaga were the first team to take points off Barca this season, with a 0-0 draw at La Rosaleda, and the Andalucians had an excellent first half to the campaign. They’ve slipped in recent weeks however, losing 2-0 at home to Espanyol last weekend, having now won just one of their last seven games in La Liga and will be missing key players Nacho Camacho and Nordin Amrabat.
Luis Enrique will for sure rotate his side again, thinking of Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 first leg at Manchester City. Andres Iniesta is available again after missing last week’s 5-0 stroll past Levante through flu, while Luis Suarez should return to the XI having been rested for that game.
Even with the return of the Champions League as a potential distraction, Barca should win easily here.
Predicted result: Barcelona 4-0 Malaga at 7.50
Best bet: home team to win both halves at 1.78
Atletico Madrid - Almeria - Saturday 19.00 GMT
The euphoria caused by Atletico Madrid’s historic 4-0 derbi humbling of Real Madrid a fortnight ago was quickly extinguished by last week’s 2-0 defeat at Celta Vigo.
Missing midfield playmakers Koke and Arda Turan, Atletico put in probably their worst performance of the season, and slipped back to seven points off the top of the table. Coach Diego Simeone took responsibility afterwards, saying his team selection had been wrong, but it was a reminder of the limited resources the champions have to work with.
Arda is back or suspension for Saturday’s game, but Koke remains out with a hamstring problem. Simeone also has a Champions League last 16 first leg - on Wednesday at Bayer Leverkusen – to think about. But the Argentine said on Friday he would pick his strongest available team, while confirming that Fernando Torres drops back to the bench.
Almeria come to the Calderon in their best form of the season, having taken seven points from their last three games to climb to 16th place. They also have a history of doing well against Atletico [two wins each and two draws in their last six meetings]. Simeone’s side just about edged the reverse last September 1-0 via a Miranda header from a corner.
Atletico will likely get a win to recover at least some of their momentum, but they might not have it all their own way.
Predicted result: Atletico 3-1 Almeria at 14.00
Best bet: Almeria to spring a minor surprise and score at the Calderon - over 0.5 goals away team at 2.45