Espanyol v Atletico Madrid, Saturday 3PM kick-off [UK time]
Games between these two sides do not tend to have many goals, and you have to go back almost three years to find a game in which more than two were scored.
More recently, Atletico have not scored in any of their last three away games [all competitions]. Fernando Torres [zero goals in eight La Liga apps] could start again as although pacy forward Antoine Griezmann returns from suspension, his regular centre-forward partner Mario Mandzukic is now banned.
Elsewhere in the Atleti team attack-minded Guilherme Siqueira also misses out having been booked against Valencia last week, so either of more defensively-minded pair Jesus Gamez or Cristian Ansaldi will start at left-back. Diego Simeone also has Tuesday’s Champions League return game against Bayer Leverkusen to consider, when deciding how to marshall his resources.
Espanyol have also drawn blanks in their last two games in all competitions, which included a painful Copa del Rey semi-final exit. Sergio’s side are pretty much safe in mid-table now already, while being well adrift of the European qualification race. Meaning they have realistically little left to play for this season.
All of which suggests another tight affair, but with Atletico coming out on top. Diego Simeone’s men have eked out a narrow win in five of their last six meetings, and that looks most likely again.
Predicted result: Espanyol 0-1 Atletico is 6.25
Best bet: Under 1.5 goals at 2.67
Eibar v Barcelona, Saturday 5PM kick-off [UK time]
Eibar began their first ever Primera Division season in superb form, winning many fans with a series of super organised performances which saw the club from the small Basque town riding high in the top half.
Their upwardly mobile narrative has taken a twist more recently however. Gaizko Garitano’s men have lost all of their last seven in La Liga, form which suggests the fairytale could end in a relegation nightmare.
This means the fixture should not really present many problems for Barcelona, whose main concern will be avoiding complacency and looking ahead to next week’s huge clashes with Manchester City in the Champions League and Real Madrid in La Liga.
Blaugrana coach Luis Enrique is likely to continue rotating with those games in mind. He has no option in defence, where both regular starting full-backs Dani Alves and Jordi Alba are suspended. Both Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu are a yellow away from missing next Sunday’s Clasico, so might be rested here too.
Whatever Barca XI takes the field should do enough to win on their first ever La Liga visit to Ipurua. A fast start to secure the points would make sense, allowing Luis Enrique to later in the game make changes ahead of the higher-profile challenges to come.
Predicted score: Eibar 0-3 Barca at 6.25
Best bet: Over 1.5 goals first half at 2.00