Real Madrid - Almeria - Wednesday 19.00 GMT
On Sunday night Real Madrid showed they had not yet given up on La Liga to focus on the Champions League, with a battling performance to finally out-gun Celta Vigo 4-2 in a thriller at Balaidos. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez was again the matchwinner with two more goals, as injury-hit Madrid came through in the end.
Almeria at home should not be nearly as challenging for Los Blancos.
The relegation strugglers beat Eibar 2-0 at home on Sunday, but their priorities could be seen in the yellow cards picked up late by attackers Thievy and Wellington Silva which appeared deliberately designed to miss the Bernabeu and be free for next weekend’s six-pointer at home to Deportivo La Coruna.
Madrid defenders Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal did something similar late on at Celta, but Carlo Ancelotti can call on decent level replacements in Pepe and Alvaro Arbeloa. Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale remain sidelined through injury, so the Italian has limited scope for rotation elsewhere in his XI. Key men such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez look sure to start once more.
The last bottom-half team which came to the Bernabeu resting players were Granada, who got hammered 9-1. Such a big scoreline seems unlikely on Wednesday, but Madrid should still win easily.
Predicted scoreline: Madrid 3-0 Almeria at 6.75
Best bet: Home team to win both halves at 1.70
Villarreal - Atletico Madrid - Wednesday 21.00 GMT
Atletico Madrid bounced back from their Champions League disappointment with a trouble-free 3-0 win over Elche at the Estadio Vicente Calderon on Saturday afternoon. Elche also took the opportunity to field a weakened team thinking of upcoming fixtures, meaning Diego Simeone’s men had an ideal opportunity to further secure their hold on third spot.
Antoine Griezmann’s third successive La Liga double strike took him to 22 league goals for the season, while Fernando Torres’ struggles in front of goal continued.
Torres should keep his place however as Mario Mandzukic’s ankle remains a problem. Left-back Guilherme Siqueira is definitely out with as he picked up his own ankle issue against Elche. Midfielder Mario Suarez is fit again, but on loan from Villarreal playmaker Cani cannot play due to the terms of that deal.
Villarreal actually won 1-0 in the reverse fixture, making them the only away team to win so far at the Calderon this season. That was during a superb period for Marcelino’s side, who were challenging seriously in all three competitions. Those exertions have caught up with the Yellow Submarine recently, and their form has taken a dive recently.
Saturday’s goalless draw at Real Sociedad makes it no wins in seven in La Liga for Villarreal, and just one goal scored across that run. Four of these games have been 0-0s. Injuries to key players have not helped, and December’s matchwinner Luciano Vietto may return against Atletico.
Even still they’ve maintained a hold on sixth place, and the final Europa League qualification place, as no challenger has yet risen up from below.
So the feeling is this is unlikely to be a thriller at El Madrigal. Atletico’s greater need might just see them nick it.
Predicted result: Villarreal 0-1 Atletico Madrid at 7.00
Best bet: Under 1.5 goals at 2.95