Sevilla v Atletico Madrid - Sunday 6PM UK kick-off
This should be a really good game, and will likely be a very even contest. Sevilla are unbeaten at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan in over a year [20 matches], and despite some slips away from home recently, still see themselves as potential top-four challengers.
Atletico travel south in third, eight points ahead of their hosts, but only three clear of in-form Valencia, in what could end up a three-way race for two Champions League qualification spots - especially if Sevilla can beat Diego Simeone’s side this week.
Los Colchoneros’ own away issues were transferred to Europe on Wednesday night, when Diego Simeone’s side were surprisingly out-fought and lucky to lose just 1-0 at Bayer Leverkusen.
Sevilla had a happier European experience, with an impressive 3-2 away win at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Thursday sealing last year’s Europa League winners’ progress to this season’s last 16.
Simeone also has further injury issues, with Saul Niguez and Guilherme Siqueira limping off in Leverkusen, but gets a huge boost with key midfielder Koke returning to full training on Thursday. Sevilla coach Unai Emery has had to juggle his squad through various commitments lately, but has key players including centre-forward Carlos Bacca in good form.
This is generally a bit of a grudge fixture, with passions often rising, but Atletico generally coming out on top in recent months. However a draw might suit both teams pretty well this time around.
Predicted result: Sevilla 1-1 Atletico at 6.30
Best bet: Draw and both teams to score at 4.70 looks tempting
Real Madrid v Villarreal - Sunday 7PM UK kick-off
Real Madrid could sit back and enjoy themselves this week, with no Champions League game to worry about, and the regaining of their four point advantage at the top of La Liga to bask in.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side look to be regaining most of their solidity, if not all their attacking flair, and last Sunday’s 2-0 win at Elche was probably Madrid’s best performance so far in 2015. Their fitness issues appear to be easing too, with Luka Modric close to a return. Galacticos Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale did not take a full part in training last week, but are both expected to start without any problems on Sunday.
Villarreal were very unlucky to lose 2-0 in the reverse fixture in September, and almost shocked Barcelona at the Camp Nou last month, but injuries and a heavy schedule have started to take a toll on their form.
Coach Marcelino played his strongest available side for Thursday’s 3-1 Europa League win at FC Salzburg, so resting some players at the Bernabeu - including fast emerging attacking star Luciano Vietto - cannot be ruled out. Definitely not playing is in-form creator Denis Cheryshev, due to the ‘crapping yourself clause’ in his season-loan deal from Madrid.
Although six of Villarreal’s last seven La Liga fixtures have had less than 2.5 goals, games between these two at the Bernabeu have tended to be high scoring affairs in previous seasons. The last six meetings in Madrid have seen 29 goals in total [21 for the home team].
Odds are Ronaldo and company will find the net a few times on Sunday, but Vietto -- if he plays -- is a decent bet to also be on the scoresheet.
Predicted result: Madrid 3-1 Villarreal at 10.00
Best bet: Home win and both teams to score at 2.43