Champions League fixtures next midweek mean that Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are all in action through Saturday afternoon / evening this weekend...
Granada v Real Madrid - 3PM UK kick off
Madrid travel to Granada still buzzing after last week’s 3-1 clasico win over Barcelona.
Adding in Wednesday’s facile 4-1 Copa del Rey win at third tier Cornella, Carlo Ancelotti’s side have now won each of their last 10 games across all competitions, scoring 42 goals and conceding just seven. Which is pretty phenomenal form.
“We were good and played a serious game,” Ancelotti said after the Copa win. “The whole squad is fine, including those who haven't played much, like [Sami] Khedira and [Asier] Illarramendi.”
With Liverpool at the Bernabeu in the Champions League on Tuesday, Ancelotti may make a few more tweaks to his line-up, but the Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos are sure to start having been excused the Copa game. Gareth Bale is still out with his latest back injury.
Granada’s situation is quite different. They drew 1-1 at Eibar last time out, having lost their previous four in La Liga. Faith in new coach Joaquin Caparros is slipping after consecutive 1-0 losses to Levante and Rayo Vallecano in their last two home outings. Hopes of an upset are also not helped by a muscle injury to Caparros most reliable creative player Piti.
Madrid were beaten 1-0 at Los Carmenes two seasons ago, but a repeat looks very, very unlikely. Very.
Predicted score: Granada 0-3 Real Madrid at 7.50
Best bet: Both teams not to score at 1.79 is basically backing a Madrid clean sheet.
Atletico v Cordoba - 5PM UK kick off
Despite some early slips this season, Atletico remain right in the title race, just two points off the top following last Sunday’s awkward 1-0 win at Getafe.
Mario Mandzukic scrambled the winning goal, and survived some rough treatment from the Getafe defence. Fellow summer signings Antoine Griezmann and Alessio Cerci also showed signs of having settled in, although both have yet to score in La Liga for their new club. Just as satisfying for coach Diego Simeone will have been new goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya keeping a fifth clean sheet in six games.
“Finding the best version of our new players is a nice challenge,” Simeone said this week. “That is going well so far.”
Meanwhile Cordoba travel north still looking for their first Primera win in 42 years. Albert Ferrer coached the Andalucian side to promotion last season, but has already been sacked. Last weekend’s 1-1 home draw with struggling Real Sociedad was not an ideal start for replacement Miroslav Djukic.
The last two meetings between these sides at the Calderon were actually draws, but these were over a decade ago in La Segunda. Djukic is a clever coach, but he has his work cut out with a group of players who have yet to prove they can compete at this level.
Predicted result: Atletico 2-0 Cordoba at 5.40
Best bet: Atletico’s new attackers are starting to click, especially at the Calderon. Atletico to win, starting 0-2 on the three way handicap, at 2.45
Barcelona v Celta - 7PM UK kick off
Barcelona at Celta at the Camp Nou is probably this week’s most interesting La Liga fixture. Last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Real Madrid suggests it’s back to the drawing board for new blaugrana coach Luis Enrique.
Among the last opponents ‘Lucho’ would have wanted at the Camp Nou this week is his former side Celta Vigo. Celta have no such doubts about their direction, and are unbeaten away from home under new coach Eduardo ‘Toto’ Berizzo, with points taken at both Atletico and Athletic Bilbao despite being behind at half-time in both matches.
The game also marks Luis Suarez’s competitive home debut in a blaugrana shirt, and the former Liverpool player is likely to again start on the right of a front three with Neymar and Lionel Messi. Those three look a fixture, but all bets are off elsewhere, as Luis Enrique may look to remake the midfield and defence which was so overrun in the second half at the Bernabeu. Definitely out is Andres Iniesta with a calf injury.
Speaking after a weakened side beat Espanyol on penalties to win a low-key Catalan Supercopa on Wednesday night, the Asturian said his players had already moved on from the clasico. “We have forgotten about what’s happened and are fully focused now on Celta," Luis Enrique said.
That seems unlikely, and both he and his players surely still carry painful memories of last week’s defeat. Camp Nou fans will also not move on so quickly, and could start to take out some frustration on their side, especially if Celta can keep the game close into the second half.
Predicted result: Barcelona 2-1 Celta at 10.00
Best bet: Celta at 1.81 in the market which has them starting 3-0 up on Barca. So a draw or loss by one or two goals pays out.
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