It's less than month since Valencia President Amadeo Salvo publicly backed his manager. He stated Miroslav Đukić would at least make it until May, but he must surely be having second thoughts now.
They have lost to the Real Sociedad team that took their Champions League position, were defeated in a derby match at Villarreal, then following it up with a third straight failure against an Almería side that hadn't won all season.
It was unforgivable for the Mestalla faithful and the white handkerchiefs were waved furiously, though it's probably not just the fans and president that remain to be convinced. Đukić admission that the "team is very weak" will have annoyed the players. "We've had opportunities, but psychologically we look like a sinking team. We seem clueless."
Barcelona 1.10, a draw 10.50, Espanyol 22.00
The style of the clubs heading into the battle of Catalonia is certainly up for debate. Tata Martino's team have been displaying a more direct approach to that of his predecessors, with more onus placed on the individual rather than the collective. Teams like Celta Vigo under the stewardship of former Barça player Luis Enrique, are displaying more similarities with Pep Guardiola's Barcelona than the club themselves with Martino at the helm.
Goalkeeper Víctor Valdés thinks the team were forced to defend differently in the 3-0 win over Celta, because of the opposition pressing off the ball: "How the defence has played is another facet that is not normal for us, through defending much closer to our own penalty area than normal." Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano will all return, after being rested on Tuesday night. Along with Neymar, the Brazilian is worth a look for the opening goal at 5.00, after proving in the Clásico his mentality for the big occasion.
Espanyol knew it wasn't going to be their evening when former Liverpool winger Nabil El Zhar converted the penalty he had won for Levante. The Israeli proceeded to set-up another and scored his second of the match, as Los Pericos were beaten 3-0 last weekend. Javier Aguirre's side are dogged and difficult to beat. The results are close to that of Mauricio Pochettino's reign, but the philosophy is very different.
In four out of Barcelona's last five games at the Camp Nou, they have been leading 1-0 at the break. It's 3.33 for them to be a goal up at the interval once more.
Score Prediction: Barcelona 4 Espanyol 1 (14.00)
Rayo Vallecano 12.00, a draw 6.00, Real Madrid 1.25
"I see a team of young children competing against a team of adults," remarked Paco Jémez after yet another defeat. Welcoming Los Blancos will do little to appease any fears, only increase them. It's 27 goals now conceded for Rayo in just 11 league matches.
It may not have been the perfect start to life in Madrid for Gareth Bale, but the pendulum swung back in the right direction with a dream home debut. It was the Welshman's first start at the Bernabéu against Sevilla and he showed his rising star with two goals and two assists. Carlo Ancelotti previously said, "He needs time to foster an understanding with his team-mates." When he is on the same wavelength as Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco it promises to be spectacular. With three goals in as many starts, then why not pluck for Bale to add to that tally. You will get 6.25 for him to be first goalscorer.
Sergio Ramos is suspended, so Pepe will return to the defence. Xabi Alonso made his first appearance since May, but this one may come a little too soon. Luka Modrić will start in midfield.
Rubén Martínez was beaten twice in the opening 15 minutes against Osasuna. With Rayo's high line combined with the worst defence in La Liga, you can expect goals. The quick start Real Madrid made versus Sevilla scoring three times, suggests they are best suited to flying out the blocks once more. Over 2.5 goals in the 1st half pays 4.10.
Score Prediction: Rayo Vallecano 1 Real Madrid 4 (14.00)
Málaga 1.95, a draw 3.40, Real Betis 3.80
Málaga are without a goal in their last four matches as Bernd Schuster's team struggles to find the net. However, there are signs that a change in fortune is just around the corner. In two of those games they created more chances than the opposition.
Pepe Mel spoke with the club’s Ultras this week, along with Betis captains Nacho and Jorge Molina. The 5-0 hammering on their travels to Atlético Madrid had taken its toll on the supporters, who stated they would interrupt training if they weren't heard by the teams management. It had taken just 14 seconds for Real Betis to fall behind in that match, when Oliver Torres scored the fastest goal of the season on his Atléti league debut.
Both teams are desperate for a win in this Andalusian derby, but no team has a poorer away record than Betis at the moment. They have gained just one point on the road in five attempts, making Málaga look good at 1.95 for the victory.
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