Barcelona 1.08, Draw 12.00, Espanyol 25.00 - Sunday 16.00 GMT
The Catalan capital city derby has not served up much drama over recent years, with big brother Barcelona generally lording it all over their poorer neighbours. In 2008/09 a double from ex-blaugrana midfielder Ivan de la Pena ended 27 years without an Espanyol league victory at the Camp Nou, but the five visits since have brought five defeats without even the consolation of an away goal.
More recently Espanyol’s away form against anyone in La Liga is not great, having lost eight of their last 10 on the road. They did however win 2-0 at Segunda side Alaves in the Copa midweek, and also beat Levante 2-1 at home in the league last weekend to move up to 12th in the table.
Barca’s aims are, of course, a lot higher. Despite some ropey performances lately, and Real Madrid’s red-hot form, Luis Enrique’s team remain just two points adrift of the leaders. The wild celebrations which followed Sergio Busquets’ injury time winner at Valencia last weekend suggested the spirit in the squad is good too.
The Asturian coach looks sure to continue his constant rotation of his starting side. Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez all sat out Wednesday’s 4-0 Copa win at third-tier Huesca, so should come back in. Andres Iniesta returned from six weeks out injured in that game, but will most likely be on the bench.
“Obviously there are differences in budget and objectives between both teams,” said Luis Enrique on Saturday. “But derbies are always intense games. It will be difficult for sure."
Or maybe not. This is one derby fixture in which it is fair to say the form book does not go out the window - it’s 455 minutes since Espanyol scored either home or away. So Barca to win again with a clean sheet.
Predicted result: Barcelona 3-0 Espanyol at 6.10
Best bet: Hard to see too much value around but more than 1.5 goals first half looks takeable at 1.79.
Villarreal 1.70, Draw 3.75, Real Sociedad 5.00 – Sunday 18.00 GMT
New Real Sociedad coach David Moyes takes his side to Villarreal in what looks among the most interesting of this weekend’s La Liga games - and not just for fans of his former clubs Manchester United and Everton.
Moyes has started pretty well in La Liga - four points from his first two games, and a general feeling of positivity around San Sebastian regarding his appointment. The team can still play a lot better though, with the Scot himself even saying he wanted a lot more from his players after last Friday’s 3-0 home win over Elche.
The biggest improvement has been in defence - with the team having not kept a clean sheet all season before Moyes arrival. The return of fit-again Inigo Martinez should be another boost at the back. Thursday’s goalless Copa del Rey game at third tier Real Oviedo brought another clean sheet, but also means La Real are still looking for their first away win all season.
Carlos Vela’s hat-trick against Elche was superbly taken, but the lack of goals from elsewhere in the team is a worry. Regular centre-forward Imanol Agirretxe is injured, so last year’s Eredivisie top scorer Alfred Finnbogason, still looking for his first goal for the club, should start.
Moyes recalled at his pre-match press conference his only other experience at El Madrigal, when his Everton side lost out in the 2005 Champions League play-off, and also said his team had yet to find the right balance between defence and attack.
“It is important not to concede goals because that way you do not lose,” he said. “But we also need to go further, to entertain and to score goals.”
Villarreal have been quietly impressive this season, managing Europa League commitments pretty well, and are up to sixth in the table on the back of four games unbeaten domestically. Young Argentine striker Luciano Vietto, who scored his fourth La Liga goal for the club in last weekend’s 2-0 win at Cordoba, should keep his place with Gio Dos Santos struggling to be fit. They’ve been beaten three times in six at home - but those came in big tests against Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia.
So this looks a hard game to call, and a decent test of where Moyes’ new team are at.
Predicted result: Villarreal 1-1 Real Sociedad at 7.00
Best bet: Total goals under 2.5 at 1.98.