Atletico Madrid 1.35, draw 5.00, Espanyol 9.50 - Sunday 11.00 GMT
These two teams status as the respective ‘little brother’ in the Spanish and Catalan capitals means they have a lot in common, but not necessarily that they get on well. Last season brought two very tight encounters, with Espanyol actually beating Atletico at home in October, and the eventual La Liga champions grinding out a 1-0 win in March’s return game.
Espanyol also now have a former much-loved midfielder as coach, with Sergio Gonzalez -- who scored the winner when Los Pericos beat Atletico in the 2000 Copa del Rey final -- taking over at Cornella-El Prat last summer. A new look team has settled quickly and are unbeaten in four games, with clean sheets in their last three. It's not been especially pretty, but eighth place in the table is a decent start.
“We are in a good moment and can surprise them,” in-form forward Christian Stuani said on Friday. “We need to match their intensity and keep full concentration.”
Atletico’s focus has dropped at times this season. Diego Simeone’s men have played really well against Real Madrid, Juventus and Sevilla over recent weeks, but also slipped up against teams like Celta Vigo and Rayo Vallecano. Then last time out the defending La Liga champions fell 3-0 behind at Valencia inside 15 minutes, the worst start to a game of Simeone’s almost three years in charge.
The Argentine coach has reportedly been driving his players in training this week, and Colchoneros goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya, a newcomer this year, identified on Friday what is needed now.
“The most important thing is not to lose the identity of the team, that of intensity, being together, fighting for every ball as if it were the last,” Moya said. “From there our individual quality can bring goals.”
Can confident Espanyol catch out Atletico again? Or will Simeone’s side’s intensity be right for this one? Maybe option two.
Prediction: Atletico 1-0 Espanyol at 5.30
Best bet: Simeone tends to get a positive reaction from his players after a setback. Atletico to be ahead at the break at 1.87.
Deportivo La Coruna 4.50, draw 3.50, Valencia 1.85 - Sunday 16.00 GMT
These two sides come into Sunday’s game after having quite contrasting starts to the new season.
Valencia remain unbeaten, and that 3-1 win over Atletico last time out has Los Che flying high in second place and growing confident of a top four finish.
Deportivo’s last four games have brought an 8-2 home hiding from Real Madrid, a missed last minute penalty in a 2-1 Galician derby defeat at Celta Vigo, an injury time goal conceded to lose 1-0 at home to Almeria, and a 4-1 whipping at Sevilla to slip to bottom of the table.
So the form book points to Valencia, but this fixture’s history is also worth considering. The issues between these clubs date back to 1994 when Deportivo just needed to beat Valencia to win their first ever title. Serbian defender Miroslav Djukic missed a late penalty and the visitors celebrated on the pitch despite having apparently nothing to play for. This did not go down well.
The wound has never really healed. It also does not help that in 2011 Valencia also had nothing to play for, but still beat Depor 1-0 at Riazor on the final day, sending the Galicians down to the Segunda Division. Valencia also won 3-2 on their last visit, two years ago.
So Depor’s fans will really, really want their side to win this one. Whether their team is good enough to do so is less certain. Under pressure coach Victor Fernandez says “self-criticism” during the international break can help his players. “If it is sincere it will be much easier to achieve our objective,” Fernandez says. “A draw might be a good result, but we need a win.”
There’s been much less soul searching at Valencia this week, where boss Nuno Espirito Santo can seemingly do no wrong. Emerging midfielder Andre Gomes, a doubt for the game with a muscle strain, showed his confidence on Friday. “We want to go to La Coruna and win,” Gomes said. “We believe that if we play well we can beat any team.”
Prediction: Deportivo 1-1 Valencia at 6.75
Best bet: Depor really are desperate to get something. And Valencia perhaps not quite as good as they now think they are. So Depor ‘double chance’ home win or draw at 1.97 looks tempting.
Like What You Read? Vote For Unibet As Best Gambling Blog At The 2014 Football Blogging Awards