La Liga Betting: Madrid will have to work real hard to beat Sociedad

Further off-field problems hit Barcelona this week, after they were given a one-year ban on purchasing new players. The sanction was issued by FIFA for what they describe as a "serious" breach of rules in the signing of under-age players.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) was also found guilty of improper practice. A statement from the club on their official website states: "Barcelona will present an appeal to FIFA and if need be will take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)."

On the pitch, Barca host La Liga’s bottom club this weekend:

Barcelona 1.05, a draw 12.00, Real Betis 30.00 – Saturday 17.00 GMT

The transfer embargo means that Blaugrana have real concerns over replacing the backbone of the side. Carles Puyol retires this summer and Víctor Valdés is also due to depart.

In the short-term, Gerard Piqué picked up an injury against Atlético Madrid and has been ruled out for a month. Marc Bartra will now come into the side to partner Javier Mascherano at centre-back. 

"The way Barca played fills me with pride," said Gerardo Martino after Tuesday's Champions League match against Atletico Madrid, a 1-1 draw. "Sometimes it paid off, other times it didn't, but if we keep playing this way we will have every chance of success."

Few would have included Neymar in the first eleven due to his recent performances, but whether it was a tactical move by Martino or a political one, he got the goal that drew them level. Before Neymar's strike, Barcelona's last three goals had been Lionel Messi penalties. The Brazilian may have turned the corner, and he is 5.40 for the first goal. 

On Monday, Real Betis were only 10 minutes away from their second successive victory and perhaps the start of an unlikely escape from relegation. That hope was dented in the Andalusian derby, as Málaga scored twice and Rúben Castro missed a late penalty to snatch a draw. They are eight points from safety, with only six games remaining after the visit to the Camp Nou. 

It's a good game for Barcelona to rediscover their goal scoring form from open-play. Choose the 3-way handicap with the score starting at 0-3, then opt for the draw at 4.25

Score Prediction: Barcelona 4 Real Betis 1 12.50


Real Sociedad 5.80, a draw 4.40, Real Madrid 1.50 – Saturday 19.00 GMT

Since the end of October, Sociedad have dropped points only twice at home. Without their high performances at the Anoeta, any chance of a return to the Champions League would have faded a long time ago. A combination of this and their Basque rivals Athletic faltering means there is some hope. 

Real Madrid won back-to-back matches versus Rayo Vallecano and Borussia Dortmund without conceding a goal. As usual Cristiano Ronaldo was heavily involved as he scored in both, he has now netted in his last 10 games for Los Blancos. Though it wasn't his prowess in front of goal that drew attention in either game. 

The Bernabéu crowd booed the former Manchester United winger over a decision not to pass to Álvaro Morata who was in a better position against Rayo. Ronaldo was privately upset over the ordeal. Then, the forward was withdrawn ten minutes early against Dortmund, with the suggestion he has been playing with an injury. 

"In that sense we are not robots," suggested team-mate Sergio Ramos. "Cristiano is patient and we have to try and reserve him, but while it’s nothing serious it’s better he can play."

The defender believes it's vital to win every match to remain in the title race. "We will fight hard for everything. There’s no margin of error on the two teams above us." 

La Real should start quickly in a bid to unsettle Madrid's rhythm. Antoine Griezmann is worth a look to open the scoring at 8.50.

For Sociedad to be winning at half-time and then Madrid at full-time it's 16.00

Score prediction: Real Sociedad 2 Real Madrid 3 17.00