Espanyol vs Barcelona - Sat 3PM UK
The Barcelona machine rolls on, with Tuesday’s 2-0 Champions League quarter-final second leg win over Paris Saint Germain taking them to to 33 wins in their last 37 games in all competitions, and 12 victories in their last 13 games. Saturday sees the blaugrana outfit make the short trip across the Catalan capital to Espanyol, and looking to take another step towards a potential treble - and with expectation feverish around Josep Guardiola’s return to the Camp Nou with Bayern Munich in the upcoming Champions League semi-finals.
With just six games remaining in La Liga, Barca have a two point lead over second placed Real Madrid, although Espanyol would like nothing better than to complicate their neighbours’ situation. You have to go back to 2006/07 to the last time that really happened, when Raul Tamudo’s famous late equaliser at the Camp Nou on the penultimate weekend allowed Madrid in to take the title.
Espanyol are on a good current run themselves, unbeaten in six games in La Liga, and with five clean sheets in their last seven games in front of their own fans. Such form has Sergio’s side up to ninth in the table, and still with an outside chance of Europa League qualification. In team news midfielder Victor Sanchez is suspended, while on-loan from Madrid winger Lucas Vazquez should keep his place having scored in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Levante.
Barca coach Luis Enrique is likely to tweak his line-up, as usual, with Andres Iniesta perhaps sitting this one out as he admitted to still having some pain from a back injury after his phenomenal assist on Tuesday night. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar should all start however given the potential difficulty of this fixture, with big names more likely to be rested in the upcoming midweek game at home to Getafe.
Barca are undefeated in nine visits to ‘Cornella el-Prat’, but there have been two draws in the last five seasons. It might be tight again, but one of the blaugrana’s in-form strike trio should really make the difference.
Predicted result: Espanyol 0-2 Barcelona at 7.00
Best bet: No goal in first 30 minutes at 2.07
Atletico Madrid vs Elche - Sat 5PM UK
Atletico Madrid suffered further Champions League heartbreak against their neighbours on Wednesday night, as for the second year in a row they conceded late on against Real Madrid to end up with nothing.
The big question now is how Atletico react to that setback. Diego Simeone has no big new injury worries, but is likely to freshen up his team, with Fernando Torres and fit again Mario Suarez likely starters. Antoine Griezmann, five goals in his last three in La Liga, but zero shots against Madrid midweek.
Despite varied off-pitch problems, Elche travel to the Vicente Calderon in decent form, having climbed to 14th in the table with two wins in their last two games. Dangerman Jonathas scored the winner in Monday’s 1-0 at home to Real Sociedad, bringing him to 10 La Liga goals for the season.
Elche coach Fran Escriba, a former assistant to Quique Sanchez Flores at Atletico, has selection issues with midfielders Victor Rodriguez, Aaron Niguez and Mario Pasalic all suspended, and left-back and captain Edu Albacar a fitness concern.
Late on Wednesday night, Simeone maintained stubbornly that Atletico remained on course for their objective this season - third in La Liga. They really need to win here to remain clear of challengers Valencia and Sevilla in that race. And probably will.
Predicted score: Atletico Madrid 1-0 Elche is 5.10
Best bet: Under 2.5 goals at 1.95