Atlético Madrid v Girona
It’s been a rollercoaster week for Atlético Madrid as they went from a 2-0 win over Sevilla to a 2-0 defeat to Club Brugge in just 72 hours, and now Girona arrive in the capital looking for their first away win of the season, having picked up just one point from a possible nine on the road so far this campaign.
Atlético Madrid may have suffered disappointment against the Belgian side in European action on Tuesday, but their 2.14 xG would suggest that the chances were there for the taking. It was their second consecutive match scoring over 2 for xG, having beaten Sevilla last weekend. Álvaro Morata is expected to lead the line again, which makes him good value at 2.00 to have two or more shots on target.
Girona come into this game off the back of an eight-goal thriller against Real Sociedad last weekend and it was their third consecutive game with over 2.5 goals. They are yet to keep a clean sheet since earning promotion in the summer and can expect Atlético to score and breach their defensive lines at the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano on Saturday.
That said, Girona still pose an attacking threat. Last season’s top scorer Cristhian Stuani returns after a spell on the sidelines with a heart issue and could make an impact from the bench, while Taty Castellanos and Rodrigo Riquelme have looked increasingly dangerous in front of goal, with the latter available to play against his parent club.
Sevilla v Athletic Club
The Julen Lopetegui era at Sevilla is over, with the Basque coach having been fired by the club after their 4-1 hammering at home to Dortmund on Wednesday. It was a weird sacking, with Jorge Sampaoli already in place before kick-off, but this just means that the Argentine – who already knows this club from his 2016/17 season in charge of Los Nervionenses – was able to get to work immediately.
Sevilla’s problems are serious and many of them can’t be fixed until the winter transfer market. But, Sampaoli can bring an especially springy new manager bounce. He oozes energy and his teams usually start off well, even if they fade off later. During his previous stint at Sevilla, his first game was a thrilling 3-2 extra time loss to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, while his first LaLiga game was a 6-4 win over Espanyol. That’s what Sampaoli can do. He can be the defibrillator to spark this Sevilla team into life.
They do have a tough challenge in third-placed Athletic Club, although it should be kept in mind that the Bilbao-based side have had the second-easiest schedule so far. This is by far Athletic Club’s hardest test of the season to date, so a Sevilla home win wouldn’t be the most shocking result, priced at 3.00.
At more modest odds of 1.90, there’s the BTTS option. This is attractive because Sampaoli will surely have his Sevilla side playing with more ambition and energy in attack. The detailed descriptions he gave of forwards Rafa Mír, Kasper Dolberg and Youssef En-Nesyri during his presentation shows that he already has some ideas for how to rekindle the attacking fire. At the other end, Sevilla’s defence will take longer to fix, partly because they still have defensive injuries, so Athletic Club, the third-highest scorers in LaLiga, could certainly score too.
Getafe v Real Madrid
Getafe’s Coliseum Alfonso Pérez isn’t usually an easy place to go and Real Madrid know this all too well, having lost 1-0 there last season. But, this means they will make the short trip to the south of Madrid without any complacency this time.
It’s also true that the 1-0 loss last season was on January 2nd in the first game back after the Christmas break, when there might have been some hangovers, real or metaphorical, in Carlo Ancelotti’s squad. This time, they’re in mid-season mode and plugged in.
Real Madrid will also want to put on a spectacle after coming away from their midweek 2-1 win over Shakhtar Donetsk frustrated, given that they had 30 shots in the game, 14 of them on target. Their finishing wasn’t clinical then, but the talented front four of Karim Benzema, Vinícius, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde surely can’t have multiple nights of misfiring in a row.
Another reason to believe in Real Madrid this weekend is the fact that Getafe have all their injury concerns in the one position, in midfield. Central midfielders Mauro Arambarri, Nemanja Maksimovic and Jaime Seoane are all doubtful and that should give Los Blancos the freedom to dominate in the centre of the pitch.
Under the lights, Getafe’s fans will try to roar their team on and they are usually tough to beat at home. But, Real Valladolid did manage to storm the Coliseum 3-2 last weekend and you have to believe Real Madrid can do so in Matchday 8.
Cádiz v Espanyol
Sunday’s LaLiga action pits Cádiz against Espanyol, with two teams in the bottom five. Espanyol will be particularly keen to pick up all three points given that they have the biggest expected points underperformance in the league this season.
Even with so much at stake so early on in the season, this game is unlikely to feature many goals. Cádiz’s last two matches have had just one goal, but more than that, they have scored only one goal across seven games this season and are yet to score at the Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla. With an xG of 3.62, they have by far the lowest expected goals figure in any of Europe’s top five leagues.
Despite that, they haven’t been as leaky defensively as it might look. Thrashings at the hands of Barcelona and Athletic Club came against two of LaLiga’s three highest scoring teams, and games against two more European football teams, Real Sociedad and Villarreal, ended with only one goal conceded across the two matches.
Espanyol have been more active in front of goal, particularly thanks to forward Joselu. His four goals in seven games put him up alongside the league’s top scorers, but he is yet to score in consecutive matches this season. What’s more, he has scored only one goal on the road and even that came from the penalty spot. His new attacking sidekick Martin Braithwaite was supposed to boost Espanyol’s attack, but the Dane is suspended for this game.
Real Sociedad v Villarreal
Both of these teams were in action in Europe on Thursday night, with both recording convincing wins. Real Sociedad have fared better after European action this season, averaging 1.5 points per game compared to Villarreal’s 1.25 points per game after midweek European action. They now meet in San Sebastián on Sunday evening with Real Sociedad looking to maintain their fine run of form, while Unai Emery will be aiming for his second consecutive victory at the Reale Arena, having previously failed to win there since 2010.
Villarreal’s strong start has begun to fade away and they are now three without a win in LaLiga. During that spell, they have scored just one goal from 5.97 xG and have seen leading goalscorer Gerard Moreno sidelined by injury, which is likely to keep him out until the World Cup. Veteran signing José Luis Morales scored a hat-trick in Europa League action against Austria Wien on Thursday, but has played only 27 minutes in domestic competition over the last three games as Unai Emery appears unconvinced.
Real Sociedad, on the other hand, are in fine form with four consecutive victories. In the complete opposite of Villarreal, they have scored 11 goals across that run of form and have a number of players contributing, with Brais Méndez and Take Kubo having six goals between them and wanting to bring a threat from out wide. Perhaps most appealingly, Alexander Sørloth is 6.00 to be first goalscorer and has four goals in his last four games for La Real.
That would make the home team favourites, though their visitors certainly know how to drag out a draw with three draws from seven games this season. The more goals this tie brings, the more likely it is to benefit Real Sociedad in their hunt for three points.
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