Villarreal v Real Mallorca
Quique Setién’s arrival as Unai Emery’s replacement has led to change at Villarreal, but it’s yet to bring about an upturn in results. A draw against Hapoel Beer Sheva in the Conference League has been followed up by defeats without scoring against Athletic Club and Lech Poznan.
On Sunday, the former Barcelona coach will take charge of a LaLiga game on home turf for the first time as Javier Aguirre’s combative and defensive-minded Mallorca come into town. With four shots on target in the last two matches, the Yellow Submarine may not be optimistic of breaking through the parked Mallorca bus.
Only three teams have had fewer goals scored in either direction in their away matches than Mallorca this season, who rank sixth for best away defences despite sitting 12th in LaLiga. Their physical and defence-first approach will prove a real test. Villarreal’s hopes may lie on the shoulders of Arnaut Danjuma, their second top scorer in all competitions despite the fact he has not scored in LaLiga since April.
Villarreal and Mallorca are two of the league’s three highest ranking teams when it comes to matches which come in at under 2.5 goals, with Mallorca having 75% of games with under 2.5 goals, while Villarreal have had 67%, and the league average sits at 49%.
Real Betis v Sevilla
This weekend’s headline fixture comes in El Gran Derbi on Sunday evening. In the 138th meeting between the teams, Real Betis will be looking for a first win in the fixture in four years, having won only one derby game at the Estadio Benito Villamarín in LaLiga since 2006.
There’s reason to think that this time will be different. Real Betis sit fourth in LaLiga and have only been beaten at home once this season, by Atlético Madrid in a tight affair that went right down to the wire.
The Verdiblancos have the disadvantage of 24 hours less rest than their counterparts, but Manuel Pellegrini did rotate his team heavily against HJK. In fact, we could see as many as nine changes to the starting line-up, reverting to a side more like the XI which beat Real Sociedad in a six-pointer in the race for Europe last Sunday night.
Sevilla pushed Manchester City closer than many were expecting in midweek, but they remain the outsiders for this tie and that is unusual for them. Jorge Sampaoli won both El Gran Derbi games during his last stint in charge at Sevilla but has averaged a meagre 1.13 points per game since returning to the club in early October. One win in five domestically has meant that he’s yet to convince all Sevillistas, who are primarily concerned by the fact that the team has kept clean sheets in just three out of 18 matches this term, after having had the best defensive record in LaLiga last season.
Betis have overtaken that crown and are behind only Barcelona in terms of defensive statistics, with eight goals conceded in 12 games, and also have the league’s second-highest scorer, Borja Iglesias, at the other end. That should be enough to see them win their first Gran Derbi in LaLiga since 2018.
Rayo Vallecano v Real Madrid
Real Madrid have a rare Monday night fixture this weekend, as they’ll make the short trip across the Spanish capital to face Rayo Vallecano. This fixture always produces an electric atmosphere as the locals dream of taking a big scalp and they’ll feel confident this time around, since coach Andoni Iraola has built a solid and well-balanced team, one that has secured two draws and two wins from the past four matchdays.
Of course, Real Madrid are favourites, especially with Karim Benzema back from injury and even getting some minutes off the bench in their midweek 5-1 win over Celtic. But, it could be a tricky test for Carlo Ancelotti’s men in this penultimate round before the World Cup.
For the neutrals, it really should be a fun one as these are two fast-paced and direct sides that both like to shoot on sight, as Real Madrid shoot more than anyone in LaLiga, with 17.17 shots per game, while Rayo are sixth in that ranking with 12.92 shots per game. This perfectly translates into their goals tallies, as Real Madrid score a league-most 2.42 goals per game and Rayo are also sixth here with 1.33 goals per game.
They also work out as the first- and sixth-ranked teams for how often both teams score in their matches, as this has happened in 83% of Real Madrid’s league matches this season and in 58% of Rayo’s games. Given the characteristics of both teams and the way both sides could be spurred on by the energy in the stands, another game with both teams scoring is a strong possibility on Monday.
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