Espanyol v Sevilla
Sunday 20th February – 1:00PM KO
Sunday’s opening fixture in La Liga pits two teams against each other who are unlikely to provide us with a goalfest. Sevilla have become the kings of grinding out results this season, winning without playing spectacularly, and that could continue at the RCDE Stadium.
Espanyol have scored in their last 14 games in a row in all competitions, but have only scored more than once in four of those and have tasted defeat in four of the last six. In Sevilla, they will face an all-together different kind of challenge.
Eight of Sevilla’s last 10 matches in LaLiga have ended with under 2.5 goals, while Real Madrid are the only side to have put two goals past them away from home all season. The Andalusians also boast the best defensive record in LaLiga.
The return of captain and former Manchester City man Jesús Navas at right-wing-back will also provide a boost to Julen Lopetegui, though he may not start as he returns to full fitness following three months out with injury before his substitute appearance against Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday.
If there is reason to doubt, it will be Raúl de Tomás. The Espanyol forward has scored in his last five appearances in a row, including against Barcelona last time out, and is second in LaLiga’s scoring charts. It is true, though, that he has never scored against Sevilla
Prediction: Under 2.5 Goals, 1.62 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Valencia v Barcelona
Sunday 20th February – 3:15PM KO
The total opposite from Espanyol and Sevilla, Valencia and Barcelona are likely to entertain. This fixture is always a thrilling one, and Mestalla has hosted some thrilling ties of late, such as Real Madrid’s comeback win and a dramatic late draw against Atlético. Barcelona arrive as the league’s third topscorers, while Valencia have conceded more than any other team outside the relegation zone.
Barcelona have a defensive injury crisis with Ronald Araújo a major doubt, Gerard Piqué and Dani Alves suspended, and Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti injured. That could mean that the defensive line is made up of Sergiño Dest, Óscar Mingueza, Eric García and Jordi Alba. Of those four, only Alba would be considered first choice. Valencia too could be without captain José Luis Gayà in defence.
Last time out at Mestalla, Real Sociedad became the first team to stop Valencia scoring at home this season. It was only the fourth time in 24 games in 2021/22 that both teams haven’t scored in a game involving Valencia, with two of those occasions having come in August.
Barcelona will likely give Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang his first LaLiga start between Ferran Torres and Adama Traoré, and the trio created plenty of chances against Napoli on Thursday with an impressive 21 shots.
In the last seven seasons, this fixture has only seen either team fail to score once, when Valencia won 2-0 in 2020, and it seems inevitable to happen again on Sunday with both teams relying on a “we will score one more than you” approach given their defensive frailties.
Prediction: Both Teams to Score, 1.57 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Real Betis v Mallorca
Sunday 20th February – 5:30PM KO
No side has drawn fewer games away from home, and only six have won fewer than Mallorca’s two wins and two draws on the road this season. One of those wins was over relegation candidates Alavés in August, while the other was a shock victory over Atlético Madrid in December. They’ll need to be inspired by the latter to have any hope at the Estadio Benito Villamarín on Sunday.
Real Betis, on the other hand, sit third in the table and have won seven of their last eight in all competitions, averaging 2.9 goals scored per game in the process. Manuel Pellegrini has perfectly balanced his rotation policy in recent weeks despite Copa del Rey and Europa League involvement.
The Chilean coach will also be boosted by the return of Sergio Canales to action after a lay-off with Covid-19, with second-top goalscorer Borja Iglesias likely to be back leading the line after being rested in Russia. Those two alone could destroy Mallorca’s already weak defence.
No other LaLiga side has conceded more goals away from home this campaign than Mallorca and an in-form Betis side will likely be too much for them to handle in Seville. We’re more likely to see a cricket score than a surprise from Mallorca in this one, despite their win last weekend.
Prediction: Real Betis to Win, 1.57 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Athletic Club v Real Sociedad
Sunday 20th February – 8:00PM KO
A Basque Derby is almost certain to be a heated and tense affair, especially following Athletic’s last-gasp equaliser in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
That kind of fixture will suit Athletic Club and coach Marcelino, who has experienced more wins against Real Sociedad in his career than against any other team. That said, he has yet to do so in a Basque Derby and will be aiming to do so come Sunday night.
Home advantage could also come into play given that Athletic have won their last four in a row at San Mamés, including over Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Copa del Rey. Real Sociedad’s last away win in LaLiga, meanwhile, came in November.
Real Sociedad are likely to rotate, facing RB Leipzig in a Europa League round of 32 second leg tie on Thursday and having travelled to Germany this week will test Imanol Alguacil’s squad to the limit.
Adnan Januzaj and Ander Barrenetxea are both set to miss out through injury which will take out an extra bit of pace from La Real’s attack, accommodating Athletic further. Their defensive confidence may mean that an unfit Real Sociedad attack are unable to find their way through.
Prediction: Athletic Club Draw no Bet, 1.57 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Celta Vigo v Levante
Monday 21st February – 8:00PM KO
Don’t be distracted by Levante’s shock victory over Atlético Madrid in midweek, they are still very much a poor team who are out of their depth in Primera. That win was also more points from one fixture than they had picked up in their previous 11 LaLiga games on the road combined.
Up against Celta Vigo, they face a team fourth in the form table, with only one defeat in their last eight LaLiga fixtures. Eduardo Coudet has got this team firing on all cylinders and they are rapidly climbing up the table.
Coudet also has his full squad available to him with no-one ruled out by injury or suspension. That means that LaLiga’s fourth most prolific attacking duo of Iago Aspas and Santi Mina will be looking to add to their combined 18 league goals to date.
At the other end, back-up goalkeeper Dani Cárdenas is likely to continue between the sticks after picking up only the team’s fifth clean sheet of the season against Atleti, which was the fourth of the 24 year old’s career.
The circumstances mean that Levante couldn’t face a tougher ask to avoid defeat for the second game running for the first time since September. Celta Vigo are on a high and should see off the visitors with ease at Balaídos.
Prediction: Celta Vigo to Win, 1.62 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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