Cádiz v Rayo Vallecano
What happens when you pit the team with the worst home record in the league up against the team with the worst away record in the league? That’s exactly what we’ll see on Sunday in LaLiga as Rayo Vallecano travel to Cádiz.
Cádiz may be struggling, but results have picked up under Sergio Gónzalez, who remains unbeaten at the Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla after three games. Cádiz haven’t conceded in open play in the last three games, and haven’t conceded at home in open play since Sergio’s first game in charge.
Rayo started the season in incredible form, but are without a win in LaLiga in 2022. On Thursday night, they had their hearts broken with a 91st minute equaliser sending them crashing out of the Copa del Rey at the semi-final stage. They stayed in Seville before then heading down to Cádiz for this game, but will be feeling the aftereffects on some tired legs.
They will also face this game, most likely, without Radamel Falcao in attack. Their talisman will be joined in the stands by Alejandro Catena, the central defender who has been almost ever present, playing 96% of minutes to date.
With only one point from the last six, Rayo Vallecano couldn’t come into this tie in worse form. Cádiz’s slow but steady improvements mean that they should be optimistic of picking up a result in their pursuit of safety.
Elche v Barcelona
After an unusual full week of rest for Barcelona, they face a visit down the east coast of Spain to face Elche in a tie which they will be facing up to with great optimism.
Barcelona have scored four in each of their last three fixtures and have been unstoppable in front of goal of late. There is also speculation that Ousmane Dembélé could start, having recorded a goal and two assists after coming on against Athletic Club last weekend.
Xavi has got the team firing on all cylinders and, given the sheer difference in quality between these two squads, they will be confident of a comfortable win at the Estadio Martínez Valero.
It’s true that Elche have been in great form of late, but things seem to have taken a return to norm. They may have won two of the last four, but had to come from behind against relegation-battlers Alavés and Rayo Vallecano, who have had their own struggles of late. Last Friday, they crashed to a 3-0 defeat to bottom-side Levante, who recorded only their third win of the season.
Elche have made life difficult for some of LaLiga’s big boys this season, but many of those surprises, such as against Real Madrid, have come against weakened teams away from home. Barcelona are likely to go with a full-strength team in front of Elche fans.
Celta Vigo v Mallorca
Spain’s most westerly team welcomes Spain’s most easterly team in this Sunday evening encounter. That stat could be one of the most entertaining features of a game which promises to be all about pragmatism rather than entertainment, particularly for visitors Mallorca who increasingly look to grind out results to aid their battle against relegation.
In 2022, Mallorca have scored just one goal in four games on the road as winter signing Verdat Muriqi’s impressive initial start to life has begun to fade. In addition, Celta have conceded only one goal at home this calendar year.
Celta Vigo’s last four and Malllorca’s last two have all ended with under 2.5 goals, and it seems likely that this could be yet another case. Iago Aspas, the Celta talisman, is without a goal at home since mid-December and Eduardo Coudet’s side haven’t looked likely to score prolifically of late, given that they have missed 1.85 xG since their last goal.
The away team will be without coach Luis García Plaza on the touchline after his sending off last weekend, but Coudet will have all of his squad available to him with no injuries or suspensions. Even so, that has been the case for the last four fixtures, with only one win in that spell.
Real Betis v Atlético Madrid
Real Betis may be nursing some hangovers after scenes of their late night partying on Thursday following qualification for the Copa del Rey final. That won’t be helped by the absence of Sergio Canales either, but they will benefit from their roster of attacking talent, with Cristian Tello likely to step up.
Their last clean sheet in LaLiga came on 18th January, six games ago, and that led Manuel Pellegrini to give Claudio Bravo a chance in goal. The Chilean veteran was at fault for both Sevilla goals last weekend, but is expected to keep his place for this fixture.
Atlético Madrid have defensive concerns of their own. They may have kept clean sheets in their last two LaLiga games, but much of that was down to holding midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia and defender Stefan Savić. Neither will be available for this trip to the Estadio Benito Villamarín.
In attack, Atleti will be looking for a repeat of their 3-0 victory in the reverse fixture, safe in the knowledge that João Félix is in good form, while Ángel Correa is exceeding his xG more than all but three other forwards in Europe’s top leagues. That’s without looking to Luis Suárez and Antoine Griezmann to come off the bench.
With only one clean sheet on the road all season for Diego Simeone, and only three at home for Pellegrini, the chances of a shoot-out are high. With so much at stake in the race for the top four, both teams will need to go for the jugular in this encounter.
Athletic Club v Levante
Looking to bounce back from Copa del Rey semi-final heartbreak against Valencia, Athletic Club will be hurting as they come up against another side from the same city that saw them sent packing on Wednesday.
Marcelino’s line-up for that encounter was the oldest XI ever put out by Athletic, with an average age of over 30, and that could mean that there will be a lack of energy from the hosts. Dani Vivian, Nico Williams and Oihan Sancet are likely to be among those to come back into the line-up having been left out for the trip to Mestalla.
San Mamés is a notoriously difficult place to go for away teams, despite only averaging 1.67 points per game at home for Athletic this season.
Levante seem to have put their worst form behind them and have picked up seven points from their last three games, compared to 11 from the previous 23. Having ground out a win and a draw against Atlético Madrid and Celta Vigo in their last two away fixtures, we can expect Alessio Lisci to take a similar approach and keep things tight at the back and hope to hit on the counter. A possible return for José Campaña is likely to boost the visitors’ hopes of controlling the game even more with his technique in midfield.
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