Sporting Gijon v Atletico Madrid – Saturday 12:00PM
Home team Sporting Gijon picked up only their fouth win of the season last weekend, away from home against Leganés, and two of those have been against last week’s opponents! It was their first win away from home this season. At the very least, it has closed the gap on Leganés and certainly made things interesting regarding the relegation battle.
Simeone's Atletico team are continuing to show signs of improvement and are now seven unbeaten in La Liga since losing heavily 3-0 at Villarreal. They certainly showed great character last week to defeat Celta Vigo, having gone behind 2-1 with only 12 minutes remaining. Goals in the 86th and 88th minute from Carrasco and Griezmann certainly made for a dramatic ending.
With three of Sporting’s wins coming at home this season, it might be tempting to believe they have a chance? I don't think they do though.
Despite Atletico playing Bayer Leverkusen next Tuesday in the Champions League and Simeone may be considering a slight rotation of his team, I believe that they still will have too much and will take all three points in this game. They did win the home game this season 5-0 after all.
Sporting's relatively new coach Rubi has certainly not yet convinced that he is courageous enough tactically to take the game to Atletico and build on any confidence that would have been gained from last week’s win. Defensively they are yet to keep a clean sheet at home this season and I expect that to still be the case in this game.
It certainly won't be a heavy score line but I'm going for an away 2-0 win (7.00) in this one.
Real Madrid v Espanyol – Saturday 3:15PM
This is certainly the busiest period of the season so far for Zidane's team and he will be delighted that at the moment his team pretty much have a clean bill of health. Even Gareth Bale is looking likely to make a comeback very soon.
Real Madrid went 13 days without a game after the recent postponement against Celta, and now have to play four games in pretty much the same amount of time. A win against Osasuna away last weekend, another win versus Napoli at home on Wednesday, Espanyol in this game and then Valencia away next Wednesday. Zidane will have to utilise his squad to the max.
Therefore, it's hard to predict a likely line-up in this one to face Espanyol but I have to say that the fringe squad players have served him well this season when the injuries have really piled up. Mind you, when the likes of Isco, James Rodriguez, Morata and Kovacic are your back up you are certainly not hard done by!
Real were 2-0 winners back in September at the Cornella but Espanyol have been tough to beat on their travels this season. Most of their away games are low scoring affairs. They have scored 12 away goals and have only conceded 14. Their last win though against Real Madrid was back in 2007 and it would be a major surprise if they win here this week.
Quique Sanches Flores has certainly made them much better than they have been for some time now, and that is shown in the fact that last season it was 6-0 to Real Madrid in both fixtures, that won't happen again this week.
It is certainly not a foregone conclusion that this is a Real Madrid win by any means.
It will be tough and Real Madrid might need to show patience, which is not always easy in their own stadium. I'm going for a narrow Real Madrid win but I do fancy Espanyol to score. It could be that one of those Sergio Ramos late winners might be needed this week (10.50) in a 2-1 victory for Real Madrid (9.50).
Sevilla v Eibar – Saturday 7:45PM
Interesting game this one. Sevilla have shown some signs recently that the season is taking its toll on them and they really had to dig deep last week to inflict the first home defeat of the season on Las Palmas.
Steven N'zonzi in particular looked jaded, Samir Nasri is not the same player he was earlier in the season and you could say exactly the same about the Spanish International Vitolo. Sevilla always look to play offensive football under Jorge Sampaoli and it is always fast and furious from the first minute to the last and they are at their best when they are physically capable of doing that. I'm not sure they are at the moment. They will also have their minds focused on the forthcoming midweek CL home game against Leicester City.
Sampaoli hasn't been too concerned with rotating the starting team but it might be time to start doing so and making the most of a really talented squad. In actual fact, the team improved last week when the substitutions were made and Iborra and Jovetic really had an impact. The biggest impact though was the other sub. Young Argentine striker Joaquin Correa netted the winner and he is a player I hope to see more of now this season.
As for Eibar their wonderful story continues to get better and better. They have won the last three, scoring 11 and only conceding a solitary goal. A 3-1 win against Deportivo has been followed by beating Valencia 4-0 away and Granada by the same scoreline at home on Monday night.
Trust me, the team, who only attract around 4000 supporters for home games in a stadium that was expanded in the summer to hopefully get 6000, are surpassing all expectation levels once again. For them to be in seventh place and just one point behind Villarreal and a Europa League place is incredible.
Sergi Enrich is the main goalscorer for Eibar and he has nine La Liga goals this season.
They will approach this game with a carefree and confident attitude and will continue with their trusted style of play, which is very direct. They are also really well drilled and organised at the back.
If, as expected, Sevilla look to press high up the pitch it will not faze Eibar in the slightest, they are more than happy to hit the channels, hit diagonal passes forward quickly. It might even prove to be detrimental for Sevilla to try to win the ball back quickly anyway.
I'm actually going to go for the surprise in this game and go for the Eibar win.
I'm going for the fresher team with their minds fixed firmly on this fixture to overcome the weary team preparing for a midweek Champions League game and I'm going to go for a 2-1 away win for Eibar (17.00).
Barcelona v Leganés – Sunday 7:45PM
The pressure is firmly on Barcelona and in particular Luis Enrique after the disastrous performance and result on Tuesday evening.
In my opinion that type of performance has been lying in wait all season. They have been a team this season that has lacked motivation. Too many times they have performed abysmally against opponents they have expected to beat easily, and they have come unstuck on a few occasions. I honestly thought they would learn a lesson when they lost to Alaves at the Nou Camp in only the third game of the league campaign, but they haven't.
Despite having an illustrious list of players at his disposal, I believe Enrique hasn't shown the leadership qualities that have been needed this season. It is his responsibility to "crack the whip" when needed. To recognise the signs before sloppy performances happen and to prepare his team tactically before games. It is those type of attributes that he has needed this season to motivate players who have won countless trophies over the years, but they seem to lack the hunger to be on top of their game on a consistent basis. I can't imagine that is easy at all but it is most definitely the manager’s job to try.
The PSG game was a perfect example of Barcelona having the attitude where they believed it was going to be the same winning result as it always is when they play PSG
What astounded me was the fact that when they were clearly going to get beat they didn't at least try to limit the damage. The manager should have recognised that and changed tactically to ensure that somehow his team were still in the tie for the second leg.
In this game I'm sure there will be a positive reaction from the players but that will be very straightforward against a team that haven't won in 10 games. They will just be too good for Leganés I'm afraid to say.
I'm sure the supporters in the Nou Camp will let the players know exactly what they thought about the PSG result and performance, so expect Barca to come out flying.
A 6-0 away win last week against newly promoted Alavés who beat them earlier in the season at the Nou Camp tells you all you need to know about Barcelona this season.
This could be a big scoring affair for Barcelona but it certainly won't begin to get anywhere near making up for Tuesday night.
I'm going for at least a 4 goal victory for Barcelona (4.60) and it could be even more.