Alavés v Sevilla
Sevilla certainly were not at their best and most fluent on Thursday against Athletic Bilbao and were grateful to hang onto a 1-0 win. Athletic perhaps produced one of their best away performances this season and should definitely have got some reward in that game. The result, most importantly for Sevilla, was huge. It represented another opportunity to chip away at what was once a big lead held by Real Madrid at the top of the table.
With Real Madrid dropping points against Las Palmas it was crucial for Sevilla to take advantage and to close the gap. They did just that.
As things stand Sevilla lie in third place going into this round of fixtures, just one point behind Real Madrid now and two points behind Barcelona.
They are firmly in the title race going into week 26 and must be considered genuine contenders.
Sampaoli will be hoping for a better performance against Alavés on Monday evening, something that he has admitted. Notable absences against Athletic were maybe significant and maybe a reason for the subdued form.
Expect the likes of N'zonzi, Vitolo, Sarabia, Franco Vazquez and Nico Pareja to return in this game against Alavés.
Alavés are the team that have accumulated the most yellow and red cards in La Liga this season!
Therefore, suspensions start to pile up and for this game they are without the two players that were sent off in the midweek defeat against Granada in centre back Alexis and striker Aleksandr Katai. They will also be without influential midfielder Dani Torres after he picked up a ban for an accumulation of yellow cards.
They have only won three games at home this season, compared to five away. Home wins have come against Betis, Valencia and Granada, nothing majorly impressive there to concern Sevilla. No doubt they are better on the road and their most impressive results have been away wins at Barcelona and Villarreal.
Alavés have made real progress on their return to the top flight. They are in a healthy 11th position, 14 points clear of relegation and have a cup final to look forward to at the end of May but I don't see them succeeding in this game.
With the expected return of a handful of talented players for Sampaoli I'm going to go for an away win and for Sevilla to keep up the pace with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
I'm leaning towards a 2-1 away victory(8.50).