Atlético Madrid v Getafe, Saturday 3pm
Referee: Martínez Munuera
Earlier this season Getafe were a bit indigestible to the reigning Champions. Like trying to swallow six cream-cracker sandpaper sandwiches in a sauna.
Cosmin Contra’s team had Alexis sent off with 35 minutes to play but Atleti still only squeeked through 1-0.
For Getafe that may seem an eternity ago – it’s certainly a couple of managers ago. Coach Contra is in China, sold [!] to Guangzhou. Quique Sanchez Flores seemed a brilliant appointment but left, before the ink was dry on his contract, infuriated by broken promises, and now he’s being sued by the President.
Last week, losing 0-1 at home to Real Sociedad Getafe didn’t play like a ‘broken’ team. But it’s feasible that a fracture might occur here.
Getafe have had a man sent off in each of their last three Liga matches against Atleti, beginning last season, when Los Rojiblancos smashed them 7-0 in this fixture. Looks like bad blood.
Atleti street-fought their way through in Europe in midweek and while you might suspect that extra-time and penalties against Leverkusen would take their toll, physically, the mental boost of winning that shoot-out and delighting these rabid fans means that Atleti should be backed to come out all guns blazing and to get tucked right into Getafe.
Raul Garcia got two in this game last year and having missed a penalty in the shoot-out it’d be typical of him to get that monkey off his back quickly with a goal against Getafe.
Griezmann, as always, is worth a punt because his pace, confidence and form set him apart. But if Mario Mandzukic’s midweek knock keeps him out then Fernando Torres scoring in a Madrid derby is worth a look too.
Hunter’s Hint: Atletico -2 goals at 11/4
Athletic Bilbao v Almería, Saturday 9pm
Referee Prieto Iglesias
The Lions finally had enough of being stared at in their cage and got on with doing a bit of savaging. Five straight wins in League and Cup, including the European champions, stingy in defence and in front of a roaring, proud crowd. All of that and the Copa final to come at the end of May.
So, playing lowly Almería who’ve not tasted victory in five it’s gotta be a straight KO, right?
But just the slightest engaging of memory muscles will remind you of Athletic losing to Elche, Cordoba and Granada this season.
All of them at San Mames. All of them ‘guaranteed’ wins.
Ernesto Valverde says:
“We need to change our mentality. “We’ve been playing well, last week Celta allowed us space to get in behind them but Almeria will dig in and we’ll need neat, technical, inside-forward skills around their area to get the win we want”.
Almería coach Juan Ignacio Martínez, known to friend and foe alike as JIM, agrees:
“I like my teams to be on the ball but I’ve consolidated my reputation as a coach by knowing how to defend deep, intensely and to play well on the break. “That’s my trademark”.
Tomer Hemed, fancied for long enough by Everton until a bad injury, is their most bankable scorer while Aduriz is having a simply unbelievable season. Miki San José, named in the Spain squad, loves a goal and while I don’t think this paints as an ideal game for him [he’ll get more on the break than he ever does as a penalty box finisher] Iñaki Williams does work his socks off for the team and one of these days he’ll look less ungainly in the box and score.
If this isn’t a firm home win then I’ll not be the only one who’s shocked. Athletic to score a couple and win. More Aduriz? Why not?
Hunter’s Hint: Aduriz to score and Bilbao to win at 8/5
Villarreal v Sevilla, Sunday 4pm
Referee: Hernández Hernández
“Oh, it’s YOU again” – the surly, barely civil greeting between those who didn’t particularly like each other in the first place and have, definitely, seen too much of each other in recent days.
This will be the fourth meeting between them this season and the third in ten days. Thus far the clock has been Villarreal’s enemy in these contests.
For example, back in October they faced off in the League.
Vietto [definitely worth an any-time] put Villarreal ahead at the Sanchez Pizjuan with 11 remaining.
But then both Denis Suárez and Carlos Bacca [penalty] scored in the space of the last three minutes – the countdown to the final whistle cost Villarreal dearly.
Then, last week, it took Vitolo 13 seconds to give Sevilla a lead which they converted into a huge Europa League away win at the Madrigal – 1-3 was the final score with Mbia and Gameiro adding the other two.
[Vietto scored again].
So the Yellow Submarine dozed off in the first fixture and hadn’t woken up in time for the second meeting.
By Thursday things were slightly less dramatic but Suárez still added the key goal with the match balanced at 1-1 with seven minutes left.
Villarreal must feel pretty humiliated by Unai Emery’s evidently sharper/fitter team.
You’d have thought that, perhaps, they’ll get after them with all guns blazing just for a little bit of revenge on Sunday afternoon – perhaps Eric Bailly’s red card on Thursday will be added to?
But Sevilla have three wins and a draw in the last seven visits to the Madrigal.
So it’s a feisty one in prospect. Hard to call. Sevilla have proven that they are more savvy, fitter and maybe just that touch hungrier. So they should go home again without defeat. 2-2. Perm from Vietto, Gerard, Bacca, Vitolo [named in the Spain squad] or Denis Suárez for the goals.
Hunter’s Hint: 2-2 at 11/1
Real Sociedad v Córdoba, Sunday 6pm
Referee: Velasco Carballo
This is a good moment to be David Moyes.
Everton don’t look better off without him, Manchester United’s vast expenditure on players hasn’t greatly improved their paying public’s contentment with the Van Gaal playing style, yet at least, and now Real Sociedad are both bright and bubbly.
They’ve won three out of the last four and suddenly there’s not a queue to get into the infirmary or red-cross aid being handed out in San Sebastian.
This season every single player except two, Rubén Pardo and Esteban Granero, has missed at least one game through injury and this is the first week that La Real have had every player fit.
The big question is whether the Scot reckons that his star striker Carlos Vela has had enough time working with the squad, after two months out, to have game time here.
A start seems unlikely, particularly given how well La Real have coped without him.
Cordoba have lost their last eight, more fool them for sacking Chapi Ferrer in the first place.
Worse, they’ve only scored four times in those eight matches. The second division awaits. Chapi’s replacement, Miroslav Djukic, has also been sacked and the ‘Miracle Man’ José Antonio Romero, is in charge. Last season he took over the Cordoba ‘B’ team when they’d gone eight games without a win [7 defeats] and saved them from relegation.
His former midfielder Rafa Gálvez reckons: “This is a reward for years of hard work by Romero. “He’s such a hard worker. “Last year the B team was last but he saved them. “It’ll be intense under him but he’s qualified for the job of keeping Cordoba up”. Iago Bouzón, Fede Vico and Edimar are all out – Crespo’s a doubt. Not ideal. Xisco came off the bench in the first game between these sides this season [1-1] to equalize very late on but Nabil Ghilas is the [any time scorer] danger man.
La Real aren’t a scoring machine and thus a draw isn’t impossible but their confidence is high, they’ve been working hard under Moyes and should win.
Perm from Canales, Chory Castro and Iñigo for an any time scorer. 2-0/3-1
Hunter’s Hint: Real Sociedad -1 at 15/8
FC Barcelona v Real Madrid, Sunday 8pm
Referee: Mateu Lahoz
Okay, hands up and no shouting the answer out – who remembers Carlo Ancelotti’s ideas last season before the Camp Nou Clasico?
Anyone? No? Right, time you lot did more homework.
Gareth Bale at centre forward to begin with, Sergio Ramos in midfield. Sami Khedira lumbering around alongside him.
No Benzema to start with. No Isco. No Iker. Sounds farcical, doesn’t it?
But Madrid still only lost 2-1 and were, by the time he got things right tactically, distinctly in the ascendancy as the final whistle approached.
The Italian’s confusion wasn’t simply to do with it being his first match against Barça as Madrid coach – mainly to do with him not being sure of his own resources.
This Clasico weekend profiles differently. You’d bet that he’ll start with Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo: Isco, Kroos, Modric: Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo.
No experiments, no mucking about. But the shape will probably be more often 4-4-2, and the style will certainly be more counter-attacking then has been the case for most of this season.
Ancelotti is asking Bale to work more defensively, to position himself more as a fourth midfielder than the third striker – and if the Welshman fulfils his brief he is, counter-intuitively, more likely to be a goal threat.
When he got his winner in the Copa Final last season he’d begun the move back in his own penalty box – but still left Marc Bartra gasping for air when sprinting across half the pitch, and what felt like twice around the stadium, to score. Let Bale get up pace and he’s more dangerous than he’s looked in recent months.
Barcelona are susceptible to pace and power when it’s deployed on clever counters against them – step forward Gareth-boyo.
Eight visits since losing here 5-0 in 2010 have all brought a Real Madrid goal or goals. They score at the Camp Nou and should do so again. Benzema has four in three v Barça.
If you’d like another reason to believe in the visitors then let’s update Claudio Bravo’s stats against Madrid.
Since 2006 he’s faced them 11 times, losing ten and conceding 33 goals.
All that said, Barcelona start favourites and should probably carry your cash on them. They play quick, confident football, press well and rob the ball and now they break effectively.
At set plays they score more, defending set plays they concede fewer.
There’s competition for places, Messi’s on flying form and Rakitic is the under-appreciated hit of the season.
It’s hard to imagine that Busquets is ready to play but Mascherano in midfield works – just differently.
Both teams to score, three+ goals [the last ten years have seen 34 Clásicos averaging three and a half goals per game], Messi to add to his all-time leading scorer status in this fixture, Benzema to reply but the home side to extend their Liga lead. Easier said than done.
Hunter’s Hint: Both teams to score and Barcelona to win at 6/4