Málaga – Sevilla, Saturday, 5.30pm
It’s all happening in Andalusia. Three brilliant games at La Rosaleda, Almería and Granada.
There may be 207 km and two and a half hours of travel between these two cities but, believe me … this is a derby match. What’s more, there’s heaps at stake.
A win can give Málaga Europa League football if they secure seventh place but three points for Sevilla would guarantee them a Champions League slot if Valencia draw or lose in Almería.
And were there not a sizzle to Sevilla playing in the Rosaleda then their ex midfield star, Duda, clearly intends to provide it. He’s now the Málaga player with the most Primera Division appearances but he also spent two years with Sevilla.
In fact the last time Sevilla had to beat Málaga to reach the Champions League his goal helped them do just that. About this match he says: “This will be intense and competitive because we want European football next season – they want Champions. “But to me it’s ‘just another game’ – important only for what we want out of it. “And my Sevilla were better than this one – we had much more quality!”
Unai Emery wants no distraction, no quitters, nobody saving themselves for the ‘glory’ of Warsaw when they play Dnipro in the Europea League final this Wednesday. “We’ve two clear ways to achieve our goal of Champions League football – the league and winning the Europa League.
“So Saturday, in Málaga, is our first final – not ‘the game before THE final. “We need to oblige Valencia to win and to think about nothing other than that. “I’ve told my players that anyone who’s not totally focussed on beating Málaga should say so and won’t play because this is our most important game of the season”.
Emery has taken his entire squad to Marbella, on the Mediterranean, where they’ll train for this game and the Warsaw final.
Javi Grácia loses Sergi Darder to injury and Miguel Torres to injury, which restores Tissone and Juanpi to the squad which is: Kameni, Amrabat, Weligton, Camacho, Samuel, Javi Guerra, Horta, Juanmi, Tissone, Ochoa, Recio, Angeleri, Duda, Rosales, Boka, Sergio Sánchez, Juanpi, Samu Castillejo.
The lowdown goes like this. Málaga have had an awful end to the season. Since February they’ve lost nine of the last sixteen matches, often beaten by relegation fodder, often not scoring until late in the game, beaten by a ten man Elche. That said, they’ve won two and drawn one of their last three home matches with Sevilla.
It’s the eighth best home team v the fifth best away side – one which tends to win or lose on the road (just two draws in 18 visits). Sevilla won the home leg of this, but it was their only win in six matches against Málaga.
The home side should be: Kameni, Rosales, Welligton, Angeleri, Boka: Recio, Camacho: Samuel Garcia, Amrabat, Samu Castillejo: Guerra.
Sevilla might well be: Rico, Diogo, Arribas, Kolo, Navarro: M’Bia Krychowiak: Denis Suárez, Iborra, Reyes: Gameiro
IN-PLAY: To get seventh Málaga must out-point Athletic today or finish tied on points in seventh in which case they win the head-to head. Seventh means European football if Barcelona win the Copa next week
- Sevilla to break their bad run v Málaga, win by a goal [1-2] and seek ‘anytime’ help from Gameiro, Mbia, Iborra, Duda or Amrabat.
Almería – Valencia, Saturday, 5.30pm
Since they drew at home to Celta last week Nuno and his players have been sending out SoS signals to their fans. ‘Be there for us!’ has been the message.
This is mega, mega tense. At the beginning of the season Valencia‘s majority shareholder, Peter Lim, told his management team that Champions League football wasn’t the most important thing it was the ONLY thing.
They are fourth, right now, with more points than Sevilla and the ‘head-to-head’ advantage over Unai Emery‘s team but … BUT – if Valencia do anything other than win and Sevilla beat Málaga then, suddenly, Valencia are stuck with Europa League football, Lim is furious, Nuno’s job is in the balance and Jorge Mendes may think twice about moving his best players to the Mestalla. Hence the SoS.
Hundreds and hundreds of fans have flocked to the Mestalla to buy tickets and there are bus-trip travel deals being sold with the tickets too.
- Hey you! Jog on and get all the latest La Liga odds here on Desktop | Mobile
André Gomes, one of Valencia’s big success stories this season is not only out, but he’s had surgery which might keep him out beyond the beginning of next season.
Valencia tend to win at Almería but only drew here last season: 2-2. A result which would leave them very vulnerable to Sevilla leap-frogging them. So what do we draw from that given that only 11 of the 22 starting players are still at their clubs a year later?
Almería’s situation is complicated. A win here might give them safety by relegating two from Eibar, Granada or Depor. In your match calculations it’s important to note that nothing other than three points would keep Sergi Barjuan‘s team up. The Dream Team legend, left back for Cruyff, reckons: “it’s only sporadic errors which have been preventing us winning and if we keep playing as we’ve been then football will repay us. “This will be an open game, we’ll give everything and it’s vital, vital that we get the first goal because Valencia concede so few”.
Further complication comes from the fact that the Court for Sports Arbitration will announce during the week whether administrative issues in payment of international transfer fees will rob Almería of three points. If so then, no matter this result, they are down. It’s a €20m spin of the dice in terms of lost revenue.
Nuno is likely to win this one with Alves; Barragán, Otamendi, Mustafi, Gayá: Feghouli, Enzo Perez, Javi Fuego, Parejo, Rodrigo De Paul: Alcácer
The stand-out threat is Thievy. Bad, bad boy when he’s full of himself off the pitch, but potentially one hell of a player. Really. Skilled, aggressive, quick, football-smart about which position to take up and three goals in his last five. Good partnership with Zongo too. “I’m intelligent, I”m good in the air and I’ve really benefitted from the new coach playing me in the middle not stuck out on the wing” reckons the on-loan Espanyol striker.
Anytime? Look for Thievy, Zongo, Hemed and for Valencia Parejo, Gayá or Alcácer.
IN PLAY: Valencia are third if they win and Atleti lose, fifth if they don’t win here and Sevilla do win. If Almería don’t win they’re down. If they finish tied on 35 with two or three other teams they stay up on head-to-head – only if they are in a direct head-to-head points-tie with Eibar for third bottom do they go down after having won this game.
- Valencia to win this one – 8/13
Granada – Atlético, Saturday, 5.30pm
It ain’t a calamity but, as they say in Spain, Atlético ‘lo tiene crudo’.
In other words the harsh reality is that the newly deposed champions, who played the final of last season’s Champions League and contested the quarter final this year [earning in the region of €90m by doing so] will have to pre-qualify for next year’s tournament if they lose here and Valencia win at Almería – how about that?
Cholo Simeone takes with him to the beautiful Andaluz city: Oblak, Miguel Ángel Moyá;Jesús Gámez, Juanfran,Miranda, Godín, José María Giménez, Siqueira; Raúl García, Tiago, Saúl, Gabi, Mario Suárez, Koke; Griezmann, Raúl Jiménez.
Which tells you that Fernando Torres, Arda, Mandzukic are all absent for one reason or another.
The reason they’ll face ferocious rivals, despite Granada’s horrible season [Sandoval is their fourth coach] is that a win gives the home side guaranteed survival and that would become their fourth win on the trot. Not bad killer form when the chips are down.
If it’s a guide, Granada haven’t won this fixture since 1973 when Pepe Reina‘s dad was in goal for Atleti and the last five Granada v Atleti Liga meetings have had three single goal wins for the visitors and two 0-0 draws.
El Arabi has scored four since Sandoval took over, Rochina and Robert Ibañez were super last week in the 0-3 win at Real Sociedad.
Expect Griezmann and Raúl Garcia to start up front, expect Granada to give Atleti a test and the crowd to be a baying mass – this is an atmospheric, aggressive stadium
Expect Cholo to go through his squad like a dose of salts if they aren’t motivated and don’t ‘show’ here – there would be casualties in the summer market in that case.
IN-PLAY – Atleti stay third with a win or a draw. Defeat means a real possibility of fourth. Granada stay up with a win but should they end up tied on 35 points with three others, or on a straight head-to-head with Depor they go down.
- Score draw – Griezmann, El-Arabi, Robert, Saúl, Godín all worth a wee punt
Barcelona – Deportivo, Saturday 5.30pm
To quote the Beastie Boys ‘You’ve got to fight! ‘For the right! ‘To Paaaarty!!’ That’s what Barcelona, and Xavi in particular, have done so that’s what’s going to happen.
The Liga trophy will be presented post match, it’s Xavi’s last League game at the Camp Nou, he’ll start, it’s Barcelona’s last game before the Copa del Rey final – so after the final whistle there’s a party.
Obviously an atmosphere like that, and the fact that Luis Enrique will dramatically shuffle the pack and give ‘backup’ players their chance to show [Vermaelen will get game time whether from the kick off or off the bench] can detract from a team’s razor sharpness and winning attitude.
But it shouldn’t here. Luis Enrique will watch players’ attitudes hawkishly and there’s a race to be part of not only the starting XI for the two big finals to come but also to even get on the bench – that’s how competitive things are at the Camp Nou right now.
Squad: Bravo Masip Montoya Xavi Pedro Iniesta Messi Neymar Jr Rafinha Mascherano Bartra Douglas Jordi Alba S. Roberto Adriano Vermaelen Mathieu Munir
The last time Depor visited here when Barça had wrapped the league up they drew 0-0 in a dull game – but that result wouldn’t automatically keep them up this time.
If they win they survive. The way to understand the head-to-head rule in this case, particularly if you are following and betting ‘in-play’ is that should Depor end equal on points with Eibar they’ll win the head-to-head – but finish equal third bottom with either Almería or Granada and they’ll lose it, thus go down.
Six draws and a win in their last ten, Depor are fighting. Historically they’ve only won three times at the Camp Nou, the last being twelve years ago when Luis Enrique was playing and Espanyol manager Sergio Gonzalez scored! Depor something like: Fabricio, Laure, Sidnei, Lopo, Canella: Domínguez, Begantiños, Borges, Cavaleiro, Lucas, Salomão
Barcelona: Masip, Montoya, Bartra, Mathieu, Adriano: Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Rafinha: Pedro, Messi, Neymar/Munir
Could Depor win? Stranger things have happened given the Barça XI but no way with Luis Enrique’s players treat this like a kick-around and they’ll want to send Xavi on his way. Goals? Xavi, Messi, Pedro, Lucas, Sidnei for your ‘anytimes’.
- Both teams to score, Barcelona win.
- Sevilla, Valencia and Barcelona to win, with a draw between Atletico and Granada – 9/1
Want £200 Free? Click here to visit Bet365 and claim your free money.