Atlético de Madrid over ELCHE
Last season Elche survived due to their defensive security. The Valencian side conceded 50 goals last season, which is fairly average, but ultimately was enough to preserve permanence. More impressively, however, Elche conceded a mere 12 goals at the Martínez Valero, which was the second-best defensive record at home in La Liga. By comparison, Elche have the second-worst defensive record this season, having allowed 27 goals through 13 matches, nine of which have been conceded in their home ground. While I don't expect Escribá's side to pull one out against the La Liga champions, if my beloved franjiverdes (I've rather indiscreetly developed an affection for this club) can't rediscover their identity in defense, I fear for their safety.
Elche 0 Atlético de Madrid 2
ATHLETIC CLUB over Córdoba
After only winning once in their first eight league games, Athletic have won four out of their last five, and now sit in 9th place on 18 points. There is some talk in Bilbao that Iñaki Williams, another prized Lezama product, could debut against Córdoba if Aduriz isn't cleared to play. Interestingly, if the Ghana-born striker is promoted, his contract automatically extends three seasons (beyond it's current expiration in 2017) with a new 20 million euro release clause. So far this season Iñaki has 11 goals in 15 games including a stunning match-winner against Real Madrid Castilla. As one of the most highly touted players in Lezama, the 20 year-old is seen by some as why Valverde didn't want to leave Athletic this past summer, as he was keen on overseeing Iñaki's transition to first team football. If he develops the way they expect him to in Bilbao, Athletic's post-Aduriz dilemma becomes a lot less complicated.
Athletic Club 2 Córdoba 0
REAL MADRID draw with Celta de Vigo
Since Modrić's injury it appears Ancelotti is keen on using Isco as a central midfielder as opposed to a player more defensively inclined. This could prove problematic against a dynamic attacking team like Celta. That is, of course, unless Ancelotti opts for an Enrique-like anarchic approach, which would be a rather tantalizing 90-minute affair. The Galicians, however, haven't won since Sergio Álvarez' Yashin-like performance at the Camp Nou. Speaking of Álvarez, by the way, the 28 year-old keeper has become something of a revelation, allowing a mere 13 goals in as many games, which is fifth-best in La Liga. Álvarez may be keen on replicating his performance against the Blaugrana, though Celta haven't kept a clean sheet at the Bernabéu since 1977. If Álvarez can accomplish such a feat at two of the biggest stadiums in Europe, we should bow at the feet of Miguel Torrecilla who clearly knew what he was doing when he sent Yoel away to Valencia a few months ago.
Real Madrid 1 Celta de Vigo 1
Málaga over DEPORTIVO DE LA CORUNA
I'd be quite inclined to pick a Depor upset here if Gracia's side hadn't just lost two straight. Málaga only have one win in 23 matches all-time at the Riazor, but following two straight losses, the Costa del Sol side should be keen to obtain a positive result here. The mood around A Coruña is eerie due to the death of a Depor ultra at the Calderón last week. I won't delve into this excessively, as it's already been covered elsewhere, and with greater insight. But the LFP and RFEF muffed this to the extent that some may find it hard to justify their support of Spanish football beyond the on-the-pitch affairs, of which I don't find in the least bit reproachful. As Sid Lowe once put it: football in Spain "is played by geniuses, but run by idiots." But they are more than idiots. They're criminals. Tebas vete ya.
Deportivo de La Coruña 0 Málaga 1
Sevilla over RAYO VALLECANO
Sevilla, Valencia, and Málaga -- three of La Liga's surprise contenders at the top -- have combined for one win in their last nine total matches. How much of that indicates a subsidence of power from Spain's "Big Three" remains uncertain, as I think all three of these clubs have fallen victim to unfortunate circumstances in recent weeks (Barcelona's last-minute winner against Valencia, Málaga facing Real Madrid and Atlético in consecutive weeks, etc). But with the likely ascension of Athletic following their Champion"s League exit, not to mention the capabilities of clubs like Real Sociedad and Villarreal among others, the 4-6 holders on the La Liga table would do well to turn around their misfortunes. An away match at Vallecas will be no easy task for Sevilla, who've only won there three times in 16 matches all-time. But following their manita against Granada, Emery's side arrive in full confidence, and should be keen to knock Rayo off their current oscillation of good form.
Rayo Vallecano 1 Sevilla 2
BARCELONA over Espanyol
Slugfest-type performances, as seen against Valencia last week, evoke different reactions from fans. One could interpret the "Busquets miracle" as pragmatic or inept, depending on what dimension you live in as a football fan. Enrique must feel like he exists in a rather incommodious world, in that no matter what tactic he deploys it must in some way parallel Guardiola's ideology, while also show a certain level of evolution -- all the while being squeezed within the all-seeing walls of the Bartomeu administration. It's certainly not an envious position. If one thought Tata's life was hard, Enrique's is certainly no exception, barring a certain affection he has for the club that undoubtedly grants him lenience in ways Tata could only dream of. The point of all of this is that perhaps I've been too hasty in my assessment of Enrique's ineptitude. There is an alarming lack of clarity in his tactics, but he's identified a serious weakness in midfield, and is proactively addressing it. While I'm not unequivocally satisfied, I can at least console myself in knowing Enrique is doing what he can, and obtaining results. Ugly or not, six goals in 13 games is a rather impressive feat.
Barcelona 2 Espanyol 0
VILLARREAL draw with Real Sociedad
This is about as evenly contested as it gets. I'd wager that La Real have a slight edge in individual talent, and are seemingly more motivated following Arrasate's sacking in which they've gone undefeated. But Villarreal arrive in equally good form, and have the advantage of playing at El Madrigal where they spanked the Basque side 5-1 in this fixture last season. The key for Marcelino will be how to contain Carlos Vela who has four goals in his last three games, including a hat-trick against Elche last week. If he's double-marked, it could allow Esteban Granero or Xabi Prieto increased space to operate in the attacking third. Prieto was the beneficiary of this last week as he orchestrated La Real's attack with relative ease. With the continued absence of Gio dos Santos, the pressure will again be on 21 year-old starlet Luciano Vietto to produce up front for Villarreal. But with Vela's good form, I like a draw here.
Villarreal 2 Real Sociedad 2
Valencia over GRANADA
Granada are far and away the most depressing side to watch in La Liga right now. And I say that as a closet Granada fan. But Caparrós' tactics are all over the place, and he can't seem to settle on a first-choice XI. Daniel Larsson made his long-awaited and was quite impactful, namely in terms of his off the ball work, of which Granada's attack could benefit from. Valencia are likely ravaged following Busquets' late match-winner last week, and should be keen to recover their form following consecutive defeats. I think Granada can weather a Nuno-led attack in southern Andalusia, but to what extent I'm not sure.
Granada 0 Valencia 3
EIBAR draw with Almería
After starting off moderately well Almería are winless in their last seven. Francisco remarked after their defeat against Rayo that they "were left looking like assholes." Part of the reason for Almería's recent decline is Edgar's drop in form. The last time the Arafo-born winger had a meaningful game was against Depor in Jornada 6. Not coincidentally that was the last time Almería won a game in La Liga. If Francisco can find a way to get Edgar more involved they may have a chance against Eibar, though the Basque side have only have two losses at home all season, and are one of the most defensively efficient teams in the Primera.
Eibar 0 Almería 0
LEVANTE over Getafe
This is likely not to be an entertaining affair. I know the LFP uses the Monday/Friday format for it's inevitable increase in ratings, but I can't imagine many fans tuning into Levante-Getafe for a late kick-off on Monday night. Instead of offering contrived analysis on this one, I'll just leave everyone to David Barral's Twitter account, which is much more interesting....
Levante 1 Getafe 0