Friday, 9 December 2011

This weekend. Clasisco, Valencia and more

Predictions and probabilites

Real Madrid v Barcelona

Whisper it quietly, but for the first time in a long while, Real Madrid feel like favourites for El Clasico.

Pep Guardiola is unbeaten at the Bernabeu since he took over in 2008, with two wins and a draw. However, Barca's current away form is poor by their high standards. They have only won two from six away Liga games, and their last outing ended in a humbling 1-0 defeat at Getafe.

Meanwhile, Real have gone through an unstoppable spell and are looking
for their 16th consecutive victory in all competitions. In La Liga,
they have scored 49 goals in 14 games, and have not dropped a point at
home all season.

However, Mourinho cannot boast the impressive home defensive record of his foes: while Barca have yet to concede at the Camp Nou, Real have conceded at least a goal a game so far at home this term.

In terms of personnel, both sides will be close to full strength having been able to rest their stars in midweek. Ricardo Carvalho (Real) and Ibrahima Affellay (Barca) are long term absentees. Adriano could return for Barca.

Mourinho has declared he will opt for one of Benzema and Higuain in a three-pronged attack with Ronaldo and Di Maria. Guardiola has something of a selection headache in attack,where the returning Pedro will be vying for a spot with the in-form Alex Sanchez.

Prediction: A win for Real, but Barca will score. Top picks: Ronaldo, Di Maria; Messi. 2-1

3rd place Valencia visit Real ”the slump” Betis. Valencia whimpered out of the Champions League after being given a good seeing to by
Didier Drogba and Chelsea in midweek. But that humbling is nothing
compared to that which Betis have received since daring to visit the
summit of the Liga standings in week 4. They are on a dismal downward
spiral and haven’t won since winning their four opening games – and
they’ve lost 10 of their last 12 meetings with Los Che. You get the
idea.

Valencia are big favourites and the only tricky bit will be
predicting the right players for the win. Tino Costa is loving it in
central midfield after getting more regular starts and is a reliable
pick. Roberto Soldado can be expected to net. Prediction: Away win 0-1

A fairly titillating tie involves Valencia’s plucky neighbours,
Levante. The fourth placed upstarts take on a sparkling Sevilla side in one of the most exciting games of the weekend. If Sevilla were to win, they would leapfrog their opponents into 4th.

The southerners have only scored three away from home all season, but they’ve only conceded two so they will provide awkward opposition to a Levante side with a healthy home record.

Neither side have any new injury worries. Levante have to be sure to suppress Ivan Rakitic and Jesus "the chosen one" Navas who were devastating in Sevilla’s 3-0 defeat over Getafe last weekend.

Prediction: low score draw: 1-1. Ones to watch: Aruna Kone and
Barkero; Rakitic, Negredo.

Malaga v Osasuna is the next match of interest, and by my calculations should be the most one sided fixture of the round. Malaga like to score, and Osasuna tend to concede away from home. Don’t get me wrong, Osasuna love to pull a shock win as much as Malaga like to pull a
shock defeat but the stats favour the home team.

Malaga have a number of injury problems with Wellington, Julio Baptista and Joaquin all confirmed as unfit for the game, but have the squad to cope. Osasuna are missing midfield maestro Javad Nekounam through suspension. Prediction: a win by a couple for Malaga. Ones to watch: Cazorla, Isco, Rondon. 3-1

Espanyol v Atletico Madrid. A close match to call with both sides
stumbling along inconsistently. While Atletico are healthily placed in
8th, they have terrible away form and Espanyol know how to scratch out
the home wins. It’s going to be tight.

Atletico welcome back first teamers Arda Turan, Diego "the liability" Godin and Thibaut Courtois. Espanyol are without Manchester City loanee Vladimir Weiss and the injured Javier Marquez. A home win is expected but a surprise upset could be worth a punt: 1-0

Atlethico Bilbao should ease back in to winning ways against Racing
Santander, but star striker Fernando Llorente is doubtful. The onus
will be on the likes of Iker Muniain and Markel Susaeta to bring the pain. 2-0

Rayo Vallecano v Gijon. A home win for Vallecano. Look out for goals
for Michu and Raul Tamudo. 2-0

Getafe v Granada. Granada and their mean defence have been on a tidy
run, lifting them to 12th. Getafe are missing Dani Guiza and Pedro Leon. Should be a slim home win but Granada more than capable of an upset. 1-0. Getafe's Miku and Castro to star.

Villarreal v Sociedad. Two of this season’s slow starters trying to
claw their way up the table. Javier Garrido welcomes back Nilmar and Cani from injury, but defender Mussachio is suspended. 1-1. Look out for: Ruben, De Guzman and a goal from the half-way line for Sociedad's Inigo Martinez.

Real Zaragoza v Mallorca. A grim prospect for the neutral but look out for forgotten Portugeezer Helder Postiga. 1-0

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