The LaLiga title race remains one of the most competitive in Europe at present, with neither of the top two missing a step. This weekend Barcelona will look to open up a brief gap over Real Madrid when they travel to Valencia, while Sevilla could boost their top-four hopes with a win over Granada.
Valencia vs Barcelona
The managerial role at Barcelona should be one of the most touted jobs in world soccer, but there was a sense that nobody really wanted to pick up the slack left by Ernesto Valverde. Former midfielder Xavi turned down the chance to return to the Nou Camp, while Ronald Koeman said that his focus was on the European Championships in June. That meant that the position was filled by Quique Seiten. The former Real Betis manager didn’t get off to the best of starts as the Catalonian side edged passed Granada last time out.
Barcelona dominated possession throughout the game, but the red card to German Sanchez Barahona changed the game. Within seven minutes of the Granada man being sent off, the home side were able to take the lead through Lionel Messi. Their performance levels will have to increase this weekend when they travel to Valencia. Otherwise, the door will be left open for Real Madrid to pounce.
Valencia have managed to close the gap to the top four to just four points after an excellent run of form. However, that resurgence was brought to an end last time out as they slipped to a shock defeat on the road against Mallorca. Valencia were 3-0 behind at the break after goals from Antonio Jose Rallo Arenas, and a brace from Ante Budimir. Things got worse for the Champions League hopefuls in the second period when Daniel Parejo was sent off, and then Daniel Rodriguez Vazquez made it 4-0. Ferran Torres pulled a goal back, but judging from this display punters will be backing Barcelona.
Sevilla vs Granada
One of the biggest surprise packages of the La Liga season so far has been Sevilla, and a win on the weekend would see them move above Atletico Madrid into third spot. Their recent form has been stuttering, as they haven’t won in their last two, and they have only got four points from a possible 12.
They were beaten in their last league match against Real Madrid. Casmeiro scored twice in that game, while Luuk de Jong did equalise. They have played in a friendly since that fixture, but they were well-beaten by German side Sandhausen. They will need to get back to winning ways in the league; otherwise, the teams that are chasing them at present will be gifted a chance to bridge the gap.
Meanwhile, Granada have proven to be a very competitive side so far this season, and they will push Sevilla to their limit. However, their recent form hasn’t been ideal as they have lost three of their last four. Their only win during this run came against Mallorca. Their defeat against Barcelona last time out was an unfortunate result for the minnows as they did defend admirably throughout that fixture. They will need to defend to that same standard once again against Sevilla if they are to have any chance of taking something out of the game.
The head to head record shows how close this fixture could be, as Sevilla hold the narrow advantage having won on nine occasions compared to the five wins that Granada have. Punters may put their trust in the home side, and for Sevilla to get back to winning ways.