Real Madrid v Alavés
Saturday, 15:15
Live on Betfair Live Video
Four wins on the spin, 16 goals scored... for the first time this season, we might just be able to return declare the return of the real Real Madrid with some level of confidence. It's been carnivalesque at times, with the defence still a long way from stable, but Los Merengues do finally seem to have found their attacking groove, which is good news for neutrals.
They played their game in hand in midweek, coming from behind to beat Leganés, and climbed back into third place in the standings. Now Alavés pitch up at the Bernabéu, looking to extend their own impressive run of form.
The Basque side looked down and out when Abelardo pitched up in December, but he has engineered a stunning turnaround: they've won 11 of their last 16 in all competitions, and leapt out of the relegation zone in La Liga. Even when they have lost, they have impressed, as against Atlético Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona - all away games.
This probably won't be as straightforward as odds of 1.17 on the home win would suggest, then, not least because Madrid are without Marcelo, Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos (all injured) and Sergio Ramos (suspended). Alavés are themselves weakened by the loss of Munir, who serves a ban, but haven't shipped more than two goals in game since Abelardo's arrival and should make a decent game of this.
Recommended Bet
Back Alavés +2.0 at 2.40

Barcelona v Girona
Saturday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Football and Betfair Live Video
Barcelona could count themselves quite fortunate to escape Stamford Bridge with a point in midweek, Chelsea having rattled their nerves along with the woodwork. It was not a vintage performance from the Catalans, but in truth it was of a piece with many of their recent displays, which have been scrappy rather than sensational.
We have frequently made reference to their habit of winning points in the second half of games, which hints both at a bit of weariness - par for the course when you're gunning for a treble - and, perhaps, a slight lack of inspiration when Lionel Messi is not doing his thing. Ernesto Valverde's 4-4-2 formation has worked like a charm this term, but he is reliant on the Argentine to provide both spark between the lines and the finishing touch.
They welcome Girona to Camp Nou this weekend, and a repeat of their 3-0 success over their near neighbours would be welcome. But they would be wise not to underestimate the White and Reds, who continue to lurk just outside the European places - a brilliant achievement given this is their first season in primera.
Girona's away form has tailed off recently, and after seeing his side get hammered by Eibar, Pablo Machín appears to have adopted a more circumspect approach: they have only conceded four in the four away games since, one of which was an own goal and another a penalty. Given that only one of Barcelona's last 13 goals in La Liga was scored in the first half, we like their chances of keeping things tight early on.
Recommended Bet
Under 1.5 first half goals at 1.83

Athletic Club v Málaga
Sunday, 15:15
Live on Sky Sports Red Button and Betfair Live Video
It has been a disappointing season so far for Athletic, who have struggled to adapt to life after Valverde. Replacement José Ángel Ziganda has prioritised defensive stability, but at the expense of attacking verve: the Basques are averaging just a goal a game. The loss of the sparky Iker Muniain to a long-term injury did them no favours, but you would still expect better of a side that contains the talents of Aritz Aduriz, Raúl García and Iñaki Williams.
The Europa League has been a distraction and Athletic rode their luck on Thursday night, losing to Spartak Moscow but progressing 4-3 on aggregate. But Ziganda rotated a bit for that one and will see a run of three home league games in four as a big opportunity to climb the table. San Mamés has not quite been a fortress, but only Atlético and Barcelona have won there as visitors this term.
Málaga are rock bottom, with no wins and just two goals in their last nine games, so it's a surprise to see Athletic as long as 1.78 to win this one. The hosts are not brilliant, but José González's charges are worse.
Recommended Bet
Back Athletic at 1.78

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