Espanyol can notch in Catalan derby

Espanyol v Barcelona
Saturday, 19:45
Live on Eleven Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
Espanyol have been one of the success stories of the season so far, but it's starting to look like they're running out of gas as Christmas approaches. Rubí has done a fine job since taking over from Quique Sánchez Flores in the summer, tightening the defence up and coaxing some fine displays from unfashionable frontman Borja Iglesias.
But momentum has stalled over the last month, with three defeats on the spin in the league. The last couple, against Girona and Getafe have been especially concerning: Espanyol shipped three goals in each. "I'm not happy with anything or anybody," seethed Rubí after the latter result, and while they did manage a midweek cup win over Cádiz, it was another unconvincing display.
That will be music to the ears of Barcelona, themselves trying to rediscover their upper gears after a wobbly few weeks. Last weekend's win over Villarreal was businesslike rather than spectacular, and you imagine Ernesto Valverde is quite happy that a couple of emerging talents - Carles Aleñà, who scored in that one, and Riqui Puig, who shone in the midweek Copa del Rey success over Cultural Leonesa - have taken some of the attention off the collective in recent days.
The return of Luis Suárez will be a boost, especially given the opposition: the Uruguayan has seven goals and four assists in eight league outings against Espanyol. Indeed, this has been a pretty one-sided derby for years, with Espanyol's last league win back in 2007. Little wonder the away side are 1.55 favourites.
Yet Barça have been shaky on their travels - one clean sheet in 10 away league games - and there's reason to think Espanyol will at least get on the scoresheet. They've netted in all of their home games this term (all competitions) and can make life at least moderately tough for their visitors, even if a positive result is beyond them.

Madrid can build momentum

Huesca v Real Madrid
Sunday, 15:15
Live on Eleven Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
What Santiago Solari really needed after that galling defeat to Eibar was a soft run of fixtures over which to build up some momentum. And that's exactly what he's got: this game, against La Liga's bottom side, is the filling in a sandwich with two home matches on either side. Valencia and Melilla have been dispatched over the last week; CSKA Moscow and Rayo Vallecano are next up at the Bernabéu.
For all Madrid's troubles over the last few months, there are some green shoots. Vinícius Júnior continues to impress on the fringes of the first team. Marcos Llorente and Sergio Reguilón have stepped up. Even Marco Asensio and Isco - out of form and out of favour respectively - staked a claim in the thrashing of Melilla. Plus, somehow, they're still only five points off the summit.
This should be a regulation victory. Huesca haven't won since the opening day of the season, losing 11 of 15 since. Barcelona stuck eight past them, and if they were hoping for some light relief in the cup, they were to be disappointed: out-of-sorts Athletic club beat them 4-0 at San Mamés, then repeated the trick in Aragon on Thursday.
Coach Francisco will recall players here but it's unlikely to be enough in their first ever game against Madrid. The angle here is to back the away win, with under 3.5 goals. Only one of Huesca's six home games in La Liga has gone over that mark, while Madrid aren't exactly firing on all cylinders on their travels: they've drawn three blanks in their last five league away games and would take a scrappy victory.

Athletic still shaky

Athletic Club v Girona
Monday, 20:00
Live on Eleven Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
Monday night's 3-0 defeat to Levante brought the curtain down on the Toto Berizzo era at Athletic Club, and few will have fond memories of the last few months. The Argentine failed to impose his high-energy style on a talented but imbalanced squad, and leaves the Basques staring down the barrel of a relegation battle.
Gaizka Garitano has stepped up from the club's B team to take the reins, and had a nice first assignment in midweek against Huesca's reserves. But it'll take more than a Copa del Rey blowout to get things going in the league, with their winless run now up to 13 matches. Confidence is understandably low, and there is thus reason to side with a sparky Girona side on Monday night.
The Catalans are eight games unbeaten (all competitions) and have been tricky customers away from home: they've won three and drawn three on their travels in the league, with recent trips yielding maximum points at Valencia and Espanyol. In Cristhian Stuani, they have one of the league's in-form hitmen, which is especially relevant given their hosts are missing key men at the back: Yuri Berchiche, Iñigo Martínez and Peru Nolaskoain are all suspended.
Athletic will be hoping for that new-manager bounce, but Garitano has had limited time with his new charges and Girona will be hopeful of heading back east with at least a point.
Back Barcelona to beat Espanyol and both teams to score at 15/8 (Sportsbook)
Back Real Madrid to beat Huesca and under 3.5 goals at 13/10 (Sportsbook)
Back Girona +0.5 against Athletic Club at 1.93

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