Pepineros can frustrate Periquitos

Espanyol v Leganés
Friday, 20:00
Live on Eleven Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
The winter break came at an excellent time for Espanyol, who had managed to get themselves into a bizarre tailspin by mid-December. Los Periquitos, who started the season in such impressive fashion - they were second after nine rounds - lost six in a row before the break, and while there were a couple of tricky fixtures in there (Sevilla and Atlético Madrid away, Barcelona at home), they also shipped three goals against Girona, Getafe and Real Betis.
Coach Rubí has had time to settle things down, and has promised to go about his job "with great serenity" in the weeks ahead. But there may still be some cobwebs there, and until we see an improvement, 2.06 looks like a price to take on, even when Espanyol are at home.
Leganés are two points worse off going into this Friday-night game, but their trajectory has been a mirror image of their hosts'. Mauricio Pellegrino's charges put together a seven-game unbeaten run before the pause - their longest ever in the top flight. They're good at frustrating teams away from home, as Valencia, Girona, Valladolid and Celta would attest, and look a good pick on the Asian handicap.

Madrid's woes could continue

Real Madrid v Real Sociedad
Sunday, 17:30
Live on Eleven Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
At times, it's hard not to view the Club World Cup as a poisoned chalice. Yes, it's another trophy, but with the travel and the extra games, it can put a strain on your schedule - and, if you're used to a proper winter break, really sap your rest time. So it was with Real Madrid, who returned to action early on Thursday night against Villarreal.
It was a deeply unsatisfying night: Madrid threw away a lead, spurning chances to make the game safe (cough cough Lucas Vázquez), were eventually pegged back, and lost Gareth Baleto injury for the 234th time this decade. With Marco Asensio and Marcos Llorente also sidelined, Santiago Solari doesn't have a great deal of wiggle room with his starting XI, and with seven points to make up on Barcelona, it's going to take an almighty turnaround for them to get back into title race.
They are, however, strong favourites to win this weekend. Real Sociedad have a poor record at the Bernabéu (10 defeats in their last 11 visits) and are currently in crisis mode. Four defeats in the spin before Christmas cost Asier Garitano his job - he was sacked, rather festively, on Boxing Day - and it's now down to former B team coach Imanol Alguacil to steer them away from the relegation zone.
The good news is that he has form for this: he steadied the ship last year after Eusebio Sacristán was dismissed. But that was a quick, nine-game fix, and the question is whether he can stretch the new-coach bounce over 21 rounds. There is certainly talent in the squad, if Alguacil can find a way to exploit it on a regular basis.
A victory here may be a big ask, but there's no real reason to back Madrid at 1.35. They were unconvincing in La Liga even before travelling to Abu Dhabi (narrow wins over Huesca and Rayo Vallecano), and it's telling that five of their last six home league games have gone under the 2.5-goal line. With La Real's players desperate to impress a new manager, this could be a cagy affair.

Barça hitting their stride

Getafe v Barcelona
Sunday, 19:45
Live on Eleven Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
After wobbling in November, Barcelona really hit their stride in December, racking up 13 goals and conceding none across four hugely impressive wins. That sequence took them clear of Atlético Madrid and Sevilla, and puts them in a powerful position, especially with a relatively straightforward set of fixtures coming up over the next six weeks. If their rivals are not careful, the title could be done and dusted by the time spring arrives.
Most of the usual suspects were at it in those pre-Christmas blowouts, but perhaps the best news for Barça was the form of Ousmane Dembélé. It hasn't been smooth sailing for the French punctuality fan in Catalonia, but he has benefitted from a proper run in the side, and offers something different: those long legs open up space for team-mates, and his finishing, off both feet, is sublime. Ernesto Valverde will be desperate to keep him firing.
Getafe are awkward opponents at the best of times, and were themselves in fine fettle at the end of 2018, with just one league defeat in nine. But José Bordalás' side is probably most at ease away from home, where they can soak up pressure and nick a goal through Jorge Molina or Ángel. They have had some decent enough results at the Coliseum, but have also drawn blanks in seven of their last 13 home league games - six of those ending in defeat.
Barcelona's defence is not perfect, but they looked to have found their rhythm before the winter break and could keep things tight once more here.
RECOMMENDED BETS
Back Leganés +0.5 against Espanyol at 1.92
Under 2.5 goals in Real Madrid v Real Sociedad at 2.86
Back Barcelona to beat Getafe to nil at 2.50

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