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Thursday, February 23

LaLiga betting tips: Weekend Spanish football preview

LA LIGA
Our Spanish football expert Tim Clement provides his latest LaLiga tips and is backing both Real Madrid and Barcelona to drop points this weekend.

Recommended bets: LaLiga


Barcelona visit Atletico Madrid before Real Madrid head to Villarreal in a crucial weekend in the LaLiga title race, with the top two both looking vulnerable.
Front runners Real missed the chance to pull four points clear on Wednesday as they lost 2-1 at Valencia, and could find themselves level with Sevilla and behind Barcelona come Sunday's late kick-off.
However, their main rivals also face tough trips, with Sevilla visiting neighbours Real Betis in the Andalusian derby and Barca travelling to the Vicente Calderon, from where only Real have left with all three points. 
Here's a look at this weekend's action in more depth...
Atletico Madrid v Barcelona (Sunday, 1515 GMT, Sky Sports 2)
Diego Simeone has the perfect opportunity to record his first ever domestic triumph over Barcelona when the shell-shocked Catalans visit the Vicente Calderon on Sunday.  
The sides have been embroiled in a host of closely-fought encounters in recent years, but it has only been the Champions League in which Atleti have enjoyed victory, prevailing to reach the final in 2013/14 and 2015/16.
They have held Barca to 1-1 draws in both Nou Camp visits this season and though they failed to make the Copa del Rey final following a 2-1 first-leg home loss, confidence is far higher in Simeone's camp.
Atleti arrive at this fixture after scoring 11 goals in three successive wins - including Wednesday's 4-2 triumph at Bayer Leverkusen. That contrasts vastly with Barca's preparation.
Luis Enrique's men were only able to record a 2-1 victory over Leganes in response to their 4-0 thrashing by Paris Saint-Germain, with further embarrassment saved by a 90th-minute Lionel Messi penalty.
With Jan Oblak returning to the Atleti squad in midweek and Diego Godin back in contention, the hosts should now regain some of their defensive stability to add to their new-found attacking flair.
Villarreal v Real Madrid (Sunday, 1945 GMT, Sky Sports 1)
Zinedine Zidane's men will be looking to bounce back from their slip-up in Valencia, but face an even tougher task as they head to El Madrigal on Sunday evening.
The league leaders were made to pay for conceding two early goals at the Mestalla as they missed the chance to go four points clear, while their other game in hand is against ninth-placed Celta Vigo, who shocked Barcelona in October.
Real left El Madrigal empty-handed last season, while the Yellow Submarine held out for a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in September.
Fran Escriba's side are not in quite the same form this time round, having lost pace on the top four with just two wins in six, but they have held Sevilla and Barcelona to draws during that run.
Zidane will not be expecting any more favours and, even with Gareth Bale fit again, their title credentials will be thoroughly examined when they come up against the league's best backline.
Alaves v Valencia (Saturday, 1200 GMT, Sky Sports 3 red button)
Valencia will look to continue their resurgence after all-but extinguishing relegation fears with seven points from their last three games, including Wednesday night's shock win over the league leaders.
Alaves have also pulled clear of the drop zone with two wins from three but those have come against far lower quality opposition, while they have won just two games at home all season.
Real Betis v Sevilla (Saturday, 1515 GMT)
Jorge Sampaoli's Sevilla have the chance to move joint top, for 24 hours at least, when they take on their winless-in-five city rivals.
That run has included a 1-1 draw with Barcelona but confidence must be drained following a 4-1 loss to second-from-bottom Granada last time out.
Victor Sanchez's men have only lost twice at home this season, but fired blanks against Valencia and Sporting in recent weeks, while Real Madrid thumped them 6-1 at the Estadio Benito Villamarin in October.
Sevilla hold the bragging rights ahead of Saturday's showdown, winning six of their last seven encounters without conceding a goal during that run.
The appointed referee looks set for a busy afternoon, with seven or more bookings in each of their last nine league meetings and six red cards.
With Sevilla winning their last three in all competitions and three of their last four trips in LaLiga, even money on them to pick up three points looks generous.
Leganes v Deportivo (Saturday, 1730 GMT, Sky Sports 2 red button)
Both sides will be desperate to end their respective winless runs and pull clear of the drop zone by claiming the points on Saturday.
Deportivo are just three points clear after losing their last three and winning none of their last six, while Leganes have not won since beating bottom side Osasuna 14 games ago, although they did put in a credible performance at Barcelona last week.
Eibar v Malaga (Saturday, 1945 GMT, Sky Sports 3)
The season's surprise packages Eibar are still flying high despite facing three of the league's top four in their last seven.
Eibar hold a rare status as strong favourites when they host Malaga, who only broke nine-match winless run by beating terrible travellers Las Palmas last weekend.
Espanyol v Osasuna (Sunday, 1100 GMT, Sky Sports 2)
After tough defeats to Real Sociedad and Real Madrid, Quique Sanchez Flores' men will welcome the arrival of bottom side Osasuna to the RCDE Stadium.
Winless in 15 and with four points during that run, the Pamplona outfit have conceded three goals in each of their last three games and have little reason to expect an upturn of form this weekend.
Athletic Bilbao v Granada (Sunday, 1730 GMT, Sky Sports 2)
The league's second-from-bottom side Granada finally have reason to believe they can escape the drop, having recorded two wins from their last three outings.
However, they're yet to win on the road and face a Bilbao side boasting one of the best home records in the league: 11 matches unbeaten at the San Mames.
Aritz Aduriz epitomises his side's fortunes, scoring 16 times at home in all competitions but just once away, and would have been relishing facing a defence which has conceded a league-high 37 times on the road but for a thigh injury sustained in last Sunday's 2-0 loss at Valencia.
Sporting Gijon v Celta Vigo (Sunday, 1730 GMT, Sky Sports 2 red button)
With both sides directly above them meeting on Saturday, Sporting will look to climb out of the bottom three on Sunday.
However, their visitors have not lost to a side below them in LaLiga since the opening weekend of the season and should have too much firepower for their hosts, with only the top four scoring more frequently.

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