La Liga Preview: Barcelona take on Mallorca and Real Madrid face Eibar
We take an in-depth look at the weekend’s biggest La Liga games
Just over three months after La Liga was paused, we have a full weekend of fixtures to enjoy once more.
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have been handed fixtures that should allow them to ease back into things, facing the teams in 16th and 18th respectively.
Meanwhile, Atletico will want to get their stuttering campaign back on track as they face 10th-placed Athletic Bilbao.
Here’s our take on the action.
Mallorca v Barcelona (Saturday, 21:00)
Prior to the pause, Barcelona were in the ascendancy, having carved out a two-point lead at the top of the table, largely thanks to the poor form of Real Madrid. Despite a Clasico loss that keeps things tight at the top, Barcelona will be confident of remaining on top after this opening fixture.
While Mallorca’s form prior to the break saw them win two of their last five matches, they’ve still had a poor season, compounded by their woes at the back. With 44 goals conceded in 27 games, only Real Betis (who conceded two on Thursday) and bottom side Espanyol can boast a worse defensive record.
Last time Mallorca faced Barcelona in December, the Catalan giants put five past them in a 5-2 that somehow flattered the losing team – Barca had 17 shots on target, while Mallorca scored with two of their three on-target efforts. If you think a similar result is on the cards, you can back a Barcelona win with over 4.5 goals at 29/10.
Despite Luis Suarez returning from injury, it’s Lionel Messi who heads the scorer markets, at 21/10 to score first, 1/2 to score anytime or 12/5 to score two or more – in the 5-2 reverse fixture, he netted a hattrick.
Athletic Bilbao v Atletico Madrid (Sunday, 13:00)
Despite their impressive Champions League run, it’s been a forgettable season so far for Atletico, who have failed to keep pace with the top two and drifted to sixth in the table. Their hopes of a Champions League place are still very much alive however – with just one point separating them from 4th-placed Real Sociedad.
Their opponents on Sunday are the comfortably mid-table Athletic Bilbao, who are more than capable of springing a surprise on their day. They memorably beat Barcelona in their opening game of the season and also managed a creditable 0-0 draw against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
You can back an Athletic win at 13/5, with the draw at 2/1 and an Atletico win at 5/4. It’s worth noting that Atletico are the league’s draw specialists, with a league-high 12 draws in 27 games, while their Basque opponents have drawn 10 games so far.
Both sides have struggled with scoring this term and are the two lowest-scoring teams in the top 10, with under 1.5 goals coming in at just 8/15. You can also back a 1-1 correct score at 9/2, although Atletico managed a 2-0 victory when they met at the Wanda Metropolitano earlier this season.
Real Madrid v Eibar (Sunday, 18:30)
With the Santiago Bernabeu stadium undergoing a renovation, Real are set to play their home fixtures at the Alfredo Di Stéfano – a 6,000 seater that’s normally home to Segunda Division B’s Real Madrid Castilla. Without a crowd, that may be less of an issue, but the gravitas of the famous stadium will be missed and may give their home games a training ground feel.
Stadium woes aside, Real need all the help they can get frankly, after they surrendered their lead at the top of La Liga – with a poor run of form that saw them draw with Celta Vigo and lose to both Levante and Real Betis before the break. The most important result however, was in between those two defeats – with a 2-0 Clasico victory over Barcelona, limiting their rival’s lead to just two points.
Eibar sit 16th in the table currently but are only two points clear of Mallorca and the relegation zone. They seemed to be spiralling too before the league was put on hiatus, having lost four of their last five, including a concerning home defeat to Mallorca.
When the teams last met in November it was a routine away win for Real, putting four past Eibar to no reply (Eibar failed to manage a single shot on target). You can back Real Madrid to win to nil at Evens if you think they’re likely to overrun their opponents once more.
In the scoring markets, Karim Benzema leads the betting at 12/5 to score first or 2/3 anytime. Eden Hazard – newly returned from injury – can be backed at 7/2 to score first, or 6/5 anytime. Eibar’s lowest priced scorer is the 36-year-old Brazilian Charles, who has netted five times so far this term. Charles is 17/2 to score first, or 14/5 to net anytime.
View the latest football odds.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.