After a draw termed ‘exhausting’ by our resident sage Allen, we face yet another week where we should win but it won’t be all that simple. You will get a full preview of Villarreal v Levante on Friday, but in the meantime I just wanted to highlight things to watch for this week and how they might impact our chase for European places. Keep in mind that if Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao, or (unlikely) Granada finish in the top six in La Liga and also win the Copa del Rey, the 7th place in the league will gain a Europa spot. Otherwise, we will need a top six finish to compete for European silver next season.
Valencia vs Atletico Madrid
Fourth plays 7th, we want an Atletico Madrid win. If both us and the mattress makers get a win this week we will move up to 7th place. Atletico has had a nightmarish season trying to score goals but both Morata and Diego Costa are finding their way back into training so maybe they’ll be able to work something out at the Mestalla.
Eibar vs Real Sociedad
Sociedad is currently in 6th, so they are probably who we should want to win the Copa Del Rey (but if Mirandes beats them to get to the final I won’t complain). In this regional battle against Basque neighbors Eibar they are probably favored but that little cracker jack box of a stadium that is the Ipurura is a tough place to play.
Prediction: Real Sociedad win
Athletic Club vs Osasuna
We are four points ahead of Athletic in the table, stretching that out another 3-4 points would probably eliminate them from the race for Europe through the league. As a club with 24 Copa Del Rey titles, we know exactly where their focus will be, and that’s on the midweek match against Granada (playing later today as I write this). While being in the San Mames will be a strong advantage, I think there’s a pretty good chance they drop points here, even if Osasuna’s attack has lost most of its bite. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.
Prediction: Athletic win
Espanyol has been a different side since they changed managers and formations and spent about 40m in the January window. We learned that the hard way. Raul De Tomas has scored in four straight games, and they’re extremely dangerous. We’re only four points behind Sevilla, so if Espanyol can spring the upset and we can win, that will put the Andalusians in a dangerous position. My confidence in Julian Lopetegui is pretty low, so I actually think that could happen.
So that is what we would like to see happen this weekend, of course it is all predicated on us not getting caught with a frog in our throat against Levante. In regional games like this you can never overlook an opponent, but I feel reasonably confident a good number of these results will go our way this weekend.