Jack Lang expects Real Madrid's second string to cut loose against Gijón, but Luis Enrique's side may not have things quite so easy at home to Real Sociedad...
"The European heartache would be easier to take were things going smoothly domestically, but La Liga lines were also fluffed last weekend in the 2-0 loss to Málaga"
Sporting Gijón v Real Madrid
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This has not been a gala year for Cristiano Ronaldo by any stretch of the imagination. It is becoming increasingly clear that he is on the downslope of his career, the raw physicality that underpins his genius beginning to wane. But the best players have a knack for sticking it to the naysayers when it matters the most, as the Portuguese reminded us in midweek.
For all the peacocking and flash footwork, Ronaldo's primary currency has always been goals, and he cashed in a couple of overdue cheques in Bavaria to put Real Madrid in command of their Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich. After a month without finding the net for his club, it was a timely return to goalscoring ways.
Madrid minds will be on Tuesday's second leg, of course, but they have another domestic assignment to negotiate first, in the shape of Saturday's trip to Sporting Gijón. The hosts continue to battle valiantly against the drop - they have picked up points away to Sevilla and Valencia in recent weeks - but remain five points adrift and are slowly moving towards "need a miracle" territory.
Zinedine Zidane will probably rotate for this one, but that's not good news for Sporting: Real's so-called B-team put four past Leganés a couple of weeks ago and did the same against Eibar before the Champions League win over Napoli. There's a decent argument to be made that the second string could give the regular starters a decent game on current form.
Marco Asensio, Isco, Lucas Vázquez and James Rodríguez are all champing at the bit and should provide plenty of bullets for Álvaro Morata, who looks a solid first goalscorer bet. Morata plundered a hat-trick against Leganés and has managed a goal every 88 minutes in La Liga despite feeding on scraps as far as playing time goes.
Back Álvaro Morata first goalscorer at 10/3
Barcelona v Real Sociedad
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Your columnist has no inside information on Luis Enrique's favourite Bill Murray film, but Groundhog Day is starting to look like a reasonable bet if Barcelona's Champions League displays are anything to go by. The Blaugrana fell to another heavy first-leg defeat away from home on Tuesday night, meaning they'll need another performance for the ages - and some more refereeing favours - to stand any chance at all of thwarting a commanding Juventus side.
The European heartache would be easier to take were things going smoothly domestically, but La Liga lines were also fluffed last weekend: Barça had a golden opportunity to close the gap at the top after Real were held in the Madrid derby, yet lost 2-0 to Málaga, meaning the deficit at the summit is back to three points (and a game in hand). Stranger things have happened, but Enrique's men aren't exactly helping themselves.
There's no Neymar for the visit of Real Sociedad on Saturday: the Brazilian was sent off last weekend and, thanks to some sarcastic clapping, will now miss the next three games, including the Clásico. That won't help Barcelona's cause, although they can take some solace in their recent record against their Basque visitors: the last 18 league games between these sides at Camp Nou have yielded 18 home wins, Barça averaging 2.8 goals a game.
La Real put an end to a four-game winless spell with victory over Sporting on Monday night, which will have boosted confidence. They're still in the Europa League places, although with Eibar and Athletic Club closing in, Eusebio Sacristán will be well aware that every point counts between now and the end of the season.
Barcelona, for all their woes, have been impressive on home soil and there's every chance they'll return to winning ways here. But with one of their key attackers missing and following two blanks on the spin, this might not be a blowout.
Back under 3.5 goals at [2.0]
Real Betis v Eibar
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Finally, to the Villamarín, where we're happy to oppose the hosts against a buoyant Eibar outfit. Betis probably have enough points in the bank to stave off the threat of relegation, but their recent form has been miserable: they've lost five of the last seven, the only victory in that spell coming against doomed Osasuna. Their attack, inconsistent at the best of times, is not really cutting the mustard and cracks have appeared in the defence.
Eibar, in contrast, are having a great time of it, three straight wins having taken them to the brink of the European places. Crucial to our thinking this weekend is their habit of clobbering the sides below them in the table: since the turn of the year, their only defeats have come against the current top four.
José Luis Mendilibar has attacking options coming out of his ears at present and it's hard to fathom Eibar being [2.78] outsiders to win. We like the look of those odds, but to play things a tiny bit safer, we'll take the away side to win a half at close to evens.
Back Eibar to win either half at 10/11
Jack Lang's La Liga P/L, 2016/17