Spanish LaLiga

La Liga Tips: Real Madrid and Girona to bring goals in top two clash

Pre-match scenes at the Santiago Bernabeu
Girona will speculate in order to accumulate at the Bernabeu

Ahead of what many expect to be one the season's defining games, Jamie Kemp returns to preview Real Madrid vs. Girona and provide three recommendations across La Liga...

Real Sociedad v Osasuna - Sat, 15:15

Sandwiched in the middle of a Copa del Rey semi-final and a UEFA Champions League knockout stage game against Paris Saint-Germain, one can't help but think even a team as competitive as Real Sociedad might have their heads elsewhere on Saturday afternoon.

After finishing fourth in LaLiga last term, solidifying themselves as Spain's fourth-best team in both results and performance levels, where exactly La Real currently stand isn't so clear. With the emergence of Girona and the improvement by Athletic, Imanol Alguacil's side have been nudged down the pecking order domestically, even if their own standards haven't dropped.

Remarkably, Real Sociedad have only spent one day in the top four of LaLiga this season and that was back on 30th September. Though they remain a formidable side, keeping pace with a rejuvenated top-end of LaLiga whilst managing cup responsibilities has been an understandably difficult challenge.

Suffice to say, the focus for the San Sebastian side is now very likely shifting towards the cup competitions this season. They are one game away from a Copa del Rey final, while their upcoming clash with Paris Saint-Germain over two legs is the one that whets the appetite for all involved. Underdogs they may be, La Real know a shock is well within their capabilities.

With just a couple of days to recover before they're in Paris for the first leg, I expect Imanol Alguacil will be managing some rotation in his squad on Saturday. And after a physical match in Mallorca in midweek, it's possible they're managing the effects of that one already too.

Real Sociedad have drawn 10 matches in La Liga this season, their most at this stage of a campaign this century. It's a stat that is emblematic of a squad being pushed to its limits, and I think there's a good chance they play their way into another stalemate here.

Back Real Sociedad and Osasuna to draw @ 11/53.20

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Real Madrid v Girona - Sat, 17:30

There's no other way to bill this than to say La Liga's biggest game of the season (to date) awaits us on Saturday evening. Second-place Girona travel to face the leaders Real Madrid, in what for the visitors might well not only be their biggest game of the campaign, but actually in the club's history.

Of course, even in the case of an historic Girona win, they'd only move a point ahead of Real Madrid in the developing title race. But the connotations of doing so at the Santiago Bernabeu - given they're no longer plucky Girona, but rather Real Madrid's biggest competitors - would be nothing short of seismic.

Anyway, let's not get ahead of ourselves. If there's one thing we can say for sure at the moment, it's that neither team - despite being the clear best two sides in La Liga this season - are arriving into this one in their finest shape.

Girona will be without their ball-playing extraordinaire Daley Blind and their midfield enforcer Yangel Herrera at a minimum, while their charismatic leader Michel will be stuck in the stands owing to a suspension. Top scorer Artem Dovbyk will be a late decision too.

For Real Madrid, their makeshift defence might be about to get even more makeshift. After using Dani Carvajal in the centre of defence last weekend, given the injuries to David Alaba, Eder Militao and Antonio Rudiger, it's been reported in the capital this week that Nacho is racing to be fit too. At the other end, Vinicius Junior - like Dovbyk - may be a last-minute call.

History tells us that, when the bright lights are on at the Bernabeu, the underdog rarely have their day. But given the disruption on both sides, I'm inclined to lean towards a more frantic game than we might have otherwise expected.

Quite frankly, calling a winner or a result here with so many players absent feels like a thankless task, but I'll back there to be plenty of action in both boxes with over 3.5 goals in the match.

Back over 3.5 goals between Real Madrid and Girona @ 23/20

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Sevilla v Atletico Madrid - Sun, 17:30

Sevilla breathed a sigh of relief with victory away at Rayo Vallecano on Monday night. In taking three points from a direct rival near the bottom, in what is never an easy place to go, Quique Sanchez Flores will now be hoping they can at last start to gather some momentum.

His side were far from vintage at Vallecas, but the remit for the current boss isn't to play wonderful football - it's merely to keep Sevilla in La Liga so they can get to the summer and try to correct all the things that have gone wrong this season.

Among the best news for Sevilla on Monday was the return of Youssef En-Nesyri, who netted a brace in their 2-1 victory after returning from AFCON duty. With Sanchez Flores settled on a clear 3-5-2 system, that he can now count on the Moroccan to lead the line alongside the impressive Isaac Romero is a promising development in an otherwise miserable campaign.

Indeed, after a good result last time out - one that should settle some anxiety around Sevilla - I'm going to back them to deliver an upset in this one. Back on home territory at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, and with a rival in front of them that squares them as clear underdogs, I think the home side can put forth the gameplan and the pieces to frustrate Diego Simeone's men.

Atletico have only won four of their 11 away games in La Liga this season - a huge contrast to their home form where they've taken 34 of a possible 36 points (W12 D1). And with some rotation to their XI likely on the menu after a demanding semi-final against Athletic in midweek, a trip to the hostile Sanchez Pizjuan might well see their struggles on the road persist.

Back Sevilla to beat Atletico Madrid @ 5/23.50

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