Spanish LaLiga

La Liga Tips: Lamine Yamal to spark the Clasico for Barcelona

Barcelone celebrate scoring against Atletico Madrid
El Clasico offers final chance for Xavi's Barcelona to record a signature win

The final Clasico of the season headlines matchday 32 in La Liga, and Jamie Kemp returns with predictions for that mega clash, along with two others...

  • Rayo Vallecano and Osasuna to collide at Vallecas

  • Valencia will keep Betis under wraps in six-pointer

  • Lamine Yamal to put Barcelona in contention in Clasico

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Rayo Vallecano v Osasuna - Sat, 15:15

After the highs of last season come the lows of the current one for Rayo Vallecano. Though it might have taken a while for their difficulties to truly set in, they now find themselves firmly in a relegation battle this term and looking nervously over their shoulder at Celta Vigo and Cadiz.

The Madrid side have only won two of their last 21 games in La Liga, and after being one of the most enjoyable teams to watch in the division last term, much of the effervescence has disappeared from their performances this time round - particularly since the turn of the year. It doesn't look like it'll be coming back any time soon, either.

To his credit, Iñigo Pérez has certainly made Rayo harder to beat since taking over in February. They've only lost two of their seven games under him, and have kept a clean sheet in each of the last three. The problem is they've only scored four goals themselves across those seven matches, with a number of affairs decidedly absent of notable goal-scoring opportunities.

Along with the anxiety to pick up points for Rayo, the respective styles of play between them and Osasuna could well make for a back-and-forth game, filled with concessions of the ball, and in which a pattern of play never really develops. The home side play a game heavily based on individual duels and direct play, while the visitors will happily engage them in a physical match-up.

In a game which probably won't be featuring much settled possession, I'll opt for a yellow cards recommendation on this one. Rayo Vallecano have had at least three cards in each of their last three matches (11 in total), while there were 33 fouls in the reverse fixture between these two teams this season.

Back both Rayo Vallecano and Osasuna to be shown 3+ cards @ 3/14.00

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Valencia v Real Betis - Sat, 17:30

After a season that began without much optimism in Valencia, Saturday's game at home to Real Betis might well produce one of the atmospheres of the season in La Liga. That's because, against all the odds, seventh-place Valencia are in position to strike a defining blow in the race for European qualification against eighth-place Betis.

Club legend Ruben Baraja has done a magnificent job since returning as manager, with his side built on an aggressive and reliable defence that's complimented by plenty of zest in attack. Since his first game in charge last February, Valencia are the fifth-best defence in La Liga in terms of goals conceded per game (1.06).

Against a Betis team who have struggled to score this season, Baraja's side are just the type of opponent - especially at Mestalla - that can prolong their difficulties in generating advantages on the scoreboard. Despite being in the race for European qualification, Manuel Pellegrini's side rank 13th in the league for expected goals (35.7), and have scored a fairly average 38 overall.

As for the potential key individuals, we can't look much further than Isco. The 31-year-old has had a magnificent season for Real Betis, taking his place as the creative hub of the team on week one and not relinquishing it for a second. As the man at the centre of almost everything Betis do, he's also recovered his competitive streak when he doesn't have the ball at his feet.

The ex-Real Madrid midfielder has been booked nine times in La Liga this season, the most of any Betis player, as well as being his most in a single campaign in the competition to date. Against one of his former clubs in Valencia, Isco could just as easily be the match-winner as he could be a frustrated figure on a big night for the home side.

Back under 2.5 goals and Isco to score or be shown a card @ 13/53.60

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Real Madrid v Barcelona - Sun, 20:00

If we're to believe Xavi in that his decision to leave Barcelona at the end of the season is firm and not open to change, then Sunday night's Clasico provides the last real opportunity for him to add to his list of high points in charge of the club. Indeed, anything but a win will all but ensure Real Madrid go on to win La Liga this season.

After a bitter exit in the Champions League last week - one which left Xavi furious - the motivation will be high for Barcelona to go to the capital and try to sweeten what remains of their season. Their chances of pipping Real Madrid to the title may be very small at this point, but winning in the Bernabeu whatever the scenario will always be a big prize. Xavi already has a 4-0 win there as a manager under his belt.

As for Real Madrid, they're now looking in a strong position for a domestic and European double this term. Football is a tough business, though, and dropping straight into a Clasico after an heroic effort just days beforehand offers little chance for respite. Their gargantuan effort away in Manchester - where they clung on for dear life through extra time - should mean Barcelona arrive in a little sharper condition in a physical sense.

One man who'll certainly be fresh come Sunday night is Lamine Yamal. After ghosting past Nuno Mendes to help open the scoring on Tuesday night, Yamal was the man sacrificed after Ronald Araujo's 29th-minute red card, to make way for another defender. Even if Xavi's decision was understandable, it did feel anti-climactic to take the inspired youngster off after such a signature moment.

The 16-year-old has never played at the Bernabeu in a Clasico, but it won't be his first game there. He was outstanding for Spain against Brazil there back in March, and shouldn't be overawed by the occasion. Look for him to act as the team's catalyst on the night.

Back Barcelona to win or draw and Lamine Yamal to score anytime @ 11/26.50

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