With the action continuing apace in La Liga, there is a busy schedule of matches coming up with plenty to decide over the course of the remaining ten games or so.
Where better place to start than a massive clash at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, where Sevilla entertain Barcelona on Friday night as third takes on first.
Barcelona have the not insignificant challenge of arch rivals Real Madrid to their domestic crown to contend with and will be looking to keep their noses in front, while, similarly, Sevilla will be desperate to maintain their place above the chasing pack to secure their return to the Champions League.
Neither of the big two in Spain have been infallible this season, despite again seemingly turning the chase for league honours into a two-horse race – with the Blaugrana’s problems coming on the road.
Athletic Bilbao (twice), Levante, Granada, Valencia and, of course, Real have all beaten the champions at home this term, while Real Sociedad and Espanyol have picked up a point, and Sevilla will be looking to strike another upset to perhaps remind everyone they are indeed still in with a shout of the title themselves.
Although not quite a perfect record, Julen Lopetegui’s men have made home something of a fortress, having lost just two league matches all season – 1-0 to Real and 2-1 to Villarreal – while they have won seven and drawn five.
Los Rojiblancos have made life difficult for Barca at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan over recent seasons, but whether that is quite enough to land odds of
57/20* remains to be seen, having followed up a returning 2-0 win in El Gran Derbi with a 1-1 draw at Levante, while the draw is at
Quique Setien’s men are unsurprisingly favourites at
10/11, having returned to action with a perfect two from two, scoring six goals without reply, while welcoming Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi back to action – albeit against struggling sides Mallorca and Leganes.
Granada Versus Villareal
Also on Friday, in an earlier kick-off at 18:30, Granada and Villarreal will be looking to maintain their top-four hopes in a crucial clash at the Nuevo Los Carmenes.
El Grana beat another surprise package Getafe in their first game back but will looking to bounce back after being held by mid-table Real Betis on Monday, and can ill-afford to drop points.
The Yellow Submarine are two points and two places better off in seventh in the table, three points off fourth, after making a perfect return to action with two wins from two.
Six-Pointer for Basement Teams
The other match on Friday is the proverbial six-pointer with third-from-bottom Mallorca taking on basement side Leganes at the Visit Mallorca Stadium.
Neither side has done well since the campaign resumed, each losing both games, although Leganes were only beaten 2-0 at Barca, while Mallorca were thumped 4-0 at home by the champions.
However, Mallorca’s better form has been at home, having picked up six wins and two draws, while Leganes have only picked up maximum points once on the road, losing eight times.
The head-to-head record gives little away with three wins apiece and one draw, with Leganes having won the reverse fixture 1-0 earlier this season.
It is perhaps an ugly one to call with the hosts marginal favourites at
7/4 to claim the spoils, while Javier Aguirre’s men can be backed at
37/20 to complete the league double with the draw at
Espanyol Pushing for Survival
On Saturday, Espanyol will be hoping to maintain their survival push when they host a mid-table Levante side that has very little to play for.
The Periquitos seem to have benefitted from the break having picked up four points from a possible six on the resumption, which includes holding fifth-placed Getafe to a goalless draw on the road, to move off the foot of the table.
Levante have not disgraced themselves post restart as they have drawn with both Valencia and Sevilla and it is perhaps a little surprising they are as big as
14/5 to win at struggling Espanyol.
The Granotas are winless in five against the Barcelona outfit, who are Evens to secure a crucial three points while the draw is on offer at
*All odds correct at time of writing