Soccer Spain LaLiga Prediction
Almeria vs Valencia - Match Preview
⚽ 9 April 2023 - 16:30 GMT +0
Following a winless March, La Liga (LL) newcomers Almería will engage in a clichéd ‘six point’ battle with fellow relegation candidates Valencia. It’s an assignment which takes on critical importance when considering their subsequent opponents in April including games against top-six contenders Atlético Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid.
Manager Rubi lamented the two first-half equalisers they conceded in a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo that left them without a half-time lead, something that appears to be crucial to their fortunes. Considering no club has ‘won’ fewer second halves this LL season than Almería’s three, the first 45 minutes may determine whether the hosts can secure three points which would move them towards the top end of a relegation logjam.
Level with Almería on 27 points in what remains their worst LL campaign in the three-points-for-a-win era, Valencia has already collected more points in six games under new manager Rubén Baraja (W2, D1, L3) than in the prior 12 matches during the tenures of Voro and Gennaro Gattuso (W1, D3, L8) following last round’s 1-1 home draw with Vallecano, so the club can perhaps declare with conviction that they’re heading in the right direction.
Baraja certainly believes so too, telling the media after their last outing that “at other times this season, we would not have been able to tie the game”. There’s one area where the new boss has not yet been able to improve though, and that’s their poor travelling form, with Valencia starting this round with the league’s longest active streak of away losses ‘to nil’ (L6), three of which Baraja oversaw.
📋 Players to watch: After collecting his seventh booking of the LL season, Léo Baptistão is finding himself in the referee’s notebook more often than on the scoresheet, but given his three goals all came in home wins, he could balance the ledger here. Similarly, Hugo Duro has picked up three cards in his last six LL starts, yet Valencia has won on all three occasions he has scored or assisted this season.
⚡ Hot streak: The visiting side of the day has not won any of Rubi’s eight personal meetings with Valencia (D3, L5).
Rayo Vallecano vs Atl. Madrid - Match Preview
⚽ 9 April 2023 - 19:00 GMT +0
Rayo Vallecano find themselves higher in the La Liga (LL) standings than they did ahead of their previous meeting with Atlético Madrid despite suffering the longest active winless streak of the competition (D5, L2). It’s certainly not too late to give up on European football just yet, particularly if Real Madrid goes on to win the Copa del Rey final, which would send the seventh-placed team into the preliminary rounds of the UEFA Europa Conference League.
That’s the spot that Rayo fell short of going into this round, and their 1-1 draw with Atlético at the Metropolitano in October is one of many reminders, alongside a draw at Camp Nou (0-0) and win at home to Real Madrid (3-2), that on their day they can compete with the league’s best. But a LL second-half goal difference of -6 in their current winless period suggests Rayo is probably going to have to lift their performance after half-time for such a feat to be repeated.
Atlético are primed to continue their ten years without a loss to Vallecano in any competition (W11, D3) after three consecutive LL wins ‘to nil’ gave them plenty of breathing space in third place with a nine-point buffer inside the Champions League qualification slots going into the round. Despite taking a pay cut and facing scrutiny and speculation about his future on an almost weekly basis, manager Diego Simeone led his team to more points in his last ten LL games (W8, D2) than anyone but Barcelona.
If their opponents can’t immediately improve their recent second-half woes, Atlético will be poised to pounce. Simeone’s men have found the net after half-time in each of their last nine LL outings, ensuring their lengthy unbeaten period continues to build despite their ongoing habit of slow offensive starts that has seen them lead at half-time in just three of their last 17 LL fixtures.
📋 Players to watch: Vallecano could do with Álvaro García registering a fifth goal-scoring appearance for this LL season given they won the previous four, whilst namesake Álvaro Morata has won the four LL games since the World Cup in which he scored.
⚡ Hot stat: An Atlético substitute has scored in all but one of their last seven games.
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