La Liga Betting: Real close to the big one
Real might be a little tired after playing 120 minutes against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, but they have a deep, injury-free squad.
Tobias Gourlay assesses where the two big guns of La Liga stand as the season comes to a close.
Real Madrid v Sevilla
Real Madrid won El Clasico last Saturday night and are now seven points clear at the top of La Liga. With four games to go, they need just a couple of wins to make sure of beating Pep Guardiola's Barcelona to the title for the first time.
At first glance, the name of Sevilla suggests this might be one of the trickier of Real's remaining matches. After all, the Andalusians were winning European competitions and raising serious title challenges. That's emphatically not the case these days - and they never were much good at the Bernabeu anyway.
Sevilla have lost 20 of their last 23 games with Real. Jose Mourinho has won all six games against Sevilla since he turned up in Spain at the start of last season.
This season Sevilla are just about on schedule to finish in the top half of the table, but they have lost 4/7 away games since Michel replaced Marcelino in their scorching-hot boss' seat. Most recently they were beaten 5-1 in the Spanish capital by Getafe.
The visitors will miss Gary Medel's hard tackling in the midfield this weekend. Both Medel and Manu del Moral are suspended, but there is one dangerman left: Alvaro Negredo has scored in five of his last six league appearances. The Beast of Vallecas spent three years as a young man in the Real Madrid B team, but never graduated. He should be keen to do well then.
Real might be a little tired after playing 120 minutes against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, but they have a deep, injury-free squad and players like Gonzalo Higuain, Nuri Sahin and Hamit Altintop, who must surely be keen to make a late impression on the boss.
The straight win price isn't worth mentioning. The Half Time/Full Time double-result market is more interesting. The 1.7 about Real to be ahead at both 45 and 90 minutes will appeal to some, but, because it might be a bit of a struggle, because 7/12 at the Bernabeu have been all-square at the break and because it's a weirdly early kick-off, this column likes draw/Real Madrid at 5.5.
Back draw/Real Madrid @5.5
Rayo Vallecano v Barcelona
So Pep's Team is finished. The coach who started discussions around the world about whether he had created the greatest club side of all time handed in his notice this week. The game will miss him for at least a year, but there's an entire summer ahead for well-earned paeans to an intelligent, decent, brilliant man. This column is here to find out what effect Pep Guardiola's decision will have on his team's performance away to Rayo Vallecano this weekend.
Remember that Guardiola has one more chance to win a 14th trophy: on 25 May Barca play Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final. His preparation for that game will be meticulous and, with the league as good as lost to Real Madrid, it might involve personnel changes in matches like this one.
Some of the first-teamers have appeared to be struggling with fatigue and the younger reserves might see an opportunity to win a place in the team for the final. Lionel Messi still wants to start because he's just one goal back from Cristiano Ronaldo in the race to be this season's top-scorer, but the motivation of everyone else is questionable.
Earlier in the season this is exactly the sort of match - away to one of La Liga's smaller clubs - the outgoing champions were not winning. Unless Real Madrid have failed to beat Sevilla earlier in the day, the result of this match will matter little to Barca and they probably should not be 1.40 to take three points.
Rayo are on a bad run, losing six of their last seven in the league, but they have a remarkably good home record against Barca (W3-D6-L3) and could use a win to secure their place in the league for next season. Their high-tempo pressing game might be just the thing to knock jaded opponents off their stride.
Lay Barcelona @1.42