REMEMBER Terry Gibson? Well, we've signed him and while he won't be kicking a football he'll be looking into his crystal ball and bringing us his best Spanish tips every week.
The ex-Spurs, Coventry and Manchester United striker is probably best remembered for his time as part of the infamous Wimbledon Crazy Gang side of the late 80s and early 90s. Now an expert in all things La Liga he works as a pundit and co-commentator on Sky Sports’ Spanish football coverage and is a contributor to unibet.
Here are Terry's tips for three key Saturday games.
Eibar v Real Madrid (Sat 3.15pm)
This is a very intriguing fixture indeed. It’s the early kick-off time on Saturday which is 1pm local time and midday UK. It comes on the back of Real being victorious against PSG on Tuesday and progressing to the last eight of the Champions League.
That means that their season continues with genuine purpose and a trip to the Ipurua to face Eibar is a real challenge, but will they see it that way? Before they play the next round of the Champions League Madrid have three La Liga fixtures. They start with Eibar away then Girona at home then face Las Palmas away prior to the next round.
These should be straightforward fixtures for Zidane’s team and ideal for Champions League preparation but I do worry that these types of fixtures don’t get the blood flowing for the players or the fans. The focus for the next three weeks will be preparing for their next opponents in the one competition they can still win and it’s going to be interesting to see the outcome.
For Eibar it’s another opportunity to claim a “big scalp”. They have achieved so much in their four season spell in the top flight but the one thing that has alluded them has been a win against any of the big three.
They have played 22 games against Barcelona, Real and Atletico Madrid. They have lost 21 of them!
They have played Barca eight times and lost all eight. Lost seven out of seven verses Atletico and have played Real seven times, losing six and drawing one. That was a 1-1 at the Bernabeu in October 2016.
Trust me, they will not have a better opportunity than this Saturday to get their first win against the elite. They are more than capable, the early kick off should suit them and they are in great form so this might be the time for a surprise result, it isn’t impossible.
If they stick to their normal system of 4-4-2 then that is their best hope of getting something in this match. They really have nothing to lose, they have failed so much against the big three and often that is down to showing too much respect.
Coach Mendilibar often strays away from his tried and trusted formation and opts to go with just the one striker against Barca, Real and Atletico and it dilutes their performance and effectiveness. The results prove that.
They are in a great position in the league to play the riskier game, they are in the pack for a Europa League position and have no fears about being in this division next season. The time is right to pull off their first win against one of the big three.
Do I think they will do it? I still have my doubts. This is based mainly on the fact of previous results where they just continue to come up short. I’ve no doubts whatsoever that Real have the better quality and this is usually just enough to see them through.
Also, lastly whereby Zidane’s team changes could result in a slightly weaker team than normal I’m looking at the players who didn’t play against PSG and who could possibly play in this one if the starting line up from Paris are rested.
Bale, Modric, Isco and Kroos didn’t play much on Tuesday so I’m expecting them to return. So you can understand my doubts! I’m going for a hard fought 2-1 away win with Gareth Bale scoring the opening goal in an attempt to regain his position in Real’s strongest starting line up.
- Eibar 1, Real Madrid 2 (7-1, Unibet)
- Bale to score first (27-5, Unibet)
- Both teams to score (29-50, Unibet)
Sevilla v Valencia (Sat 3.15pm)
Valencia won the reverse fixture 4-0 at the Mestalla back in October when they were flying. They have shown recently that they look to be back to their best and I’m backing them in this game to get the win.
My confidence is based on their current form and of course largely by the fact that Sevilla travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Tuesday. That is a huge game for Sevilla and I believe it will effect them going into this game.
I’m not sure how Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella will approach this game regarding team selection. They currently lie in fifth position, eight points behind fourth placed Valencia and the remaining Champions League spot.
Ideally he would see this as an opportunity to close the gap and it may well be the last chance to place some pressure on Valencia. Let’s be realistic their best chance of getting back into next season’s Champions League is by finishing in the top four in La Liga as I’m not expecting Sevilla to win this season’s Champions League!
In theory this is the bigger game of the two this week for Sevilla but the sense of occasion of the game at Old Trafford will detract from their performance and focus in this game. If the gap had been, say, five points then their attitude might have been slightly different but the eight point gap means that Valencia may well be out of reach anyway.
With Simone Zaza and Rodrigo back amongst the goals last week for Valencia I’m going to go for a 2-0 win for the away team. Valencia have now gone five without defeat, winning four and drawing one and their return to form convinces me that they will win this game.
I’m backing the return of confidence to the front two to be decisive and I’m going to go for a 2-0 away win with Zaza getting the opening goal.
Malaga v Barcelona (Sat 7.45pm)
A return to the scene of the crime for Barcelona. The Rosaleda is the venue where they lost their last League game back in April and also where they lost last season’s title. In fact they didn’t beat Malaga last season at all, as they drew at the Nou Camp 0-0 earlier in the season.
They did however beat Malaga 2-0 at home this season so that probably banished any hoodoo signs that were lingering. It’s been a dramatic deterioration from Malaga in the last 12 months and they appear to now be doomed this season to relegation.
They have won just three games and have a meagre total of just 13 points and lie eight points from safety. Despite Barca having one eye on Chelsea next week I expect even a weakened Barca to have too much for Malaga.
I’m expecting Valverde to rest some players and he should in this game. With the win last week against Atletico giving them an eight point gap to second place Atletico they have room to manoeuvre now with regards to rotating the team a touch more.
Pique needs nursing through for the big games, Iniesta has a slight injury doubt which actually means he probably misses the Chelsea game and one or two others look like they need a breather before the midweek Champions League tie.
Don’t worry though, Messi probably won’t be rested, he rarely is, neither Luis Suarez but expect the likes of Vermaelen, Dembele and Coutinho to get starts in this game.
The title isn’t won yet by Barcelona as they still have some tough games to go but it is theirs to lose now. They won’t be losing the initiative this week though and it should be a comprehensive win against a team with zero confidence and little threat of scoring a goal.
It’s two points from the last 12 games for Malaga, scoring only three goals and I don’t see them improving this weekend. I will have some faith in Malaga being competitive at the very least but ultimately they will fall short. I’m not going for a heavy scoreline so I’m going to go for a 2-0 away victory for Barcelona with Messi being the likely first goalscorer, especially if they get a free kick anywhere near the penalty area!
- Malaga 0, Barca 2 (5-1, Unibet)
- Messi to score first (23-10, Unibet)
- Under 2.5 goals (33-25, Unibet)
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