La Liga

El Clásico showdown, the race for Europe & Rubi’s Great Escape?

Round 33 of La Liga kicks off on Friday with the glamour fixture of El Clásico where only a win for Barcelona will do, while Atlético Madrid and Celta Vigo recover from their European fixtures midweek. Additionally, the race for Europe intensifies and there is a vital matchup at the bottom of the league.

Sevilla vs Granada

This weekend’s action kicks off in Andalucia with Jorge Sampaoli’s side looking to make absolutely sure of a Champions League finish. Sevilla’s title charge has dramatically tailed off in recent weeks and the club find themselves with just one win in seven in the league.

It wasn’t the start Tony Adams would have wanted last weekend as Celta Vigo’s second string side cruised past Granada 0-3. However, Granada are proving to be quite the bogey side for Sevilla with no wins in four attempts in official competition (three defeats, one draw).

Málaga vs Valencia

Again in Andalucia, it’s the meeting of two sides that have had difficult campaigns, hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone earlier in the season, but it would take something dramatic for either to succumb to the drop now.

Despite Málaga appearing safe, Ignacio Camacho expressed his desire to ensure Málaga stay focused in Thursday’s press conference. “There are six games left, and if we don’t take it seriously, it’s going to be a very long stretch. I believe that considering what we’ve achieved, particularly following the recent victories after such a struggle, it has to serve for the coach to gradually continue creating a style of play so we can end the year on a high. We must prepare these final six matches ahead of next season”.

Valencia have impressed recently with three victories and two draws in their last six games, propelling them to 12th on 40 points.

Villarreal vs Leganes

The Yellow Submarine are the best of the rest as it stands and will be ready to pounce if Sevilla fail to stop the slide, but Fran Escribá’s men are a real mixed bag at present with three wins and three defeats in their last six.

The visiting team on Saturday, Leganes, are now winless in six matches and are struggling to pull away from the pack. With Osasuna and Sporting playing each other this round, it’s vital Leganes find a positive result or they could find themselves just two points away from the bottom three come Saturday evening.

Osasuna vs Sporting Gijón

Fortunately for Sporting, the gap to safety has remained five points for weeks now. Rubi’s side had picked up points against the likes of Valencia and Sevilla, as well a creditable performance in 2-3 defeat to Real Madrid in which top scorer Duje Čop took his tally to nine but it’s now three defeats in a row with time running out.

Osasuna, despite being doomed to relegation, aren’t going down easily however and have won back to back games for the first time this season against Alaves and Leganes.

Espanyol vs Atlético Madrid

Fresh from advancing to the Champions League semi-finals for the 3rd time in four years, Diego Simeone and Atlético Madrid head to Barcelona to take on an Espanyol side in good form, making a late charge for a European place.

Espanyol have failed to beat Atlético in six attempts and it will be a tall order again with Los Rojiblancos only suffering one defeat in their last 17. However, the duo of Pablo Piatti and Gerard Moreno are a threat, combining to net 47% of their team’s league goals this term.

Real Sociedad vs Deportivo de La Coruña

It’s Basque Country on Sunday as Real Sociedad look to secure a Europa League place.

Eusebio’s team are a point behind their Basque rivals and will be looking to pick up a win against a Deportivo side safe from relegation after securing three points against Málaga. The previous meeting will still be on the minds of players, managers and fans though after Deportivo stunned La Royal with a 5-1 thrashing back in December.

Real Sociedad were impressive in their previous game against Barcelona despite a 3-2 defeat. Goals from Xabi Prieto and an own goal from Umtiti made Barcelona sweat in a bizarre game where the home side at the Nou Camp were camped in their own half for much of the second half, and even beaten in the possession stats in the second 45.

Celta Vigo vs Real Betis

Celta Vigo became the third representative for Spain in European competition on Thursday night when they overcame Genk 4-3 on aggregate in the Europa League quarter-finals, but now attention turns to Víctor Sánchez’s Real Betis on Sunday.

Undoubtedly a good side under Eduardo Berizzo, but Celta Vigo are struggling for consistency at the moment and their league position arguably doesn’t do their group of players justice. One thing that remains constant is the threat of Iago Aspas, who has scored 23 goals for Celta Vigo in all competitions this season.

In a similar position, Real Betis are also struggling for consistency, sitting in 14th position with two wins and four defeats in their last six matches.

Las Palmas vs Alaves

Impressively, Las Palmas have scored 51 goals already this campaign, which can only be bettered by five teams in the league, however, Quique Setién’s side have shipped 57, the worst record of any side outside of the relegation zone. Las Palmas’ last two games have been the absolute epitome of this record, beating Real Betis 4-1 and subsequently losing to Bilbao 5-1.

Alaves have had a solid season in 11th place and go into the game following a 2-1 win against Villarreal.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona

It’s crunch time at the top of La Liga as Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane look to bury the challenge of Barcelona to win their first league title since 2012 in El Clásico. The teams go into the game on the back of very contrasting games in the Champions League, where a Cristiano Ronaldo perfect hat-trick saw Madrid go through, whereas a Juventus defensive masterclass allowed the Bianconeri to become only the third side to stop Barcelona scoring over both legs.

Barcelona’s last league visit to the Bernabéu ended in a 0-4 demolition in 2015, and anything but a repeat of the result puts Real Madrid in a commanding position.

Heading to the capital, Luis Enrique is still without Neymar, meaning a lack of depth, which has hindered the Catalan club all season, worsens. We’ve seen Real Madrid cope without the likes of Pepe, Ronaldo, Bale (who is expected to return from a muscle injury) and Benzema recently, with Nacho, Isco, Morata, Asensio and Vázquez filling in, and it’s that ability to rotate that now sees Real Madrid head into Sunday as favourites and ahead in the table.

Despite the feeling about Barcelona at the moment, they have a chance to rewrite the script of the season and it would take a brave person to bet against them, particularly with Lionel Messi scoring for fun. 45 goals in 45 games to be precise, at an average of a goal every 80 minutes in the league.

Eibar vs Athletic Bilbao

Eibar’s season is looking more and more impressive as the weeks go by. Sat in 8th place, they have the chance to go above Athletic Bilbao with a win.

Since the turn of the year, only the current top three have beaten José Luis Mendilibar’s side at home, while Bilbao have only won two out of their last 12 away from home in the league.

There is some hope for Bilbao though with their veteran striker Aritz Aduriz in good form with six goals in his last five outings.

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