Often criticised by the simple-minded as being a league that’s dominated by the established elite, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, Spain’s La Liga has provided evidence this season as to why that’s simply not the case.
The battle for the title may be one-sided towards Barcelona but Valencia are their closest competitors, having finished in a lowly position last season, whilst the fight for European football is fierce across the board.
At the bottom, you’ve got big teams struggling down there in positions that you wouldn’t expect and lesser teams punching well above their weight. As we enter December, and matchday 14, the league is starting to take shape.
Malaga v Levante (Friday, 20:00 GMT)
After giving Real Madrid as good as they could last week, though losing 3-2, Malaga’s spirits will have been somewhat raised and they’ll fancy their chances of securing a positive result in the first fixture of the weekend against Levante.
Levante, sat in mid-table and eight points ahead of Malaga as things stand, had five hit past them by Atletico Madrid last week and have been defeated by struggling Alaves and newly-promoted Girona already this season.
Barcelona v Celta Vigo (Saturday, 12:00 GMT)
After a controversial draw against Valencia, where Lionel Messi saw a perfectly good goal disallowed, both sides remained unbeaten. Barcelona still have the advantage though and should extend that lead on Saturday against Celta Vigo.
Celta, sat ninth, have struggled for consistency this season, winning six matches but losing seven. They can threaten in attack though, with the likes of Iago Aspas, but going to the Nou Camp and securing a positive result is an incredibly difficult ask.
Atletico Madrid v Real Sociedad (Saturday, 15:15 GMT)
Following a comfortable victory last weekend against Levante, Atletico Madrid enter this weekend’s fixtures eight points behind leaders Barcelona but know that margin could be stretched to 11 points if Barcelona win in the earlier kick-off.
Real Sociedad, sat seventh, could prove to be a challenge though as the Basque side are certainly in the hunt for a spot in the European places. They’ve slipped in recent weeks though, drawing their last two league games, and knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Lleida in midweek.
Sevilla v Deportivo (Saturday, 17:30 GMT)
Two sides enduring very different seasons need points for very different reasons this weekend, as Sevilla look to challenge for a place in the top-four whilst Deportivo are fighting to keep their head above water. They currently have a five-point margin on the drop zone but Malaga, the side below them, are showing radical improvements.
Standing unbeaten in all competitions since a defeat to Barcelona last month, Sevilla are two points behind both of the Madrid giants and will be ready to take advantage of any slip from the pair ahead of them- although they could have to wait a while.
Athletic Bilbao v Real Madrid (Saturday, 19:45 GMT)
Athletic Bilbao’s disastrous season doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, with the Basque side knocked out of the Copa Del Rey in midweek by minnows Formentura. Without a La Liga victory since mid-October, just six points seperate them from the relegation zone.
Real Madrid are the side to visit the San Mames this weekend and whilst the venue has historically been a difficult place to visit, Zinedine Zidane’s side will expect to steamroll through the opposition this weekend. However, their performance in midweek in the Copa Del Rey left a lot to be desired.
Leganes v Villarreal (Sunday, 11:00 GMT)
One of the surprise packages this season, Leganes have seen things dip in recent weeks following a difficult run of fixtures. Four consecutive defeats have seen the side slip into the bottom-half of the table but they’re just four points behind sixth place, a position that’s coincidentally held by Villarreal.
The Yellow Submarines currently hold the advantage in the race for European football but it’s an incredibly tight battle. Defeat to Sevilla last week only intensified that and Villarreal will seek to return to winning ways this weekend.
Getafe v Valencia (Sunday, 15:15 GMT)
Hovering in mid-table, Getafe are a side who’s season remains to be decided as a run of positive results could propel them into the top-half, whereas a slump could see them dragged into the relegation fight. With back-to-back defeats this week in the league and Copa Del Rey, it’s certainly not a good time to face the title-chasers.
Valencia gave Barcelona a firm test last weekend and a 1-1 draw means they remain unbeaten. They’ll know that pipping the Catalan giants to the La Liga crown is a near impossible task though, so the aim will be to remain above the Madrid duo behind them, who currently trail by four points.
Eibar v Espanyol (Sunday, 17:30 GMT)
Anxiously looking over their shoulders, Eibar secured an important victory last week against Alaves and it gave them some breathing room. They’re seven points clear of the relegation zone and it’s another crucial tie this weekend.
Espanyol, sat just two points ahead of Eibar, also risk being sucked into the relegation fight. They too secured a crucial result last week, beating Getafe, and securing a second consecutive victory for either side will provide a valuable boost.
Las Palmas v Real Betis (Sunday, 19:45 GMT)
Having not won since mid-September, Las Palmas sit in a lowly second-bottom position and face a huge fight ahead of them to climb out of the relegation zone, currently sitting level on points with Malaga and seven points from safety.
Real Betis, amongst the European chasers, will prove to be a challenging opponent this weekend but the visitors travel to the Canary Islands on the back of five games without a win, including a 5-3 defeat to Cadiz on Thursday that knocked them out of the Copa Del Rey.
Girona v Alaves (Monday, 20:00 GMT)
Girona have excelled since promotion to La Liga and currently sit tenth, within touching distance of the European spots, though it’s unlikely they’ll achieve that. For them, the aim is consolidation and a victory against rock-bottom Alaves on Monday will strengthen their position.
Alaves have won two of their last seven and showed what they can do with a comfortable 4-0 aggregate win over Getafe in the Copa Del Rey. The challenge is now transferring those displays into their La Liga games on a regular basis and Monday’s game will seem winnable.