La Liga

La Liga preview: Neymar returns for Catalan Derby as Valencia sign two

Week 35 in La Liga sees Real Madrid and Barcelona build on impressive wins while Osasuna could officially see relegation from the division.

Villarreal vs Sporting Gijón

Villarreal are up to 60 points after a late Cédric Bakambu substitution helped Roberto Soriano bundle the ball into the Atlético Madrid net to secure a 0-1 win on Wednesday. Next up for Fran Escribá is a home fixture against Sporting Gijón who now look to be doomed to relegation after Leganes won 3-0 against Las Palmas, leaving Sporting 6 points from safety with 4 games remaining.

Real Sociedad vs Granada

The side from San Sebastián survived a late fightback from Valencia earlier in the week to keep pace in the race for Europe. Eusebio’s side will be confident of building on that win against Granada, who under Tony Adams, have a poor record of 3 defeats from 3 games with 0 goals scored and 7 conceded. Granada are now without a win in 9 matches and 17 away from home.

Real Madrid vs Valencia

After the late, late defeat to Barcelona in El Clásico, Real needed to bounce back immediately so eyebrows were raised when Zidane made 9 changes – leaving Cristiano Ronaldo out completely. However, not for the first time, a fluid second string side answered emphatically as Álvaro Morata and Isco starred in a 6-2 thrashing of Deportivo La Coruña.

With a first-minute goal on Wednesday, Morata goes into the game against Voro’s team as Madrid’s second highest goalscorer in all competitions with 13 in the league, scoring on average every 88 minutes.

Against Valencia, Real Madrid come up against a team with very little to play for. Though they will have to be wary of Munir El Haddadi, who will be desperate to do all he can to help his parent club in their bid for the title.

In the build-up to the game, according to local radio, Valencia have agreed to sign Kevin-Prince Boateng from Las Palmas on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Las Palmas vs Atlético Madrid

With the 3rd most potent attack and the best defence in La Liga coming to town on Saturday, Las Palmas will struggle unless they greatly improve on their recent form which has seen them ship 16 goals in 6 games.

The two sides have met 3 times previously this season with Atlético winning the reverse fixture and the first leg of their Copa Del Rey tie. Las Palmas managed a 3-2 win in the second leg but ultimately lost on aggregate. Key man Antoine Griezmann scored in both cup games.

After losing their previous game, Atletico are level on points with Sevilla so will be looking for a win to qualify for the Champions League group stages automatically.

Espanyol vs Barcelona

Despite not having much to play for in the run in, this is a potential banana skin for Barcelona in the title race. It may not have the reputation as one of the most intimidating derbies for players to play in where tempers flare, but no one likes losing to local rivals. All form goes out of the window and Espanyol will be up for the fight.

A huge plus for Luis Enrique is that Neymar finally returns from suspension and his squad may feel that little bit deeper after goals from Paco Alcácer and André Gomes will give them confidence. Javier Mascherano will have a taste for it too after netting his first Barcelona goal in 2,433 days and 319 games!

Meanwhile, Lionel Messi scored his 32nd and 33rd league goals of the season against Osasuna and has now netted 21 times in 17 league games in 2017.

Osasuna vs Deportivo

Anything other than a win for Osasuna on Sunday will officially confirm their relegation from La Liga and unfortunately for the club, standout attacker Sergio Leon who is the only player to reach double figures has reportedly agreed to join Valencia in the summer.

Deportivo, as it turns out, have all but ensured their safety by picking up key points early on in Pepe Mel’s tenure but head into the game having won only once in their previous 6.

Real Betis vs Alaves

Real Betis were harshly prevented from turning back to back wins to 3 without defeat against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday when Aritz Aduriz’s claim for a penalty was given despite replays suggesting the challenge in the box was a fair one. Iker Muniain made it 2-0 before Betis’ own veteran Rubén Castro took his tally for the season to 11.

Sunday’s opponents go into the game with 2 draws and a 2-1 win against Villarreal having previously suffered 3 defeats in a row. A win would solidify Alaves’ place in the top 10 at least until Celta Vigo play Bilbao.

Eibar vs Leganes

The two sides prepare to face each other for only the second time in official competition since 2004 after the reverse fixture earlier this season which ended 1-1.

Eibar will be without their goalkeeper Asier Riesgo on Sunday who was given a straight red card against Alaves for a blatant handball outside of the box.

Leganes fans can probably relax already but a win against Eibar would almost officially confirm survival if Sporting Gijón fail to beat Villarreal on Friday evening.

Celta Vigo vs Athletic Bilbao

Celta Vigo lost again on Wednesday as they allowed Sevilla go to level on points with Atlético Madrid but it’s all about the Europa League now with nothing to play for in the league, although Iago Aspas took his league tally to 17 and will be vital to his team in their European tie against Manchester United.

Ernesto Valverde, on the other hand, will have a slightly different view on Sunday’s game as they just can’t seem to shake off Eusebio’s Real Sociedad in their stake to claim the final Europa League position.

Aritz Aduriz is in top form with 7 goals in 7 games and will be key to his side’s chances of finishing above Real Sociedad.

Málaga vs Sevilla

In the final game of round 35 of fixtures, Málaga host Sevilla at La Roseleda. Míchel’s team have shot up the table to 14th with 4 wins from 6, largely down to 21-year-old Sandro Ramirez, formerly of FC Barcelona who has netted 5 times in his last 5 matches.

After losing all momentum in the title race, Sevilla have only lost to Barcelona in their previous 6 games with their latest win coming against Celta, with Wissam Ben Yedder scoring his 11th goal of the season.

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