La Liga

La Liga Preview Week 13: Crucial clash at the top is stand-out tie

There’s a gap beginning to emerge in La Liga, with the leading duo Barcelona and Valencia pulling away from Atletico and Real Madrid. That could change this weekend though, as the top-two go head-to-head in the stand-out clash of the week.

The two sides stand unbeaten so far, the only two remaining alongside Atletico, and Barcelona will certainly be the favourites. More on that later though, as there’s a number of big games across the division that will provide an impact.

There’s big games at the top and at the bottom, with a number of sides looking to find form after a disappointing spell so far. Dig your teeth in, it’s our weekly preview!

Celta Vigo 1-0 Leganes (Friday, 19:45 GMT)

Celta Vigo leapfrogged Leganes in the table with a narrow victory on Friday night, thanks to a first-half penalty from Iago Aspas. The hosts are now eighth in the table, ahead of Leganes on goal difference, having secured their second win in three.

Alaves v Eibar (Saturday, 12:00 GMT)

Second-bottom but only on goal difference, Alaves are not in a comfortable position. Just six points to their name means they’re in real danger of the drop to the Segunda and the clash against Eibar on Saturday afternoon is decisive.

Eibar currently occupy the spot just outside the drop zone, four points ahead, and victory tomorrow would extend that margin significantly. Should Alaves lose, they could be eight points from safety and would face a very daunting prospect.

Real Madrid v Malaga (Saturday, 15:15 GMT)

After a goalless, and forgettable, derby with Atletico Madrid last weekend, Real Madrid find themselves a whopping ten points behind Barcelona. Pressure on Zinedine Zidane has increased as a result and nothing short of a comfortable victory against Malaga this weekend will be acceptable.

The visitors, however, and enjoyed an upturn in form in recent weeks. After taking ages to get going, Malaga have now won two of their last three and now sit third-bottom. Four points from safety as it stands, there’s still work to do and nobody expects anything from a trip to the capital.

Real Betis v Girona (Saturday, 17:30 GMT)

With both sides hovering in mid-table, the next month or so will be decisive on how the season progresses. Victory in this clash, accompanied by a run of form, could raise an outside chance of securing European football next season.

Defeat, meanwhile, could see either side drop into the bottom-half of the La Liga standings. It’s extremely tight down there and the risk is they could be dragged into the relegation dogfight, something that neither side wants to happen.

Levante v Atletico Madrid (Saturday, 19:45 GMT)

Levante, content with their position in mid-table, now face a fight to retain that spot and keep themselves ahead of the relegation battle. A 2-0 win over Las Palmas last weekend boosted their morale but hosting Atletico is a daunting prospect.

They’ll be encouraged though by the fact that Diego Simeone’s side have been far from firing on all cylinders this season. Whilst they remain unbeaten in La Liga, Atleti have drawn half of their matches so far and stand outside the title race as a result.

Deportivo v Athletic Bilbao (Sunday, 11:00 GMT)

Like their opponents on Sunday, Deportivo don’t want to be in the relegation battle. Whilst their expectations will be far less than their Basque visitors, Deportivo need to turn things around as they’re just four points above the drop zone.

Athletic, however, aren’t in a much better position. A crucial win over Hertha Berlin in midweek kept their European adventure alive but they need to start finding consistency if they’re to get back to the sort of positions which they’ve become accustomed too.

Real Sociedad v Las Palmas (Sunday, 15:15 GMT)

After a draw with Girona last week, Real Sociedad will be looking for maximum points against Las Palmas this weekend as they look to bolster their credentials in the battle for another European finish. As it stands, they’re three points behind Villarreal ahead of them but can, at least temporarily, draw level with the Yellow Submarines on Sunday.

Las Palmas, like the rest of the sides in the relegation battle, desperately need to find some form. Rooted to the bottom of the table, the side from the Canary Islands have now lost eight consecutive matches in La Liga- having won two of their opening four.

Villarreal v Sevilla (Sunday, 17:30 GMT)

In the battle for European football, fifth and sixth place go head-to-head this Sunday as Villarreal, trailing their opponents by just a single point, host Sevilla. With Atletico and Real Madrid only narrowly ahead in the standings, a win could spark a push for a top-four finish.

Sevilla will certainly fancy their chances due to their established pedigree but they’ll soon learn that doesn’t count for much. After fighting back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Liverpool in midfield, they’ll hope to be better in defence having not kept a clean sheet in any of their last five games across all competitions.

Valencia v Barcelona (Sunday, 19:45 GMT)

The big one this week takes place at the Mestella, where Valencia will hope to keep the title fight alive. Sat four points behind Barcelona heading into the game, the hosts will know that defeat will pretty much hand the title to the Catalan giants despite the early stage of the season.

Ernesto Valverde is certainly gearing himself up for a testing clash, after the surprising decision not to start Lionel Messi against Juventus in midweek. A goalless draw in Turin isn’t necessarily a bad thing but questions will be asked if they fail to win here.

Espanyol v Getafe (Monday, 20:00 GMT)

It’s another game in mid-table where both sides need their form to find stability in the month ahead if they’re to remain above the bottom-half and within an outside chance of putting together a run of form that can threaten the European spots, though both sides would be content with another season of comfort in the top-flight.

Following back-to-back defeats, Espanyol sit three points behind Getafe heading into this one and could be sucked into the relegation fight if they lost again. Following four games unbeaten in La Liga, Getafe will certainly have confidence.

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