The final round before the winter break in Spain is almost here and is expected to be very entertaining yet depressing, considering there will be two weeks of NO Spanish football. However, it is a well-deserved rest for the players and coaching staff alike and also a break welcomed by the teams that are in a desperate state, in need of time to draft up a new tactical game plan if they are to attempt to rescue their season.
The biggest game of the weekend has to be the Catalan derby between los Periquitos and cross town rivals blaugrana in the Cornella el Pratt, which is promising much entertainment just for the mere fact that it is a derby.
Another interesting match of the weekend should be the meeting between Sevilla and Real Madrid in the Bernabéu.
Villarreal vs Mallorca
Both teams are coming off shock 1-0 defeats against Getafe and Racing Santander and are eager to pick up a win before they go off on break. Villarreal have been a dominant force in El Madrigal and are not keen on letting that streak end right before the break, however, Laudrup’s men are unlikely to be push-overs and will be giving the home team all that they can handle. Villarreal over the past 5 years have had an advantage over the Islanders, remaining undefeated against them at home since 2005 and only twice dropping points when they settled for a 1-1 draw on both occasions, the most recent coming September 2009. Villarreal’s impressive home statistics stand at 6 wins and a draw from their 7 games, scoring 15 goals and conceding 2, while Mallorca’s been less than impressive on the road over the past years, picking up the tag of being a “tough home team” but “bad travellers”. Although, they have been trying to rectify the situation much in their past few away games this season. Mallorca’s picked up 7 of a possible 21 points from their road games and is the 9th best away team this season but that will not dishevel the away team. There’s been no report of injuries in the Villarreal camp and they will have back the services of Rossi after the Italian-American missed last week’s defeat at Getafe because of suspension. Kevin, Tomás Pina, Sergio, Ayoze and Enrich have all been listed as injured, while Tuni is listed as doubtful for the visitors. However, the visitors can welcome back defender Rúben after his suspension last weekend.
Levante vs Athletic Bilbao
Sixteenth place Levante will welcome Athletic Bilbao to the Cuitat de Valencia to close out the “first half” of the season. The visitors are coming off a late comeback win against Espanyol last weekend when both Llorente and López scored two late goals to secure a 2-1 result, while the home team are coming off a fairly decent result- picking up a draw against Sporting Gijón. Levante’s last win against Bilbao at home was in 2004/05 season when Bernd Schuster was head coach. However, the Granotes does have a bad stat sheet against their Basque opponents- only beating their opponents twice in their 12 meetings not to mention, their last three La Liga meetings against them have all been defeats. Along with, their poor record against los Leones the home team are also the 16th best or 4th worst home team thus far. History suggests it may well be an easy victory for the away team but this funny old sport of ours have a way of surprising us. Xisco, Pérez, Iborra, Nacho and Héctor Rodas are listed as injured for the home team, while both Sergio and del Horno are said to be on their way back from injury and Saturday’s game could see them both return to action. Ustaritz, Aitor Ocio and Ibai Gómez are still listed as being injured, while youngster Igor Martínez is said to be making his way back to full fitness.
Deportivo la Coruña vs Sporting Gijón
After their set back last weekend, Deportivo are keen on getting back on track when they welcome a slumping Sporting Gijón team to the Riazor. After their poor/slow start to the season, Deportivo have been picking up the points at home when it most matters and are undefeated in their last four home games, winning their last three. Sporting on the other hand have been steadily descending down the standings and have only just snap a four game losing streak last weekend by securing a 1-1 draw with Levante. However, Sporting’s last 2 league visits to Galicia for the rojiblancos have ended in positive results, picking up a win and a draw against the home team. Riki, Juca, Zé Castro, Morel, Guardado and Míchel are still listed as injured for the home team. Sporting Gijón on the other hand are expected to miss Cuéllar, Bilić and Landeira who are said to be injured.
Espanyol vs Barcelona
The Barcelona local derby will take center stage this weekend when Espanyol welcome league leaders, Barcelona to the Cornella El Pratt on Saturday night. The visitors are yet to taste victory on Espanyol’s new home pitch, only managing a draw on their first visit to the stadium last season. The hosts are having a spectacular start to the season sitting in 4th place and can attribute that current standing to their perfect home record, efficient scoring and solid defence. However, the visitors have been the best road team this season, holding a perfect away record as well as the best away defence. It should be a very tense match between two hated rivals and Espanyol will be looking to close the 12 point gap between themselves and the blaugrana but it will not be an easy task, not with the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi as well, the hosts do have a very depleted squad. Although, they have been getting by with a fairly depleted squad in their previous 15 league games, this is their second real test against a squad at full strength with high quality players. January 13 2007, was the last time Espanyol recorded a home win over Barcelona when Luis García, de la Peña and Rufete’s goals handed the hosts a 3-1 victory and Saviola scoring the away team’s only goal. Espanyol have not won their last four home games against Barcelona, drawing 3 and losing the other but, they have all been close games. As reported before, Espanyol are struggling with injuries as Javi López, Coro, Galán, de la Peña and Mattioni are still all out injured. However, the home team can expect to have back Márquez and Baena who were both suspended last weekend. Barcelona are at full strength with the exception of Milito who is still recovering from injury.
Real Sociedad vs Valencia
After their comprehensive beating last weekend, Real Sociedad should be very happy to be back on a much familiar and more friendlier ground to take on Valencia at the Anoeta. Valencia on the other hand are coming off a rather disappointing draw at home against Osasuna after holding a comfortable two-goal lead. Real Sociedad have been one of the stronger teams at home this season losing only to Real and Atlético Madrid, winning their other 5 home games. However, the home team do not have a great record against their opponents and have not beaten them in their last 11 games which includes them losing the last two home games against the visitors and after the demoralizing defeat they suffered last weekend could still be at the forefront of the minds of the players and could act as a distraction rather than a mean of motivation. Sutil and Diego Ifrán are the only injury concerns for the home team. While, Moyá, Topal and Fernandes are expected to miss the encounter for Valencia with injury.
Almería vs Getafe
Almería pulled off a big upset last weekend when they defeated Sevilla inside the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán and are back home in the Mediterráneo on a high, hoping to give the home fans something to cheer about during the winter break by recording their first victory of the season at home. Getafe themselves are coming off a big win over Villarreal and would like to end the year with a win in the books. Getafe’s last two visits to the Mediterráneo have ended in defeat not scoring in their last game there. Both teams have been poor at home and away, respectively and will be very cautious for most of the match. Míchel, Bernardello, Nieto and Pellerano are all injured for the home team. Getafe will continue to be witouth both Arizmendi and Mario because of injury while, Albín and Cata Díaz are both suspended for the match after being sent off last weekend.
Osasuna vs Real Zaragoza
Osasuna are back at the Reyno de Navarra and will welcome bottom of the table Real Zaragoza. Osasuna are coming off a big turn around on Monday night when they came back from being 2 goals down to snatch a point from Valencia, only their second road point this season. Real Zaragoza on the other hand are coming off yet another defeat to Real Madrid and are looking likely to close the year as the league’s worst team after only 16 rounds. Real Zaragoza’s start to the season have been horrendous, picking up only 1 win and 8 draws from their 15 league games this season. And, if that is not bad enough for the away team then the fact that their last 5 away games have not garnered them maximum points should be worrying. Also, they have lost the last two games and are scoreless in both. Osasuna are still without Camuñas, Damià and Rúper due to their injuries. Real Zaragoza are still without Laguardia and Uche, who are both long-term injuries.
Málaga vs Atlético Madrid
Málaga are back home and will welcome Altético to La Rosaleda on Sunday evening. The anchovies are coming off a heavy 4-1 defeat against Hércules last weekend and are keen on picking up their 3rd home win this season as they are hoping to close out the year above the drop zone but in order to do so they will need a win along with a loss or draw by Almería. Atlético have been shaky on the road at times this season and will have to be careful if they want to avoid being embarrassed and should remember their last visit to La Rosaleda which ended in a 3-0 loss. Galatto, Apoño, Luque and Rosário are expected to miss the clash while, Atlético are still missing Assunção and Asenjo.
Real Madrid vs Sevilla
Real Madrid will welcome Sevilla to the Santiago Bernabéu this weekend. The hosts have been impressive at home this season with a 100% win record outscoring their opponents 25 goals to 3 in their 7 games there. As well, Mourinho continues to be undefeated on home turf in league stretching his undefeated record to 143 games. The visitors on the other hand have been very Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and are currently on a 4 game losing streak which has now seen them fall all the way down to 11th in the table. Both teams will be keen on ending the year on a good note with Real Madrid not wanting to lose ground on Barcelona while Sevilla would just like to put this losing streak behind them by securing a win. Sevilla’s record at the Bernabéu isn’t great but over the past 6 years they have been getting some results including their 4-3 win back in December 2008. However, their last trip to the Capital City to play Madrid ended in a 3-2 defeat after the hosts turned around a 2-0 deficit. Real Madrid will be without key men, Xabi Alonso and Marcelo who are both suspended for the fixture, while the injured: Gago, Kaká, Canales, Higuaín, Ramos and Dudek are out. Sevilla are missing Fabiano, Navas, Guarente, Varas, Dragutinović, Sánchez, Koné and Fazio who are all out injured while Alexis is suspended for the match.
Racing Santander vs Hércules
Racing will welcome the Greek Gods of Alicante on Monday night in the Sardinero. The home team are on a high after picking up their first away win. However, Hércules are a good, strong side and although they haven’t really displayed much character when playing teams outside of the “stronger” teams in the league they are a very dangerous team with quality players. Racing are welcoming back Serrano who came in last weekend off the bench in the 88th minute to net the winner 2 minutes later for his team against a tough Mallorca side in a game that seemed to be heading for a certain draw and his presence should be a boost for the hosts. Racing have now lost Coltorti and Ponce to injuries while Arana and Tziolis are still recovering from their respective injuries. Hércules will have to travel without Rufete and Farinós, while Sendoa is still listed as a doubt.
Top matches of the weekend
- Villarreal vs Mallorca
- Espanyol vs Barcelona
- Real Madrid vs Sevilla
Until January 2nd people! I hope you all enjoy your Holidays!