The mid-way point of the league is finally here. League leaders Barcelona welcome Málaga to the Camp Nou while title hopefuls Real Madrid take a trip to Andalucia to take on relegation candidates Almería. Villarreal will welcome Osasuna to El Madrigal as rivals Valencia welcome Deportivo la Coruña to the Mestalla.
Sporting Gijón vs Hércules
Struggling Gijón welcomes Hércules to El Molinón on Saturday evening. The home team are currently on a disastrous spell not winning a single game at home since round 7 when they defeated Sevilla 2-0. Also, they have not won a league match since week 7, picking up 5 draws and 6 loses and have slid all the way down to 18th place. Preciado’s team will be in a fight against relegation for the rest of the season and will need to start garnering better results starting this weekend if his team is to remain in top flight football and stabilizing his job security. Hércules, on the other hand have been blowing hot and cold thus far, but, have managed to remain mid-table and are currently sitting comfortably in 11th place with 22 points, 9 points clear of their opponents and the drop zone. However, the visitors have not been very successful at El Molinón losing 11 of their last 17 games. José Ángel will be suspended for the home team while Botía and Marcos Landeira are doubtful for the fixture. Abraham Paz, Thomert, Tiago Gomes and Farinós are out injured for the away team.
Villarreal vs Osasuna
Villarreal are back home after a hard fought loss at the Bernabéu last weekend and a mid-week 6 goal thriller with Sevilla, they will welcome La Liga’s worst home team, Osasuna. The yellow submarines have been extremely impressive this season in league especially at home- winning 8 of their 9 league games in El Madrigal while drawing the other. Osasuna, as I said earlier, are poor travellers this season picking up only 2 points on the road and haven’t won an away game since January of last year- that last win coming against this weekend’s opponents. Villarreal were hit with a big blow earlier this week, as defender Ángel is ruled out for the rest of the season with torn knee ligaments. However, they managed to get former Real Madrid right back, Cicinho on loan from Roma until the end of the season and he may well earn his debut this weekend as he made the squad list. The home team will be without Santi Cazorla as he is suspended for the encounter as well as injured. While, Nilmar, Marchena and Senna are still out injured. Osasuna will travel without Puñal as he is suspended for the game. Pandiani is once again injured and will miss the encounter as will Monreal, Shojaei, Nekounam and Rúper.
Getafe vs Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad will make the trip to Madrid to take on 7th place Getafe. The home team are right where they want to be, having a fairly good season and are hoping to qualify for the Europa League next season. Real Sociedad have done well so far this season and sit mid-table on 22 points, 5 behind their opponents. However, their [Real Sociedad] last three visits to the Coliseum have ended in defeat and coupled with that they have the 8th worst away record, with 2 wins and a draw. While their opponents have done well at home, winning 5 and drawing 1 of their 9 home games- losing only to Real Madrid, Barcelona and Málaga. Miku is suspended for the game, while, Pedro Ríos, Arizmendi and Mario are out injured. Real Sociedad are missing both Agirretxe and Martínez who are both out injured.
Real Zaragoza vs Levante
Bottom of the table Zaragoza will welcome fellow relegation candidates Levante to La Romareda on Saturday with just two points separating the two teams. The home team seem to be glued to the bottom of the table picking up only 2 wins and 7 draws from their 18 league games. Despite, firing Gay and hiring Aguirre the club has not been able to improve their league position. Levante have been one of the worst away teams this season winning only 1 game and drawing 2. In Levante’s last 5 visits to La Romareda they have lost 4 and drawn 1, that draw coming in October of 2006. Edmílson is injured for the game while both Uche and Laguardia continue to be long-term injuries for the home team. While, Levante will miss both Juanfran and Ballesteros due to suspension and Nacho, Iborra and Miguel Pérez are all injured for the game and new signing, Welington will have to wait at least another week to make his debut.
Athletic Bilbao vs Racing Santander
Athletic Bilbao will welcome Racing Santander to the Cathedral, San Mames, Saturday evening. The home team have been a little disappointing in their last two fixtures against Deportivo and Málaga picking up only a point. However, their opponents have an atrocious away record picking up only 1 win and 2 draws from their 9 games. In spite of their away record Racing sit 7 points clear of the drop zone in 14th place. The last 10 league games between these two teams have been very close with the last game ending 4-3 in favour of the hosts. San José is suspended for the match while Amorebieta is out injured for los leones. However, they will welcome back Toquero to the squad. Racing will welcome back Colsa to the squad but will travel without Serrano, Diop, Coltorti, Arana and Tziolis who are all injured.
Sevilla vs Espanyol
In Saturday’s final game Sevilla will play host to Espanyol in the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. Sevilla have been less than impressive this season and find themselves sitting in 10th place, a surprising position when one considers the strength of their squad in comparison to 8th place Mallorca. However, they are 2 for 2 since the turn of the new year and will be hoping they can continue this streak and continue to move up the table, when they meet Espanyol. The visitors have not been doing well on the road this season and only because of their remarkable home run they find themselves in 5th place. The visitors have only earned 2 victories in their last 10 trips to the Sánchez Pizjuán- the last one coming in 2007 when Ángel, Luis García and Tamudo scored in a 3-2 result and their last point came last September in a 0-0 draw with the hosts. Fazio, Guarente and Palop are out injured for the home team. While, Espanyol will be without Osvaldo (who is to undergo operation in Argentina), David García, Javi, Coro, Galán, de la Peña and Mattioni who are all injured.
Valencia vs Deportivo la Coruña
After some lengthy negotiations, Valencia finally handed Mata a new contract which will keep him at the club until 2014 and the player will be able to celebrate with an excellent performance when his team welcome Deportivo to the Mestalla. Valencia, who were expected to have a bad season because they lost both Davids [Silva and Villa] are proving their critics wrong and sit comfortably in 4th, 2 points behind rivals Villarreal. The hosts can boast of a good home record winning 5 of their 9 games and drawing 3. Deportivo on the other hand have been on a resurgence with a few bumps here and there but since their relatively poor start to the campaign, which took them 9 rounds to get their first victory, they have been on a steady climb up the table and have now managed to put an 8 point cushion between themselves and the relegation zone. The visitors have not won a league game in the Mestalla since 2005 when Scaloni and Víctor scored in a 2-1 victory. Both teams will be missing key players. Valencia will have to do without Aduriz who is both injured and suspended for the game and, Albelda, César, Domínguez and Moyà are out injured. Deportivo will continue to be without Urretavizcaya, Guardado, Míchel, Riki and Zé Castro while Ruben Pérez is suspended for the game.
Almería vs Real Madrid
Lowly Almería will welcome title chasers Real Madrid to the Mediterráneo on Sunday evening. The home team have been battling relegation for much of this season and even with a new manager are yet to pick up a home win. Their opponents sit in 2nd place, 2 points behind the leaders and are hoping to pick up maximum points while hoping Málaga can snatch a point from the Camp Nou, since they will kick off before title rivals, Barcelona. The home team have not won a home game since May 2010, that last win coming against Villarreal in a 4-2 triumph for the hosts. To make things worst for the hosts they have not beaten Real Madrid in their last 4 games. However, they have managed a win and a draw from their last 3 home league meetings with the whites. Still, they will have their work cut out for them as they will have to deal with the powerful attack that the away team has, which include the likes of league top scorer Ronaldo, Di María and Özil. Almería have lost Michel to injury and both Pellerano and Nieto are long-term injuries. However, they will have a fairly strong team to select from. Real Madrid on the other hand, although they welcomed back Kaká have now lost striker Higuaín for four months after the Argentine under went back surgery recently and as such the club have now stated they are in the hunt for a new striker to carry them through the remainder of the season. They will also be without the ever present Pepe, who is also out injured as is back up keeper Dudek.
Barcelona vs Málaga
Struggling Málaga faces a difficult fixture this weekend when they travel to Catalonia to take on leaders Barcelona. The home team have been in impressive form this season and are currently on a 27 game unbeaten streak and Pep is set to break that club record which was set by Rinus Michels some 37 years ago. In their last 8 trips to the Camp Nou, Málaga have lost all 8 games being outscored 26 goals to 4. However, if they feel the need to think positive they can reflect on their 1999, 2-1 victory in the Camp Nou- the last time they even earned maximum points against the blaugrana. Pep will have his entire squad to choose from for the fixture. While, Pellegrini doesn’t have the kind of depth the hosts have available to them and will have to do without some injured players- Edinho, Iván González, Juanito and Rubén.
Atlético Madrid vs Mallorca
Mallorca will visit Atlético on Monday evening. The home team have been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season and are currently on a 3 game winless streak in all competitions, losing their last 2 games. Opponents Mallorca have won their last 2 league games and will be hoping they can continue to build on their season by taking the scalp of the rojiblancos. Atlético hasn’t lost in the last 4 home games against the visitors, the last defeat coming in April 2006 when Jonás Gutiérrez scored the only goal of the game. Although, Mallorca have left with a point on three of the last four occasions. The home team will be without Tiago and new signing Elías is doubtful for the encounter. Laudrup will have a full strength squad to select from for the visitors.
Top Matches of the weekend
- Villarreal vs Osasuna: should be a good display of attacking football from the home team as they have been a joy to watch this season.
- Sevilla vs Espanyol: will be a tough game for both teams
- Athletic Bilbao vs Racing Santander: despite the away team’s horrible visiting record they have had some close games with Bilbao in San Mames and this game should be a doozy as Athletic are looking to bounce back from their recent results while Racing are keen on turning around their poor away form.
- Almería vs Real Madrid: will most likely be a one-sided game but at least we can expect goals and some wonderful build-up to the goals. As well, Almería always seem to be alert and give their all when they meet los blancos, especially the likes of Crusat and Piatti.
- Barcelona vs Málaga: free-flowing attacking football from the hosts against a newly revamped Málaga team whose defence just got a little more solid with Demichelis and promising goal keeper Asenjo, a strengthened midfield with Baptista, Camacho and Maresca. The question is, will they be able to keep the Barcelona attack at bay?
- Atlético Madrid vs Mallorca: always a great game to watch!