La Liga Preview: Match Day 20

The 2nd half off the season kicks-off this weekend and winter champions Barcelona are home against Racing Santander while rivals Real Madrid are set to welcome Mallorca to the Bernabéu.

Sevilla vs Levante

Sevilla qualified for the Copa del Rey semi-finals on Wednesday night and are set to face Real Madrid on Wednesday but before they do they will welcome relegation candidates Levante on Saturday evening.  Levante find themselves 18th in the table and are looking quite set to return to the Segunda division next season.  They are currently on a four game losing streak and to make things worst this weekend, Levante have only beaten the hosts once in the Pizjuán, that coming in 1998, thumping them 4-0.  The last four trips to Sevilla have all ended in defeat for the away team and they have only mustered up one goal in the last four trips.  At the time of writing, Sevilla’s Palop and Fazio are said to be injured and may be unavailable for the game on Sartuday.  Levante on the other hand has both Iborra and Nacho out.  However, they will have back Juanfran and Ballesteros who were both suspended last weekend.

Barcelona vs Racing Santander

Winter champions Barcelona welcome 14th place Racing in Saturday’s 2nd game.  The blaugrana’s 28 game unbeaten streak came to an end on Wednesday when they were defeated by 2nd division team Betis 3-1.  Despite that loss the hosts are through to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey where they will meet bottom of the table Almería on Thursday.  Racing Santander have been wretched in their away games and have won only one and drawn two of their nine games.  Meanwhile, their opponents have been solid at home winning seven, drawing one and losing one.  The away team have only won twice in the Camp Nou, 1936 and 1983.  Also, they have only come away with a point on five occasions- the last point coming in September 2008 when they earned a 1-1 draw thanks to a goal by Jonathan Pereira.  In their last 10 visits to the Camp Nou, Racing have managed a meager 4 goals while conceding 26.  The first meeting between the two this season saw the away team beaten 3-0 at home- Messi, Iniesta and Villa the scorers on that occasion.  At the time of the article both teams had a few injury concerns.  Barcelona will be without Dani Alves who is sidelined with a thigh injury, as will youngster Jeffren as he suffered a tear in his left thigh during training on Thursday.  Racing will continue to miss Arana and Tziolis, while Serrano, Diop and Coltorti are doubtful for the encounter.

Valencia vs Málaga

The first match of the season saw Valencia travel to Andalucia and defeated the anchovies 3-1, Joaquín scored a brace and Aduriz the other for Valencia while Fernández scored the lone goal for Málaga.  On Saturday Valencia will host the Andalucians with the hope they can do the double over their opponents and it certainly doesn’t seem far fetched for los che as Málaga have not won in their last nine trips to the Mestalla, earning a point on three of those occasions.  As well, Valencia hasn’t lost for the last 15 games against Málaga.  After their suspensions last weekend, Valencia will welcome back Joaquín and Aduriz but will continue to miss Navarro, Cesár, Moyà, Albelda and Feghouli due to injuries.  Málaga will be without Gámez while, Iván González, Rubén, Juanito and Edinho are doubtful for the encounter.

Sunday will have four games kick off simultaneously- Getafe v Espanyol, Sporting Gijón v Atlético Madrid, Real Zaragoza v Deportivo la Coruña and Almería vs Osasuna, followed by Real Madrid v Mallorca and later Villarreal v Real Sociedad.

Getafe vs Espanyol

When Getafe welcome Espanyol to the Coliseum Sunday evening, revenge will be at the forefront for the Madrid-based team as they fell 3-1 in Barcelona on opening day- Osvaldo with a brace and Dátolo with the other for the Catalans while Galán scored an own goal.  Espanyol have been dismal in their away games this season and have only won two road games this season.  In spite of that dreadful away record Espanyol have done well for themselves against Getafe in Madrid, winning three and drawing two of their last eight trips there.  Both teams have been strong this season occupying 5th [Espanyol] and 8th and are separated by 7 points.  Getafe’s coach Míchel will have to be content without the services of Arizmendi, Mario and Pedro Ríos.  While their opponents will be without influential striker, Osvaldo who is recovering from his surgery.

Sporting Gijón vs Atlético Madrid

Sporting may have picked up their first win last weekend since match day 7 but they will face a wounded Atléti side looking for the perfect tonic to get over their Copa del Rey 4-1 aggregate defeat to cross-town rivals, Real Madrid.  Fresh off their European Super Cup success, Atléti welcomed Sporting on the Monday to kick-off their season, which they did in fine style, thumping the Asturian side 4-0, sending out a clear message to both Real Madrid and Barcelona, however, they have since then fell off the boiler and reverted to being erratic.  Sporting has only earned a point from their last two home games against Atléti and their last ten home games have ended in three wins and two draws.  Botía is doubtful for the hosts, while, the away team may be without Reyes as he picked up an injury in their Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg defeat and star forward Agüero is also doubtful for the fixture after picking up an injury in his team’s Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg defeat.

Real Zaragoza vs Deportivo la Coruña

Both these teams kicked their campaign off to a 0-0 draw and from then went on a long winless streak which saw both teams stuck in the relegation zone.  However, Deportivo managed to earn their first win against Espanyol on match day 9, while Zaragoza’s came the following match day against Mallorca.  Deportivo have since then found their feet, managing to climb out of, and currently has a 5 point cushion over, the drop zone.  The home team however have been firmly glued to the bottom three rising only as high as 18th in the table so far this season.  Their last ten matches against each other in Aragon have been close with Zaragoza winning four and drawing four.  Edmílson continues to be absent for the hosts while both Laguardia and Uche are still struggling with their respective long-term injuries.  The Galicians are still struggling with injuries to their key players- Urretavicaya, Guardado, Saúl, Míchel and Riki.

Almería vs Osasuna

Earlier in the season when these two met they played to a 0-0 draw in Pamplona.  Osasuna went on to pick up important points while their rivals went on a slide down the table until manager Lillo was fired after that record defeat against Barcelona at home.  Coincidentally, after dumping Deportivo out at the quarter-finals of the King’s Cup to secure a place in the semis, Almería will face the Catalans again.  Almería have been on an uptick of late defeating Deportivo 4-2 on aggregate in the King’s Cup thus earning a berth into the semi-finals as well, they gained a huge and vital point against Real Madrid in league last weekend when they held the giants to a 1-1 draw.  Osasuna has won only one of their five visits to the Mediterráneo and have lost their last three games there.  Almería’s Acasiete and Michel are both doubtful for the match.  On the other side of the grass, Osasuna’s Pandiani, Nekounam, Shojaei and Monreal are doubtful for the trip to Andalucia.

Real Madrid vs Mallorca

The Islanders will take a trip to the Capital City to take on Real Madrid- whom they held to a 0-0 in the season opener.  This is a potentially tricky game for the hosts and granted the Bernabéu hasn’t garnered Mallorca many points, over the years they have been tough opponents coming away with 13 points (equivalent to 4 wins, 1 draw) from a possible 30.  However, the last trip for the Islanders ended in a 2-0 loss.  They will also have to cope with a Real Madrid team eager to correct their blunder last weekend against Almería, as well, determined to avenge their slip-up in Palma de Mallorca from match day 1.  Mourinho will be able to count on all his players with the exception of Pepe, Higuaín and Dudek.  Khedira is also a doubt for the game as he suffered an injury to his right ankle on Thursday against Atlético.  Mallorca’s Ramis and Martí are doubtful for the encounter and will probably not make the trip.

Villarreal vs Real Sociedad

The yellow submarines are coming off a bitter 6-3 aggregate loss to Sevilla in the King’s Cup quarter-final and are likely to be anticipating their match up against Real Sociedad wanting nothing more than revenge against the Basque boys for beating them in the season opener, as well, a win is the best conditioner for being dumped out of the King’s Cup.  Villarreal are one of two undefeated teams at home this season and teams visiting the fortress, that is El Madrigal, are wary of the possibility they may come away with nothing- Valencia is the only team to leave with a point thus far.  However, Real Sociedad have done well for themselves in Valencia against the yellow submarines, winning three and drawing three of their last eight trips there- the last trip ending in a 1-1 draw in March 2007.  The home team lost defender Ángel for the rest of the season with torn knee ligaments, while Cazorla is doubful for the encounter, as is Marchena, Nilmar and Senna.  Real Sociedad’s Martínez and Agirretxe are doubtful for the trip.

Athletic Bilbao vs Hércules

Monday night’s only game will see Athletic back in the Cathedral of San Mames to welcome Hércules.  Back on week 1 of the league, newly promoted Hércules gave los leones a hard time at the José Rico Pérez but were eventual losers courtesy of a Llorente goal.  The Alicante-based team are La Liga’s 6th worst away team and if that is not bad enough, they have never won in San Mames losing their last ten league trips there.  Athletic’s top scorer Llorente was substituted last weekend after picking up an injury and may be a doubt for the visit from Hércules.  Amorebieta is also a doubt for the hosts.  The Alicante team may be without Thomert, Farinós, Gomes and Paz for their trip to the Basque country.

Top matches of the weekend:

  • Barcelona vs Racing Santander
  • Getafe vs Espanyol: granted Espanyol have been bad travellers this season they will be up against a tough Getafe team trying to avenge their loss on match day 1 as well last weekend’s defeat against Real Sociedad.
  • Real Madrid vs Mallorca: a potentially tricky match up for the hosts as Mallorca has never been an easy team for the whites.
  • Villarreal vs Real Sociedad: the home team have been a joy to watch this season and Real Sociedad will give them a great game.
the drop zone

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