Day 21 of the league kicks off on Saturday with six matches taking place throughout the day. Defending champions Barcelona will make the trip to Alicante to take on the ‘mighty’ Hércules, who happened to hand the blaugrana their only defeat in league this season. Title hopefuls Real Madrid will travel to the hostile Reyno de Navarro on Sunday, while Espanyol and Villarreal will showdown in the Cornella El Pratt on Sunday.
Levante vs Getafe
Bottom of the table Levante will welcome mid-table Getafe to the Cuitat de Valencia in one of the four games that will kick off simultaneously on Saturday. With their loss last weekend to Sevilla, Levante plunged further down the table to 20th while their opponents fell at home to Espanyol, however, they remain comfortably in mid-table. When these two sides met earlier in the season, Getafe defeated the granotes 4-1, which the home team and fans alike will be hoping to return the compliment on Saturday. In their last seven league meetings (both the Primera and Segunda division) in the Cuitat de Valencia, Getafe have only earned 4 draws and 3 losses- their last visit ending in a 3-1 loss. It is worth noting that Levante are currently on a 5 game losing streak. At the time of writing, both teams had no fresh injuries to report.
Real Sociedad vs Almería
Struggling Almería will travel to San Sebastian to take on a tough Real Sociedad team, who are coming off a hard fought loss against Villarreal last weekend. The hosts have done very well at home winning 56% of their games played in the Anoeta. When both teams met in the Mediterráneo the game ended in a 2-2 draw- Ulloa scoring an injury time equalizer for the Andalucians. Almería’s last trip to the Anoeta ended in a 3-2 victory which saw them through to the round of 16 in the King’s Cup. Victory will concentrate the mind of each player on the field, especially that of the away side, as they are in a tough battle against relegation and are at this point, prime candidates to get the drop at the end of the season.
Mallorca vs Sporting Gijón
Mallorca are back home and will play host to Gijón on Saturday. The away team are currently on a three game undefeated streak picking up maximum points from their last two fixtures; something they hadn’t achieved since match day 7. Gijón will be heading into this match with some confidence knowing that they defeated their opponents earlier in the season at home. However, the Iberostar has been Mallorca’s fortress this season, recording five wins, two draws and two losses- a 56% win rate. The hosts have only lost three league matches against Sporting at home; with the last defeat coming in October 2008. Mallorca lie comfortably in mid-table whilst Sporting are currently battling relegation, 2 points above the drop zone.
Málaga vs Real Zaragoza
Despite recruiting some quality players during the winter transfer window, Málaga still find themselves 19th and a potential candidate to be relegated at the end of the season. Real Zaragoza, on the other hand, have been on a steady climb up the table since the turn of the new year, picking up three wins out of their last four league games. With that said, the visitors will approach this match cautiously as they were involved in the league’s 2nd highest scoring game this season, falling 5-3 at home to the anchovies back in September; which saw Zaragoza’s defensive frailties exposed, but it also highlighted their fighting spirit, managing to pull three goals back after going down by five. Of the last seven league visits to La Rosaleda, Zaragoza have only won once and drawn twice against their opponents. The home team will have to contend with some suspensions after being hard done by the referee in their last game against Valencia. Both Weligton and Apoño have picked up two match bans after the referee wrote in his report that he and his fellow lines men were verbally abused by both players. Apoño’s ban was extended to three games as he picked up a 5th yellow card during the match last weekend. Coach Manuel Pellegrini will also have to watch the match from the stands as he too was sent off for protesting on the sidelines. Also, Demichelis and Rosário were sent off in the match but only Demichelis will be suspended for the game on Saturday as the FA rescinded Rosário’s red card.
Hércules vs Barcelona
On Saturday, September 11, 2010 newly promoted Hércules provided the shock of the round when they travelled to Barcelona to take on La Liga’s defending champions and recorded an astonishing 2-0 victory against the blaugrana; Nelson Haedo Valdez the scorer of both goals that night. Hércules are still the only team in La Liga to have taken maximum points from Barcelona this season. However, if you are a Culé fan you need not worry as your team is in optimum form now, while the home team is hardly the dark horse of the league as they had so promised after picking up that victory. But, if you are a Madridista or Herculanos you will both be hoping that lightning can strike twice. Realistically, the chances of this happening are slim to none but if the Alicante based team can provide that same tactical discipline they showed during round 2 of the league, then there is no reason why they won’t be able to come away with something from the match. The away team’s only injury concern is to that of Dani Alves and Jeffren, although the former may be in line to make his return this weekend.
Deportivo la Coruña vs Sevilla
Sevilla will travel to Galicia to take on ‘not so super’ Depor in Saturday’s final game. Deportivo have been largely disappointing this season and at some point started to rectify their poor start by picking up important wins which saw them climb out of the cellar to achieve a satisfactory position/cushion over the drop zone but have since remained slightly stagnant not moving higher than 12th in the table. Sevilla have also been mediocre this season and the sacking of Antonio Álvarez haven’t really helped their cause as they continued to fall down the table. Albeit, Sevilla have been doing well since the start of the year and have won three of their last four league games. The first meeting this season between the two sides ended in a stalemate. Sevilla’s last six visits to the Riazor have garnered them 4 wins and 2 losses in all competitions.
Sunday will see three intriguing matches with Athletic Bilbao paying a visit to Madrid to take on Atlético Madrid, Espanyol welcoming Villarreal to the Cornella El Pratt and Real Madrid travelling to Pamplona to take on Osasuna.
Atlético Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao
Atlético are coming off a disappointing defeat against Sporting Gijón last weekend and will be hoping to pull the double over Athletic when they welcome them to the Vicente Calderón on Sunday. Both teams have done fairly well in the league thus far and sit comfortably in 6th and 7th separated by 2 points. Bilbao in recent years have done well for themselves against Atlético on the road, picking up two wins out of their last five league games against the rojiblancos; where they have only won 18 of their last 75 competitive games. Both Agüero and Reyes are questionable for the game on Sunday while there have been no fresh reports of injuries in the Bilbao camp.
Osasuna vs Real Madrid
Real Madrid travels to Pamplona to take on Osasuna in the hostile Reyno de Navarro on Sunday evening in a must win game if they are to keep pace with the blaugrana, who are playing the day before. Osasuna are currently winless in the new year and have only earned a point from their last four league games. Despite their winless start to the new year, the gorritxoak are solid defensively, especially at home and have only conceded 5 goals in their nine home games this season. Real Madrid have done fairly well at the Reyno de Navarro collectively, winning 14 and drawing 9 of their last 33 competitive matches against Osasuna, including the 2-1 victory that secured the 2007/08 championship for the whites. However, the away team will need to be careful as they have only gained a point from their last two trips to Pamplona and they also face a desperate Osasuna team that needs all three points to put some distance between themselves and the drop zone. Real Madrid recently signed Togolese hitman Adebayor on loan from Manchester City, to replace the injured Higuaín, and he may be handed his debut against Osasuna. Nevertheless, the whites will continue to be without Pepe, Dudek and as mentioned before, Higuaín.
Espanyol vs Villarreal
The yellow submarines are sitting in 3rd place and will travel to Barcelona to take on 5th place Espanyol. The home team fell 4-0 to Villarreal back in September and will be looking to return the favour when they meet on Sunday. Both teams are doing well in the league this year and are evenly matched and it should be a great match on Sunday. The last five league meetings between these two teams in Barcelona have been very close with both teams winning one game each and drawing the remaining three.
Racing Santander vs Valencia
Racing will welcome Valencia to El Sardinero on Monday night. The home team have remained in and around the bottom half of the table this season and are currently 14th with a 3 point gap between themselves and the relegation zone. Valencia on the other hand are in 4th and with a win could climb as high as 3rd but only if rivals Villarreal lose to Espanyol. Racing fought hard in the first match against Valencia back in September but eventually fell 1-0 thanks to a Maduro goal for los che. Although Valencia have won their last two trips to Santander their overall performance away to Racing have been far from impressive winning only 10 of their 40 competitive matches against Racing in El Sardinero.
Top matches of the weekend
- Hércules vs Barcelona: will lightning strike twice or will the blaugrana earn their revenge?
- Atlético Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao: two quality teams in a game that have always offered up great entertainment. Also, Bilbao will be seeking revenge against the hosts for coming to San Mames and defeating them.
- Osasuna vs Real Madrid: led by former Real Madrid left back, José Camacho, Osasuna are stubborn defensively and are currently desperate for points, while their opponents will need maximum points from the game if they are to keep pace with Barcelona in the title race.
- Espanyol vs Villarreal: should be a very enthralling game between two of the best footballing teams, outside of the big two, this season. Although the first match between these two this season ended in a 4-0 victory for Villarreal it was a game that could have gone either way but it was nevertheless a good win for the yellow submarine.