Round 22 will kick off this weekend with a number of key match ups taking place. Particularly, Atlético Madrid’s visit to the Camp Nou Saturday evening and title chasers Real Madrid will be looking to bounce back against Real Sociedad, when the Basque team travels to the Bernabéu on Sunday. Third place Villarreal will also welcome relegation candidates, Levante to El Madrigal, while rivals Valencia face off against Hércules.
Athletic Bilbao vs Sporting Gijón
Sporting takes a trip up to the Basque Country where they’ll take on Athletic Bilbao on Saturday evening. Both teams are currently on a four game unbeaten streak- winning their last three games. When these two first met this season back in September the game ended in a 2-2 draw; Bilbao having to come back from being two goals down in that game. At this point of the season, both teams have very different ambitions. Athletic are looking to keep their run of form going, picking up as many points possible in order to finish in a European spot for next season. While Sporting on the other hand, although, sitting in 12th are only four points above the drop and are fighting to avoid relegation at the end of the campaign. Gijón’s last trip to San Mames ended brilliantly for them as they managed to come away with all three points thanks to a brace by Miguel de las Cuevas. At the time of writing both Amorebieta and Ustaritz were listed as injured for the home side while, Sporting currently has a clean bill of health.
Real Zaragoza vs Racing Santander
Real Zaragoza will welcome Racing Santander to La Romareda on Saturday evening. The two teams are separated by a point and lie 15th and 17th respectively. Avoiding the drop is certainly top priority for the pair and as such victory will be concentrating the minds of the players. In September, Racing came away with maximum points following a 2-0 victory. However, their current road form may hinder them from earning as much as a point, considering they have only won one and drawn two of their 11 away games and are the league’s second worst road team only succeeded by Osasuna. Despite their poor away form, Racing may feel comforted by their recent trips to Aragon as they have been undefeated in the last five matches played in La Romareda- all ending in draws. Obradović is the only current injured personnel for the hosts whilst, Racing currently has Serrano, Diop and Coltorti listed as injured.
Getafe vs Deportivo la Coruña
Deportivo travels to Madrid to face a struggling Getafe team on Saturday evening. As stated, Getafe are currently on a run of poor form earning only a point from their last five games, losing their last three matches; which have seen them score only one to the nine conceded. In spite of their current form, the home side sits comfortably in mid-table at 10th, five points ahead of their opponents, who continue to remain in and around the bottom half of the table, four points above the relegation zone. The away side should without a doubt be encouraged by their most recent results earned in the Coliseum- undefeated in their last three visits with two wins and a draw. Both Arizmendi and Mario are listed as injured for Getafe. Deportivo on the other hand are still missing the Mexican Guardado and Uruguayan Urretavizcaya as well as Saúl and Lopo.
Almería vs Espanyol
Relegation candidates Almería welcome Espanyol to the Mediterráneo Saturday. Almería’s last home match saw them pick up their first home win this season against Osasuna. The hosts have been atrocious this season and are one of the most likely sides to be relegated but at this point of the season are still within a chance to save themselves as the bottom half of the table is very close with 12th – 20th separated by five points. Espanyol on the other hand have been impressive this season and find themselves lying in fifth. However, they are coming off a loss against Villarreal last weekend and will be looking to rebound against the Andalucians and can be content that they have been undefeated in their last two games at the Mediterráneo. The home team are close to a clean bill of health with the only concern being Nieto who is still coming back from a long-term injury. Espanyol, however, are without Osvaldo, Baena, Mattioni, and de la Peña.
Osasuna vs Mallorca
Osasuna welcome Mallorca to the Reyno de Navarra where last week they recorded a huge upset, defeating Real Madrid 1-0, courtesy of Camuñas’ 62nd minute goal. Los Rojillos have won 50% of their games at home this season and have lost only once in their ten games there. Additionally, they have been solid defensively, conceding a mere five goals, three of which came against Barcelona, in their only home loss this season. Mallorca on the other hand, have been disappointing on the road losing seven of their ten road games and are currently on a bad run of games- losing in their last three. Of the last 25 competitive games between these two in Pamplona, Mallorca have only managed to win four; the last coming in their previous visit, Castro scoring the only goal of the game just on the hour mark. Monreal, Nekounam and Shojaei are the only men missing from the Osasuna ranks while Mallorca are missing Víctor.
Villarreal vs Levante
Levante finally secured a win after their previous six game winless streak, five of which were consecutive defeats. They will make the short trip to face Villarreal in El Madrigal. When these two teams first met in September, it turned out to be a lot closer than expected with the yellow submarines escaping with a narrow 2-1 victory; Nilmar with a brace on the day. The home side are currently on a 12 game undefeated streak against the Granotes. Additionally, Levante has never won at El Madrigal in any competitive match. The home team will be keen on keeping El Madrigal a fortress, where they have won ten of their 11 games this season and drawing the other against cross-town rivals Valencia. The yellow submarines will also be enthusiastic about pulling three points closer to second place Real Madrid, who will play on Sunday, to close in on the current six point gap. Levante are currently lying in 18th and are hoping that they can spark an upset to climb out of the relegation zone at the end of the round and will have current on loan Villarreal player, Montero at their disposal if Luis García Plaza so wishes to use him. The hosts are missing Ángel, who is out for the remainder of the season and Senna. While, Levante are missing Nacho and Sergio.
Barcelona vs Atlético Madrid
League leaders Barcelona are back home and will welcome Atlético to the Camp Nou in Saturday’s final game. The home team on Wednesday progressed to the final of the Copa del Rey where they will face eternal rivals, Real Madrid. Despite the hiccups against Hércules and Mallorca, Barcelona has been brilliant at home, winning nine of their 11 games. Atlético are currently on a bad streak, losing five of their last six games in all competitions. This current run of form wont be helpful for the players considering they have now lost heavily in their last four trips to the Camp Nou in all competitions. Their last win in league against Barcelona, on the road came in February 2006 when Torres and Maxi Rodríguez were responsible for scoring the goals in a 3-1 victory; Larsson the scorer for the Blaugrana that night. Puyol, Bojan and Jeffren are the only injury concerns for the home team presently and Atléti are missing Mario Suárez.
Sevilla vs Málaga
The Andalucian derby will kick off Sunday’s run of games when Sevilla welcome Málaga to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. Sevilla has been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for much of this season and a coaching change haven’t helped much and on Wednesday were knocked out at the semi-final stage of the King’s Cup, losing 3-0 on aggregate to Real Madrid. Their opponents have also been dismal this season and despite their new found riches and recent player acquisitions are sitting rock bottom with 17 points from 21 games. The first league meeting between the two ended in a close 2-1 victory for Sevilla. However, if history is anything to go by then Málaga will be hoping nothing changes when they take on Sunday’s opponents, taking into consideration, they have won five of their last 11 competitive matches in the Sánchez Pizjuán and drawn the other four. Both Weligton and Apoño still have a game to sit out due to suspension while Demichelis is back from his and available for selection. Sevilla has a full squad to choose from.
Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad
After their embarrassing loss against lowly Osasuna, Real Madrid are back in the citadel, that is the Bernabéu, where they will welcome the Basque boys Real Sociedad on Sunday. The whites have been strong at home and continues to be the only team with a perfect home record- ten out of ten games won and will be looking to bounce back against Sociedad whilst hoping cross-town rivals Atlético can come away from the Camp Nou with maximum points which would see Los Blancos close the current seven point gap between themselves and leaders Barcelona to four points and back within a shot at the title. Real Sociedad’s record at the Bernabéu has been less than spectacular, winning four of their last 66 games there. Sociedad’s last win against Real in the Capital City came back in May 2004 on the final day of the season, humiliating the home team in front of their fans with an astounding 4-1 victory; Kovacevic, De Paula and Xabi Prieto with a brace were the goal scorers for the away team while Figo managed the consolation goal for the whites. Real Madrid will continue to be without Pepe, Higuaín and Dudek. On the other side of the pitch, Real Sociedad has a clean bill of health.
Valencia vs Hércules
Fourth place Valencia welcome the “Greek God of Alicante” to wrap up the round on Sunday. Although they were expected to be dismal this season after the sale of the two Davids, the hosts are doing surprisingly well and have been comfortably sitting in the top five whilst progressing to the Champions League round of 16 where they will face German side Schalke 04. Valencia have been solid at home thus far, losing only one of their 11 games in the Mestalla. The away side currently find themselves 13th in the table with only four points separating them from the bottom three and are presently going through a rough patch, losing their last three games without scoring a single goal. Along with that, they have only ever beaten Valencia once in the Mestalla (that victory coming in 1980) in their 21 attempts and have only left with a point on four other occasions. Valencia are currently missing a number of first team players such as César, Moyà, Mata and Albelda. And, both Navarro and Ricardo Costa are suspended for the game after both were sent off last weekend. The away team currently has Drenthe, Abraham Paz, Thomert and Pamarot listed as injured. Farinós is expected to miss the match with a suspension after his sending off against Barcelona last weekend.
Top matches of the weekend
- Villarreal vs Levante: two teams from the Valencian community in Spain going at it. Levante also managed to prise Montero away from the yellow submarines on loan before the close of the winter transfer window and may be available to play against them. Also, if you haven’t been watching, Villarreal are one of the most entertaining teams in La Liga, outside of the “big two” and we should see a display of excellent attacking football from the hosts, which might be too much for Levante.
- Barcelona vs Atlético Madrid: perhaps the biggest match up of the round will take place between these two sides in the Camp Nou. Usually a high scoring game with some lovely attacking football exhibited by both teams. The main question on everyone, who is a Madridista, lips has to be if Atlético can end their recent string of defeats both in the Camp Nou and currently in league whilst helping cross-town rivals Real Madrid the chance at pulling within four points of the Blaugrana. Either way the results go, it should be an enthralling game.
- Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad: Real Madrid are looking to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat at Osasuna when they meet Real Sociedad. However, the visitors are a tough team and will be fighting hard to secure a victory against the whites.