Round 28 of La Liga is getting set to kick off and on Saturday, Real Madrid will welcome a woeful Hércules to the Bernabéu, while rivals Barcelona travel to Seville where they will face off against Sevilla. Villarreal and Valencia both have relatively easy games against the likes of Sporting Gijón and Real Zaragoza, respectively but will both need to respect their opponents as they are facing two teams fighting against relegation.
Almería vs Atlético Madrid
Fresh off the back of their convincing victory over Villarreal last weekend, Atlético travels south to visit Almería. The Andalucians also earned a very important 2-1 victory against Hércules last Saturday, having to come from behind in that game. The home side sit in 19th on 25 points while their opponents sit seventh on 38 points, two points out of a European cup spot. Los Colchoneros have not won at the Mediterráneo, in league, in their three games there- the most recent trip ending in a narrow 1-0 loss; Piatti with an 86th minute game winner. The home side haven’t lost in their last three home games, while Atlético are undefeated in their last two road games. The Andalucians are the league’s second worst home team with only 14 points from 13 league games; two wins, eight draws and three losses. Altéti on the other hand, is La Liga’s sixth best road team with four wins and two draws from 13 games. The home side has been receiving great news for much of the week which saw the return of Juanma Ortiz to training after a month on the sidelines while Carlos García and Juanito trained normally on Thursday. Also, Piatti is not completely ruled out of Saturday’s fixture and is currently awaiting clearance from the medical staff. Atlético, on the other hand, had only one minor injury concern as Juanfran on Thursday trained on his own but is expected to be available for selection.
Real Madrid vs Hércules
Following back to back impressive displays from Real Madrid, they are back in the Santiago Bernabéu where they will welcome a woeful Hércules team. Los Blancos continue to trail Barcelona by seven points but will have the opportunity to shave three points off the lead with a win on Saturday against the Herculanos as the leaders will play on Sunday. Real Madrid have been impressive at home this season and is one of two teams to remain undefeated at home from the top five European leagues but are the ONLY team with a perfect home record. However, los blancos will be wary when they take on the team from Alicante as this is the team, who on match day two sent shock waves all across Europe when they defeated Barcelona 2-0 in the Camp Nou. In spite of that memorable victory, the Herculanos have been unable to collect maximum points from the games that subsequently followed. Also, Hércules have lost their last six away games and have failed to score in the last nine. Real Madrid, however, seem to have rediscovered their goal scoring touch, having scored ten goals in their last two league matches. The first meeting between the two sides at the end of October, saw los merengues having to come from behind to earn a 3-1 victory. Of the 19 league games played at the Bernabéu between the two, Hércules have only ever left with points on three occasions- two wins and a draw; their last win coming all the way back on April 21, 1985. On Wednesday, Khedira was able to participate in the practice match against Castilla and seemed to have recovered fully from his recent knee injury. However, the likes of Kaká, Cristiano Ronaldo, Arbeloa, Gago, Garay, Higuaín, Carvalho and Pedro León did not participate in the practice match. Hércules’ Tote, Trezeguet, Peña and Drenthe will not make the trip to Madrid because of injuries and a clause in Drenthe’s contract but will see Valdez return to the squad after his recent muscular injury which prevented him from taking part in the last five league games.
Real Zaragoza vs Valencia
Real Zaragoza after a hard fought loss against Barcelona is back at La Romareda, where they will welcome Valencia. Valencia are coming off a heart-breaking loss to Schalke in the Champions League, which saw los che dumped out of the competition 4-2 on aggregate. However, they will be looking to bounce back with a victory against the blanquillos. Zaragoza is the league’s third worst home team collecting a meager 18 points from a possible 42, while Valencia is the third best road team. Los Maños have only won once against Valencia in the last meetings, home and away, losing four and drawing five. However, their last win against los che did come last season at home- a convincing 3-0 victory, Diogo, Arizmendi and Jarošík responsible for the goals. The home side is absolutely struggling this season and have been in and around the bottom three and are currently sitting 17th with a point advantage over 18th. The home side welcomed Sinama-Pongolle back to training on Wednesday, however, Boutahar continued his recovery process. Valencia hasn’t reported any recent injuries.
Osasuna vs Racing Santander
Racing Santander will travel to Pamplona where they will face Osasuna at the Reyno de Navarra on Sunday. The home side finally managed a victory on the road after more than a year without doing so. Meanwhile, Racing fell at home to Real Madrid ending their six games unbeaten streak. Osasuna has been solid at home and are the ninth best home team in league with six wins, six draws and one loss. Racing, however, holds a poor record away from home- winning only twice and drawing four of 14 games. The good news for the visitors is that they are currently unbeaten against los rojillos in the last 13 games; hasn’t lost in Pamplona in the last six games- winning the last five. Aranda will be missing for approximately four weeks following surgery on his right adductor muscle on Thursday, while Pandiani continues to train on his own and both Oier and Rúper has been partially training with the group. The Cantabrian side will welcome back Henrique and Cisma, who both missed the clash against Real Madrid due to suspensions, however, they will continue to miss Arana, Adrián, Serrano and Tziolis due to their respective injuries.
Real Sociedad vs Málaga
Real Sociedad will welcome Málaga to the Anoeta on Sunday. The home team last round, lost to Deportivo, whilst, the Anchovies fell at home to Osasuna. La Real has been strong at home this season winning 61.54% of their home games and is the seventh best home team, while their opponents have been less than impressive on the road with three wins out of 14 away games. The visitors are win-less in the last five road games, of which they have lost three, while la real haven’t lost in their last four home games- winning three and drawing one. In addition to Málaga’s dismal season, they have not won in the Anoeta for the past three games and have now lost four games on the trot against the Basques. The Andalucians are rock bottom with only 23 points from 27 games- an average of 1.2 points per game and a 22% win rate. Gámez, Weligton, Apoño and Rubén were having injury problems earlier this week in training but should be available for selection on Sunday. There were no reports of injuries from the Sociedad camp.
Espanyol vs Deportivo La Coruña
Espanyol are at home and will welcome Deportivo to the Cornella El Pratt. When these two met on the back end of October, Deportivo had managed an emphatic 3-0 victory, coincidentally their first of the season. The parakeets will be seeking revenge when they host the Galicians. The Catalans are sitting in sixth place currently, exceeding expectations and are in the hunt for a European cup spot. Deportivo, however, has been largely disappointing and are hovering above the drop zone. The visitors have not beaten Espanyol at home in the last four attempts; their last win coming June 17, 2007. The home side are currently on a two game losing streak, while the Galicians have not lost in the last five. Collectively, los periquitos have been solid at home with a 64.29% win rate, losing only four times in the Cornella El Pratt this season. Depor, on the other hand, has been woeful with a 14.29% win rate and are the sixth worst visiting team this season. Espanyol’s only injury problem was that of Dátolo who was to have surgery on his ankle in Argentina on Tuesday. Laure is the only new injury concern for the Galicians after picking up an ankle injury against Real Sociedad on Monday.
Levante vs Mallorca
Levante will welcome Mallorca to the Cuitat de Valencia Sunday evening. The Granotes have been on a tear recently, winning five and drawing one of their last seven- the only loss coming against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu. Even more impressive is their goals scored to goals conceded ratio, 8:4 (two of which came against Real Madrid). Mallorca, on the other hand, have won only twice in their last nine games and drawn once. However, los bermellones are currently undefeated against Levante in the last five games- winning four and drawing one. Both teams lie 10th and 12th in the table and are separated by three points. Levante’s coach had the luxury of having all his men train on Thursday with the exception of Sergio González. There have been no fresh reports of injuries from the Mallorca camp.
Villarreal vs Sporting Gijón
Following their impressive 3-2 away victory mid-week in the Europa league against German side Bayer Leverkusen, Villarreal are back in El Madrigal and will welcome Sporting Gijón on Sunday. Both teams are coming off different results last weekend, as the Asturians secured a comfortable 2-0 victory over Getafe, whilst Villarreal fell to Atlético Madrid 3-1. In their four visits to El Madrigal, Sporting has only even won once, that coming October 24, 1999 in a Segunda Division meeting but has since then lost in their last three trips there. Villarreal are currently sitting comfortably in fourth, the last Champions League spot and are chasing cross-town rivals Valencia, who are in third, for that third automatic Champions League group stage spot. Sporting, on the other hand, are trying to avoid relegation and a win is critical for the Asturians if they are to put some distance between themselves and the bottom three as they are currently in 16th with a two points advantage over 18th. Villarreal has not reported any injuries following their game against Leverkusen on Thursday. Sporting will miss Lora after he saw two yellows against Getafe last weekend and they may also be without Nacho Cases who turned up for training on Thursday with a bout of gastroenteritis.
Sevilla vs Barcelona
In perhaps the most anticipated game this weekend, sees Barcelona travel to Sevilla where many a Madridistas around the world will be rooting for the Andalucians hoping that they can get something out of this match up especially if Real Madrid takes care of business at home on Saturday. However, the Culé fans will be looking for the statistics to mean something, as the blaugrana hasn’t lost in the last seven league games against los nervionenses– the last encounter ending in a comprehensive 5-0 thrashing. In fact, Sevilla hasn’t scored in the last two competitive games against Barcelona and has conceded nine goals. Following their mid-week “controversial” victory over Arsenal the visitors may be a little tired as they have played three games in the space of three days and surely that is something the Andalucians will be looking to exploit and following their loss at the weekend to Athletic, how better than to rebound with a victory over the league leaders? There has been no fresh report of injuries for Barcelona, while Sevilla on Thursday reported that Perotti had to retire from training early following a slight muscle injury in his left leg.
Getafe vs Athletic Bilbao
Getafe will welcome Athletic Bilbao to the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez on Monday night. Athletic Bilbao just recently ended their four game losing streak last weekend much to the displeasure of Sevilla, while Getafe continued their win-less streak with a loss at Sporting Gijón. Athletic Bilbao has never won at the Coliseum and of their six games played there has drawn three and lost three- their last trip ending in a 2-0 loss. As things stand, there are no injuries or suspensions to report for either side.