LaLiga’s preview: what a thrilled weekend is coming

LaLiga Santander set for a blockbuster weekend as the top four face off in crucial title deciders

We’re on the cusp of an unforgettable weekend in LaLiga Santander, a matchday with huge implications at the top in particular. Leaders Atlético de Madrid visit third-placed FC Barcelona on Saturday , followed by second-placed Real Madrid hosting fourth-placed Sevilla FC on Sunday. These six-pointers could prove crucial in determining the final standings in European football’s most competitive league.  

The first of the blockbuster matches is Barça vs Atleti at 4.15pm CEST on Saturday afternoon. Diego Simeone’s side famously won the 2013/14 title at the Camp Nou on the final matchday of that season, but the Argentine coach is actually yet to win an individual match there. Until their 1-0 win over the Blaugrana at the Wanda Metropolitano earlier this season, Simeone hadn’t actually beaten Barcelona at all in LaLiga Santander. Now, he’s looking to achieve a double, aware that anything but a victory would take control of the title race out of the capital city side’s hands.  

It’ll be a fun match for so many reasons, with various intriguing individual match-ups. Lionel Messi will be taking on his close friend and long-time teammate Luis Suárez for the first time ever at club level, while Kieran Trippier and Jordi Alba’s battle down their flank could be one for the ages. Marc-André ter Stegen and Jan Oblak, two of Europe’s very best goalkeepers, could have a vital role to play as well.  

No matter what the result is at the Camp Nou on Saturday, Real Madrid vs Sevilla FC at 9pm CEST on Sunday night will be another critical game in the title race. Sevilla’s Monday night loss to Athletic Club means they’re now six points off top spot, but there’s still plenty to play for as the Andalusian side look to keep pace at the top and challenge for a spot in next year’s Spanish Super Cup.  

Julen Lopetegui will have almost his entire squad available as he visits his former club, whereas Zinedine Zidane’s men may feel some tiredness after their midweek Champions League exploits. Sevilla haven’t won away at Los Blancos since 2008, but they’re having one of their best ever seasons and few would be surprised if they pulled of an upset in the Spanish capital.   

Those two heavyweight bouts clearly jump off the Matchday 35 fixture list, but there are several other intriguing matches too. The first couple of matches have major relegation battle implications as second-bottom Elche CF visit Real Sociedad on Friday night, keen to show how much they have improved since losing 3-0 to La Real in their first game of the 2020/21 season. Then, in Saturday’s first fixture, D. Alavés will look for three points against Levante UD as they aim to move further away from the drop zone, given that they’re currently just one point above safety. Third-bottom SD Huesca may view their Saturday evening trip to Cádiz CF as a similarly good opportunity to put points on the board.  

On Saturday night, there’s a big match in Bilbao as Athletic Club host northern rivals CA Osasuna. These two neighbours have played out some entertaining and physical battles over the years, while both clubs have several players in their current squads who previous played for the other side.  

SD Eibar kick off Sunday’s action and will do full of confidence after a big 3-0 win over Alavés last weekend. They remain bottom of the table for now, but have renewed hope that they can pull off a great escape and know that taking three points back from their trip to Getafe CF is a must.  

Real Valladolid are the last of the relegation-threatened teams to play this weekend and could find themselves in the bottom three by they time they kick off against Valencia CF at Mestalla. All eyes will be on the Valencia dugout, where the club’s regular caretaker coach Voro will be in charge once again following the sacking of Javi Gracia. Los Che aren’t entirely safe from the threat of relegation yet, so Voro will look to put that right and quickly.  

Villarreal CF and RC Celta clash in the third of Sunday’s fixtures, with the battle between Spanish forwards Gerard Moreno and Iago Aspas – the top scoring Spanish strikers in LaLiga this season – one to watch. It was a huge 4-0 win to Villarreal when they visited Vigo earlier in the campaign, so Aspas and co. might be out for some revenge.  

Real Madrid vs Sevilla rounds off Sunday’s action in the late time slot, ahead of an Andalusian derby to complete the matchday as Granada CF make the short trip west to Real Betis on Monday night. There is a lot as stake given that Betis come into this weekend in the final European spot, in seventh on 51 points, while Granada are the closest of the challengers in eighth, six points back. That should be fascinating as the two local rivals battle it out for the chance to explore Europe next season.  

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