In the midst of the Spanish Cup and Champions League action, there are some big La Liga games this weekend, with Madrid at Valencia, the Basque derby, Seville entertaining Villarreal and three six pointers at the bottom.
Hercules are next to bottom on 30 points and face Deportivo in a must win game, whilst the two
teams they next meet, Racing (37 points) and Malaga (33), meet in Santander with both teams
desperate for the points. With 26 points, seven off safety, it’s looking bleak for Almeria,
who visit Zaragoza on Monday in what could be a defining moment for both teams, with Javier
Aguirre’s side only out of the bottom three on goal difference themselves.
Valencia will be out to puncture any euphoria in the Real Madrid camp when the teams open the
weekend’s action at Mestalla on Saturday evening and ensure their third place spot, with the
chasing Villarreal away at Seville on Sunday night, whilst Bilbao’s derby against Real
Sociedad takes on even more importance as they fight to keep their UEFA spot. Meanwhile down at the
bottom, Malaga and Hercules face important games in their struggle to avoid the drop, with six
pointers against Racing and Deportivo and Zaragoza are at home to Almeria on Monday night.
Madrid back at the Mestalla
Real Madrid are back at Mestalla on Saturday, but Mourinho seems likely to give many of the
players who were there on Wednesday a break ahead of the European semi final next week. Di Maria,
Adebayor and Khedira are definitely out injured, and the German will also miss next
Wednesday’s match and possibly the rest of the season, whilst Lass, Pedro Leon, Canalles,
Kaka, Granero, Higuain and Benzema may be given a run out and even Casillas could be rested. Third
spot in La Liga guarantees an automatic place in next year’s Champions League and Valencia,
who have won their last three games, scoring 12 goals, go into the game full of confidence, though
they have lost two out of their last three home games. Villarreal are six points behind Valencia
and need a win at Seville on Sunday if they are to continue harbouring hopes of catching
Emery’s side, with Seville themselves immersed in the fight for a Europa League place,
sitting seventh, level on points with Atletico Madrid and two behind Bilbao, but a distant 11
adrift of Villarreal.
Basque derby at San Mames
Apart from the usual tension surrounding a Basque derby at San Mames, Saturday’s game
sees Bilbao and Real in need of points for very different reasons, with the hosts gunning for
Europe and the visitors looking for a win to pull them free of the relegation dog fight. Llevant
last lost in La Liga in mid-February, when they visited Madrid to play Real, still immersed in the
struggle to avoid the drop and on Sunday they are back in the city to face Atletico, knowing that a
win could take them to within a point of the UEFA spots. Atletico though, are up in sixth and have
lost just one of their last La Liga games and have never been defeated in La Liga at home to
Llevant. Espanyol are also still in the battle for a top seven place and after a terrible run of
injuries, Pochettino finally seems to be able to choose a settled side for Sunday’s game in
Gijon – according to the Espanyol player Chica:"we have got over the flood of injuries and
let’s hope we can keep this block of players together”.