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Spanish League Preview Week 24

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19.02.2011 11:23

Spanish League Preview Week 24

Nick Bedson

Real Madrid get the chance to close the gap on Barša, for 24 hours at least, when they play Llevant at the Bernabeu on Saturday, whilst Valencia also get an early start when they take on Sporting in the weekendĺs opener.

Spanish League Preview Week 24

Six pointer in Almeria
The ten teams in the fight to avoid relegation all did pretty well last week, with just Osasuna and Almeria losing. This weekend Almeria are at home to Deportivo – a team they’ve already beaten three times this season, twice in the Cup and 0-2 in La Coru˝a in La Liga – whilst all the other teams are up against opponents from the top half of the table.
With Barša not playing till Sunday night, Madrid could move to within two points if they can win on Saturday against a team they hit eight goals past in December. Valencia and Villarreal will continue their battle for the third spot with home games against Sporting and Malaga, Osasuna’s new manager begins his job with a home game against Espanyol and Mallorca again play on Monday – this time away to Real Sociedad in Donosti.

Llevant on good run ahead of Bernabeu test

Llevant held Madrid to a goalless draw in La Liga in September, but they spent most of the first half of the campaign down in the relegation spots. An 8-0 thrashing at the Bernabeu in the Cup in December marked the nadir of their season though, as they beat Mourinho’s team 2-0 in the return leg in January and then at the end of the month began a three match winning streak with victories over Getafe, Villarreal and Almeria that has taken them up to 15th spot. Mourinho rests Pepe ahead of the team’s Champions League game in midweek and Iker Casillas is suspended for the game following his red card against Espanyol last weekend.

Sporting aim to build on Barša point

Valencia were held to a 1-1 draw by Schalke 04 in their Champions League game last week, but they will expect to maintain their excellent domestic run – 9 games without a defeat – when they open the weekend’s proceeding’s with a home game against Sporting. The Gijon team won’t be a pushover though and are themselves on a decent run of just one defeat in six games, culminating in last week’s draw with Barša. Sporting will however be without last weekend’s goalscorer Barral, who is suspended. Villarreal have ceded third place to Valencia, following two straight defeats, a run they have the chance to put right on Sunday when ex-boss Pellegrini brings bottom club Malaga to El Madrigal.

Mendilibar debuts against Espanyol

With Bilbao facing a tough game at the Nou Camp, Espanyol will look to take back fifth spot with a win in Pamplona where Jose Luis Mendilibar makes his debut as Osasuna coach. Despite dropping into the bottom three last week, the Basques are actually the more in-form team, having beaten Real Madrid, drawn with Mallorca and lost to Real Sociedad in their last three games, whilst Espanyol have lost to Villarreal, Almeria and Real Madrid. Espanyol striker Luis Garcia warned his teammates: “Osasuna will come out strong on their own ground and set a high pace. Their fans will create a great atmosphere and with a new boss they’ll be especially motivated”.

Five teams battling for seventh spot

The five teams below Espanyol, who are battling it out for a European spot –Getafe, Seville, Atletico Madrid, Mallorca and Real Sociedad, are still a way off Pochettino’s side, but the first three play teams below them this week, whilst Real visit Mallorca on Monday night. Getafe are at home to Racing Santander who beat Seville last week and are unbeaten since they went down to Barca four weeks ago, whilst for their part, Getafe let a two goal lead slip against Malaga last week and have won just once in 2011. Seville themselves face Hercules at the Sanchez Pijuan after a disappointing midweek defeat in the Europa Cup to Oporto and Atletico Madrid are away to Zaragoza on Saturday night.

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