The Madrid derby may be the big game in Spain this weekend, but the clashes between Valencia and Seville and Bilbao and Villarreal also catch the eye, as do those at the bottom between Sporting -Almeria, Hercules - Osasuna and Deportivo - Llevant.
Racing and Zaragoza in fight for survival
Racing and Zaragoza are both on 30 points, just four above the drop zone and the two face key games
at the weekend on the back of contrasting form: Zaragoza have lost just once in their last four
–against Barša- and beaten Valencia and Bilbao, whilst Racing have lost their last two games
3-1 and not won in four. Zaragoza open the weekend’s proceedings with a visit to Mallorca,
whilst Racing entertain Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Following their classification for the last eight of the Champions League, Real Madrid travel
across the city to the Vicente Calderon to face Atletico and keep up their chase of Barša. Third
place Valencia have a tricky game against Seville at the Mestalla and Villarreal travel to Bilbao
to face an Athletic team who are gunning for their fourth place spot. Llevant and Osasuna will be
looking to maintain their recent decent form and confirm they are out of the relegation dog fight
when they go to Deportivo and Hercules respectively, whilst 17th and 18th meet in Gijon when
Almeria visit Sporting.
It’s been 11 years since Atletico managed to win a Madrid derby, but on
Saturday they can put out a full strength team to face a Real team who have Cristiano Ronaldo as
their only doubt. The hosts are unbeaten in five games, though they have only managed one win in
their last four home games and when the two met in the Cup in January, Real won 0-1 in the quarter
finals. Valencia are a distant third behind Real Madrid and after last week’s fiasco in
Zaragoza they will have to lift their game when they entertain Seville, lying eighth and without a
win on the road since early January, but lifted by their draw with Barša.
Bilbao gunning for Villarreal’s fourth place
Villarreal are nine points clear of Bilbao in fourth place, but after an alarming
dip in league form and with games against Barša, Valencia and Seville coming up, they will need to
take something from San Mames if they are to stay favourites for the last Champions League spot and
fight off the challenge form the ambitious Basques. Sandwiched between the two, a point ahead of
Bilbao, are Espanyol, who travel to bottom club Malaga with yet more injury worries. Forlin is out
after his injury last week, Callejon is suspended and Javi Marquez and Duscher are also set to miss
out. Espanyol have lost their last three games on the road, whilst Malaga have the worst home
record in the league, with three wins, two draws and eight defeats.
Big games at the foot of the table
Hercules and Almeria are level on points with Malaga and face what could be decisive games on
Sunday. Hercules are at home to Osasuna, who although they have only won once away all season, have
made a big improvement of late and will be looking for the three points to lift them into mid-table
safety. Hercules have won just twice since Christmas and although Drenthe and Valdez are back, Tote
has been ruled out for the rest of the season. Almeria go to Gijon to face Sporting who are just
three points above them in 17th, but have gone five games at home without defeat – including
a draw with Barša. Llevant are in fact only three more points above Sporting, but with a run of
games against Deportivo, Malaga, Racing and Hercules, they will hope to start with a win in La
Coru˝a to maintain their recent good run, whilst the league’s lowest scorers Deportivo are
themselves only a point behind Llevant and have lost just once at home since Christmas