LA LIGA WEEKEND PREVIEW: Another Barcelona slip up and it’s Real Madrid’s title to lose while Sergi Enrich looks to down his former employers who ‘never believed in him’ and Diego Simeone gets set for a ‘beautiful battle’ with Sevilla
- The La Liga title race can take another twist this weekend with interesting games
- Barcelona face a tough test against Real Sociedad and cannot afford to slip up
- Real Madrid travel to Real Betis, who always give the top teams a difficult match
- Elsewhere, Atletico face Sevilla in a battle for the Champions League places
- While there are plenty of games which could have an impact on relegation fight
Friday, March 6
Alaves vs Valencia (8pm)
Saturday, March 7
Eibar vs Mallorca (12pm)
Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla (3pm)
Barcelona vs Real Sociedad (5.30pm)
Getafe vs Celta Vigo (8pm)
Sunday, March 8
Osasuna vs Espanyol (11am)
Real Valladolid vs Athletic Bilbao (1pm)
Levante vs Granada (3pm)
Villarreal vs Leganes (5.30pm)
Real Betis vs Real Madrid (8pm)
It’s getting exciting this old title race.
Defeat last weekend and Real Madrid were goners, but Zinedine Zidane’s men showed patience and composure to dissect Barcelona and pick them off to win and leapfrog their rivals at the top of the table.
Just one point separates them and with challenging matches coming up this weekend, it’s again a test of nerve and bottle. Who will come out on top this time?
At the foot of the table, the stakes are just as high. Espanyol and Leganes are in danger of being cut adrift while Mallorca can drag Eibar back into the dogfight if they beat them on Saturday afternoon.
It promises to be another weekend of plenty of drama and excitement. Here, Sportsmail guides you through the best of the action ahead of another bumper round of fixtures in La Liga…
Real Madrid need to keep the momentum going after winning El Clasico last weekend
Lionel Messi and Co’s title hopes could all be over if they fail to beat Real Sociedad on Saturday
Win tonight and Alaves will essentially guarantee their status as a La Liga side for another year.
While Valencia need three points to stay in the picture for the European spots.
Sometimes football can be a simple game.
This is how the La Liga table currently looks ahead of this weekend’s fixtures
The two sides come into this match in contrasting form. Alaves have won their last two home matches while Valencia haven’t claimed victory on the road since early December.
But it would be foolish to assume that this is a forgone conclusion. Valencia have been boosted by the return of Rodrigo and Francis Coquelin and will take incentive from having the opportunity to put their nearest rivals under pressure who all face difficult tasks after their match.
Alaves meanwhile will be missing key players Oliver Burke (injury) and Aleix Vidal (suspension) and Asier Garitano has thrown down the gauntlet to the players coming in for them to ‘seize the opportunity’.
An interesting one for sure.
Eibar vs Mallorca, Saturday 12pm
There is some extra significance in this match for Sergi Enrich.
The 30-year-old will make his 150th La Liga appearance this weekend against the club who never thought he was good enough to play top-flight football.
Enrich started his career at Mallorca and made just six league appearances for them before being moved on in 2013.
‘The people who made that decision did not believe in me,’ he said earlier this week. ‘The situation left me on thorns.’
Sergi Enrich has the chance to down the club who deemed him not good enough
No doubt he will desperate to prove Mallorca how wrong they were to ever bet against him.
In the wider scheme of things, both sides need three points to boost their chances of survival.
Mallorca can potentially move out of the bottom three with victory while a win could see Eibar move eight points clear. Plenty at stake.
Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla, Saturday 3pm
A ‘beautiful battle’ is what Diego Simeone envisions on Saturday.
It may sound a bit passive from the Atletico Madrid boss, but you can bet your horses that he will drumming into his players just how important this match is.
Sevilla currently sit third, Atletico Madrid fifth. Normally around this time of year you’d think it would be the other way around with a much bigger points difference than two as well.
But that is how the table looks. That is in part to Madrid’s underwhelming season and Sevilla’s impressive one.
Diego Simeone has emphasised the importance of Sevilla match to his Atletico Madrid players
Atletico will get no prizes at the end of the season for finishing third, but they will want to reassert themselves as the best team in Spain behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.
With a decisive Champions League tie against Liverpool coming up a few days later, you’d forgive Atletico if they were a bit distracted but Simeone has emphatically dismissed that that is the case.
The Argentine said this week: ‘We are both going for the same objective. There are many in the group who have been here for years and know the message. They know the road we are on. The most important game now is Sevilla. We have not thought about beyond.’
The last three times these sides have met, it has ended in a 1-1 draw. That would suit Sevilla down to a tee, but not Atletico. With Getafe going strong in the last Champions League spot, they need to win.
Barcelona vs Real Sociedad, Saturday 5.30pm
Quique Setien has only been in the job now for almost two months and already there’s talk of him getting the chop.
El Clasico has a history of ending careers and last weekend’s defeat against rivals Real Madrid did not go down well in Catalonia.
If they would have won that Barcelona would have been five points clear and barely thinking about looking over their shoulders.
Now they are looking up, sweating. They welcome an exciting young Real Sociedad side to the Nou Camp this weekend knowing that slip up again and it could be curtains.
High-flying Real Sociedad earned a draw against Barcelona last time and will be a tough test
With Madrid not playing until Sunday, a win would see them momentarily take back top spot and put some pressure on their rivals to do the business at Real Betis.
Setien will need his former employers to do him a favour if they are to remain there and that is not an ideal position to be in.
The title is very much out of their hands at present but Real Sociedad have their European dream in theirs and will not roll over easy.
Sociedad will also take some confidence from the fact they held Barca to a 2-2 draw earlier on in the season.
Real Betis vs Real Madrid, Sunday 8pm
Zinedine Zidane’s men have done the hard part, now they just need to keep the momentum going.
Last weekend’s victory over Barcelona not only saw them reclaim the bragging rights but also their destiny in this tightest of La Liga title races.
If their season ends up going pear shaped, they will deeply regret squandering this opportunity they have created for themselves.
For that not to happen, they must avoid this banana skin.
Real Betis have endured a disappointing campaign and currently sit 14th just hoovering above the drop zone.
Nabil Fekir is a real dangerman and with him around Real Betis have always got a chance
But still there is a sense they are capable of springing a surprise and Zidane and Madrid will be wary with match-winner Nabil Fekir around. They also have three players in Marc Bartra, Carles Alena and Cristian Tello who would very much take joy in dealing a blow to Madrid’s title hopes given their Barcelona roots.
Betis ran Barcelona extremely close last month and Atletico Madrid back in January and also have notable wins over Valencia and Real Sociedad. So they are certainly no pushovers.
They are a side capable of rising for the big occasion and Madrid must maintain focus and turn up, otherwise there’s a possibility they will leave the Benito Villamarin Stadium with their tails between their legs.
Getafe have the opportunity to consolidate their top-four spot when they host relegation-threatened Celta Vigo while Espanyol face Osasuna in a must-win game.
Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao will look to build on their first win in 11 games when they travel to Real Valladolid while Levante play Granada and Villarreal take on an out-of-sorts Leganes.
Watch LaLiga Santander live this weekend on LaLigaTV.
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