LALIGA WEEKEND PREVIEW: Barcelona and Real Madrid vying for the top

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We’ve got a full weekend of LaLiga action ahead, with things still wide open at both ends of the table.   

Barcelona and Real Madrid can hardly be separated after 20 games, with just two goals the difference between the sides. Meanwhile at the bottom, there are still a few teams who will be feeling anything but safe at this stage. 

Here, Sportsmail breaks down the upcoming games over the next few days, giving you a taste of what to expect. 

Barcelona may have won against Ibiza, but it was a tough game as they head into the weekend

Barcelona may have won against Ibiza, but it was a tough game as they head into the weekend

Valencia v Barcelona, Saturday 3pm

Usually a trip to Ibiza ends in a party, but Barcelona had a bit of a scare in midweek during their match in the Copa del Rey round of 32. The minnows went 1-0 up within 10 minutes, nearly had a second if it weren’t for a foul, and then only the post denied them again later on. 

It took Antoine Griezmann equalising in the 72nd minute followed by a smash and grab at the death for Barcelona to progress unscathed. New manager Quique Setien was unimpressed, saying ‘I didn’t like the team, I would’ve preferred that it was all done in a different way.’

With that out of the way, Barcelona are back to league action, as they look to create some breathing room at the top. They’re up against seventh-placed Valencia, who had an awful time last week against Mallorca, losing 4-1 and having a man sent off. 

Barcelona haven’t been their usual convincing selves of late, so Valencia might have an upset on their minds. 

Barcelona had to rely on late goals from Antoine Griezmann to win their Copa del Rey match

Barcelona had to rely on late goals from Antoine Griezmann to win their Copa del Rey match

Espanyol v Athletic Bilbao, Saturday 12pm

Espanyol are rock bottom of the league but they got a handy 2-1 win last week over Villarreal to boost their confidence. 

Meanwhile, Athletic Bilbao are without a win in five, and have actually drawn their last four, and some against opponents where they would’ve been expected to get results.

It means they’re starting to lose ground on those all important European spots. They’re still only five points behind third place, but Bilbao will need to start stringing some wins together soon if they’re going to make a serious run at the top four. 

Athletic Bilbao are without a win in five, and face bottom team Leganes on Saturday at midday

Athletic Bilbao are without a win in five, and face bottom team Leganes on Saturday at midday

Atletico Madrid v Leganes, Sunday 11am

Leganes will be making the short trip to Madrid for their match against Atletico on Sunday, and both teams will be looking for improvements over their last outings. 

Atletico lost their first ever LaLiga game against Eibar last Saturday, a 2-0 defeat that has cut them seriously adrift from the top two, and followed that up with a Copa del Rey humbling at lower-league opposition, Cultural Leonesa.

Leganes struggled against Getafe, and although it was their first loss in five games, they’re still down in 19th place, with only goal difference keeping them off the bottom. 

Atletico Madrid suffered their first ever league defeat to Eibar, and will be looking to improve

Atletico Madrid suffered their first ever league defeat to Eibar, and will be looking to improve

Valladolid v Real Madrid, Sunday 8pm 

Real Madrid travel on Sunday, and will certainly face a test against Valladolid, who have only lost once this season at their Jose Zorrilla stadium. 

Last year’s clash between those two teams was not without its drama, with Valladolid dominating the first half before a rally from Real Madrid in the second ending in an exciting 4-1.  

Gareth Bale suffered yet another injury in midweek in the Copa del Rey, forced off the field after twisting his ankle, which will hopefully not be too serious. 

Gareth Bale was forced off the field after he injured his ankle during a Copa del Rey match

Gareth Bale was forced off the field after he injured his ankle during a Copa del Rey match

Sevilla v Granada, Saturday, 8pm

An Andalusian derby on Saturday evening sees Sevilla host Granada. 

The hosts have won five of the last six in this fixture, and Granada have lost five of their last six away games after looking so good earlier in the season. 

Sevilla are looking to get back on track after a loss last week and a draw the week before. They’re currently fourth in LaLiga, level on points with Atletico Madrid but a few behind on goal difference.    

Granada are slipping down the table as time goes on, but it’ll probably still end up being an impressive season for the newly promoted side. A lot of their games are close, and they’re still aiming for a top half finish.  

Sevilla are looking to solidify their hold on a top four spot as they take on Granada this week

Sevilla are looking to solidify their hold on a top four spot as they take on Granada this week

PS 

Elsewhere in LaLiga we’ve got a mid-table clash between Osasuna and Levante on Friday as the weekend opener. Then Villarreal take on Alaves on Saturday as they look to make up some ground on the top teams. 

Celta Vigo host Eibar on Sunday in an important match in the relegation battle, and then Getafe will be looking to solidify their position in the top five against Real Betis.  

Mallorca take a trip to Real Sociedad, with one team looking to avoid relegation, and the other trying to qualify for European football next season. 



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