The top flight in Spain returns a day earlier than the majority of the European leagues as the La Liga returns this Friday night as Eibar take on Rayo Vallecano. It isn’t by far the most glorified of fixtures but the big guns return from the international break on Sunday as Real Madrid, Valencia, Villarreal and Barcelona are all in action on Easter Sunday.
Sevilla v Ath Bilbao
Sevilla have always been one of the top Spanish clubs and have enjoyed unprecedented success in the Europa League in the past decade but the club are desperate to secure Champions League football and for the first time in many years they have made a serious challenge this season.
Currently sitting in 5th place, Unai Emery will be pleased that his side are within 4 points of reigning champions Atletico Madrid. They face Athletic Bilbao on Saturday in a tricky looking tie. Although Bilbao did endure a poor start to the campaign they have notably improved with a 5 game winning run. That run included an impressive 1-0 victory over Real Madrid and they’ll be full of confidence.
Beto is back in contention to don the gloves against Bilbao but the form of Sergio Rico in his absence could potentially reward him by maintaining his place in goal. Kevin Gameiro had been nursing an ankle injury of late but it is doubtful whether he would get ahead of Carlos Bacca who is enjoying a phenomenal season for Sevilla with 19 goals in all competitions. Bilbao will continue with Aritz Aduriz occupying the lone front role with Iker Muniain floating around the Spaniard.
Real Madrid v Granada
When a side is making the trip to the Santiago Bernabeu they’re usually in fear of their opposition but Granada may be slightly optimistic after Madrid’s slump of late. Granada did pull off a shock 1-0 win against Madrid in 2013 but have since lost each of their last 3 meetings, scoring 0 in the process. Madrid have won 10 of their last 11 La Liga matches at home and have been leading at half time in 7 of their last 8 home La Liga fixtures. A shocking statistic for the away side is in their previous 24 league matches, they’ve failed to win in 22 of them which has left them in 19th place.
Carlo Ancelotti will be forced into replacing the injured Pepe with Raphael Varane who is a more than worthy candidate to replace the Portuguese central defender. Spanish playmaker Isco, is also out of the fixture after picking up an accumulation of yellow cards that has handed him a one match suspension. Adrian Colunga is a definite absentee for Granada whilst Ruben Perez is also a major doubt as to whether he’ll make the squad. Emanuel Insua has returned to full training and has been deemed fit enough to make his comeback against Madrid.
Valencia v Villarreal
Goals are usually a plenty when these two face one another and their previous 6 clashes have produced 20 goals. Valencia have scored 14 of those 20 and have also won their last 7 home games on the bounce. Villarreal have fallen away during March after picking up just 1 victory. That included 3 defeats to Sevilla including their Europa League knockout to their fellow compatriots. Whilst Villarreal were enduring a torrid March, Valencia manager Espirito was collecting the manager of the month award.
Concerning team news, Valencia are in a far better state than their opponents. Only Enzo Perez is ruled out through injury and Sopiane Feghouli is likely to have been preferred to start on the right hand side of midfield regardless. Bruno, Adrian Marin, Denis Cheryshev and Victor Ruiz are all out through injury whilst Moi Gomez is suspended after collecting his 5th yellow card this season against Sevilla. In Paco Alcacer (Valencia) and Luciano Vietto (Villarreal) the Mestalla will be gracing two of Europe’s most promising forwards coming through and between them this season have scored 28 goals which for a couple of 21-year olds is a fantastic return.