It looks increasingly like a 2 horse race at the top of the La Liga as Barcelona and Real Madrid continue to maintain their run of form with just 2 points separating the two heavyweights. There are battles throughout the league and with just 7 games remaining; another eagerly anticipated weekend of fixtures approaches us.
Barcelona v Valencia
The standout game in the La Liga this weekend is between 1st place Barcelona and 4th place Valencia. Valencia have come on leaps and bounds under former Rio Ave manager, Nuno Espirito Santo and currently boast an unbeaten streak of 10 La Liga matches.
Their latest victory came on Monday night against Levante where they coasted to a comfortable 3-0 victory at the Mestalla. A trip to the Nou Camp is daunting for any side but Valencia did manage to defy the odds the last time they faced the Catalans as they won 3-2 in February 2014 with 3 goals in the space of 15 minutes to secure a 3-2 victory.
Nicolas Otamendi is still ruled out through suspension following his red card against Athletico Bilbao which will mean Ruben Vezo will keep his place at the heart of Valencia’s defence. The 20-year old defender looked very assured against Levante but faces a much sterner task in the Nou Camp with the trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all set to start.
Real Madrid v Malaga
It is imperative for Carlo Ancelotti and his side to keep the pressure on Barcelona with just 2 points the difference. Having missed out to Madrid rivals Atletico for the title last year, Real will be desperately seeking to get their hands back on the trophy.
They face a Malaga side that have lost their last 3 away matches by the 1-0 score line. 1-0 defeats to Eibar, Rayo Vallecano and Granada are with the utmost of respect, abysmal results. If they can suffer the same fate in Madrid then it might be a creditable result this time around given Ancelotti’s men have scored 12 goals in their previous 2 home matches.
Madrid have won the past 4 meetings between the 2 sides including the reverse fixture earlier in the season where they won 2-1 at Malaga. Former Malaga playmaker, Isco was sent off in this fixture and he’ll be eager to set a better standard this time around but the Spaniard will find it tough to dismantle a midfield three of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez who have been particularly impressive of late.
Pepe made his return from injury against Eibar whilst the likes of Dani Carvajal, Iker Casillas, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez were all rested in the 3-0 win over Eibar. Presumably Ancelotti was resting his star players for the midweek Champions League tie with rivals Atletico where they played out a 0-0 stalemate.
Eibar v Celta Vigo
Celta Vigo hit 6 past Rayo Vallecano and will be full of confidence after their demolition job. However, they face a battle to overcome a side they have a very poor record against as they travel to Eibar. 5 defeats in their last 6 encounters with Eibar makes very uneasy reading for Celta but they’ll be confident of building on their emphatic victory last time out with a victory that could take them to 8th position providing results go their way.
Eibar have been using a more direct approach than other La Liga teams which may play into Celta Vigo’s hands as they’re particularly strong aerially and defending set pieces. Raul Albentosa will be present at the heart of the Celta defence and the 26-year old has been one of the side’s best performers this season alongside Nolito and Fabian Orellena. These two wingers have been in sensational form with 13 goals and 15 assists between them and both will be occupying the wide positions against Eibar on Sunday.