LaLiga preview: European representatives in for a tough weekend

·4-min read
Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak (PHOTO: LaLiga Santander)
Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak (PHOTO: LaLiga Santander)

All seven of the Spanish teams who entered Uefa competition this season made it through the group stages and into the knockout rounds; five of them returned to Champions League and Europa League action this midweek, with two more set to restart their European campaigns next week. 

Now, though, the focus is back on LaLiga Santander and they’re gearing up for some very difficult matches this weekend. 

INFOGRAPHIC: LaLiga Santander
INFOGRAPHIC: LaLiga Santander

Before that, the weekend’s action gets under way with a team looking to make it into Europe next season. That team is Real Betis, whose only LaLiga Santander loss of 2021 was against Barcelona. Los Verdiblancos are in excellent form and on Friday night (20 February) they’ll face a struggling Getafe side that haven’t netted a goal in their past 449 minutes of play. 

Saturday kicks off with a huge relegation six-pointer as Elche host Eibar. The home team have not won in any of their past 16 LaLiga Santander matches, but there is renewed optimism at the Manuel Martínez Valero following the return of fan favourite former coach Fran Escriba to replace Jorge Almiron. Eibar will need to be wary of the potential for the classic "new manager bounce".

Atletico Madrid then play Levante in the Spanish capital and, due to a quirk in the schedule, this will actually be their second meeting in the space of four days. These two sides also faced off on Wednesday night in a fixture that was postponed from earlier in the season and now, this Saturday, they’ll do battle again. 

Valencia, with just one win from their past six matches, are in action next, welcoming Celta Vigo to Mestalla. The good news for Valencia and the bad news for the Galician side is that Iago Aspas is suspended for this match, so Los Che will be desperate to capitalise on this with a three-point haul. 

Saturday night sees Real Valladolid and Real Madrid square off. Both these teams have had lengthy injury lists of late and Real Madrid have been dealing with this much better than the Pucela, with Zinedine Zidane’s side winning their past three LaLiga Santander games. They’ll return to Champions League action in the midweek following this weekend’s game, so will surely be looking for a statement win at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla.

On Sunday, the teams who were just in European action continue their LaLiga Santander campaigns and Barcelona will be looking to bounce back from their disappointment against Paris Saint-Germain by turning in a convincing performance at home to Cadiz – who have already beaten both Barca and Real Madrid this season. 

The Andalusian side want to get back to winning ways too after suffering four consecutive league defeats. With both these teams needing a positive result, this should be an especially intriguing matchup at the Camp Nou. 

Next up is a Basque derby, with Real Sociedad playing host to Alaves. It was a draw when these teams met earlier in the season, but Alaves will be hoping to make the most of La Real’s tired legs considering that their opponents had a huge Thursday night Europa League match against Manchester United. 

Huesca will surely have a similar mindset as they host Granada on Sunday evening, with the Andalusians having taken on Napoli in a Europa League game of their own. Although Huesca remain in the relegation zone, their play has improved a lot under new coach Pacheta and they’ll feel confident of achieving a positive result after running Sevilla and Real Madrid close in recent weeks. 

Then, on Sunday night, Villarreal arguably face the toughest challenge of all of the Spanish Europa League participants with an away trip to in-form Athletic Bilbao. 

Since Marcelino took charge in Bilbao, Athletic have won the Spanish Super Cup, reached the Copa del Rey semi-finals and achieved a couple of four-goal wins in league play. Villarreal, meanwhile, have failed to win any of their past five LaLiga Santander matches. Against their former coach, the Yellow Submarine will look to taste victory once again. It certainly won’t be easy, however. 

The final game of Matchday 24 is another fascinating one as Osasuna will host Sevilla, another of the Spanish teams coming into this round after a continental clash. 

Although the Andalusians won their past five in LaLiga Santander while conceding just one goal in the process, Osasuna are in a good run of their own as they’ve won three of their past four. With a longer rest between matches, they might just fancy their chances of another victory in this Monday night matchup. 

INFOGRAPHIC: LaLiga Santander
INFOGRAPHIC: LaLiga Santander

Watch LaLiga Santander live this weekend on your local broadcasters.