La Liga preview: Important weekend in the race towards Europe

Real Sociedad's Takefusa Kubo (right) in action. (PHOTO: La Liga)
Real Sociedad's Takefusa Kubo (right) in action. (PHOTO: La Liga)

When the 2022/23 LaLiga Santander season reaches its conclusion, the teams who qualified for Europe and the teams who didn’t might look back on Matchday 12 as having been a decisive one.

That’s because this weekend brings up several direct duels, as fourth-placed Real Sociedad host fifth-placed Real Betis and sixth-placed Athletic Club take on seventh-placed Villarreal CF.

On top of that, Valencia CF, who also hope to return to continental competition, will be challenging FC Barcelona in a huge Saturday night game.


The very first game of Matchday 12 sees RCD Espanyol make a short Friday night trip over the Mediterranean Sea to visit RCD Mallorca.

These are two teams who are hovering above the relegation zone and who are counting on their star centre-forwards to fire them to victory, with Vedat Muriqi for the islanders and Joselu for the Catalans each in good form.

The first three fixtures of Saturday all take place in Andalusia, starting with UD Almería vs RC Celta, two more teams sitting just above the drop zone.

The Andalusian outfit have won three of their past four games at the Power Horse Stadium, so will feel confident against Iago Aspas and co.

Cádiz CF are firmly inside the relegation and they host Atlético de Madrid on Saturday afternoon. This will be an especially tough challenge for second-bottom team in the division, given that Atleti have taken 16 points from a possible 18 on the road so far this campaign.

Then, the action moves to Sevilla FC’s Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán, where Rayo Vallecano are the guests. This should be a fascinating tactical tussle between Jorge Sampaoli and Andoni Iraola, with both these teams capable of playing some scintillating attacking football.

On Saturday night, Valencia CF meet FC Barcelona at Mestalla for one of Spanish football’s most entertaining fixtures. This fixture has averaged 3.1 goals over the past decade and there should be more this weekend, as both these teams are inside the top four for goals scored this season.

As well as being the first meeting as coaches of Gennaro Gattuso and Xavi, this will also be just the fourth ever duel between world-class strikers Edinson Cavani and Robert Lewandowski.

Sunday action ends with double duels

CA Osasuna vs Real Valladolid is the first of the Sunday games and the latter will travel to Pamplona full of confidence after achieving back-to-back wins, with Sergio León having netted three goals across those two victories.

Leaders Real Madrid are in action next, hosting Girona FC at the Bernabéu. The Catalan side have only played at this stadium three times before, but every one of those games was a thrilling spectacle as they lost 6-3 on their first visit, lost 4-2 on their second and then defeated Los Blancos 2-1 in their last meeting, which took place in 2019.

Sunday evening then brings up the direct duels of the sides currently sitting between fourth and seventh in the table.

The first is Athletic Club vs Villarreal CF, which will be the first LaLiga Santander game for Quique Setién as coach of El Submarino Amarillo.

Interestingly, he’ll be taking on Ernesto Valverde, the man he replaced as coach of FC Barcelona in 2020. This Sunday, though, the priority for all involved will be the crucial three points in the race for European qualification.

Then, across the Basque Country, comes Real Sociedad vs Real Betis. Both these teams believe they can qualify for next season’s Champions League and this six-pointer will be vitally significant in that quest.

With talented playmakers like Brais Méndez, Takefusa Kubo, Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales all taking part, this promises to be a really attractive game of football.

The final fixture of Matchday 12 then takes place on Monday night as Elche CF host Getafe CF. The home side are still looking for their first win of the season, but they’ve shown some promising signs under new coach Jorge Almirón. Perhaps this will be the matchday when they secure a three-point haul.


Watch LaLiga Santander live this weekend on your local broadcaster.