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Home » Preview: Relegation Head to Heads While a Big Clash at Top in Spain’s Matchday 30

Preview: Relegation Head to Heads While a Big Clash at Top in Spain’s Matchday 30

by Adan Siurana

Matchday 30 in La Liga sees some vital head-to-head duels in the fight to avoid relegation and one huge game in the race for the title.

Although FC Barcelona hold an 11-point lead at the top of the table that looks unassailable with just nine games left to play, Xavi Hernandez’s side have disappointed in recent weeks.

Last weekend’s 0-0 draw in Getafe marked Barca’s third consecutive game without scoring a goal, and they are clearly missing Pedri, Dembele, De Jong, and Andreas Christensen.

Atletico Madrid’s visit to Camp Nou should be Barca’s toughest test between now and the end of the campaign, with Atletico traveling on the back of a run of 10 wins from 12 matches that has all but confirmed they will finish at least third.

A win for Diego Simeone’s side at Camp Nou could see Barca’s lead reduced to eight points, and although that is still a significant gap at this stage of the season, it would set alarm bells ringing in Barcelona.

The good news for Xavi is that although Sergi Roberto was added to his injury list last weekend, Pedri and De Jong have returned to training and should take some part in Sunday’s game.

Real Madrid are at home to Celta Vigo on Saturday, and a win against their mid-table rivals would put some pressure on Barcelona. Madrid are without David Alaba and Ferland Mendy and could rest Karim Benzema after he suffered a ‘blow’ to his foot in Tuesday’s Champions League win away to Chelsea.

The weekend kicks off with a vital game as second-from-bottom Espanyol entertain Cadiz, who sit four points above them. Espanyol have lost their first two games since Luis Garcia was named as coach, with a losing streak going back six games, and failure to win against a direct rival would be disastrous.

Betis travel to Osasuna on Saturday lunchtime after 41-year-old Joaquin Sanchez announced he would retire at the end of the season. With Osasuna perhaps focused on the forthcoming Copa del Rey title, Betis will view this as a chance to put some pressure on fourth-placed Real Sociedad, who are at home to Rayo Vallecano.

Real Sociedad’s defeat to Athletic Bilbao in last weekend’s Basque derby left qualification for next season’s Champions League in doubt, and they need to be more effective in front of goal.

Seventh-place Athletic Bilbao have taken seven points from the last nine but face a difficult visit to Almeria, who sit just one place above the relegation zone and who will dig in for three points. Midfielder Dani Garcia is suspended for the visitors.

Successive wins have lifted Valladolid five points clear of the bottom three, and they entertain a Girona side that is one win away from assuring survival for another year.

Sunday kicks off with a massive game as Elche entertain Valencia: with Elche doomed with just 13 points all season, this is a must-win game for Valencia as they look to escape the bottom three and failure to return with all three points would be a disaster.

Marcos Andre joined Valencia’s injury list this week, leaving the veteran Edinson Cavani as their only fit striker.

Getafe showed their fighting spirit with their draw against Barcelona last weekend, and Quique Sanchez Flores’ men travel to Mallorca as they continue to edge towards safety.

Sevilla have improved drastically under Jose Luis Mendilibar, with two wins and a draw from his three league games in charge taking them to the edge of safety. A win over sixth-place Villarreal would almost complete the job in what will be a contrast in styles between Villarreal’s passing game and Mendilibar’s direct football and high pressing game. 

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