Barcelona’s Laliga title defence took a big turn for the better last weekend, as all their rivals dropped points while Ernesto Valverde’s side ground out a hard-fought win at Getafe. With Real Madrid’s misery still pretty much alive, Atletico Madrid remain the only viable opposition that can challenge the Catalans’ dominance in LaLiga Santander title race – with 5 points separating the two sides.
This weekend, Atletico will lock horns, at home against a Levante side that edged past Barca in the League Cup in mid-week, while Barca will take on league strugglers Eibar in what many expect to be an easy ride for the defending champions.
Meanwhile, crisis-hit Real Madrid will travel down to Real Betis home ground in what will be the eye-catching encounter in the Spanish top tier division this weekend. Real Madrid’s struggles this season, definitely will boost Betis’ confidence in provoking Solari’s side. Here is the build-up to LaLiga top guns’ games;
Venue: Wanda Metropolitano (Sunday, 13th January)
Kick-off: 16:15 pm
Last meeting: 15/04/2018: Atletico 3 vs 0 Levante
Atletico Madrid are shaping up to be the only likely side capable of pushing Barcelona for the title this season in La Liga. However there is precious little margin for error as they try to close a 5 point deficit and it’s essential they claim maximum points this Saturday against a Levante side that has caught the eye this term.
Levante have already beaten both Real Madrid and Barcelona, with their victory over the Catalans coming just this week in the Copa del Rey. Were it not for a late penalty, Levante would have had a two goal lead to take to Camp Nou for net week’s 2nd Leg and it will be interesting to see what side they put out for that game. In terms of the league, they have been just wobbling a bit with only 2 points from their last 4 outings, to see them slip down to 10th.
They will clearly be huge underdogs but it will be interesting to see how Atletico go about this. Levante are a real threat on the break with counter-attacking football firing them to away victories at Betis and Real Madrid already this term. Diego Simeone will have to be wary of that – even though the Argentine may feel his side has enough quality to break the away team’s back-line down. Yet, it doesn’t take away the fact that it is a tricky test for Atletico.
Venue: Camp Nou (Sunday, 13th January)
Last meeting: 17/02/2018: Eibar 0 vs 2 Barcelona
Barcelona take on an Eibar side who they boast a 100% record against in La Liga and it would be a big surprise to see any result other than a victory for Barcelona.
The Catalans were beaten in midweek. A 2-1 loss at Levante in the Copa del Rey may force Valverde to field a strong team for next week’s 2nd Leg and he will have to rotate his squad over the next month or two with a lot of action coming up, assuming they do turn their last 16 cup tie around. The likes of Leo Messi, Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez didn’t even travel for that game so they should have plenty of fresh legs to bring in here.
Eibar are already out of the cup so they’ve had a full week to think about this one. The Basques come into this game having lost just 1 of their last 9 in all competitions. However they haven’t actually won a match since a very impressive 3-0 win over Real Madrid in November and they come into this one on the back of five straight draws.
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The head-to-head record is worth looking at here. Eibar have kept the same coach and basically the same style for the past three seasons but it hasn’t been effective at all against Barca. They’ve conceded 16 goals on their 4 top flight visits to Camp Nou and have let in 4 or more in 4 of their last 5 games against Barca overall. To be terse, this tie should be a steamstroller for Messi and co.
Venue: Estadio Benito Villamarin (Sunday, 13th January)
Kick-off: 20:45 pm
Last meeting: 18/02/2018: Betis 3 vs 5 Real Madrid
Like it was stated earlier, this is certainly the game of the weekend in La Liga and it could be well worth tuning in for this Sunday’s clash at the Benito Villamarin. Betis will not lack belief against a Real Madrid side that continues to underperform and will be all but out of the title race were they to slip to another defeat here.
Real Madrid have taken just 1 point from their 2 league games so far in 2019. A point at struggling Villarreal was heralded as a decent result by Santiago Solari but there was no masking things last weekend as they lost at home to Sociedad. There was almost an apathetic reaction from the Bernabeu faithful, as if they’ve come to expect such occurrences. Real have now lost 6 times in La Liga this term, exactly a third of their matches in the Spanish top flight this season.
That is the same number as Real Betis, who would only be a point behind Los Blancos were they to win this. The Andalusians also had a pretty miserable weekend last time around though, losing 2-1 at bottom club Huesca. They’ve not been quite at their best in recent weeks with their 3-1 victory at Espanyol in mid-December, their last truly convincing performance.
Betis will almost certainly have the majority of the possession here. Real Madrid may end up settling for more of a counter-attacking approach but an injury to Gareth Bale and the suspension of Lucas Vazquez won’t help matters. That could see Isco finally get a start under Solari but Los Blancos have other problems with Thibaut Courtois and Toni Kroos also sidelined through injury.
Overall, it’s hard to really fancy the defending European champions here. They’ve only the 11th best away record in La Liga with a win percentage of just 33% on their travels this term. In front of 50,000 at the Benito Villamarin, they will be in for a really tough game. Fingers crossed!