Getafe v Levante ┬á(1-1)
Luis Garcia accepted all the criticisms following his side’s seven-nil walloping at the hands of Atletico Madrid last weekend, labeling them “merited criticisms”. The former Real Madrid man employed a 4-4-2 formation against Atleti but having so spectacularly failed he is likely to return his side to their more familiar 4-2-3-1 set up.
Despite the heavy defeat, if Pablo Sarabia words are anything to go by morale in the Getafe side has not completely vanished. The team, according to Sarabia, is already “looking to the future” and he even believes that his side “remain good enough defensively”. Given that Getafe are in seventh place in La Liga still, they still have every reason to remain confident.
Villareal v Malaga (2-1)
Not since Celta in the 2005-06 season has a newly-promoted side gained so many points after 14 rounds. Villarreal have accumulated 27 points already – one point more than Celta did eight years ago – and if form is anything to go by they will make it thirty before the weekend is out.With confidence already sky-high, the return of Giovani Dos Santos to the fold will give Villarreal another boost as they entertain a Malaga side who are doing some soul-searching after their horrid start to the term.
The media have labelled Malaga’s current predicament a crisis and, to be frank, it is. The southern outfit have just one win in their last nine games and are falling ever closer to the relegation zone. Coach Bernd Schuster’s job is safe for now the club have declared, but another slip-up and it could cost the German his job
Elche v Atletico Madrid (1-3)
After their flying start to the new season, there were growing fears that Elche’s run of impressive results was slowly coming to an end; that was until last weekend when they overcame Valencia in one of the shock results of the round. Overcoming one of La Liga’s better sides was just the tonic the side needed ahead of entertaining title-contenders Atletico Madrid this weekend.
During the week, Atletico Madrid’s winning streak in Europe came to an end after a draw against Zenit St. Petersburg, a rare mistake for young goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois handing the Russians a point. Courtois and the rest of his teammates will want to return to winning ways quickly and they will feel they have every chance of doing so on their trip to Elche. As it proved with Real Madrid, Atletico will have to be wary that a win is anything but a foregone conclusion against an Elche side that is hard to break down in front of their own fans.
Celta Vigo v Almeria (1-0)
No matter how hard they try, Celta Vigo just cannot get things together this season. Last weekend was a great example of this. Leading 3-1 with half an hour to play, Luis Enrique’s men let 3 precious points slip through their fingers and they really have no one else to blame but themselves as they committed defensive errors to let their opponents secure the win.
Despite the defeat, Luis Enrique – as ever loyal to his 4-3-3 system – will not tinker with tactics, though he will make a couple of changes in personnel, one being that Levy Madinda will be reinstated in central midfield. Almeria’s Angel Trujillo has identified Celta Vigo as one of his team’s direct rivals and has highlighted how important it is for his side to secure the win. Celta Vigo have yet to win at home all season, so the visitors will fancy themselves to pick up at least a point.
Real Madrid v Valladolid (4-0)
In his last two matches, Carlo Ancelotti has employed a 4-2-3-1 following the season-ending injury sustained by Sami Khedira. Despite its rousing success – Real Madrid beat Almeria last weekend 5-0 and then defeated Galatasaray 4-1 on Wednesday – the Madrid press are expecting him to revert back to a 4-3-3. The change in shape will likely see Isco sacrificed, with Luka Modric and Asier Illarramendi lining up alongside Xabi Alonso in midfield.
The promising Jese is being tipped to make his second start in as many days should Cristiano Ronaldo not recover from his minor injury in time. After four games without a win and sitting just one spot above the relegation zone, Valladolid will be desperate to secure a positive result at the Santiago Bernabeu. Though history is not on their side; the last time they picked up even a point was back in 2005 and in all likelihood, this barren run should continue.
Espanyol v Real Sociedad (1-2)
Espanyol will be buoyed by their sensational victory away to Rayo Vallecano last weekend. Sergio Garcia, who has struggled for goals this term, netted a hat-trick to get his side back to winning ways after a four-match winless run. Jagoba Arrasate is expected to field much the same side as he did last weekend after coming away with a remarkable victory at home to Celta Vigo.
Carlos Vela was the star, who was deployed as the leading striker and his four goals will see him keep his place ahead of Imanol Agirretxe, who has regularly struggled to score this season. While recent results have been encouraging, La Real will be a little downbeat following their dismal defeat away to Shaktar Donetsk in the Champions League, which all but ended their European dream.
Real Betis v Real Vallecano (0-0)
Fourteen games into the season and with Real Betis rounding out the table, times are slowly getting more desperate. Last weekend’s hiding at the hands of city-rivals Sevilla will have done nothing to erase the growing self-doubt amongst the Betis players. Morale is low in the camp and despite their lowly position, Rayo are tipped to secure their second successive away league win.
Granada v Sevilla (2-1)
Despite the heavy defeat, Granada will not be too put off by trip last weekend to Barcelona where they were not expected to come away with anything in the first place. Lucas Alcaraz’s players are probably still happy with their work so far this season that has them sitting in the relatively comfortable and safe position of tenth in the standings.
After suffering two losses in a row in late October and early November, Sevilla have since gotten back on track with a couple of fine victories. Ivan Rakitic, as ever, has been key to their turnaround while Stephane M’Bia’s return to the side following suspension, international duty and injury has been a major boost, too. Sevilla have not traveled well this season, picking up just one win so far. Against a Granada side always difficult to break down at home Unai Emery’s men could find the going tougher than they thought.
Valencia v Osasuna (2-0)
It has been a rather forgettable campaign for Los Che to date. Yet, despite poor results the board have kept faith in coach Miroslav Djukic who insists: “I continue to be the authority in the dressing room,” amid whispers that he does not have the full backing of the squad. Though Djukic’s side fell to an unexpected defeat away to Elche last weekend, he is to keep faith with much the same side, with Brazilian Jonas to once again lead the attack.
Osasuna have been just as inconsistent as their hosts heading into Sunday’s game. However, with expectations much lower for the Pamplonan outfit, the team enter this game in a much better mood than Valencia who are in a state of crisis. This could prove telling come full time.
Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona (1-2)
Athletic Bilbao are back on the up following a couple of wins that have lifted them to fifth place in La Liga. Ernesto Valverde’s side is starting to come together and results mirror this. Valverde will be hoping that Aritz Aduriz is cleared to play for this important game against Barcelona and he will also be sweating on the fitness of Carlos Gurpegi.
The two players’ possible returns would be a major boost for the Basque outfit. Barcelona come into this game with numerous doubts. Having suffered their first loss of the season in all competitions to Ajax on Wednesday night, it is a real test for Tata Martino to get his side back on track and performing at the level they can. The absences of Victor Valdes and Lionel Messi will affect this team, but with talent at his disposal Barcelona are still favourites to pick up all three points here.
However, it will not be easy and a marked improvement from the midweek clash is required. Athletic, like Ajax, may look to exploit Barca’s makeshift backline that sees Carles Puyol at right back. His lack of speed and mobility means Barca will be less of a threat going forward.