Barcelona icon Xavi will have a tough task on his hands as he bids to turn around the Catalan club’s fortunes
Barcelona icon Xavi will have a tough task on his hands as he bids to turn around the Catalan club’s fortunes

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A new era begins at Barcelona this weekend as Espanyol visit Camp Nou for Xavi’s first game in the Blaugrana dugout.

Elsewhere, leaders Real Sociedad welcome Valencia to the Reale Arena, while reigning champions Atletico Madrid bid to keep their nine-month unbeaten home run going against Osasuna.

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Matchday 14 in LaLiga.

Game of the week: Barcelona vs Espanyol (Saturday, 8pm)

Xavi’s debut in the Barcelona dugout is bound to be a momentous occasion. 

But the club legend will be squarely focused on getting his tenure off to a strong start by preventing a run of three home games without a win.

With these sides level on points, this looks set to be an unusually evenly-matched Derbi Barceloni.

Victory for Espanyol could take them as high as sixth, while defeat for Barca could see them drop as low as 13th place.

The omens are good for the hosts, who have not lost to their neighbours in LaLiga since February 2009.

But the visitors are in decent form, winning three and losing only one of their last six games — having managed just one win in their opening seven following promotion back to the top flight.

Here are the other big games to watch this weekend…

Levante vs Athletic Bilbao (Friday, 8pm)

Levante are running out of time to avoid making unwanted LaLiga history — fail to win for the 22nd successive game and they will be only three matches away from the longest winless run in the division’s history. 

Victory for the visitors, on the other hand, could push them into the European places.

The hosts might have wished for this game to take place sometime other than Friday having won only one of their last 10 LaLiga fixtures on that day. 

They might have preferred it to be played in Bilbao too — Athletic have yet to lose in six games on the road this season.

Late goals have been a killer for Levante this term. 

Only Granada have dropped as many points in the last 10 minutes as their seven but it is worth noting that Athletic currently have the worst negative difference between actual and expected goals in Europe’s top five leagues (-7.31), having scored only 11 times from an xG of 18.31.

No team in LaLiga has conceded more goals than Levante's 25 against this season
No team in LaLiga has conceded more goals than Levante's 25 against this season

Atletico Madrid vs Osasuna (Saturday, 5.30pm)

Atleti entertain Osasuna amid a concerning run of form that has seen them win just one of their last six games in all competitions — a 3-0 victory over Real Betis on Matchday 12. 

That said, the visitors are winless in four for the first time since early April.

Diego Simeone’s side remain formidable at home in LaLiga though, with their last league defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano coming against Levante in February. 

And the Spanish capital has not been a happy hunting ground for Los Rojillos, who have won on only one of their last 30 trips to Madrid-based teams.

While Osasuna have failed to score in any of their last three matches, they have won a league-high nine points through goals in the final five minutes — though Atleti rank second in that regard with five. 

Do not be too surprised to see some late drama on Saturday evening.

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid remain one of the most defensively resilient teams in Spain's top flight
Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid remain one of the most defensively resilient teams in Spain's top flight

Elche vs Real Betis (Sunday, 5.30pm)

Real Betis could climb back into the top four with victory over an Elche side who are winless since early October. 

But they will need to arrest a sudden downturn in form that has seen them lose three games on the spin in all competitions — during which they have shipped nine goals without reply.

The hosts have never recorded four successive draws against the same opposition in LaLiga but if they do extend that run at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, Betis will avoid three league defeats in a row for the first time since October 2018.

Only Alaves (eight) and rock-bottom Getafe (six) have found the net fewer times than Elche (11) this season, while just Real Madrid (194) have attempted more shots than Betis (183).

Real Betis have not been afraid to try their luck from distance
Real Betis have not been afraid to try their luck from distance

Real Sociedad vs Valencia (Sunday, 8pm)

Surprise table-toppers Sociedad should be confident of continuing their run of 11 home games unbeaten in all competitions when they host Valencia, who have won just one of their last 17 away outings in league and cup.

After three victories in their first four LaLiga matches, the visitors have faded — winning just one of their last nine. 

They have won four and drawn three of the last eight meetings between these two teams, however.

Remarkably, La Real have scored a league-high 89.5% of their goals in the second half (17/19). 

But perhaps reassuringly for Valencia, they have conceded fewer second-half goals on the road (three) than any side apart from Athletic Bilbao (two) and Sevilla (none).

This weekend’s other games

Celta Vigo vs Villarreal (Saturday, 1pm

Sevilla vs Alaves (Saturday, 3.15pm

Getafe vs Cadiz (Sunday, 1pm

Granada vs Real Madrid (Sunday, 3.15pm

Rayo Vallecano vs Mallorca (Monday, 8pm)

Tags

LaLigaBarcelonaEspanyolLevanteAthletic BilbaoAtletico MadridOsasunaElcheReal BetisReal SociedadValencia

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