LaLiga Matchday 24: Barca bid for derby delight at Espanyol
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Real Madrid may have opened up a six-point lead at the summit but there is still plenty to play for in LaLiga.
The standout game of the weekend comes from the RCDE Stadium where Barcelona are hoping to tighten their grip on fourth place with a derby victory at Espanyol.
Elsewhere, Los Blancos travel to Villarreal, while Atletico Madrid will look to leapfrog Barca when they host Getafe on Saturday night.
Game of the week: Espanyol vs Barcelona (Sunday, 8pm)
Barcelona visit their city neighbours aiming to extend an unbeaten league run of 23 games against Vicente Moreno's side (18 wins, five draws).
The visitors continue to make promising progress under Xavi and are now unbeaten in seven LaLiga matches having defeated Atletico Madrid 4-2 at the Camp Nou last time out.
By contrast, Espanyol are yet to pick up a league win in 2022 — their last victory coming at Valencia on New Year’s Eve.
November’s reverse meeting was Blaugrana legend Xavi’s first game in charge of the Catalan club. A Memphis Depay penalty was enough for Barca to take the points on that occasion.
Here are the other big games to watch this weekend…
Villarreal vs Real Madrid (Saturday, 3.15pm)
Real head to Villarreal aiming to record back-to-back top-flight victories for the first time in two months.
The hosts are in formidable form at the Estadio de la Ceramica though, winning four and drawing one of their last five home outings — racking up 17 goals in the process.
But Real have been rampant on the road this term, finding the net a league-high 23 times — and scoring twice or more in eight out of 11 away matches.
Carlo Ancelotti will manage his 100th LaLiga game as Real Madrid boss in this encounter, becoming the eighth manager to reach this milestone.
Only Manuel Pellegrini (81.6%) and Jose Mourinho (76.3%) boast a better win percentage than the Italian (73.7%).
Sevilla vs Elche (Friday, 8pm)
Three successive draws have seen Sevilla lose ground in the title race, so they will be determined to avoid going four league games without a win for the first time since October 2020.
Lille are the only visiting team to leave the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium with victory this season, while Elche have to go all the way back to 1967 to find their last away win against the Andalusians.
A Copa del Rey defeat to Real Madrid is the visitors' only loss since Christmas though. Their current five-game unbeaten run in LaLiga is their longest since 1977.
Ex-Reading loanee Lucas Boye is the likeliest man to upset Julen Lopetegui's hosts — the Argentinian forward has scored three times in his last five games.
Levante vs Real Betis (Sunday, 3.15pm)
After slumping to a 2-0 home defeat to Villarreal last weekend, Real Betis should be confident of returning to winning ways against a Levante team who have won just once all season.
And the visitors can lean on the second-best away record in the league. Manuel Pellegrini’s men have won six out of 11 on the road, taking 20 points from a possible 33.
Levante may have ended their 28-match wait for a victory by beating Mallorca 2-0 last month but they have lost the four games either side of that triumph by a combined scoreline of 14-3.
This has the potential to be an extremely one-sided affair, with Betis having scored the second-most goals in LaLiga (41) and the hosts conceding more than any other side (46).
The relegation-threatened Valencians can take hope from the fact they have emerged victorious from the last three home encounters with Betis however.
Atletico Madrid vs Getafe (Saturday, 8pm)
With the defence of their LaLiga title in tatters, it is now all about Champions League qualification for Atleti. They entertain a Getafe outfit who have only lost one league game since early November.
Diego Simeone’s hosts have won four of their last five at the Wanda Metropolitano — where they have remarkably also triumphed 11 times in a row against Getafe without letting in a single goal.
Quique Sanchez Flores’ outfit have kept four clean sheets in their last six fixtures as they steadily climb away from relegation danger. And Atleti should be wary of a side who kicked off 2022 by beating their capital rivals Real.
Despite improving markedly after a rotten start to the season, Getafe have still only scored a league-low three away goals — that does not bode well against a team who have only conceded eight times at home.
The weekend’s other games
Cadiz vs Celta Vigo (Saturday, 1pm)
Rayo Vallecano vs Osasuna (Saturday, 5.30pm)
Alaves vs Valencia (Sunday, 1pm)
Real Sociedad vs Granada (Sunday, 5.30pm)
Mallorca vs Athletic Bilbao (Monday, 8pm)