LaLiga Matchday 26: Barca and Real set for El Clasico
Barcelona and Real Madrid will meet on Sunday in the latest chapter of their El Clasico rivalry.
But it is certainly not the only eye-catching fixture in LaLiga this weekend, with third-placed Atletico Madrid taking on struggling Valencia the previous evening.
Champions League-chasing Real Sociedad are also in action, hosting bottom-of-the-table Elche in San Sebastian.
Four other clubs involved in the relegation battle will also meet on Matchday 26 as Sevilla travel to Getafe and Almeria contest an Andalusian derby against Cadiz.
Game of the weekend: Barcelona vs Real Madrid (Sunday, 8pm)
Sunday evening's El Clasico represents Real's last realistic chance at staying in the title race.
But the odds could favour Carlo Ancelotti's men this weekend. After all, the Blaugrana have lost five of their last six matches against Real in LaLiga (one win) having not suffered defeat in any of their previous seven meetings in the competition (four wins, three draws).
In fact, Los Blancos have won each of their two most recent trips to Camp Nou. If they can record a third straight victory then it will be the first time since February 1965 that they have enjoyed such a run.
Barca have been formidable in Catalonia recently, however. Bayern Munich are the only team to beat Xavi's men on their own patch in 17 matches in all competitions (12 wins, four draws).
Regardless, Real will be in buoyant mood ahead of this fixture, having completed a 6-2 aggregate demolition of Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Atletico Madrid vs Valencia (Saturday, 8pm)
Despite being two of the biggest clubs in Spanish football, neither Atleti or Valencia are meeting expectations this term.
Los Colchoneros are in the driving seat for a top-four berth and will fancy their chances against relegation-fighting Valencia — they are unbeaten in their last 16 games against them (10 wins, six draws).
Diego Simeone's men are also in good form, despite their mediocre season. They are on a nine-match unbeaten run in the league (six wins, three draws), which represents their best streak since September 2021 (11).
Antoine Griezmann could be key in this encounter. The Frenchman has scored 11 goals in 21 appearances against Valencia, representing his joint-highest tally against any team in the competition.
Real Sociedad vs Elche (Sunday, 3.15pm)
Sociedad will hope to keep fifth-placed Betis at arm's length this weekend by beating LaLiga's bottom side Elche.
And recent history suggests that they will deliver on that promise. La Real have triumphed over Los Franjiverdes in their last five top-flight meetings — a sixth win would create a new record.
Elche have broadly tended to struggle on the road in the Basque Country. They have lost their previous five trips north, failing to score in four of them.
If they are to stem that tide then Sociedad's David Silva will need to be nullified. The diminutive magician has contributed three assists in his last four LaLiga appearances — though he was unable to stop his side crashing out of the Europa League against Roma on Thursday night.
Getafe vs Sevilla (Sunday, 5.30pm)
A six-pointer is on the cards at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, as lowly Getafe prepare to do battle with underperforming Sevilla.
The odds appear to be stacked against the hosts — they have lost their last seven clashes with Sevilla, without scoring in six of those games.
There will also be plenty of positivity in the visitors' camp, after progressing to the Europa League quarter-finals at the expense of Fenerbahce in midweek.
The home side's saving grace, however, could be the fact that Jorge Sampaoli's men have struggled in the capital in recent times. They have not won any of their last six visits to Madrid (three draws, three defeats), with their last victory coming at the expense of Getafe in August 2021.
Lucas Ocampos could be key for Sevilla. The Argentine, who scored his first league goal of the season against Almeria last Sunday, has chipped in with three goal contributions in five games against Getafe.
Almeria vs Cadiz (Saturday, 1pm)
Saturday lunchtime has an Andalusian derby on the menu as Almeria and Cadiz — both fighting for their lives at the foot of LaLiga — face off at the Power Horse Stadium.
The edge, it would seem, lies with the visitors. Almeria have not beaten Sergio Gonzalez's outfit in any of their last 11 games in all competitions (five draws, six defeats).
More generally, the hosts have also struggled against Andalusian rivals in recent times, losing three of their previous five league clashes with other sides from their region (one win, one draw).
Cadiz, however, are far from firing on all cylinders. They have registered the fewest shots on target of any side across Europe's big five leagues this term (69), while only Bournemouth (217) and Mallorca (231) have had fewer shots in total than their 235 efforts.
The weekend's other games
Real Valladolid vs Athletic Bilbao (Friday, 8pm)
Rayo Vallecano vs Girona (Saturday, 3.15pm)
Espanyol vs Celta Vigo (Saturday, 5.30pm)
Real Betis vs Mallorca (Sunday, 1pm)
Osasuna vs Villarreal (Sunday, 3.15pm)
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