LaLiga Matchday 30: Barcelona and Sevilla fight for second
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With Real Madrid all but out of sight at the top of LaLiga, attention turns to a rejuvenated Barcelona.
Sevilla must avoid defeat at the Camp Nou on Sunday night to avoid relinquishing second spot to Xavi's men, who are third.
Earlier in the weekend, the league leaders travel to Celta Vigo and there is a big relegation clash between Getafe and Mallorca.
Game of the week: Barcelona vs Sevilla (Sunday, 8pm)
Still buzzing from their 4-0 demolition of arch-rivals Real at the Bernabeu, Barca are looking to make it six successive league victories.
Attempting to stop the Catalans' winning streak are a Sevilla side who are unbeaten in seven LaLiga games on the road, although they have drawn the last five.
Ominously for the visitors, the Blaugrana have been formidable in this fixture for the best part of two decades. The Andalusians have not come away from the Camp Nou with a top-flight win since December 2002.
But Sevilla’s robust away defensive record always gives them a chance. Julen Lopetegui’s team have conceded a league-low eight goals on their travels this season.
The hosts are now unbeaten in 13 league games as they continue their resurgence under Xavi — but Sevilla are just one short of a club-record 16 matches without defeat in a single LaLiga campaign.
These two met just before Christmas with the Rojiblancos holding on for a 1-1 draw despite having defender Jules Kounde sent off midway through the second half.
Here are the other big games to watch this weekend…
Celta Vigo vs Real Madrid (Saturday, 5.30pm)
Real Madrid are still nine points clear at the summit but Carlo Ancelotti will expect a big reaction from his players after their El Clasico humiliation.
Celta Vigo meanwhile might sense this game has come at an ideal time for them to beat Real for the first time in 16 league attempts. They have lost 13 of the last 15 meetings.
Despite shipping four goals last time out, Los Blancos have kept clean sheets in each of their last three LaLiga away games. They have not gone four without conceding on the road since September 2016.
And Real are unlikely to be troubled from set-pieces, with Celta creating a league-low 4.5 expected goals from dead-ball situations this term.
September’s reverse fixture saw Karim Benzema hit a hat-trick as Real came from 1-0 down to eventually run out 5-2 winners.
Getafe vs Mallorca (Saturday, 1pm)
Struggling Mallorca have lost six on the bounce but a win over Getafe could take them out of the relegation zone.
The hosts are also winless in six, although they have drawn four of those and are on a nine-match home unbeaten run.
That bodes badly for the away side, who have won only one and lost 10 of their last 12 league contents at Madrid-based teams.
On top of that, Quique Sanchez Flores' outfit have not lost any of their last seven encounters with Mallorca, winning four and keeping three clean sheets in the process.
One of those shut-outs came when the sides played out a goalless draw earlier this season — a contest which produced just two shots on target.
Atletico Madrid vs Alaves (Saturday, 8pm)
Atletico Madrid welcome second-bottom Alaves to the Wanda Metropolitano as they aim to stay four points clear in fourth.
The odds are stacked against the visitors, who have recorded just one away league win all season. Only Rayo Vallecano have picked up fewer points on the road (five) than Alaves’ six.
Diego Simeone’s side are in fine form, having won their last five games including their Champions League last-16 success at Manchester United.
The away team's tally of 17 losses after 29 matches is the second-highest in their LaLiga history — but they went on to finish 14th after losing 18 of their first 29 in 2017-18.
The previous meeting in September saw the Basque side hold on to win 1-0 thanks to Victor Laguardia’s fourth-minute header.
Real Betis vs Osasuna (Sunday, 3.15pm)
An inconsistent patch has seen Real Betis drop out of the top four. But victory over Osasuna will keep them in with a shout of Champions League qualification.
Osasuna make the long trip south having won six of 14 away matches so far — but four of those wins came between August and October and they have lost their last two on the road without scoring.
Betis have fared very well indeed in recent encounters with the visitors, winning six of the last seven and drawing the other. They have kept five clean sheets in the teams’ last six meetings.
Osasuna will need to seriously sharpen up in attack if they are to change their fortunes. They have drawn a blank in eight of their last 10 away LaLiga outings.
Los Verdiblancos left it late to secure victory when these two sides faced off in September, but goals from Juanmi and William Jose secured a 3-1 success.
The weekend’s other games
Levante vs Villarreal (Saturday, 3.15pm)
Athletic Bilbao vs Elche (Sunday, 1pm)
Granada vs Rayo Vallecano (Sunday, 5.30pm)
Valencia vs Cadiz (Sunday, 5.30pm)
Real Sociedad vs Espanyol (Monday, 8pm)