LaLiga Matchday 33: Barcelona bid to bounce back at Real Sociedad
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Barcelona will be hoping to bounce back from their shock defeat against Cadiz and consolidate a top-four spot but they face a tough task away at Real Sociedad.
Meanwhile, table-toppers Real Madrid travel to Osasuna, while Villarreal host Valencia in what is sure to be a fiery local derby.
Elsewhere on Matchday 33, third and fourth-placed Sevilla and Atletico Madrid face struggling pair Levante and Granada respectively.
Game of the week: Real Sociedad vs Barcelona (Thursday, 8.30pm)
Barcelona have endured a chastening week.
Having won El Clasico 4-0 at the Bernabeu and enjoyed a seven-game winning run, there were whispers of a surprise title charge in Catalonia.
Add in the Blaugrana's presence in the Europa League quarter-finals and things were looking up for Xavi's men.
However, Barcelona were dumped out of Europe by Eintracht Frankfurt and followed that up with a 1-0 defeat at home to lowly Cadiz on Monday.
Their next opponents — sixth-placed Real Sociedad — should pose considerably more threat. La Real are unbeaten in their last five and boast the third-best defensive record in the division (30 goals conceded), behind only Sevilla and Real Madrid.
The title is surely out of reach for Barcelona now but just three points separate the Catalans from fifth spot — and the unthinkable loss of Champions League football next term.
Here are the other big games to watch this week…
Osasuna vs Real Madrid (Wednesday, 8.30pm)
Runaway league leaders Real may feel they have a point to prove as they travel to face Osasuna on Wednesday.
Their last encounter with the Pamploma-based side somehow ended in a goalless draw at the Bernabeu despite Los Blancos boasting 74.7% possession and taking 17 shots.
Osasuna are enjoying a solid run of form however, winning three of their last four games.
Still, Madrid have the division's most potent attack (66 goals), while Karim Benzema is the league's top scorer (25) and joint-top provider (11, level with Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele).
Villarreal vs Valencia (Tuesday, 8.30pm)
Champions League semi-finalists Villarreal will be hoping to boost their chances of qualifying for European competition once again as they host rivals Valencia.
The Yellow Submarine will be confident of picking up a result at Estadio de la Ceramica, having gone unbeaten in their last nine league matches there (W6 D3).
Tonight's hosts have also avoided defeat in their last four home encounters with Los Che (W3 D1) and in their last 11 derbies on home soil (W8 D3).
Furthermore, Valencia coach Jose Bordalas has lost three of his four away games against Villarreal, all by a 1-0 scoreline.
But Villarreal manager Unai Emery has suffered defeat in four of his last six meetings with the visitors. Los Che have also won their previous two games against the team from Castellon, as well as going unbeaten in their last four on the road (W2 D2).
Atletico Madrid vs Granada (Wednesday, 6pm)
Defending champions Atletico Madrid are having an uncharacteristic campaign.
Usually a team renowned for their defensive solidity, Diego Simeone's men have conceded more goals than any other side in the top eight (39) and already 14 more than they did in the entirety of last season (25).
However, they are also the division's third-highest scorers, netting 59 times in 32 games.
This change of approach has not been overly successful though, with Atleti currently 15 points adrift of top spot in fourth.
But Simeone's team have won seven of their last eight — and face a Granada side that are only above the relegation zone on goal difference.
Levante vs Sevilla (Thursday, 6pm)
Sevilla have fallen away after their early title challenge and are now fully focused on consolidating their top-four position.
Julen Lopetegui's outfit are enduring something of a slump at present, winning just once in their last six games (D3 L2).
Thursday's opponents represent a good opportunity to post another victory, with Levante only off the foot of the table on goal difference.
Sevilla's confidence should be boosted further by the fact that their opponents have the worst defensive record in the league (62), while they boast the best numbers in that department (25).
This week's other games
Mallorca vs Alaves (Tuesday, 6pm)
Real Betis vs Elche (Tuesday, 8pm)
Celta Vigo vs Getafe (Wednesday, 7pm)
Espanyol vs Rayo Vallecano (Thursday, 6pm)
Cadiz vs Athletic Bilbao (Thursday, 7pm)
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