Barca & Atletico well-placed as Real Madrid face tough away assignment this weekend
LaLiga Santander reaches halfway mark as winter champions Barcelona and top strikers hit form
Already confirmed as LaLiga Santander’s ‘winter champions’ as the season reaches its half-way stage this weekend, Barcelona will look to stay ahead of a chasing pack which includes many of the league’s most in-form strikers.
Barça host Eibar early on Sunday evening at the Camp Nou in a fixture which promises excitement, with the Catalans having won in each of the last four seasons with Lionel Messi getting four goals in last season's fixture, but Eibar has often put up a fight and scared their opponents along the way.
Second-placed Atletico de Madrid take on Levante at the Wanda Metropolitano in Sunday’s early game. Rojiblanco striker Antoine Griezmann has returned from the winter break looking particularly sharp, but the free-scoring visitors having worried Diego Simeone’s side home and away in recent seasons.
Sunday afternoon also sees a clash of two of LaLiga’s historic big sides with Athletic Club looking to continue a recent peak in form which has seen centre-forward Inaki Williams back on the scoresheet, although visitors Sevilla will be aiming to keep up a title challenge fuelled by forward Wissam Ben Yedder’s goal streak.
Sunday’s late game promises to be dramatic as Real Madrid visit a dangerous but inconsistent Real Betis team who are capable of rolling over anybody on their day. But even though injury-hit, Real Madrid will be up for the fight, especially with Sergio Ramos and Dani Ceballos returning to their home city.
The matchday action begins Friday evening in the Spanish capital, as Rayo Vallecano look for a third straight LaLiga victory to continue their climb up the table, against a RC Celta side who are still looking to kickstart their 2019.
Saturday’s early game is also vital in the relegation battle, with 17th placed Leganes trusting in their impressive home form so far this season as they host bottom team Huesca, who will have been boosted by their long-awaited victory over Real Betis last time out.
Valencia then host Real Valladolid, with Los Che looking for a third home win in four games at their Mestalla stadium, but Valladolid having surprised many with their clever tactical away performances so far this term.
Alaves can confirm their fourth position at the half-way stage if they get the three points at Girona early Saturday evening, although the Catalans will be keen for a victory after three straight draws in front of their own fans at Montilivi.
Saturday’s late game sees recently installed Villarreal coach Luis Garcia Plaza -- who has drawn all three of his LaLiga Santander matches in the job charge so far -- welcome his former club Getafe to the Estadio de la Ceramica.
The final game of weekend comes Monday evening when Real Sociedad’s new coach Imanol Alguacil’s team will aim to build on their fine victory at Madrid last weekend at home to an Espanyol side who also returned to form with a win in their first game of 2019.
Kickoff times are two hours later in Kenya than the times published here for Spain.