The ‘Clasico’ between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will dominate all of the headlines in match-day 33 in Spain’s Liga Santander, but although the clash in the Santiago Bernabeu could well decide this season’s league title, there are still other vital matches to be played in the coming weekend.
Real Madrid welcome Barcelona to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Sunday night with a three-point lead over their rivals at the top of the table and a game in hand, so while a win for Barca would drag them right back into the title race, a victory for Real Madrid would all but assure them of this season’s title.
Both sides were in midweek Champions League action with Real Madrid assuring a controversial qualification against Bayern Munich in a game that went into extra-time on Tuesday night, while Barca have 24 hours less to recover after their elimination to Juventus despite Wednesday’s efforts in the Camp Nou.
The home side are still without Rafael Varene and Pepe and Gareth Bale continues to be an injury doubt with a calf injury, while Neymar is suspended for Barca and will miss a game that will have a worldwide TV audience or around a billion people.
However, the Clasico is just the main course of a weekend which kicks off on Friday night with second bottom Granada visiting Sevilla. Tony Adams’ debut as Granada boss ended in defeat to Celta last week and anything other than a win against a rival that needs three points to remain in the battle for third place will just about seal their relegation.
Saturday sees Malaga entertain Valencia in a match where pride is the main issue between two teams with little else to play for, before Villarreal take on Leganes in a game with a lot more at stake.
Leganes are only five points clear of the drop zone and need points to pull clear of Sporting Gijon, who are away to bottom of the table Osasuna, while fifth placed Villarreal need a win to keep space between them and the chasing pack in the race to qualify for next season’s Europa League.
Saturday ends with Espanyol, who also have an outside chance of qualifying for Europe, entertaining Atletico Madrid, who could make squad rotations after their midweek Champions League qualification.
Real Sociedad and Deportivo la Coruna kick off Sunday with the home side looking for a win to take them into a top-six, while success for the visitors would end their relegation worries for the season.
Celta and Betis are both relatively comfy in mid-table, as are Las Palmas and Alaves and those two matches serve as the first course before the Classico, which is the main dish of the day.
The round of matches then finishes on Monday with a fascinating Basque derby between Eibar and Athletic Club Bilbao in which both sides will duel it out for three points which could put a place in Europe next season into touching distance.