Matchday 32 in the Spanish Liga Santander comes after differing fortunes for Spain’s top three sides in the Champions League with Real and Atletico Madrid both winning and Barcelona crashing to a heavy defeat away to Juventus. How that affects their performances in the domestic competition is one of the questions to be answered this weekend in Spain.
1) A chance for Asensio, Morata and Vazquez to shine in Gijon?
Real Madrid travels to face Sporting Gijon after their impressive first leg wins away to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. However with the return leg still to play, Madrid coach, Zinedine Zidane is likely to rest key players for the trip to face their relegation-haunted rivals.
That should give another chance to Alvaro Morata, who scored twice away to Leganes, Lucas Vazquez, who wasn’t even on the bench in Munich and Marco Asensio. Asensio was exceptional in the recent win in Leganes and produced a key cameo in Munich, yet despite impressing at nearly every opportunity he is given, he has struggled for first-team action behind the ‘BBC’ of Bale, Benzema, and Cristiano.
With big signings likely to arrive this summer, the youngster needs to play and Zidane would be well advised to give him every chance he can to impress.
2) Barca to measure crisis against solid Real Sociedad.
It has been 26 years since Real Sociedad last won in Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium, but the side coached by former Barca midfielder, Eusebio Sacristan may be forgiven for thinking they may not have a better chance than this Saturday. They travel to face a Barca wounded by last week’s 2-0 capitulation in Malaga and the 3-0 hammering to Juventus in the Champions League, which has left them little chance of reaching the last four in Europe.
Barca boss Luis Enrique will have to make some rotations to his side, not least because Neymar is suspended, but Barca’s second string have shown time and again they are not up to the task.
If Real Sociedad’s midfield duo of David Zurutuza and Asier Illaramendi have a good day, this could be a night for the Basques to claim all three points and travel home a step closer to qualifying for Europe.
3) Argentina interest to affect Sevilla?
This is probably not a good time to play Valencia, who are currently in their best form of the season, but Sevilla’s trip to the Mestalla Stadium could not come at a worse time for the club, whose form has dipped of late and who now face a battle to keep coach Jorge Sampaoli.
It is an open secret the Argentinean Football Association want him as their next coach and a delegation has been sent to Spain to talk to him. Sevilla reacted strongly on Wednesday pointing out that Sampaoli has a contract until June 2017, but it also seems the coach would welcome the chance to lead his country’s national team. All of this has muddied the waters in Sevilla at a moment of the season where they should be more focused than ever.
4) Adams, to provide Granada boost?
Former Arsenal and England defender Tony Adams has a modest record in coaching and even though he had been a collaboration with Granada as a sporting director since the end of 2016, it was still a shock to see him named as the replacement for Lucas Alcaraz at second bottom Granada.
During his inaugural press conference, Adams promised to give the players at the club a ‘Kick up the arse’, which in the light of recent performances is sorely needed. With a squad full of loan players, Granada has looked like a team of strangers on occasions (no surprise perhaps when 11 players from 10 different countries and regions took to the pitch last week against Valencia) and at times have shown a lack of commitment to the cause. It may be too late to avoid relegation, but Adams should be able to produce a short-term response on Sunday against a Celta side who have one eye on the Europa League.
(With Inputs From Xinhua)