The last international break before Christmas sees FC Barcelona aiming to claim their tenth win in 11 games, while Real Madrid look to pick up the pieces after a disastrous week at home to Las Palmas, while Atletico Madrid need to rediscover the route to goal. Here are some things to look out for in matchday 11 of the Liga Santander.
1. Messi marches on
Leo Messi will make his 600th competitive appearance for Barcelona when Sevilla visit the Camp Nou Stadium on Saturday night and once again his side will look to him for leadership.
Messi’s 599 games to date have yielded 523 goals and 199 assists and this season he has shown no sign of dropping off the pace.
Indeed with Neymar in Paris, Dembele injured and Luis Suarez struggling for form, the feeling is that Messi has at times been carrying a Barca side that has been pragmatic with its play, keeping things tight and letting those moments of Messi magic decide their matches.
Sevilla have been his favorite rival in LaLiga and he has netted 23 goals in 21 league matches against them, all of which points to Saturday night being a happy anniversary for the best player in the world.
2. Las Palmas; the perfect cure for Real Madrid?
It has been a torrid week for Real Madrid who lost 2-1 to Girona last Sunday, before crashing 3-1 to Tottenham in the Champions League on Wednesday.
As is always the case with Real Madrid, two defeats mean a crisis with coach Zinedine Zidane and key players questioned.
Cristiano Ronaldo blamed the loss of experienced players such as Alvaro Morata, Pepe and James Rodriguez, explaining the squad lacked experience.
Even though he is probably correct, it is doubtful those words have been well received by club directors and team-mates, but Sunday is a moment to show unity and get back to winning ways before the international break.
Las Palmas, travel to the Bernabeu after five consecutive defeats and should be the short-term antidote to the crisis, although whether they are the long-term cure is another question.
3. Where are Atletico’s goals coming from?
Atletico Madrid may still occupy fourth place in the Liga Santander but a total of just five goals in their last seven games in all competitions points to a real problem for coach Diego Simeone.
The 1-1 draw at home to Qarabag leaves Atletico almost out of the Champions League and they are eight points behind Barca in the Liga Santander.
Every goal Atletico have conceded in the league has come from a ball from the wings, but it is in front of goal that their main problem has been.
Antoine Griezmann, almost unstoppable in the past two seasons has just two goals, Kevin Gameiro just one, while Fernando Torres and Luciano Vietto have not scored this campaign.
Deportivo la Coruna are next up for Atletico and Simeone needs a turnaround otherwise it could all be over by Christmas.
4. Can Malaga continue fightback in Villarreal?
Last weekend Malaga showed that despite having just one point from their opening nine matches of the campaign, the coach, players and fans still have unity and a fighting spirit and that helped them to a brave 2-1 win at home to Celta Vigo.
The win lifted them off the bottom of the table and to within just four points of safety, but the need now for coach Michel Gonzalez and his players is to build on that to take the feel good factor into the international break.
Villarreal will be Sunday’s rivals, but the side now coached by Javier Calleja will be a stern test for Malaga’s recovery, given that they are unbeaten in the league since Calleja replaced Fran Escriba with 3 wins and a draw away to Atletico Madrid to their credit, so it promises to be a well-balanced game in Villarreal Estadio de la Ceramica.