Match day 19 in Spain sees Real Madrid needing to bounce back after two defeats in a week have started alarm bells ringing in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Real Madrid’s home game against Malaga is one of the standout games as the Spanish Liga Santander reaches the midway point in the season this weekend.
Normally sides would be delighted to lose just two matches out of 42, but in a club as demanding as Madrid everything is magnified ,with coach Zinedine Zidane complaining about a lack of intensity in their play and the fans angry with Cristiano Ronaldo, barely a week after he was crowned “The Best” player in the world by FIFA.
Fortunately for Madrid the Malaga side which will present itself in the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday afternoon is also in crisis following the resignation of Juande Ramos before Christmas and two defeats under his successor, Marcelo Silva, so anything but a home win would be a major surprise.
The weekend kicks off with Las Palmas at home to Deportivo la Coruna on Friday night, while Saturday lunchtime promises a dour game as an Espanyol side which struggles to score goals takes on second from bottom Granada who have no option other than attack following their home draw against Osasuna last Sunday which has left them with just 10 points all season.
Alaves took a massive step towards the King’s Cup semi-finals on Wednesday as they won 2-0 in Alcorcon and will expect to cement an excellent first half to the season at home to Leganes, who are well-organized, but with just 13 goals all season are also the lowest scorers in the league.
Valencia look to confirm their improvement over Voro Gonzalez and have the perfect litmus test in a derby away to fourth place Villarreal to close Saturday’s proceedings.
Sevilla travel to bottom of the table Osasuna fresh from their win over Real Madrid last weekend and could have the chance to go top of the table if Madrid fail to defeat Malaga.
Atletico Madrid then travel to Bilbao for another of the weekend’s standout matches.
Atletico have tightened up in defense and have yet to lose in the new San Mames stadium and have been done a huge favor by referee Jaime Latre whose harsh bookings for Athletic’s key players, Benat and Aritz Aduriz mean both are suspended for the match.
“Rubi” will make his debut as Sporting Gijon coach away to a Betis side that have won their last three home games under Victor Sanchez before Real Sociedad and Celta play what promises to be an entertaining game in Anoeta.
Celta travel to San Sebastian knocking on the doors of Europe and fresh from winning the the Santiago Bernabeu, while a win for the home side could push them into a top-four position.
The weekend ends as Barcelona travel to the always difficult Ipurua Stadium to take on Eibar in what are likely to be difficult conditions in the Basque country. Nevertheless Barca will be forced to adapt if there are to keep their title hopes alive.