La Liga Matchweek 16 Preview: Who Can Capitalise On Real’s Absence?8 min read
Real Madrid have some respite from La Liga action this week, due to their involvement in the ongoing Club World Cup. Zinedine Zidane and company can watch from afar with interest as some of the division’s high flyers get the chance to put more daylight between themselves and Los Blancos. Barcelona play host to Deportivo, after dropping points in their last Camp Nou league fixture versus Celta Vigo. Meanwhile Valencia travel to face an in-form Eibar at Ipurua.
Athletic and Real Sociedad will play out a fierce Basque derby between two sides that have really struggled to find any kind of consistency this season in LaLiga. Both are in need of three points. Elsewhere Celta Vigo and Villarreal face off with respective defensive issues of late. Goals and entertainment appear to be a given on the division’s 16th match day, as every club tries to go into the festive period in good form.
Athletic Club vs Real Sociedad
Kuko Ziganda has had a very difficult start to life as Athletic coach, but he could well profit from the fact that Real Sociedad are going through a poor period of their own at present. Eusebio’s side only have one way of playing, and that is to attack at all costs. La Real seem unable to manage a game or tighten up at the back. Visiting goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli has been in dreadful form this season, with this Basque derby set to be decided by the fact that Los Leones have more grit and fight about their character.
When playing in front of their own fans at San Mames, Athletic appear to be able to dig deep and compete with any side who pay them a visit. Barcelona have had it tough in Bilbao, Sevilla dropped all three points there earlier this campaign, and generally such an occasion should inspire plenty of fighting spirit from a home side that are hovering ominously over the relegation battle. With the likes of Aritz Aduriz, Raul Garcia, and Inaki Williams offering some height and physicality into the mix, La Real’s flimsy defence should be put to the test – and it should fail it.
Athletic Club to Win
Barcelona vs Deportivo La Coruna
While Real Madrid are off playing in the Club World Championship, this weekend offers yet another chance for Barcelona to continue to build their lead at the summit of La Liga. Ernesto Valverde’s men are still unbeaten in league action and could be slightly stung by the fact that they dropped points against Celta Vigo at Camp Nou recently in La Liga. Without the reassuring presence of Samuel Umtiti in their back four, the Blaugrana may struggle defensively, but they have more than enough talent to tear Depor apart at the other end of the field.
Although Depor have shown some improvements since the sacking of Pepe Mel, there are still big question marks over the strength of their spine. Adrian Lopez has been relied upon to score some important goals over the course of the season, and star man Fede Cartabia is sidelined until at least February due to injury. The away side are in better shape than they were a month ago, but they still don’t have the resources to put up a good fight against a merciless and relentless Barca.
Barcelona to Win and Both Teams to Score
Luis Suarez to Score, Over 3.5 Goals and Barcelona to Win #PriceItUp
Eibar vs Valencia
Valencia bounced back from defeat against Getafe with a late win versus Celta Vigo last weekend, but Marcelino’s men know that they will be in for a tough test on Saturday. Ipurua is the smallest pitch in the division, and Jose Luis Mendilibar’s men have taken 10 points from their last available 12 in top-flight action. No Carlos Soler, Jeison Murillo nor Ezequiel Garay means that Los Che are missing plenty of quality for the weekend, but Goncalo Guedes has returned to the first-team squad far quicker than expected.
Eibar look a different team since the return of Ivan Alejo from injury, with their shift back to their customary 4-4-2 working wonders. The hosts will press high and get in their opponents’ faces, with plenty of players in their ranks capable of delivering some good service into the penalty area from open play or dead-ball situations. Valencia will need to put in quite a performance to avoid dropping points in the Basque country, with Los Armeros undoubtedly smelling blood.
Celta Vigo vs Villarreal
Villarreal find themselves in dreadful form heading into the weekend, with Javi Calleja’s unbeaten run in LaLiga ended by a run of three consecutive defeats. Sevilla, Leganes and Barcelona have all managed to squeeze their way beyond the Yellow Submarine recently, with throwing points away late in games appearing to be something that they are becoming quite adept at. Cedric Bakambu and Dani Raba are both sidelined due to suspension, limiting their offensive firepower further.
Samu Castillejo will be fit to start for the away side, but Celta should be confident of causing a lot of problems for them on the back foot. Despite having Hugo Mallo and Iago Aspas missing due to suspension, Maxi Gomez, Pione Sisto and Emre Mor should be confident of finding space in behind a Villarreal back four that like to commit their full backs to their attacking transitions. These two teams are struggling to find balance, but the absence of Iago Aspas will be a huge bonus for Calleja’s men.
Celta to Win and Both Teams to Score
Maxi Gomez to Score, Over 2.5 Goals and Celta win #PriceItUp