2018/19 La Liga
Following a flurry of goals in the Copa del Rey quarter-final second-legs this week, the race for the La Liga
trophy kicks up another gear this weekend with the front-runners going full throttle to the finish line. Can Valencia put a halt to Barcelona’s charge before title-chasers Atletico face a tough trip to Real Betis. Elsewhere Los Blancos in 3rd
wecome Alaves in 5th
to the Bernabeu in an eagerly anticipated clash.
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BARCELONA VS VALENCIA – CAMP NOU STADIUM
The Blaugrana came away from their Copa del Rey quarter-final against Sevilla relatively unscathed after their 2-0 defeat away from home in the first leg. They maintained their four-point advantage over Atletico with a 2-0 win over Girona last weekend before a 6-1 demolition of Los Hispalenses in the second-leg on Wednesday ensured passage through to the last four of the competition with a healthy 6-3 aggregate scoreline.
Valencia have really struggled for consistency this season, drawing 11 out of their 21 matches played – the joint most in the division along with Athletic Bilbao. A bloody affair on Tuesday between Valencia and Getafe, in which each side had a man sent off, saw a 3-1 win for Los Che and helping them overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit as they secured progression to the semi-finals of the cup.
Barcelona are seeking their fourth win in six against Valencia on Saturday since suffering a surprise 2-1 defeat at the Nou Camp back in April 2016.
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This match-up has produced a whopping 56 goals in the last 18 league meetings between the pair at an average of 3.1 goals per game.
The corresponding fixture last season ended 2-1 to the hosts with Barcelona setting a new La Liga record of 39 matches unbeaten in the process. Lionel Messi equalised for Barcelona to snatch a point when the pair met in October – the Argentinian’s 25th
goal against Valencia in 31 appearances against them.
REAL BETIS VS ATLETICO MADRID – BENITO VILLAMARIN STADIUM
Los Verdiblancos have seemingly stuttered after their strong start to the season. Real Betis needed extra-time to overcome Espanyol in their Copa del Rey match-up on Wednesday, registering just their second win from their last nine matches in all competitions.
Atletico Madrid will be well-rested ahead of their trip to the Benito Villamarin after Diego Simeone’s side were dumped out of the Copa del Rey by Girona on the previous round. Los Rojiblancos notched up a comfortable 2-0 win over Getafe last time out – their third successive victory in the league. Antoine Griezmann was on target with his 10th
goal of the current campaign.
Real Betis have not beaten Atletico in the league since December 2011 – a run of 12 matches in which Betis have suffered nine defeats. Saul Niguez scored the only goal of the game in this fixture last season before an identical 1-0 scoreline at the Wanda Metropolitano in October, this time Angel Correa with the solitary strike.
REAL MADRID VS ALAVES – SANTIAGO BERNABEU
Los Blancos made light work of Girona in their midweek encounter with their 3-1 win earning them a 7-3 aggregate victory and a place in the last four of the cup. Santiago Solari’s side are seeking their fourth league win in-a-row on Sunday since a 2-0 home defeat to Real Sociedad at the start of January.
Alaves have exceeded even the loftiest of expectations this season. After reaching the Copa del Rey final in their first foray back in the top-flight back in 2016/17, the Babazorros finished 14th
in La Liga in 2017/18 but after amassing 32 points already Abelardo’s side are reaching for the stars and UEFA Champions League contention next season. Alaves, however, are currently without a win in their last three in the division.
Could the unthinkable occur this weekend? Manuel Sanchez scored in the 95th
minute as Alaves recorded an historic 1-0 triumph over Real Madrid when the two teams last played back in October, ending a run of six consecutive top-flight defeats against Los Blancos in the process.
Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema netted second-half strikes to add to a pair of goals scored by the now departed Cristiano Ronaldo either side of half-time. In three matches between Real Madrid and Alaves played at the Santiago Bernabeu, the home side are yet to concede even a single goal signalling the magnitude of the task that lies ahead for the visitors this weekend.
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