La Liga round 16 preview
The derby between Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano is the headline fixture of round 16 in the 2018/19 La Liga season
, with ‘Los Vallecanos’ looking for an upset win at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday evening.
Real come into the clash on the back of four straight wins across all competitions (excluding their midweek UEFA Champions League outing), but there is a lingering sense that Santiago Solari’s team are there for the taking – if their opponents show enough fight and nerve.
Whether Vallecano can do that remains to be seen. They have lost three of their last four matches across all competitions, the most recent of which was a 2-0 loss at Real Betis this past weekend. More than anything, they will want to banish the memories of their last trip to the Bernabeu (in December 2015) which ended in an embarrassing 10-2 defeat and saw Rayo end the game with nine men.
Elsewhere, leaders Barcelona will face a tricky challenge away to high-flying Levante at Estadio Ciudad de Valencia on Sunday night. The Blaugrana appear to be in prime form after a 4-0 win away to derby rivals Espanyol this past weekend, featuring yet another masterful display from Lionel Messi.
Yet Levante have proven a dangerous prospect this La Liga season and sit in a very respectable sixth position on the log. They played to an amazing 4-4 draw away to Eibar in the previous round, underlining both their attacking prowess and defensive vulnerability.
The Valencia-based side could field an all-African attack of Emmanuel Boateng, Raphael Dwamena and Moses Simon, but it is Spanish forward Roger Marti (eight La Liga goals this term) who will be the main dangerman.
Second-placed Sevilla and third-placed Atletico Madrid will both be fancied to claim all three points when they come up against mid-table opposition in the shape of Girona (home) and Real Valladolid (away) respectively – they’ll hope to rack up a ‘W’ in the result column and put the pressure on Barca.
The weekend’s action opens with Sofiane Boufal’s Celta de Vigo chasing a hat-trick of top-flight wins when they host an in-form Leganes side which can call on Kenneth Omeruo, Nabil El Zhar and Youssef En-Nesyri.
Other African stars to watch out for include Aissa Mandi for Real Betis away to Espanyol, Samuel Chukwueze and Karl Toko Ekambi for Villarreal at Huesca and Mubarak Wakaso for Deportivo Alaves, as they wrap up the round with a match at home to Athletic Bilbao on Monday night.
Key match stats
Real Madrid v Rayo Vallecano – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 24
Madrid wins 21
Vallecano wins 2
Levante v Barcelona – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 22
Levante wins 1
Barcelona wins 17
Real Valladolid v Atletico Madrid – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 30
Valladolid wins 8
Atletico wins 18
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