Another round of mid-week games is here, which will see Barcelona on the road and hoping to extend their lead over second place Real Madrid when they take on Valencia at the Mestalla.  Real Madrid on the other hand, will be taking on Pellegrini’s Málaga at the Santiago Bernabéu.  Villarreal will be back at home to take on Hércules on Wednesday.

Espanyol vs Mallorca

In the first of two matches on Tuesday, Espanyol will welcome Mallorca to the Cornella El Pratt where they will be looking to continue their dominance at home.  Michael Laudrup’s Mallorca, on the other hand, will be seeking to bounce back against Los Periquitos following their heavy defeat at the hands of Barcelona on the weekend.  The Parakeets have been impressive at home this season losing three of their 12 games there and are La Liga’s sixth best home team.  Their opponents, however, have had a torrid time on the road this season and have only earned eight points from 12 games, with two wins, two draws and eight losses.  In addition, Mallorca’s poor away form will not be the only thing troubling Laudrup as he prepares his team for this fixture, but also, the recent statistics that go against the Islanders.  Los Bermellones have not won a match in Barcelona against Espanyol in over nine years, that win coming May 20, 2001- Luque the goal scorer in a 1-0 victory.  The Islanders has suffered seven straight defeats followed by two consecutive draws in the last nine games away to Espanyol. When both teams met in the Iberostar in round 7, Espanyol came away with a narrow- Luis García with the game’s only goal.  Pochettino will have to do without Javi Márquez who is out due to injury but will welcome back Chica to the squad list.  Mallorca will welcome back Ramis to the squad list, however, De Guzman and Víctor are out due to injuries, whilst Martí is suspended.

Sevilla vs Sporting Gijón

A very dreary Sevilla team will welcome relegation threatened Sporting Gijón to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in Tuesday’s final game.  The Asturians are hoping they can pull off another miracle by defeating the Andalucians twice this season, after their comfortable 2-0 victory in El Molinón in October.  However, the Sportinguistas have a poor record at the Pizjuán- winning one, drawing one and losing eight of their last ten visits and have only won four, drawn eight and lost 32 of their 44 games there.  If the home team is to have any hopes of finishing in a European cup spot then three points in this game will be a start in the right direction.  However, they face a team desperate to put some breathing room between themselves and the bottom three.  At the time of writing, there were no recent injury reports from the Sevilla camp.  Sporting will have back Rivera who overcame his ankle injury while, Botía will be unavailable due to suspension.

Six games will take place on Wednesday…

Real Zaragoza vs Athletic Bilbao

Javier Aguirre was brought in to replace José Aurelio Gay in an attempt to save the team from relegation.  However, not much has changed since Aguirre took over as the Blanquillos still remain in the bottom three, are on a current four game win-less streak and are looking like prime candidates to get the drop at season’s end.  On Wednesday, they will be up against an Athletic Bilbao team eager to end their own run 0f three consecutive defeats.  Los Leones are fully capable of pulling off a victory with the quality team they have, however, their history at La Romareda has not been the best; in the last ten first division meetings between both teams, Athletic have won only twice (the most recent coming December 12, 2009), drawn four and lost four.  And of their 57 games played there, the Lions have won 14, drawn 19 and lost 24.  In October, during round seven, Athletic narrowly defeated Zaragoza 2-1, Iraola and Llorente giving Los Leones a two goal lead and Braulio scoring a 93rd minute consolation goal for the Blanquillos.  At this point, Braulio is the only player ruled out of the fixture for the home side after suffering an injury this week to his right thigh.  Llorente and Javi Martínez both suffered knocks in the game against Valencia but should be ok to travel to Aragon.

Getafe vs Atlético Madrid

Getafe, one assumes, had [or still has] European football ambitions on their agenda at the beginning of the season and are sitting in tenth, eight points above the drop and six points out of the last Europa League spot, currently held by Athletic Bilbao.  They will come up against cross-town rivals, Atlético Madrid, a team that has never failed to under-achieve even with a solid group of players and given last season’s successes were expected to at the very least mount a challenge with both Barcelona and Real Madrid for the league title, however, that is not the case as they are sitting in eighth on 32 points, two above their opponents and can only hope of qualifying for the Europa League.  El Geta has an extremely poor record against their rivals, having beaten them only twice in 15 attempts- once at home, coming January 24, 2010 when they won 1-0 courtesy of Manu’s 38th minute goal, which was coincidentally their first victory against Los Colchoneros, and once away on May 15, 2010 which saw Soldado (2) and Parejo score in a 3-0 victory.  Both teams are in a rut with the home side win-less in their last three and have only won once in their last ten, drawing three and losing the remainder.  Meanwhile, their opponents have won twice in ten but has lost seven and drawn one of the remaining eight.  At the time of writing, Manu and Ustari are the only injury concerns for Getafe, while for Atléti, Ujfaluši stayed in the gymnasium during Monday’s practice.

Villarreal vs Hércules

Following their fourth consecutive league game without a win, the Yellow Submarines are back in El Madrigal and are desperately seeking to put an end to their recent slump.  Considering they are up against a struggling Hércules team that has now won only twice in their last ten league games, drawing twice and losing the remaining six, it should be the perfect game for the home team to put their recent miseries behind them and focus on climbing back into third.  However, if history is to repeat itself then the likelihood of Villarreal picking up all three points is pretty slim, when one acknowledges that they have a 0.07% win rate against the Herculanos with only one victory in 14 attempts; that coming in a second division match September 6, 1997.  Coincidentally, that defeat was Hércules’ last trip to El Madrigal.  The last game between the two sides this season ended in a 2-2 draw at the José Rico Pérez stadium.  At this point, there has been no reports of injuries in either camp.

Osasuna vs Deportivo La Coruña

Osasuna are back in the walls of their safe haven and will welcome a hapless Deportivo side.  The Rojillos picked up their 11th defeat on the road this season when they fell 2-1 victims to Levante.  Deportivo however, managed to put a dent in Real Madrid’s title hopes and earned themselves a huge 0-0 draw against their prodigious opponents.  The visitors have been win-less in their last five road games and only just ended a four game losing streak on the road against Almería, when Aranzubia rescued them from the pits of defeat with a 94th minute header to take a point away from the Mediterranéo.  Osasuna has been solid at home and have only lost once at home to Barcelona, conceding six goals there- three of which came against Barcelona.  Depor’s last visit to the Reyno de Navarra ended in a 1-1 draw and before that it was a defeat.  The away side’s record in Pamplona is rather dispiriting if you are a Deportivo fan, having won only nine, drawn six and lost 18 of their 33 visits.  Osasuna received some great news on Monday, as Aranda trained with the group.  However, both Rúper and Oier are still recovering from their respective injuries. The away team has a few injuries to contend with as Valerón will be out following an injury to his adductor muscle in his right thigh and will be sidelined for approximately four weeks, while Xisco and Pablo continue to recover from their respective injuries.  However, both Rubén Pérez and Seoane both suffered knocks in training and are pending clearance from the medical team.

Real Sociedad vs Levante

Levante will travel to San Sebastian where they will face off against Real Sociedad in the Anoeta.  La Real will want to forget about the thrashing they received on the weekend at the hands of Espanyol whilst, Levante will be looking to continue their somewhat good run of form, winning four of their last five games; their only loss coming against Real Madrid.  The visitors however, will have a difficult time of it considering Real Sociedad’s home record this season- eight wins and four losses from 12 games.  Also, the Granotes have an extremely atrocious record in the Anoeta, losing four and drawing two of their six visits there.  Their last visit to the Anoeta came in the second division last season which saw La Real earn a comfortable 3-1 victory.  The first meeting this season at the Ciutat de Valencia ended 2-1 in favour of Levante and surely La Real will be looking to return the favour on Wednesday.  Xabi Prieto, despite, training on his own on Monday could be set for a return against Levante.  There were no fresh reports of injuries in either La Real or Levante’s camp.

Valencia vs Barcelona

In Wednesday’s final game Barcelona will travel to the Mestalla where they will face third place Valencia.  Real Madrid will be hoping Valencia can do them a huge favour by taking all three points from this fixture thus handing them the opportunity of coming within four points of the leaders.  The home side is on an incredible run over the past two months, remaining undefeated in the last 12 league games.  A win or draw for them could see that streak extended to 13 games undefeated over a period of three months.  When these two teams met in round seven of the league, Los Che, were at the start of the round, sitting in first and looked set to remain there when Pablo gave the away side the lead.  However, the Blaugrana mounted a second half comeback which led to a narrow, hard-fought, 2-1 victory- Iniesta and Puyol scoring both goals.  Recently, Barcelona have won only once in the last five league meetings at the Mestalla; drawing two and losing the other two games.  However, of the last ten games, they have won five, drawn two and lost three.  Barcelona received some excellent news on Monday as both Xavi and Jefferen trained with their teammates.  However, both Valdes and Puyol are still recovering from their respective injuries.  Both Albelda and Adruiz are the only two injured players at this time for the home team.

Almería vs Racing Santander

A newly invigorated Racing Santander will travel to Andalucia where they will face off against bottom of the table Almería.  The home side has been in and around the bottom of the table since the start of the season and on Monday night was heavily defeated by fellow relegation candidates, Málaga.  Racing’s new owners realized a need for change at the helm and as such fired Miguel Ángel Portugal some weeks ago and that decision seems to have paid off somewhat, as the Verdiblancos seem quite inspired.  In fact, they are undefeated under new manager Marcelino, winning two and drawing the other, which came against Villarreal on Sunday.  As history would have it, Almería has never beaten Racing in the Mediterranéo- losing one and drawing two of the only three meetings between the two.  Back in October, during round seven of the league, Racing narrowly defeated the Andalucians at home and they will be seeking all three points to continue putting some room between themselves and the bottom three.  The Verdiblancos will have back Colsa after he served his suspension at the weekend but will continue to miss both Tziolis and Serrano with injuries.  Almería will have to do without Ulloa and Luna who both picked up red cards against Málaga on Monday.  Additionally, Bernadello picked up his fifth yellow of the season and will have to sit out the game, while coach José Luis Oltra was also expelled in that game and will be in the stands for the game against Racing.

Real Madrid vs Málaga

The final match of the round will see Real Madrid play host to Málaga at the Santiago Bernabéu.  Real Madrid are coming off a disappointing draw which has put a dent in their title hopes as they are now seven points behind Barcelona.  While their opponents, on Monday night ended an eight game win-less streak by defeating Almería 3-1 at La Rosaleda.  This is a match that will see Pellegrini return to the grounds where, only nine months ago he was still at the helm.  Pellegrini on this occasion will be seeking to end Real Madrid’s perfect home record and Mourinho’s 148 games unbeaten streak in league.  However, it will be a task for the Chilean tactician, as his side has never won at the Santiago Bernabéu and of their 29 first division games played there; they have drawn five and lost 24.  The Anchovies last point at the Bernabéu came September 8, 2001 when former Real Madrid defender, Fernando Sanz scored a 77th minute equalizer to cancel out Dely Valdés’ first half own goal.  Real Madrid will continue to be without Khedira, Canales and Higuaín who are all injured, whilst Málaga’s only injury problem at this point is Baptista.

Top Matches of the round

  • Espanyol vs Mallorca: Espanyol are playing well this season and have been strong at home but will be up against a Mallorca team looking to bounce back following their defeat at the weekend against leaders Barcelona.  In addition, Los Bermellones will be seeking to turn around their road form and a win against the Parakeets can be a start for them.
  • Getafe vs Atlético Madrid: a “Madrid Mini-Derby” which should be entertaining as both teams are looking to end their current run of bad results by collecting all three points.
  • Villarreal vs Hércules: the Yellow Submarines are experiencing an unwanted drop in form and are keen on turning that around when they welcome a struggling Hércules team that hasn’t really lived up to the title of “Dark-horses” following their impressive win over Barcelona in round two of the league this season and are yet to pick up another road win since then.
  • Valencia vs Barcelona: Los Che will be seeking revenge on that 2-1 loss at the Camp Nou in October and will also be hoping to keep their undefeated streak alive.  Meanwhile, their opponents will want to extend their lead over Real Madrid to ten points and heap some pressure onto the Whites who will play on Thursday.
  • Real Madrid vs Málaga: the home team are keen on bouncing back against the Anchovies, while preserving their perfect home record as well as Mourinho’s unbeaten run.  The away side will be led by former Real Madrid coach who probably wants nothing more than to “stick it to his previous employers” by earning a victory against the Whites.

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