La Liga Preview: Tough weekend for relegation candidates as battle for European spots intensifies

It’s a very important weekend for La Liga’s relegation candidates. Racing Santander and Sporting Gijon go head-to-head and Real Zaragoza face a tough match that could be vital in their battle for survival. Villarreal, hovering dangerously close to the bottom three, are looking for a boost in confidence as well as a few points to help them scramble away from the relegation zone.

The fight for European football is also intensifying with Atletico Madrid meeting champions Barcelona, Espanyol hosting Levante and Valencia travelling to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to face Sevilla, an important match for both sides.

Racing Santander host Sporting Gijon at the Estadio El Sardinero on Saturday. Both sides, ranked second and third from bottom respectively, have gone their last five matches without a win. Racing have a three point advantage over Javier Clemente’s men and have not lost to the Rojiblancos in the last seven meetings in Santander.

Verdiblancos trio Jairo Samperio, Lautaro Acosta and Khouma Babacar return from injury in time to face Sporting but Gonzalo Colsa is doubtful for the match. Ivan Hernandez faces a late fitness test to see if he will be able to slot back into the Sporting defence whilst Alberto Lora is a doubt and Andre Castro is suspended for the trip to Santander.

Real Zaragoza could fall further behind the pack this week as they travel to the south of Spain to face Malaga. Manuel Pellegrini’s side are trying to force their way into the European spots and will be expecting a routine win this weekend as Zaragoza have won just one league game away from home this season.

Julio Baptista has made significant progress in his recovery this week but is still a long way from returning to the Malaga starting XI. Jesus Gamez has returned to training and could be in the squad to face Zaragoza.

Villarreal will be desperate to pick up points as they look to haul themselves away from the relegation zone. The Yellow Submarine face Athletic Bilbao who will be in high spirits following their victory over Lokomotiv Moscow in the Europa League during the week.

Levante will be looking to bring an end to their eight game winless streak and fire themselves back into the fight for a European spot with a win over fellow contenders Espanyol. Granotas Coach Juan Ignacio Martinez has a full squad to choose from apart from Juanlu Gomez who is still struggling with a fractured fibula and is not scheduled to return to training until March.

Mauricio Pochettino will be without striker Thievy Bifouma for the weekend’s clash as he is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card last week. Javi Lopez, Joan Verdu and Alvaro Vazquez are also unavailable for the match at the Cornella El-Prat.

Atletico Madrid, who are still unbeaten under new Coach Diego Simeone, will fancy their chances against a Barcelona side which has dropped 16 points away from home in La Liga.

Madrid currently sit in sixth place and will be looking to boost their chances of European football with a victory over Pep Guardiola’s side. The Rojiblancos will be high in confidence after progressing into the last 16 of the Europa League with a win over Lazio on Thursday.

Sevilla picked up their first win in nine games under new manager Michel Gonzalez last week and a victory over Valencia on Sunday would give them a massive confidence boost and a realistic chance of fighting for a European spot. Los Che, who are now 11 points behind Barcelona, will be anxious not to drop any more points as they look to cement themselves in third place.


17.00 Racing Santander v Sporting Gijon,

17.00 Real Betis v Getafe,

19.00 Malaga v Real Zaragoza

21.00 Espanyol v Levante


11.00 Villarreal v Athletic Bilbao

15.00 Rayo Vallecano v Real Madrid

17.00 Osasuna v Granada

17.00 Real Sociedad v Real Mallorca

17.00 Valencia v Sevilla

20.30 Atletico Madrid v Barcelona

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