The Clasico between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona is the big game of the weekend in Spain in the last round of matches before the international break, but it is not the only big game. Here are some things to look out for this weekend on Spain.
Can Barca continue improvement?
Real Madrid have beaten Barca twice this season: 2-1 in the Camp Nou with Ronald Koeman in charge of Barca and 3-2 in the Spanish Supercup in Saudi Arabia after Xavi Hernandez had replaced the Dutchman.
Barca played much better in their second meeting, but were undone by Real Madrid’s effectiveness on the break. Since then, they have improved considerably with the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres and Adama Traore giving them more options in attack and although the 15-point gap between them and Real Madrid appears to be too wide for a late title charge, three points on Sunday would confirm their progress under Xavi.
Chance for Real Madrid to confirm their dominance
With the title all but in the bag and two wins over their traditional rivals already this season, it looks as if Real Madrid have more to lose than Barca, given that a defeat won’t really undermine their title chance, but Carlo Ancelotti won’t want to see any relaxation from his side.
Pride is the biggest thing at stake for Real Madrid, the chance to defeat their rivals for the third time this season and move 18 points clear of them would ram home Madrid’s dominance this season, Xinhua reports.
There is a question mark over the fitness of Karim Benzema and it will be interesting to see if Barca have learned how to deal with Vinicius Jr’s pace on the break, but Madrid will see themselves as favourites.
Europe at stake in the Sanchez Pizjuan
Just before the Clasico kicks off Sevilla entertain Real Sociedad in the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. A win for Sevilla would close the gap on Real Madrid to seven points and maybe put a bit of pressure on both Madrid and Barca (who are looking to finish second), but it would also strengthen Sevilla’s case for a return to the Champions League next season.
Sevilla also have to react after Thursday’s painful exit from the Europa League against West Ham.
Real Sociedad are currently seventh and will be missing their captain Mikel Oyarzabal, who will be out for around nine months after injuring his knee on Wednesday. However, they also have to fix things in defense. ‘La Real’ have conceded eight goals in their last three away games, suffering heavy defeats against Real Madrid and Athletic Club Bilbao and with games against five of the six teams above them in the league between now and the end of the season, they will need to tighten up at the back.
Huge game in Vitoria to avoid the drop
Although it won’t get as many headlines as the Clasico, Saturday’s clash between Alaves and Granada is vital in the battle to avoid the drop. Granada travel north after Ruben Torecilla’s debut as first team coach after Robert Moreno’s sacking ended in a 1-0 defeat at home to Elche to stretch their run without a win to 10 games.
That leaves them on 25 points, three above Alaves, who are currently second from bottom after a narrow 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad a week ago.
A win for Granada would give them some breathing room, but if the home side can take all three points, they will still have a chance of survival, although they will have to improve on their dreadful goalscoring record of just 21 goals all season to do that.