Just to recap. Last weekend Real Madrid trooped 9 points clear in the pole position in La Liga by surpassing Real Murcia 1-0 while both their nearest title challengers failed to amass maximum points, FC Barcelona drawing 2-2 at Recreativo de Huelva, Villarreal losing 1-0 to Almeria. It is week 33 in Spain this time and things might just alter their pattern.
Champions elect Real travel to Racing Santander on Sunday with doubts hanging ominously on their star players Robinho an Julio Cesar Baptista. Spanish papers this week suggested that the Real Madrid board were contemplating offloading the Brazilian duo in the summer and this could well be true. The trip to el Sardinero is particularly a tricky one for the Merengues who haven’t quite looked comfortable away from home this season and Racing could pose a potential banana skin this Sunday. Racing have been the most consistent side in the Spanish top flight this season and are just 1 point off ihe fourth UEFA Champions League spot. Last week Racing saw off Valencia 2-1 at the Mestalla and confidence is rippling across entire Santander.
Second place Barcelona too have a tough fixture this weekend. The Blaugrana host city rivals Espanyol Barcelona at home on Saturday in the Catalan derby. In the corresponding fixture earlier his season, Espanyol were unlucky to have dropped 2 points. Espanyol have been the worst side in La Liga in the second half of the season and are yet to win this year. So much so that they’ve lost all hopes of even finishing in a UEFA Cup spot. Barca, on the other hand, have one eye on the Champions League semi-final tie with Manchester United next week and coach Frank Rijkaard might as well rest a few of his first teamers.
Third place Villarreal, 1 point off Barca, have no such European commitment this season and are anticipated to put on a firm full stop to their two-match losing sequence when they host relegation strugglers Valladolid. Valladolid are just 5 points above the dropzone in 15th but should lose to the Yellow Submarine who would be without their first choice goalkeeper Diego Lopez who is suspended. Fourth place Atletico Madrid play midtable Real Betis on Saturday.
It’s not often that when Athletic de Bilbao and Valencia clash in a league fixture it is the Basque giants who occupy the higher position in the standings; but this time it is so! Bilbao are one of a host of clubs locked on 41 points in the table while Valencia are 2 points behind in 16th. Los Che did win the Copa del Rey on Wednesday by beating Getafe 3-1 in the final but with his side just 5 points above the dreaded drop, coach Ronald Koeman knows that he cannot allow any respite to creep in. Valencia are on a three-match losing stride in the league but need to put a hold onto that at San Mames on Saturday.
There’s a relegation six-pointer at La Romarede on Saturday when Real Zaragoza entertain Recreativo. Manolo Villanova’s messy Zaragoza side celebrated last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Getafe as if they had won the match and many los manus optimists suppose that this could spin a mini-revival. But Recre should’ve other plans. They are 2 points ahead of them and a win would enable them to peel away even further. Rock bottom Levante who astonishingly beat Real Betis 1-0 at the Ruiz de Lopera last week host Getafe while Real Murcia play Real Mallorca.
In other games in the Spanish top flight this weekend, Osasuna clash with midtable and increasingly improving Deportivo la Coruna while Sevilla FC, inching closer to the prized fourth spot, host this season’s surprise package Almeria. Sevilla are 3 points off Atleti in sixth while Almeria are 6 points below the Andalucians in 7th.