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La Liga Jornada 35 Preview: El Clásico takes centre stage
- Updated: 21 April, 2012
Barcelona v Real Madrid
‘The most amazing club game in the world’ were the words former Spain international Gaizka Mendieta used to describe el clásico earlier this week, and few would argue with him. Real Madrid and Barcelona are the greatest club sides on the planet at present and with the history and antagonism this contest brings to boil, seldom is there a dull moment when these two giants collide. Four points separate them at the top of La Liga with Jose Mourinho’s side still in pole position. However, with just one win against the Catalans since he took over in 2010 – not to mention a dire record at Camp Nou – the Portuguese and his star-studded side face a difficult task if they are to hold off a Barcelona team that have been invincible at home at this season.
Mallorca v Zaragoza
The visitors got up last week with a 1-0 win over Granada yet they still lie in the relegation zone five points off the pace. It is a fight for dear survival and with just five fixtures remaining time is running out for Manolo Jimenez and his men. Their Balearic Island hosts, however, are safe for another year despite the trouble in the boardroom earlier in the season.
Sporting v Rayo
It seems inevitable that the Asturians will be relegated come the season’s end. Yet, they are still fighting gallantly; evident by their courageous showing last week at the Santiago Bernabeu where they took the lead before eventually falling to defeat. In Rayo, one of the surprise teams of the year, Sporting face another Madrid-based side whose determined performances this year have earned them praise from all quarters. Jose Ramon Sandoval has worked wonders at Vallecas and, in Michu, they have the highest-scoring midfielder in la liga this season.
Sevilla v Levante
No doubt the surprise package of the season, Levante have continued to defy expectations by maintaining their place in the top four. Champions League football is a real possibility and it would be an astonishing achievement should they qualify for it next season. However, their Andalucían hosts will be determined to get back to form following their horror show last week away to Getafe where they lost 5-1, severely denting their own hopes of European football in the process.
Real Sociedad v Villarreal
The Yellow Submarine have lost their way this season. Relegation remains a real concern and things seem to be going against them as their fight to avoid the drop was made much harder when star player Giuseppe Rossi was ruled out for another six months earlier this week – just after having spent the last six months on the sidelines. Their hosts are in also still in danger of dropping to the Segunda too; this is a true relegation battle.
Granada v Getafe
Madrid-based Getafe have exceeded expectations this season. Level on points with seventh-placed Athletic Bilbao, European football is within their reach. Their 5-1 triumph over Sevilla last weekend suggests they are hitting form at the right time, although they have struggled away from home this season. Their hosts have put on a brave show in their first season in the top-flight for 35 years, however, Abel Resino’s men still need every point they can get if they are to make sure they don’t go straight back down again.
Racing Club v Athletic Club
On the brink of relegation, Racing could be officially the first team to go down if they fail to win and other results go against them. Marcelo Bielsa’s Basque side, on the other hand, are pushing for a European place and cannot afford to drop points with the five teams below them equal on points. They lost the first leg of their Europa League tie against Sporting Lisbon and will be looking to return to bounce back in this one.
Atletico Madrid v Espanyol
Los Rojiblancos enjoyed an entertaining 4-2 victory over Valencia midweek in their Europa League. Champions League football might be a bridge too far, however, Diego Simeone’s side will look to finish the campaign in strong fashion. Their Catalan hosts are in great form though which should make for an engaging affair at the Vincente Calderon.
Valencia v Real Betis
A poor run of form which has included three losses in their last six La Liga outings, Valencia’s grip on third place has come under threat from the ever-improving Malaga. Convincingly beaten by Atletico Madrid on Thursday, Unai Emery is a man under the cosh. But, in Betis the Valencianas will find a side safe from relegation and perhaps looking ahead already to the next campaign.
Osasuna v Malaga
Modest Levante have drawn all the credit this season with their meteoric rise to the higher echelons of La Liga. But, sneaking under the radar have been Osasuna who have crept up to sixth place and in a great position to qualify for Europe.
Malaga sit in fourth place and a few years ago this would have been cause for wild praise also. But, with the funds that they have thrown on star players thanks to their new owners, much more is expected of them now. Manuel Pellegrini’s side are in with a chance to steal the last remaining automatic qualification spot for the Champions League. With just two losses in their last ten they are doing their bit to end the season well. However, they still have to face Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.Follow @icentrocampista