Five things to watch in La Liga this weekend

Midweek madness

The TV scheduling for the midweek fixtures in La Liga means that several clubs have a very small turnaround between games this weekend. For example, Mallorca – whose game finished at 9pm on Thursday night – face a midday Sunday start away at Real Valladolid. Transit and tiredness means that if we haven’t already then we may see rotations from a number of clubs in this gameweek. Remember, in Spanish football playing three games in a week is unusual unless you are competing in European football.

Battle at the top

La Liga remains the closest it has been in years with five teams within three points of league leaders Barcelona. The Blaugrana leapfrogged Granada into top spot after their victory on Tuesday night and the Andalucian side were unable to reclaim their place at the summit with defeat away to Getafe. Both Barca and Real Madrid have a game in hand on their rivals after the postponed El Clasico fixture. Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid are sitting two points back from top spot and Cholo will feel that his side have got much more to give. They have scored only 11 goals and have drawn five games already this season.

Race for the Pichichi

The race for the Pichichi (top goalscorer) is hotting up with a number of players taking advantage of the early absence of Leo Messi to race ahead in the scoring charts. Gerard Moreno has found the back of the net eight times already for free-scoring Villarreal, who were also top La Liga scorers before the avalanche of goals at the Camp Nou this midweek.  Hot on his heels are Karim Benzema and a surprise inclusion on the list, Loren Morón. The Real Betis striker already has more goals this season than he managed in the entire campaign last time out. Whisper it quietly though, their lead at the top might not last for long, as Lionel Messi is back.

Return of the GOAT

After an injury ridden start to the season that coincided with Barcelona’s worst league start in 25 years, Lionel Messi announced himself as fully back up to speed in La Liga midweek with one of his trademark performances. The Argentine grabbed two goals and two assists in the 5-1 victory over Real Valladolid in the Camp Nou which included a pinpoint free-kick. With Barca’s talisman back on full form, La Liga defences will need to watch out once more and Levante will be on full alert at Estadi Ciutat de València this weekend.

The trapdoor

11 games in and things are starting to sort themselves out at the bottom of the table. A gap could open up with the bottom six teams being cut slightly adrift should results go to form. Real Valladolid host Mallorca this weekend and Eibar visit Butarque to face basement side Leganes in two key relegation clashes. Mallorca have not picked up a point away from the island this season and, with two days less preparation time than their rivals, will be up against it at the Estadio José Zorrilla. Leganes got their first victory of the season at home last weekend and will be hoping to bounce back from a punishing defeat in their short trip across Madrid midweek to the Santiago Bernabéu. Fabián Orellana scored a dramatic 95th minute winner for Eibar midweek which catapulted them up the table but they are without a win on their travels this season.

Twitter: Alex Fitzpatrick