Winter is coming and as it closes in, La Liga has finally started to stretch out with teams edging ahead, or behind, at the top and bottom of the table. As always, tips for La Liga matches are always worth checking out. With four gameweeks left until the winter break, here are five things to look out for in La Liga this weekend.
Celta Vigo and Iago Aspas rise Again
After a lacklustre start to the season, Celta Vigo found themselves in the bottom three. Four defeats in a row saw the end of boss Fran Escriba and in came Oscar Garcia who managed to find that elusive win last weekend in just his second game in charge. The journeyman manager even managed to get star player Iago Aspas back on form, with his two goals helping Celta to become the first side to win at Estadio de la Cerámica this season. A win against Real Valladolid on Friday night would lift them out of the relegation zone and put them just two points behind their opponents.
It will surprise nobody to find out that Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are the highest scoring partnership in La Liga with 15 goals between them this season. However, hot on their heels are a more surprising duo plying their trade in the Basque country. Leading the line for Alaves, Lucas Perez and Joselu have 13 goals between them so far. The partnership will be looking to close that gap this weekend in difficult circumstances against Real Madrid but will have the benefit of home advantage. The Mendizorrotza stadium has been a fortress again this season where they have been defeated only once and have collected 14 out of a possible 21 points.
Big game at the Wanda
The partnership looking to maintain Barcelona’s lead at the top of the table will have a tough trip to the Wanda Metrepolitano on Sunday night where Atletico Madrid await. Diego Simeone’s men are (along with Osasuna) La Liga’s draw specialists with seven already this season. Another draw last weekend means that they are now five points behind Sunday’s rivals who also have a game in hand. If Atleti are to maintain any kind of title push, then it is do or die for them on Sunday night. On the charge though is Messi, looking to remind everyone of who the top contender for the Ballon d'Or is once again before Monday evening’s announcement. The Argentinian has capped his last six games with eight goals and four assists.
Espanyol look to make their nest more comfortable
On Sunday morning, millions across the world will open that first window on the advent calendar yet fans of Espanyol are still yet to see their side win at home in La Liga this season. They did however pick up their first point at the RCDE Stadium against Getafe in an encouraging performance last weekend – they created chance after chance but couldn’t find the finishing touch. Goals have been their problem this season and they have only three at home in seven games. Wu Lei is the chosen one to lead the line currently and got their goal last weekend. Sunday’s opponents, Osasuna, compete for every ball and with Chimmy Avila leading the line, will leave not a moment’s rest for the defence. Goals though have been an issue for them on their travels with just five in seven games away from Pamplona. Los Rojillos will still be smarting from losing their 31-game unbeaten home record last weekend against Athletic Club and will want to make amends.
Beaches and Betis
Saturday evening sees a key game in the battle to beat the drop when Vicente Moreno’s Mallorca host Betis, led by Rubi. Sergio Canales’s injury time winner against Valencia gave Betis a second home win in three, results that have lifted them – temporarily at least – out of the danger zone. However, they are still yet to win away from home and have only accumulated two points away from the Benito Villamarin. Mallorca though are not the most hospitable of hosts and have three wins and a draw in their last four games at Son Moix. A win for Betis would really announce the beginning of the season for Los Verdiblancos and that Rubi has started to make his mark. A Mallorca victory would see them leapfrog Betis and continue their feast famine home and away form.
Twitter: Alex Fitzpatrick