Sour grapes spill over?
Following El Clasico on Wednesday night, Real Madrid were unhappy with the lack of use of the VAR for several incidents. Predominantly though they were annoyed with the large scrape that Clement Lenglet left on the thigh of Raphael Varane which went unpunished. Los Blancos have requested the audio of the conversation between the referee and the VAR team and are claiming a conspiracy against them. It will be interesting to see whether this will have any impact on how their game is refereed at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu this weekend. They close their La Liga programme for the winter break when they host Athletic Club who have returned to form and climbed the table once more. Athletic have five draws in their away outings this season and Los Blancos will have their work cut out to be top on Christmas day.
Pile on the pressure
Anything less than all three points and Barcelona face the prospect of going into Christmas trailing their biggest rivals. Los Cules will look to put as much pressure as possible on Madrid’s tricky Sunday tie when they face Alaves in the Camp Nou on Saturday. El Glorioso have been less than glorious away from the Mendizorrotza stadium this season with just one victory and a draw in their eight fixtures. Everything points to the home side extending their 20-game unbeaten run in La Liga at Camp Nou, during which they have dropped just four points.
From top to bottom
Two sides will be aiming to ensure that they are not bottom of the pile this Christmas are Espanyol and Leganes who sit in 19th and 20th positions respectively and are deadlocked on 10 points going into the weekend. They face each other in a Sunday lunchtime kick off that could be do or die for both sides. Javier Aguirre has successfully found a formula to bring some upward momentum to his side after a tricky run of opening games. However, Pablo Machin’s tenure has been more stop than stop start with goals and points proving hard to come by. Whoever loses will find no solace in the fact that just one side in the last seven years has survived having been bottom of La Liga at Christmas.
Referee Xavier Estrada Fernandez currently leads the way in the highest number of cards given this season, with 54 yellows and three red cards in his nine games. Estrada will take charge of Real Betis against Atletico Madrid on Sunday afternoon with both sides hoping that he has already delivered his season’s greetings. Betis will be looking to continue their resurgence following ten points out of the last possible 12 which has catapulted them up the table and away from danger. Atleti, having fallen outside of the European spots, returned to winning ways last weekend at the Wanda with their first win in four games. Cholo will be aiming for another win to give his side their first back to back La Liga victory since the first of September.
Twitter: Alex Fitzpatrick