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A Catalan derby, a showdown between Valencia and Sevilla and a clutch fixture for two big teams suffering sorry seasons – here’s match day 15 in La Liga

It’s a match ball for Valencia: to win or the kiss the Champions League goodbye

It’s not that often that a club with the sheer gravitas and relevance of Valencia try to create the sort of atmosphere saved for crucial games in early December. But Valencia have run themselves into a corner after an appalling start to the season. With the urge to finish in the top four spots so the financial numbers fall in line with the club’s forecasts, Valencia are now ten points away from Sevilla, their foe on Saturday.

Should Valencia lose, their goal this season would be a whopping 13 points away, given that most predictions place Barça, Real Madrid and Atlético also in the fray for the La Liga title. That would be utterly impossible to overcome. So, at least for them, it’s win…or die, Game of Thrones style.

Meanwhile, Sevilla will set foot in Mestalla with their homework done to this point: a win means delivering a killing blow to the Bats while once again reaching the top of the league, at least for a few hours. They should watch out for the atmosphere, though: things are getting desperate for the local crowd and the pressure will be high. Could we talk about ‘Rage against the Machín’, then?

The Catalan Derby loses some of its spice

One month ago, Saturday’s game between RCD Espanyol and FC Barcelona wouldn’t have just been the biggest game of the weekend: it would have been considered one of the biggest battles of the whole season. Unfortunately, the ‘Periquitos’ have been slowly losing steam throughout November and are no longer at arm’s length from the top of the league.

This doesn’t mean that Espanyol are going to yield without putting up a fight. It’s true that the atmosphere will probably not be as heavy as when Luis Enrique and Quique Sánchez Flores used to butt heads in the technical area. In that sense, Valverde and Rubi have proven to be much more sensible individuals, shaking hands and posing with their shirts hours before the game.

Fair-play, right? They both have a past in the house in the ‘opposite’ side of town, after all: Valverde used to be a Espanyol player and manager, whereas Rubi was a member of Tito Vilanova’s staff back in the day.

The preview might be calm but, football-wise, things will surely heat up. Espanyol haven’t been able to defeat the Culés yet in their Cornellà-El Prat stadium. Gerard Piqué might easily be the most hated guy by Periquito fans. And finally, there’s Leo Messi: in the week he was named the fifth best player of the world (LOL to say the least), he might be saving a true masterclass for this weekend in order to set the record straight.

Villarreal and Celta battle to drag themselves out of the mud

This will be a truly unnatural, nerve-wracking fixture. Villarreal (!4 points) are just slightly out of relegation spots, with their coach unscathed even though the form of the team has been awful. Celta (17 points) are a bit ahead of them, but already with Turco Mohamed out of sight and with Miguel Cardoso having seized a crucial three points last week against Huesca.

Both sides were built this summer with much more ambitious goals in mind, but they are struggling to leave the bottom of the standings. In a desperate run to survive, it’s the key players who make the difference. And both sides have their fair share of quality: Ekambi and Gerard Moreno in the home side, magician Iago Aspas and Maxi Gómez in the away squad.

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