The latest round of La Liga sees Barcelona winning even if they lose and Real Madrid having to prove that they are still up for a fight in front of their fans
Valencia visit the impenetrable Mendizorroza fortress
Valencia are first up on Saturday, coming off an epic 93rd minute win at home against Huesca with an unexpected Piccini strike which sent the crowd into a frenzy and sweetened the Christmas holidays for Marcelino’s men.
Now, they must set foot in one of the rowdiest grounds in Spain: not exactly the most comfy start to the year for any side.
Mendizorroza has been absolutely impossible to assault this season, as Alavés have amassed four wins and four draws to date and remain undefeated at home. With 60 points picked up in 2018, Alavés was the third most in-form team and, currently sitting in fifth, they’ve no intention of losing their momentum.
A win would rocket Alavés to fourth. Should Valencia beat the hosts, the Bats would again score a big leap in the standings, only six points away from the Champions League spots.
Last training before matchday ✔️ pic.twitter.com/TLbHVpekvU
— Valencia CF English 🦇💯 (@valenciacf_en) January 4, 2019
Super weekend showdown at Pizjuán
I guess this is *the* game to watch this weekend, as it pits Sevilla and Atlético Madrid – two of the biggest powerhouses – in a sure-to-be incredible atmosphere inside the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.
It’s third against second in a battle which has one clear winner from the outset: FC Barcelona, who will remain top of the league and see how their two chasers lose points regardless of the outcome.
So many things to watch in this game: the tactical challenge Pablo Machín will provide to Cholo Simeone; the relevance of set-pieces; Atlético’s fierce defense against Sevilla’s resourceful attackers (now missing Luis Muriel, already loaned to Fiorentina); the battle in the midfield with youngsters such as Pablo Sarabia and Saúl Ñíguez calling the shots… If there’s one game to watch on Sunday, you must tune in to this beauty on the telly.
What face will Real show in front of their fans?
That’s the big question nowadays. Real showed in the first 45 minutes against Villarreal that, when focused and motivated, they can turn around even the bleakest of situations. In the second half, however, they also confirmed that absolutely any team (regardless of their position in the standings) can clothes-line them when not properly facing the challenge at hand. 34 year-old Santi Cazorla dismantled them with such ease that Solari should be *worried*.
With the Estadio La Cerámica stumble making the title chase almost impossible at this point, Real need the wins to deliver the bare minimum of expectations and make it into the top four, something which isn’t secure at this point. A Real Sociedad in dire straits should be an easy prey for Los Blancos at home, but again, the reliability of this team is not exactly the best.
Barça fly into Bordalas’ mouse-trap
Jumping into the Leo Messi School of Magic bandwagon in the last weeks of 2018, Barça have cruised happily past the opposition left and right thanks to the masterful impact of the GOAT this year, even though the football world’s masterminds (duh) considered he *only* deserved fifth in the Ballon d’Or.
In any other scenario, Barça should be in for a pleasant evening on Sunday to open the new year…
When you meet your heroes 😍 pic.twitter.com/ASapviqyDL
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 4, 2019
… although, unfortunately for them, they must set foot in Getafe’s Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, and that usually means trouble for them. Well, for them and for any unsuspecting and naïve side who might think the ride will be fun and harmless.
Pepe Bordalás has kept refining his team of warriors and, even though their results have been less than stellar lately, they’re still over-performing and surprising any who dare to fall into their trap. Should the Azulones win, they could catch up with Alavés and claim the title of ‘equipo revelación’ of the season so far.