La Liga reaches its halfway mark with a Sunday full of thrilling showdowns including a Real Madrid side now fighting for its spot in the top four

A Real showdown in Seville for Betis and Madrid

Real Betis – Real Madrid is one classy matchup for any weekend.

One of the most traditional, flavorful and interesting pairings in Spanish football, it has become even more interesting this year as Betis are only four points away in the table from a quite unreliable and easy-to-beat Real Madrid.

Los Blancos easily defeated Leganés in Copa del Rey, whereas Betis suffered against Real Sociedad and couldn’t win the game (0-0), so they will need the extra energy next week if they want to move on to quarterfinals.

This won’t detract from their effort in front of their crowd on Sunday. Last season, both games were incredibly close, with an away win by Setien’s men at Bernabeu (0-1) and a Real Madrid comeback months later in Seville (3-5). The most unpredictable game of the weekend, hands down.

A Copa-uplifted Levante looks to conquer the Wanda Metropolitano

The Copa del Rey might be regarded as a pesky competition by some, as it requires the allocation of resources and player effort to reach the final stages. Barça learned that lesson in a tough way on Thursday after being overrun and dominated by a spirited Levante, with a final outcome (2-1) that has the current champions in a tight spot in next week’s second leg.

With such a victory achieved by some players who are not used to starting, Paco López and his players will set foot in the Wanda Metropolitano and face an Atleti side who couldn’t overcome Girona a few days ago (1-1) and will possibly rest key players.

A match-ball for Valencia’s Marcelino in front of the Mestalla fans

Valencia are currently just a mess.

After losing at Mendizorroza last weekend, their surprising defeat against Sporting de Gijón (a Segunda División team) in the Copa del Rey and the current run of just four wins in 18 La Liga games has sent the whole club into a frenzy of rumours, conspiracies and the potential sacking of Marcelino being regarded as imminent.

However, the club’s general director Mateu Alemany got in front of the press on Thursday and stated that he had “no plans” to make changes “in the short term.”

This backing of the coach, even though not as solid as last December (when he said Marcelino would “definitely” finish the season on the bench), could be put to the test on Saturday if Real Valladolid, who have won only one of the last nine games, manage to pick up points in Mestalla.

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Athletic Club in a repeat clash against a super Sevilla

A clash of dynamics between two teams who aspired for greatness at the beginning of the season but are completing very different runs. Athletic Club have been painful to watch at times this season, but it seems ‘Toto’ Berizzo’s sacking has been cathartic for them.

The Basque side remains unbeaten in four league games and managed to score a big win last week against Celta. Also, they confirmed a few days ago the signing of Ibai Gómez: ‘the prodigal son’ returning home two seasons later straight from Alavés for a $4.6 million price tag.

Their season can’t be compared to Sevilla’s, though. Pablo Machín’s squad has been consistently delivering great performances and has clung to that third spot in the standings for quite a while.

After polishing off Athletic in the Copa del Rey last Wednesday, this will be the second of the three games both teams will play against each other in only one week. And, obviously, the Sevillistas will seek to get away with a similarly positive outcome.

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