Four things to look out for in Spain's Matchday 16

by IANS |

Madrid, Dec 3 (IANS) The 16th round of matches in La Liga this weekend should test Real Madrid's fitness to the limit, while Xavi Hernandez will need his luck to hold when FC Barcelona take on an in-form Real Betis. Here are some things to look out for this weekend in Spain.

1. Tough trip for tired Real Madrid

Real Madrid visit Real Sociedad in a key game for the title race on Saturday, just three days after their lucky win at home to Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

Athletic should have beaten a lackluster Real Madrid after tearing holes through their defense time and again, but somehow contriving to miss a hatful of chances. The Real Madrid midfield and defence looked tired and with little recovery time, it's tempting to think that a Real Sociedad attack of Mikel Oyarzabal, Alexander Isak and David Silva won't be as generous as their neighbours were, so Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will have to consider squad rotation, with Nacho and Fede Valverde favourites to come into the side.

2. Xavi will need his luck to continue against Betis

Two wins from two league games have served to boost morale following Xavi's appointment as Barcelona coach, but a close analysis of those two wins tells a different story with Barca beating Espanyol thanks to a questionable penalty, while their rivals twice hit the woodwork, Xinhua reports. Last weekend's win away to Villarreal came after the VAR failed to penalize Gerard Pique for a clear handball, with Barca's two late goals coming as Villarreal were pushing for a winning their control deserved.

Betis visit the Camp Nou after two league wins ended a minor slump in form and with striker Juanmi currently the top scoring Spanish player in La Liga. Meanwhile, Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales give Betis creativity in the middle of the park for another game where Barca may need some lady luck on their side.

3. Huge game with Europe in the background

Sevilla and Villarreal go head-to-head in the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium on Saturday in a game that both sides would be forgiven for wanting to put to one side for a week given their European commitments.

Villarreal have to avoid defeat to Atalanta next week to assure their place in the last 16 of the Champions League, while Sevilla need to win away to Salzburg to book their ticket into the lucrative knockout stage of the competition.

However, Saturday's game is vital for both sides, with Sevilla fourth in La Liga with a game in hand over leaders Real Madrid, while Villarreal need to start picking up points fast with just three league wins and seven draws this campaign.

Expect some changes in both sides for a game neither can ignore.

4. 16th time lucky for Levante?

Javier Pereira became the second first-team coach to be sacked by bottom of the table Levante this week, bringing his brief seven-game reign to an end without a win in their first 15 league matches of the season, the club from Valencia has put B-team boss Alessio Lisci in charge and he got off to a good start with an 8-0 win over lowly Huracan Melilla in the Copa del Rey. Now Levante look for their first league win of the campaign at home to Osasuna on Sunday afternoon and may fancy their chances against a side that is without a win in six games in which they have scored just twice.

Levante's squad is much better than their results suggest and if Lisci can take a win, they could still have a chance of survival.

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