Four things to look out for in Spanish League this weekend (preview)

by IANS |

Madrid, Dec 18 (IANS) The 18th and last round of matches in La Liga ahead of the Christmas holidays comes as the number of Covid-19 cases in Spain continues to rise, and that has affected one club particularly badly. Here are some things to look out for this weekend in La Liga.

Real Madrid currently have six players affected by Covid-19 (Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Andriy Lunin, Rodrygo, Marcos Asensio, and Marcelo) and there is a fear more positive test results could be returned in the next 24 or 48 hours ahead of Sunday's game against Cadiz.

At the moment only Asensio, Modric (and perhaps Rodrygo) would have a chance of starting against Cadiz, but if more players come down with the virus, then Carlo Ancelotti, whose son Davide is also infected, could have a major selection problem, especially bearing in mind his side also play in Bilbao next Wednesday.

La Liga rules state that a side has to play if they have 13 first-team players available, so another five or six would have to come down with the virus for the games to be postponed.

FC Barcelona entertain struggling Elche on Saturday deep in a crisis of injuries, results, and confidence after their exit from the Champions League, a defeat at home to Real Betis, and a disappointing draw away to Osasuna.

It certainly hasn't been the homecoming Xavi Hernandez would have hoped for, but results reflect the realities of Barca's squad, which is further weakened by injuries to Pedri, Memphis Depay, Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba, Ansu Fati, and Martin Braithwaite.

Despite the problems, Elche's visit to the Camp Nou on Saturday could at least offer Barca the chance to get a morale-boosting win under their belts. Elche travel 16th in the table, and although they have improved under new coach Francisco Rodriguez, anything other than a Barca win would be a surprise.

Sunday afternoon's game between Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis promises to be fascinating as the Basque side looks to end a run of eight games without a win against a rival that has moved up to third in the table after four consecutive wins.

Athletic haven't played badly and were desperately unlucky to lose to Real Madrid and also to Sevilla after dominating both of their rivals. However, their inability to put the ball in the net has been their Achilles heel all season and with just 13 goals all season, only struggling Getafe have scored fewer.

The hope is that if Athletic continue playing well the goals will come, and with Betis never having won in the new San Mames Stadium, maybe Sunday is the time.

Sevilla and Atletico Madrid play a huge game at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium on Saturday night as Sevilla look to keep on the trail of Real Madrid in the title race, while Atletico need to recover from last weekend's defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu.

That defeat left Atletico 13 points behind their neighbours, and although, like Sevilla, they have a game in hand on the league leaders, their title hopes look to be effectively over.

Atletico travel without the injured Antoine Griezmann, Stefan Savic, Jose Gimenez, and Sime Vrsaljko, but Sevilla are also missing a host of key players such as Oliver Torres, Lucas Ocampos, Erik Lamela, Suso Fernandez, Jesus Navas, and Youssef En-Neysri, and it could well be that a week after losing to their neighbors, Atletico do Real Madrid another favor in Seville.

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