Saturday, 14 April 2012

La Liga Week 33 Preview

This is the beginning of a massive two weeks for Spain’s giants. With Real Madrid and Barcelona separated by just four points and next week’s El Clasico sandwiched between two legs of Champions League semi-finals this will be a real test of nerve for both sides. At the other end of the table, with six games to go, it looks increasingly like the final three have been decided with a seven point gap now opened up between the bottom three and 17th placed Villarreal.

Real Madrid host doomed Sporting Gijon on Saturday. Sporting are marooned in 19th but gave themselves hope with an impressive 3-2 win over Levante on Wednesday night. They will still need a miracle to escape the drop now though and Javier Clemente’s side won’t have much of a prayer at the Bernabeu with the form Real have been in. Jose Mourinho’s side registered another emphatic victory in midweek as they crushed their local rivals Atletico 4-1 thanks to a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo. Los Merengues are just three goals away from scoring 107 for the season and breaking the record number of goals for a Liga season set by John Toshack’s Real in 1989-90. Ronaldo also set his own record by becoming the only player in Europe’s top four divisions to score 40 goals in successive seasons. With the midweek Champions’ League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich coming up Mourinho will be tempted to rotate his side. Ozil, Marcelo and Higuain were all rested against Atletico and could be brought back in against Gijon.

Barcelona just need to keep on winning. They visit a Levante side sat in fifth and still very much in the hunt for a place in next seasons’ Champions League. On Wednesday, Pep Guardiola’s side cruised to a 4-0 victory over Getafe to make it ten wins in a row and are in fine fettle ahead of El Clasico. Levante caused a shock early in the season as they beat Real with a solitary Aruna Kone goal but they are 14/1 to repeat the feat against Barca. The Champions have no new injury worries and they received a boost this week as David Villa announced that he would be back in contention before the end of the season.

Unai Emery gave himself a reprieve as Valencia crushed Rayo Vallecano 4-1 in midweek to give themselves a two point cushion in third place above Malaga. The Turkish manager has come under criticism from Los Ches fans as his side’s form has dipped with Malaga and Levante threatening to steal automatic qualification to the Champions’ League. Valencia visit Espanyol on Sunday and need to keep up their momentum to keep the chasing pack at bay. The Catalunians’ hopes of qualifying for European football next season have taken a hit in recent weeks as they are winless in five. Valencia have also won four of the last five meetings between the two sides.

Malaga will be looking to get back to winning ways against Real Sociedad. Malaaga’s charge into the top four has been laboured and they would be third had it not been for recent upsets against relegation threatened Betis and Villarreal. The odds favour the home side and the likes of Cazorla, Rondon and Isco should feast on a leaky Sociedad defence. Malaga will be without keeper Idris Kameni who was sent off at Villarreal in midweek.