LA LIGA

Basque derby and Ferran Torres' possible hostile return to Mestalla herald super weekend in La Liga

La Liga Santander Matchday 25 preview: The Basque derby is one of the major talking points in La Liga this weekend

LaLiga

There is still all to play for in the LaLiga Santander right now, with just over one-third of the season remaining. The race for the title has been captivating, with the battle for European spots heating up and the fight to avoid relegation is as unpredictable as ever. And this weekend’s action throws up several huge fixtures at all levels of the table.

The first match of week 25 takes place on Friday night when Elche CF host Rayo Vallecano. These teams are moving in opposite directions; Elche has the joint-third-best record over the past six matches, while Rayo Vallecano has the fourth-worst record over the same period.

The capital city side won the meeting earlier in the season, but the Verdiblancos will be confident coming into this one and hope to bounce back from the defeat to Sevilla the last time.

Saturday starts with two of the candidates for Champions League qualification playing on the road.

Samuel Chukwueze and Villarreal CF are first up and will look to keep up their recent good form when they visit the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes, a good hunting ground for the Yellow Submarines, to face CF Granada. The visitors are unbeaten at the Nuevo since 2014.

Meanwhile, struggling defending champions, Atlético de Madrid, will hope to rediscover their form when they visit CA Osasuna, looking to end a run of five away matches in La Liga without a victory.

Cádiz CF vs Getafe CF is next up, with this relegation six-pointer particularly intriguing. Getafe won 4-0 when they hosted the Andalusian side earlier this season but know that it’ll be trickier on the road this time.

However, Cádiz haven’t won any match at home this season. This weekend could be a good time for them to earn that first victory in front of their fans.

Real Madrid and their fans will then welcome the team back to the Santiago Bernabéu following a disappointing outing in the Champions League in mid-week on Saturday night for a home match against D. Alavés.

Real were 4-1 winners in the Basque Country when the two sides met on the season's opening weekend. That kickstarted Los Blancos’ charge to the top of the table and they’ll look for another three points to maintain their lead over second-placed Sevilla.

It’s the title challengers, Sevilla, who will kick-off La Liga activities on Sunday when they go face to face with their host RCD Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium.

This won’t be an easy trip for Julen Lopetegui’s side, especially as they have a significant list of absentees, but after a very good win in Europe in the Europa League, this is the kind of match that a title-chasing team like Sevilla should be able to navigate to keep the pressure on league leaders, Real Madrid.

A classic fixture in Spanish football will see Valencia CF take on FC Barcelona at Mestalla on Sunday.

In Barça’s last four league visits there, they’ve only won one of them, which was last year during the lockdown when there were no supporters in the stands.

This weekend, the fans will be back to cheer on Los Che, while they’ll also see former academy graduate Ferran Torres, who had the fans tore into after a profligate display on Thursday in their Europa League round of 32 clash against Napoli at Camp Nou, return to Mestalla for the first time since he left in 2020.

For the home side, Valencia’s new winter loan signing, Ilaix Moriba, will be facing his parent club, Barcelona, for the first time since he left just last summer and will be looking to make an impression.

Real Betis are next up on Sunday as the third-placed outfit look to keep up their dream of Champions League qualification.

They’ll come into this game after a Thursday night Europa League trip to Russia, so may need to lean on their squad depth when they host an RCD Mallorca side that has rediscovered some form.

Then, at 9 pm CET on Sunday, it’s the Basque derby between Athletic Club and Real Sociedad.

This will be the first time since August 2019 that these two sides meet in Bilbao with fans allowed in the stands, so a special atmosphere should be expected.

Athletic Club will also hope to end a five-match winless run in this derby, knowing that European qualification could be possible if they do.

La Real have form coming in this encounter, though; they’ve won two of the last three derbies at San Mames.

RC Celta vs Levante UD then concludes the matchday on Monday night, with the Galician side hopeful of entering the race for European qualification too.

Against the bottom-placed team in the division, Eduardo Coudet will expect his charges to keep up their recent winning run at home.

They’ve won three in a row at the Abanca-Balaídos and will hope to make it four in the final fixture of Matchday 25.

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