Round 22 of the 2018/19 La Liga season will see Barcelona having the chance to put pressure on nearest chasers Atletico Madrid, though they face a potentially tricky opponent in Europe-chasing Valencia.
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For the past several rounds of the Spanish top flight, Barca have had to play catch-up, responding to an earlier result from Atletico. This past weekend for example, Ernesto Valverde’s side had their lead cut to two points when Los Rojiblancos won at home to Getafe on the Saturday, only for the buffer to be restored on Sunday with Barca’s 2-0 win at Girona.
This time around the Blaugrana have the chance to stretch their lead out to eight points almost a full day before Atletico will be able to respond, yet Valencia will not be easy prey, even at the Camp Nou. Los Che have lost just one of their last seven La Liga matches and put together an impressive 3-0 home over Villarreal last weekend which featured goals from MouctarDiaby, Denis Cheryshev and Rodrigo.
Marcelino’s side are on the rise after a difficult first half of the season and now find themselves just two points short of the Europa League qualifying berth. They would love nothing more than the chance to put a spanner in the works as far as Barca’s title push in concerned, and they’ll also have the benefit of an extra day’s rest from their Copa del Rey midweek commitments.
Atletico Madrid’s ‘response’ match on Sunday is also a tricky one, as they travel to the Estadio Bonito Villamarin to face Real Betis. Yet Diego Simeone will be able to call on a new reinforcement up front, with Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata having joined on loan for the rest of the season. The ex-Real Madrid man will hope to make his La Liga debut for Atletico when they take on Los Verdiblancos.
Real Madrid will be involved in one of the round’s more intriguing clashes as they host Deportivo Alaves in the late game on Sunday night. Alaves have been one of the surprise packages of the La Liga season thus far, punching well above their weight to be placed in fifth position. There was a time a few weeks ago when they were dreaming of Champions League qualification, and a win at the Bernabeu could revive those hopes.
Coach Abelardo Fernandez led his side to a 1-0 home win over Real when the teams last met back in October and a ‘double’ over Los Blancos would be a sweet achievement for the former Barcelona defender.
Other key games in round 21 of La Liga include relegation
battles such as Rayo Vallecano v Leganes and Villarreal v Espanyol, and the
Basque derby which sees Real Sociedad host Athletic Bilbao at
Estadio Municipal de Anoeta on Saturday evening.
Key match stats
Barcelona v Valencia – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 59
Barcelona wins 31
Valencia wins 12
Real Madrid v Deportivo Alaves – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 17
Real wins 13
Alaves wins 2
Real Betis v Atletico Madrid – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 44
Betis wins 11
Atletico wins 20
La Liga fixtures, 1-4 February
All times CAT
Friday 1 February
22:00: Huesca v Real Valladolid– LIVE on SS7, Max2 & SelGo4
Saturday 2 February
14:00: Levante v Getafe– LIVE on SS7/SS10, Max2/Max360&SelGo2/SelGo4
17:15: Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao– LIVE on SS7, Max2 & SelGo4
19:30: Barcelona v Valencia– LIVE on SS7, Max2 & SelGo4
21:45: Eibar v Girona– LIVE on SS7, Max2 & SelGo4
Sunday 3 February
13:00: Villarreal v Espanyol– LIVE on SS7/SS10, Max2/Max360 & SelGo2/SelGo4
17:15: Real Betis v Atletico Madrid– LIVE on SS7, Max2 & SelGo4
19:30: Celta de Vigo v Sevilla– LIVE on SS7, Max2 & SelGo4
21:45: Real Madrid v Deportivo Alaves– LIVE on SS7, Max2 & SelGo4
Monday 4 February
22:00: Rayo Vallecano v Leganes– LIVE on SS7, Max2 & SelGo4