Madrid, Jan 2: The La Liga football returns to action this weekend following the Christmas break with several sides hoping the fortnight’s ictivity could change their fortunes, while others hoping a weekend off would have done nothing to interrupt their form.
The standout game of the weekend sees league leaders Real Madrid travel to Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium on Sunday for what is without doubt one off their toughest away trips of the season against a rival who has ambitions of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Real Madrid may have lost a friendly game to AC Milan in Dubai over the holidays, but have won their last 22 matches in all competitions and a win in Valencia would leave their rivals wondering how Carlo Ancelotti’s men could drop points.
Reigning champions Atletico Madrid get the ball rolling in 2015 at home to Levante. The game should serve as a prelude to the return of striker Ferndo Torres who would be presented to the fans in the Vicente Calderon stadium the following morning once the Italian transfer window opens.
Forward Mario Mandzukic and Koke would return after suspension and Atletico should take all three points to give them a morale boost before receiving Real Madrid in the Kings Cup next Wednesday.
Saturday also sees Sevilla back in action against Celta Vigo. Sevilla have serious ambitions for a top–four finish, while Celta are one of the teams hoping for a change in fortunes in the New Year after a miserable run of six games without scoring a single goal.
Villarreal in contrast ended 2014 on a high and would be optimistic of strengthening their claim for a top–four finish when they visit bottom placed side Elche, whose coach, Fran Escriba, is another coach under pressure due to poor results, despite having a limited squad.
Meanwhile Athletic Club Bilbao have forwards Aritz Aduriz and Iker Muniain suspended for their visit to the struggling Deportivo la Coru, while Malaga will hope to carry their excellent 2014 form over into the New Year as they entertain relegation threatened Almeria in a southeast coast derby.
Real Sociedad coach David Moyes faces his biggest game in charge since taking over as the coach as giants FC Barcelo visit the Anoeta Stadium on Sunday.
Barcelo have been getting results without looking entirely convincing as their attacking trio of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi has helped to cover over shortcomings in defence and midfield.
However, they will do well to remember that although Real Sociedad have struggled this campaign, two of their home wins have come against Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid with Carlos Vela approaching his top form.
Elsewhere, Getafe take on Rayo Vallecano in a south Madrid derby and Eibar would be optimistic of continuing their fantastic first season in the top flight away to Espanyol, who as always will look to striker, Sergio Garcia for inspiration and goals. IANS