Drama and upsets abounded in LaLiga Santander last weekend and we’re likely in for more of the same on Matchday 17, with several clashes between teams at the top of the table alongside a couple of crucial relegation six-pointers.
The round begins in the Balearic Islands, as RC Celta make the 1,000km trip to take on RCD Mallorca on Friday night. These two teams are currently in mid table but know they can’t rest on their laurels and they’ll be looking for the three points. Mallorca will be hoping to build on last weekend’s huge win away at reigning champions Atlético de Madrid, when Takefusa Kubo marked his return from injury by slotting in the winning goal.
RCD Espanyol then host bottom-placed Levante UD in the first of Saturday’s matches. It’ll be a tricky trip for the strugglers, given that the Pericos have the fourth-best home record in Spain’s top tier. The RCDE Stadium has become quite a fortress and it’ll be the first home venue of the day on Saturday.
The LaLiga Santander action then moves to Mendizorrotza for D.Alavés vs Getafe CF, a battle between two primary relegation candidates. With heavy rain forecast, this could be a classic afternoon of football up in the Basque Country and one well worth tuning in to.
Saturday evening throws up a Valencian Community derby as Valencia CF welcome Elche CF to Mestalla. With Elche having won their first LaLiga match under new coach Francisco last weekend there is confidence among the Franjiverdes, although LosChe are in a good run of form of their own with three wins and three draws from their past six matches.
Athletic Club vs Sevilla FC is the Saturday night blockbuster, a classic of Spanish football. The two teams have met 154 times in league play; the head-to-head record is incredibly tight, with 63 Sevilla victories and 61 wins for the Basque side, in addition to 30 draws.
Sunday offers several high-profile fixtures, starting with Villarreal CF vs Rayo Vallecano and a battle of two Basque coaches in Unai Emery and AndoniIraola. These two teams have been fun to watch all year, with their matches often producing all kinds of drama. Rayo have made the better start to 2021/22, with the newly promoted side sitting as high as sixth coming into this round.
FC Barcelona are currently just below Rayo in seventh place, but Catalans will expect to finish in the Champions League positions and that means they need a few three-point hauls in a row. It won’t be easy away at CA Osasuna, as Barça play in front of the famously unwelcoming fans at the newly redeveloped El Sadar for the first time, but Xavi will send his team out with intensity for this tricky contest.
Third-placed Real Betis take on fifth-placed Real Sociedad next, with these two sides separated by just one point in the standings coming into the weekend. This could be a festival of attacking football, with both sides having caught the eye so far this season not just for their results but also for their attractive style of football.
Sunday night then offers the highlight match of the weekend: the Madrid Derby between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid at 9pm CET at the Santiago Bernabéu. Both sides come into this fixture on a high, after earning positive results on Tuesday night as they each progressed in the Champions League, but attention now turns back to league play as reigning champions Atleti look to keep pace with Carlo Ancelotti’s side. The last time the Italian took on Diego Simeone in LaLiga Santander, Atleti won 4-0. But that was a long time ago, so long ago in fact that the match took place at the old Vicente Calderón. Atleti have won just one of the 12 league derbies held since then and would love another victory this weekend.
The final match of the round is just as important, but for matters at the other end of the standings. Cádiz CF and Granada CF are very much in the relegation battle, making their Monday night Andalusian derby an important one for the standings as well as for local pride. That should be another fascinating game to round off the weekend’s action.