Matchday 22 could prove to be one of the most enthralling rounds of the 2022/23 LaLiga Santander season so far, since there are so many fixtures between teams who find themselves in similar sections of the table.
That means the three points on offer in each game are especially valuable this weekend, particularly for the relegation battle because the bottom four teams face off against each other, with Elche CF vs RCD Espanyol and Getafe CF vs Valencia CF.
The round begins on Friday night with a duel between last year’s LaLiga SmartBank playoffs winner Girona FC and last year’s LaLiga SmartBank champion UD Almería. Both these clubs have more than held their own since returning to Spain’s top division and currently find themselves in 11th and 15th respectively. But, they’ll each want another three-point haul to inch even closer to safety.
On Saturday, Real Sociedad host the first game of the day as they face RC Celta. Having won their past five clashes with the Galician side, La Real will feel confident as they look to secure further points in their quest to qualify for the Champions League.
Real Betis vs Real Valladolid is the next game and the visitors travel to Seville in good form, having taken seven points from their past three games. This could, therefore, be a tricky test for Manuel Pellegrini’s side, although the Chilean coach will be delighted to welcome the key trio of Luiz Felipe, William Carvalho and Nabil Fekir back from suspension.
Later on Saturday afternoon, Villarreal CF will look to snap a three-game losing streak, but it won’t be at all easy for Quique Setién’s side as they have to visit RCD Mallorca, who have won each of their past four LaLiga Santander home matches, each time with a 1-0 scoreline.
CA Osasuna vs Real Madrid is the Saturday night game, kicking off at 21:00, and it promises to be a very tight contest. That’s because Real Madrid have really struggled against the Pamplona-based club in recent seasons, with their past five meetings ending in just two Real Madrid wins and in three draws, including a 1-1 in the capital earlier in the season.
With Vinícius back from a suspension, and in good form after winning the Player of the Tournament prize at the Club World Cup, Los Blancos will give it their all.
Sunday’s LaLiga Santander action starts with a huge relegation six-pointer, as bottom-placed Elche CF welcome 17th-placed RCD Espanyol to the Estadio Martínez Valero.
Having finally ended their long winless run at their previous home game, the Elche CF fans will turn up at the stadium feeling fresh optimism for what is surely, from Los Franjiverdes’ point of view, a must-win game.
The action then moves to Vallecas, where Rayo Vallecano’s stadium will be full once again for their match against Sevilla FC. In recent seasons, Sevilla FC have been the club qualifying for Europe on a consistent basis, but this year it’s Rayo Vallecano who currently occupy a Europa League berth. After taking seven points from the past nine available, Andoni Iraola’s team will look to maintain their impressive form.
There will then be a strange sight at the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, when Atlético de Madrid wear their away kit to host Athletic Club. Los Colchoneros have explained that they’ll let the Basques wear the red and white stripes for this one, given that these two clubs share a historic connection and given that Athletic Club’s 125th anniversary is coming up.
The final fixture of Sunday takes place at the Spotify Camp Nou, where leaders FC Barcelona will look to make it seven LaLiga Santander wins in a row when Cádiz CF come to town. The Andalusian side famously won 1-0 when they visited Barça last season, so Xavi won’t be taking anything for granted.
The final game of the matchday might actually be the one with the most at stake, as two relegation zone sides square off in Getafe CF and Valencia CF on Monday night.
Matches between these two clubs have often been feisty in recent years, stemming from their battles for European qualification and Copa del Rey glory. Now, they find themselves together in a relegation tussle and they’ll both want a win, something neither club has experienced so far in LaLiga Santander in 2023.