La Liga 2012, Week 17 preview and fixtures: Malaga vs. Real Madrid highlight this week's action

Denis Doyle

Malaga and Real Madrid meet in the "big" match of the week but there are plenty of other match-ups to enjoy

As pundits and fans alike debate endlessly about whether or not the La Liga season is basically over, the teams will still take the field and play another round of matches. Real Madrid will look to rebound from another yet another disappointing performance with a tough trip to Malaga, while Barcelona will try to keep their foot on their rivals throats as they travel to face Real Valladolid.

Joan Collet, Espanyol president, had a big week as his side earned a 2-2 draw against Real Madrid and he followed it up on Tuesday saying:

"The LFP is the worst organised collective there is... we're destroying the league"

As much as we'd all like to ignore the massive issues off the field, Spanish football is under the shadow of the widespread economic problems in the country and it will continue to be a story as we go forward. For now though, let us look ahead at the games in the hopes that we can distract ourselves a bit from the ugly truths facing the future of the league.

Thursday, December 20

Rayo Vallecano vs. Levante

(9:00pm CET, 2:00pm ET)

It's a battle of erratic Vallecano and quietly successful Levante that should produce some goals, which is always fun. Levante is enjoying their perch in a Europa League spot and will be hoping to keep a cushion between them and Getafe. Vallecano aren't too far behind themselves and considering how up and down they've been this season, they're likely pleased to be safely out of the relegation fray.

Espanyol vs. Deportivo La Coruna

(11:00pm CET, 4:00pm ET)

Relegation rumble! Espanyol will be looking to build on their draw against Real Madrid last week as the two teams at the bottom of the league meet. Theoretically, Espanyol should be able to beat Deportivo and if other games break right for them, a win could propel them out of the drop zone. More importantly for Espanyol, it's all about building on a big positive and turning the season around.

Real Sociedad vs. Sevilla

(11:00pm CET, 4:00pm ET)

Socidedad are still higher in the table than some expected, Sevilla are far lower in the table than they would like. Neither team will start going in the right direction unless they start winning some games, something enither team has done in the last couple weeks.

Friday, December 21

Valencia vs. Gefafe

(9:00pm CET, 2:00pm ET)

Getafe need points to keep pressure on Levante and Betis just above them in the table. Valencia need points to get back in the fight for a European spot. Two team with something to play for is usually a recipe for fun, but we'll have to wait and see.

Atletico Madrid vs. Celta Vigo

(11:00pm CET, 4:00pm ET)

Losing to Barcelona sucks, but most teams in La Liga should be used to it at this point. For Atletico, it was another reminder that while they are having a fantastic season and currently sit in second, they still can't topple the kings having lost to Barca and Real Madrid recently. None the less, the fight goes on and what better way to rebound from a tough loss that to host 15th placed Celta Vigo. Beware a Falcao goal explosion and be sure to enjoy what very well could be one of his last matches with Atleti.

Sautrday, December 22

Real Betis v Mallorca

(5:00pm CET, 10:00am ET)

Mission: Champions League rolls on for Real Betis. Their goal differential is horrible so they're going to have to get past Malaga on points one expects, so that means piling up wins. Potential relegation fodder Mallorca should provide a good opportunity for Betis to do just that, but it's an important game for the Béticos because if you want to be among the best in the league, you have to consistently beat those below you. That's just how it works.

Real Valladolid vs. Barcelona

(7:00pm CET, 12:00pm ET)

Barcelona have been rocked by reports that head coach Tito Vilanova has suffered a cancer relapse. The team will no doubt be shaken by the news and the idea of playing a game in the shadow of this news is never easy, but they will. I hate to sound callous but if there was ever a moment for Valladolid to pull an upset, this might be it. Then again, you'd expect the Barca players to want to really put on a show for their boss.

Malaga vs. Real Madrid

(9:00pm CET, 2:00pm ET)

Real Madrid are basically the point where they may have to focus their attention from the league to the Champions League. They would never admit it publicly, but would anyone really blame them at this point? Just how serious Los Blancos are about things could make a difference in this match. Malaga have Champions League dreams of their own and they'd love to take more points off Madrid, further damaging their already slim title hopes. This should easily be the game of the week.

Osasuna vs. Granda

(9:00pm CET, 2:00pm ET)

Umm, well the best thing you can say about this match is that a potential winner could create some space between themselves and the drop zone. A potential loser might fall in to the drop zone, while a draw won't really help either team. It's like two wounded warriors having a Rochambeau contest on a high wire.

Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Zaragoza

(11:00pm CET, 4:00pm ET)

Two weeks ago Bilbao was in danger of finding themselves in the drop zone. Two straight league wins have pushed them back up to 12th which is not where they want to be, but better than where they were. At this point, Bilbao have a chance to salvage what has been an extremely disappointing season to this point. They're six points from a European spot and still have plenty of time to make up that gap. Zaragoza can continue to keep themselves in a comfortable mid-table spot with a result, which is still a good story.

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