Barcelona's trip to face fourth place Malaga will probably get most of the headlines this week but for my money, it shouldn't be much better than Real Betis vs. Levante. While I'm not saying the match will be an amazing advertisement for the sport, there's a lot riding on that game as one of those side could jump Malaga in to fourth place.
Financial issues are back in the headlines as well with Deportivo La Coruña becoming the latest Spanish club to request financial protection from their creditors using Spain's Ley Concursal (Bankruptcy Act).The Galicians, who are approximately €99 million in debt, announced the move on their website:
"At 2PM today Thursday, Real Club Deportivo, in the person of its legal representative Miguel Taboada, presented the necessary 'ley concursal' documentation to the authorities in A Coruña."
Sadly this is unlikely to be the last of this type of story we see in relation to Spanish soccer. Now, on to the games.
Friday, January 11th
Atheltic Bilbao vs. Rayo Vallecano
(21:30 CET, 3:30PM ET)
Marcelo Bielsa's Bogus Journey rolls on as struggling Athletic hosts Rayo Vallecano in this match week's opener. While Atheltic have lose two straight, Rayo are on a roll having won their last three games, and six of their last nine. Los Franjirrojos have risen to seventh place in the league, only two points out of a possible Europa League spot. Bielsa will be without defender Aymeric Laporte who is serving a red card suspension and Rayo defender Nacho Martinez is facing six weeks out after tearing the PCL in his right knee.
Saturday, January 12th
Real Valladolid vs. Mallorca
(16:00 CET, 10:00AM ET)
Valladolid look to rebound from from an embarrassing defeat against Celta Vigo as they host relegation threatened Mallorca. Los Bermellones sit two points clear of the drop zone after drawing 1-1 with Atletico Madrid.
Espanyol vs. Celta Vigo
(18:00 CET, 12:00PM ET)
Celta Vigo had an up and down week with a league win over Valladolid and a cup defeat against Real Madrid. The win last week have them some breathing room but this match-up against 17th place Espanyol is huge. It's a classic "relegation six-pointer" as Espanyol could pull themselves out of the drop zone with a victory. Celta on the other hand could further their survival hopes with a positive result.
Osasuna vs. Real Madrid
(20:00 CET, 2:00PM ET)
Jose Mourinho and Madrid have won only once in their last three league matches. They've been the model of inconsistency this season, slumping to third place, 16 points behind rivals Barcelona. A trip to last place Osasuna should be just the thing Los Blancos need to get themselves rolling again. Defender Sergio Ramos will be unavailable after being handed a five match ban for insulting a referee in Madrid's Copa del Rey victory in the midweek.
(22:00 CET, 4:00PM ET)
Sevilla didn't look impressive in defeating Osasuna last week, but it was a win none the less. The underachieving Rojiblancos can still get back in to the battle for a European place if they can keep winning, but Valencia have the same thing in mind. Sevilla might need to pile up some points quickly as their financial problems could force the club to loan or sell some key players during the transfer window.
Sunday, January 13th
Real Betis vs. Levante
(12:00 CET, 6:00AM ET)
This is the week for Betis to surge ahead of Malaga in the table with their rivals for fourth place having to deal with Barcelona. Betis started the new year with a nice away win over Zaragoza, moving even on points with Malaga. Of course Levante have the same idea and considering they sit only a point behind Betis, you can be sure they have the same idea. Assuming Barca do their usual business, the winner of this match could vault in to fourth place. It may not sound flashy, but this is easily the most interesting match of the week.
Real Sociedad vs. Deportivo La Coruña
(17:00 CET, 11:00AM ET)
Deportivo pulled off a massive upset of Malaga last week as they moved out of last place and a point from escaping the drop zone...yay! The new manager bump thanks to Domingos Paciencia was in full effect, but the real work continues with a trip to face Sociedad who played Madrid extremely tough last week but ultimately lost 4-3. Deportivo should have confidence and they'll need to get points in matches like this if they want to avoid relegation.
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Zaragoza
(19:00 CET, 1:00PM ET)
Atletico are still in second place despite their less than impressive draw against Mallorca last weekend. Madrid closed the gap to five points thanks to their win so unless Atletico wish to help restore status quo at the top of the table, a win over Zaragoza would be nice.
Malaga vs. Barcelona
(21:00 CET, 3:00PM ET)
Say hello to this week's marquee match as Malaga host league leaders Barcelona. Malaga ended 2012 with a great win over Madrid but started 2013 with a lost to Coruna. Now they will have to try and bounce back against a team that hasn't lost in the league yet this season. As if things weren't hard enough Barca's confidence is sky high thanks to strong performances, Lionel Messi claiming the Ballon D'Or and Tito Vilanova returning to the bench. Malaga can win this game but they'll have to be perfect and find a way to slow down the Blaugrana attack.
Monday, January 14th
Getafe vs. Granada
(20:00 CET, 2:00PM ET)
I'm trying to be excited about this match but I'm failing. Granada need points to stay out of the drop zone while Getafe are comfortably in the mid-table. Granada's Mikel Rico Moreno is suspended after being sent off last weekend.