Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno
None of this match week's offerings are particularly exciting on paper but fortunately the games are not played on paper.
I'll be honest they're not really any great match-ups on the schedule this week but you can't get juicy games every time out. The most interesting game might end up being Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid simply because Atleti are trying to stay in second place and Atheltic are just plain awful right now.
Saturday, January 26th
(16:00 CET, 10:00AM ET)
Sociedad will still be buzzing from their stunning upset over Barcelona and interjecting themselves in to the fight for a Europa League spot. If they want to stay there and continue the momentum, they'll need to take care of a team like Celta Vigo. No offense to Celta but that's just a fact, of course they have problems of their own as they sit one point above the drop zone.
Levante vs. Real Valladolid
(18:00 CET, 12:00PM ET)
Valladolid has bounced back nicely from a bad loss against Celta with two straight victories. This week they'll take a crack at 8th place Levante who are going in the opposite direction having lost two straight matches. Levante has gone from within a win of taking over 4th place to in danger of dropping out of the European race.
(20:00 CET, 2:00PM ET)
Espanyol are rolling so far in 2013 having won two straight and moved from the drop zone up to 15th. They were my pick at the break for the team most likely to extricate themselves from the relegation battle and so far, so good. Of course, there's still a long way to go. Zaragoza are idling in the mid-table, fresh off a 4-0 blasting from Sevilla in the Copa del Rey so this should be a good test for Espanyol.
Deportivo La Coruña vs. Valenica
(22:00 CET, 4:00PM ET)
Deportivo's new manager bump has passed and thanks to their loss to Osasuna last week, they're back in the cellar of La Liga. Everybody knew that Domingos Paciência has a tough task ahead of him but the real work begins now. If he wants to save his side from relegation, they need to start getting points. Valencia are in the midst of the Europa League race so they'll be not looking to drop points against a team like Deportivo.
Sunday, January 27th
Real Madrid vs. Getafe
(12:00 CET, 6:00AM ET)
Madrid took care of business in the Copa del Rey and now turn their attentions back to the league...or will they? Jose Mourinho conceded the league to Barcelona in the media (or did he?) this week saying it was time to focus on their cup runs. It will be interesting to see if he stick with that mantra and rolls out a weakened lineup against a Getafe side that's sitting comfortably in the mid-table. Madrid also begins life without Iker Casillas who will miss 6 to 8 weeks with a broken hand.
(17:00 CET, 11:00AM ET)
Vallecano might be the most fun story of the season in terms of a team out performing expectations. They slipped up last against Granada and will now try to rebound against a Real Betis team that was knocked out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday. Betis have nothing left to distract them from trying to hold on to fourth place so there will be no excuses if they can't get it done.
Barcelona vs. Osasuna
(19:00 CET, 1:00PM ET)
Barcelona bounced back from their first league loss by advancing in the Copa del Rey an setting up a meeting with Real Madrid. With that and the resuming of the Champions League around the corner, it's time for Tito Vilanova and company to continue to take care of business in the league so they can deal with their other pursuits properly. Lionel Messi has played a ton of minutes lately and could get a rest in this match. Surely they won't slip up against relegation threatened Osasuna right?
Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid
(21:00 CET, 3:00PM ET)
This re-match of last year's Europa League final is a tale of two entirely different situations. Atletico are in 2nd place and in the semifinals of the Copa del Rely. Atheltic are a hot mess having not won since mid-December but they did get a positive result against Betis last week. Atleti will be without Radamel Falcao so there could be a window of opportunity here for Athletic to pick up some key points and stay away from the drop zone.
Mallorca vs. Malaga
(21:00 CET, 3:00PM ET)
Malaga came close to knocking out Barcelona from the Copa del Rey but couldn't withstand their relentless attack in the end. It's a been a busy couple weeks for the Anchovies in which they've also fell three points behind Real Betis for fourth place. Lots of work still to do for Malaga just in case UEFA lets them off the hook for their financial issues. Mallorca are in 19th and need points, simple as that.
Monday, January 28
Sevilla FC vs. Granada
(21:30 CET, 3:30PM ET)
Sevilla's league struggles are being helped by a cup run but the fact remains that this team are underachieving. Unai Emery is starting to settle in so it'll be interesting to see if he's getting things turned around. Granada's win over Rayo last week gave them a two-point cushion between themselves and the drop zone. If Sevilla are improving this is the type of game they should win.