After a quick two week break La Liga returns with a full slate of games over the weekend. Can Barcelona remain unbeaten and continue running way with the league title? Will Real Madrid turn their attentions to the Champions League and let their league form slip even more? Can Atletico Madrid stay in second place? Who will be relegated? There's plenty of questions to answer as 2013 begins in Spain.
The only major news from the break was given to us by Deportiva La Coruna who sacked Jose Luis Oltra and replaced him with Domingos Paciencia in an attempt to save their season. We'll have to see if their fortunes improve as they look to avoid relegation.
Oh yeah, the transfer window opened on Tuesday. Nothing major has happened yet but I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the news starts coming on.
Friday, January 4th
Real Zaragoza vs. Real Betis
(21:30 CET, 3:30PM ET)
Betis find themselves three points out of a Champions League spot and smarting from a loss to Mallorca. Zaragoza continued Bilbao's lousy season last time out and are looking to keep themselves above the relegation fray.
Saturday, January 5th
(16:00 CET, 10:00AM ET)
At some point we might have to stop wondering when Bilbao is going to figure things out and just accept they might not be very good this season. Bilbao's miserable run continued with a 2-0 home loss to Zaragoza before the break, ending their modest two match winning streak. While they're out of the relegation fight for the moment, a couple more bad losses could find them in a real mess as the season rolls on. Levante will look to continue their chase for a European spot, which is going quite well so far.
(18:00 CET, 12:00PM ET)
This match is pretty straightforward. Valencia need points to a stay in the fight for a European place next season while Granda need points to avoid the relegation battle. Everybody needs the points!
Deportivo La Coruna vs. Malaga
(20:00 CET, 2:00PM ET)
Jose Luis Oltra is out at Deportivo and former Braga and Sporting boss Domingos Paciencia has been handed the reigns. His task is simple, at least on paper, get Deportivo out of the drop zone. He'll begin his task with a tough match against Malaga who are currently fighting with UEFA over financial fair play punishments. The club is confident their European ban will be over turned so just in case a win over Deportivo would be a good step towards holding on to a Champions League place.
(22:00 CET, 4:00PM ET)
Sevilla, like Bilbao, are struggling big time this season having dropped to 14th with their loss to Sociedad before the break. Osasuna are not doing any better, currently sitting in 19th place. This qualifies has a must win game for Sevilla unless they fancy joining Osasuna in the bottom of the league grinder as the season moves on.
Sunday, January 6th
Celta Vigo vs. Real Valladoild
(12:00 CET, 6:00AM ET)
Celta Vigo's second half of the season mission is simply to stay at or above 16th place. Simple right? Fortunately for Vigo, there are some poor teams below and around them, but they aren't exactly tearing it up so far either. Vigo is a team that has lost a lot of close games and earned most of their points through draws. If they want to survive, they'll need to start turning some draws in to wins and losses in to draws. Valladolid had a solid first half of the season and will be looking to stay in the mid-table at the very least.
Real Madrid vs. Real Sociedad
(17:00 CET, 11:00AM ET)
Madrid's hopes of repeating as league champions are all but gone and they've picked up yet another injury with Pepe going down with a ankle injury. Everyone expects this team to focus on the Champions League so the question becomes if they start to slip up more often in La Liga. Probably not Sociedad are close to a European spot and would love nothing more than to cause an upset, something they are certainly capable of. In case you're wondering, Iker Casillas will start in goal.
Barcelona vs. Espanyol
(19:00 CET, 1:00PM ET)
Espanyol finished 2012 on a high note with a 2-0 victory over Deportivo and nearly getting out of the drop zone. Their Christmas present from the league is a trip to play Barcelona who have yet to lose in the league this season and had their spirits boosted by a visit from head coach Tito Vilanova. You almost have to feel bad for Espanyol as it's going to take a massive performance to avoid starting on the new year with a loss.
Mallorca vs. Atletico Madrid
(21:00 CET, 3:00PM ET)
Madrid are comfortably in second place nine points behind Barcelona and seven points ahead of their rivals Real Madrid. Not a bad place to be and if they continue to play as well in 2013 as they did in 2012, there's no reason they can't hold on to the spot. Plus if Barca were to start slipping up, you never know what might happen. Mallorca shouldn't cause them much trouble as they fight for their top flight survival.
Monday, January 7th
Rayo Vallecano vs. Getafe
(18:00 CET, 2:00PM ET)
The names might not get you too excited but this meeting between Vallecano and Getafe should be entertaining. Both teams are in the European spot hunt and could use some points to keep up with the teams above them in the table. There's also the small fact that neither of these teams are particularly good at stopping goals and seems capable of scoring a few as well.