La Liga 2013, Week 23 preview and fixtures: The European and relegation race is heating up

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

If you want to find the best stories in Spanish football it's best to cover up the top three positions in the table and being focusing on the races for European places and the battle to avoid relegation.

There's still a long way to go in the season and a great number of things can, and will, change. That said, it's never to early to begin paying more attention to what's happening in the rest of the league table. There are plenty of good stories and the extremely competitive nature of La Liga this season should give us an entertaining run to May.

Saturday, February 9th

Mallorca vs. Osasuna

(16:00 CET, 10:00AM ET)

The storyline for this match is pretty straightforward. Mallorca need points to try and escape the relegation zone, Osasuna needs points to stay out of the relegation zone.

Celta Vigo vs. Valencia

(18:00 CET, 12:00PM ET)

Valencia are coming off an excellent 1-1 draw against Barcelona and will look to continue their climb up the table. At the moment their in a potential European spot but they're only two points behind Malaga for fourth place. At this point anything is possible but if they want to challenge for a Champions League spot, beating Celta Vigo is a must. Celta on the other hand are in the relegation zone and haven't been playing well of late, an upset would help morale and momentum.

Levante vs. Malaga

(20:00 CET, 2:00PM ET)

Malaga weren't far from impressive against Real Zaragoza last weekend but they caught a break as Real Betis couldn't take advantage of them only getting a point. With Champions League games on the horizon, Malaga could use some points to help buoy their busy schedule at the end of the month. Levante have been a little up and down of late but they're still comfortably in the top half of the table and could still grab an Europa League spot if they can start getting some wins.

Deportivo de La Coruña vs. Granada

(22:00 CET, 4:00PM ET)

Depor are desperate for points to get out of the relegation zone, Granada are trying to keep their head above water...I feel like we've already said this once in this preview.

Real Madrid vs. Sevilla FC

(22:00 CET, 4:00PM ET)

Sevilla haven been on fire since Unai Emery took over with two straight league wins. They've begun to salvage their season and would love nothing more than continuing Real Madrid's league misery. Los Blancos lost yet again last weekend, this time against Granada, thanks to an own goal by Cristiano Ronaldo as their focus is clearly everywhere except La Liga. Every team that faces Madrid the rest of the year in Spain has to think they can win...never thought I'd type that.

Sunday, February 10th

Barcelona vs. Getafe

(12:00 CET, 6:00AM ET)

Barcelona get the honor of playing the uber early match against Getafe. After an insanely busy stretch, Barca have had a chance to breath a little bit and should be ready to go against mid-table Getafe. Several Barca players participated in international matches during the midweek so there's always a chance that travel fatigue could play a roll, but probably not.

Real Zaragoza vs. Real Sociedad

(17:00 CET, 11:00AM ET)

Sociedad will be looking to stay in the European spot race against a Zaragoza side that's probably still a bit closer to the relegation zone than they'd like. Sociedad have been very unpredictable in 2013 having beaten Barcelona but drawn Celta Vigo and Depor. Logic tells you that if you want to claim a European place, you have to beat the teams well below you in the table.

Atheltic Bilbao vs. Espanyol

(19:00 CET, 1:00PM ET)

Atheltic appears to have turned this around to a certain extent of late having not lost in their last three matches. That doesn't mean that everything is suddenly sunshine and rainbows for Bielsa and company, but they're not long sinking towards the relegation battle, so that's a plus. Espanyol continued their second half surge with another win last weekend and would love nothing more than to continue their rise from the bottom of the table at Athletic's expense.

Rayo Vallecano vs. Atletico Madrid

(21:00 CET, 3:00PM ET)

Ateli won last week, Real Madrid lost, things are good for the other team in Madrid at the moment. They've re-opened a seven point lead over their city rivals and are still in touch with Barcelona at the top. At this point it's going to take a major meltdown to prevent Atletico from finishing second. After dispatching Betis last week, Atleti face another team chasing European dreams in Rayo Vallecano. Just in case you missed it last week, Falcao is back as well.

Monday, February 11th

Real Betis vs. Real Valladolid

(21:30 CET, 3:30PM ET)

Betis really need a win right now. Sure they're in fifth place and having a great season but things have been a little rocky of late. Two straight league losses have everyone wondering if they can keep up their chase for a Champions League spot because they can't keep counting on Malaga to slip up, allowing them to hang around. This week's match against Valladolid should be a good test to see if Betis are going to bounce back or if the dream is dying.

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