Last week in La Liga was strange. Why? Because when both Real Madrid AND Barcelona lose in the same match week, it's strange. Such was week 17 as Valencia pulled off an impressive upset of Los Blancos and Barca stumbled badly against Real Sociedad.
Barca got a much-needed victory -- mainly for morale -- during the week against Elche in the Copa del Rey, but Sunday's challenge is far different. The Blaugrana welcome Atlético Madrid to the Camp Nou, knowing they can ill afford any more dropped points in the title race. Diego Simeone was able to rest several starters and still defeat Real Madrid, so the Colchoneros will be rested and ready for Barca.
Real Madrid followed up that performance with a 2-0 loss against Atlético Madrid in the Copa del Rey, so after amassing 22 straight wins, Carlo Ancleotti's side have lost two straight competitive matches. Espanyol -- Madrid's opponent for the weekend -- can look at this situation two says. Either they're going to be scared to death of an angry and motivated Madrid side, or they can see weakness and believe they can take advantage of the situation.
Assuming there's not a draw between Atléti and Barca, Valencia could move within a point of third place with a win over Celta Vigo.
Friday, Jan. 9
Levante vs. Deportivo la Coruña | 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. CEST
Saturday, January 10
Real Madrid vs. Espanyol | 10 a.m. ET, 4 p.m. CEST
Celta Vigo vs. Valencia | 2 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. CEST
Eibar vs. Getafe | 4 p.m. ET, 10 p.m. CEST
Sunday, January 11
Athletic Club vs. Elche | 11 a.m. ET, 5 p.m. CEST
Granada vs. Real Sociedad | 1 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. CEST
Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid | 3 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. CEST
Monday, January 12
Rayo Vallecano vs. Córdoba | 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. CEST