For the first time since their involvement in the Saudi-held Supercopa de Espana, Barcelona and Real Madrid will return to La Liga action this weekend.
While Los Merengues have a seemingly winnable home match against Elche on their hands, the Blaugrana take a trip to relegation-battling Deportivo Alaves for a must-win fixture.
Meanwhile, high-flying Sevilla play host to mid-table Celta Vigo as they target another three points to stay within touching distance of Madrid.
Sevilla vs Celta Vigo
Sevilla will be looking to return to winning ways in La Liga and maintain the pressure on league-leaders Madrid when they take on in-form Celta at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Despite taking an early lead at Mestalla in their midweek league clash against Valencia, Los Rojiblancos could only manage a 1-1 draw, allowing Madrid to move four points clear at the summit.
However, a return to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan should feel Julen Lopetegui’s men with confidence, given that they are unbeaten in all ten top-flight matches at home this season (W8, D2).
Despite conceding in each of their last six La Liga H2Hs at home, Sevilla have avoided defeat in five of those encounters (W4, D1, L1), with four of those results (win/loss) yielding an identical 2-1 scoreline.
Celta could prove tough opposition, though, having won three of their previous four league fixtures (L1), all of which via a two-goal margin, including a 2-0 home triumph over Osasuna last time out.
Real Madrid vs Elche
Only a few days after squeezing past Elche in a nerve-shredding Copa del Rey last-16 tie, Madrid will welcome Francisco’s side to the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga action.
Los Merengues will be aiming to pay tribute to former Honorary President ‘Paco’ Gento,’ who passed away earlier this week, in their first home game since his death.
La Liga Expert and other La Liga news outlets had pegged Real Madrid as clear favourites for the title back in December, and a lot of this has to do with their stellar home form.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have been nothing short of outstanding at the Bernabeu this season, going unbeaten in all ten La Liga fixtures here so far (W7, D3).
Additionally, the record-time European champions have won each of their three top-flight home meetings with Elche by an aggregate score of 10-2, highlighting their status as overwhelming pre-match favourites.
But the visitors showed they are unwilling to go down without a fight, having taken their abovementioned cup tie down to the wire, forcing a 10-men Madrid side to come from behind to win 2-1 in extra time in midweek.
Deportivo Alaves vs Barcelona
Thursday’s heartbreaking 3-2 extra-time loss to Athletic Bilbao in their Copa del Rey last-16 tie may have crushed Barcelona’s spirit ahead of their trip to Alaves.
By contrast, the Catalans have defied their injury crisis and massive off-field problems to put together five La Liga matches without losing (W2, D3).
Sitting just outside the top five, Xavi’s team will relish their chances of maintaining their encouraging league form, having avoided defeat in their last seven La Liga H2Hs at the Estadio Mendizorrotza (W4, D3).
What’s more, Alaves failed to get on the scoresheet in six of those seven showdowns, which has been the case in their only top-flight home outing this calendar year.
A lack of firepower up front has seen the hosts net a league-low 16 goals this La Liga campaign, which is one of the main reasons they start this matchday in the drop zone.
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