Liga Santander reach halfway point with Barca looking to extend their lead

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-10 19:55:39|Editor: ZX
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MADRID, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Liga Santander reach the halfway point of the season this coming weekend when FC Barcelona look to extend their lead at the top of the table, while under pressure Real Madrid face a difficult away game against Betis.

Saturday and Sunday in the Liga have different priorities with the majority of the matches on Saturday affecting the bottom half of the table, while Sunday's matches see most of the title favorites in action.

The exception to that is Alaves' trip to face Girona on Saturday with Alaves fourth in the table visiting a side in mid-table but still only 6 points above the relegation zone due to the traffic jam of 12 teams within just 8 points of each other.

Alaves will be without forward Ibai Gomez, whose return to Athletic Club Bilbao is expected to be confirmed in the coming hours.

Rayo Vallecano and Celta kick off the weekend off Friday with Rayo looking to make it 9 points from 3 games, while Celta, who lost to Athletic on Monday, are still without forward Iago Aspas.

Bottom of the table, Huesca claimed their first home win of the season last weekend and now visit fifth from bottom Leganes, who suffered their first defeat in 8 games last weekend as they lost 1-0 to Espanyol.

Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral could find himself out of a job if his side doesn't beat fellow strugglers, Valladolid. Last weekend's league defeat to Alaves was followed by a 2-1 Cup setback away to second division Sporting Gijon and patience is running out with the man who last season took Valencia to fourth in the table.

Saturday ends with Villarreal at home to an always-tough-to-beat Getafe. Villarreal will take heart from a fightback from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Espanyol in the Cup and know a win would lift them out of the relegation zone, at least for 24 hours.

Sunday kicks off with Atletico Madrid entertaining Levante, who is another team in the mid-table pack, before Athletic Club Bilbao face Sevilla for the second time in 4 days.

The two teams play in the Cup on Thursday night although the teams both coaches field are likely to change drastically from one game to the other.

Athletic have improved drastically since Giakza Garitano replaced Eduardo Berizzo as coach, taking 8 points from 4 games and they could give a second debut to Ibai Gomez, if his signing is completed in time.

Barcelona will expect to beat Eibar in the Camp Nou, although the visitors have the advantage of having all week to prepare for the game, while Barca are in Cup action on Thursday night, all be it with plenty of changes in their starting 11.

Sunday ends with Real Madrid facing a difficult trip to play Betis in what promises to be a fascinating game. Although Real Madrid improved to beat Leganes in the Cup on Wednesday, they will be without Thibaut Courtois, Gareth Bale, Marcos Llorente, Tony Kroos, Mariano Daiz and Marcos Asensio through injury and if Barca bet Eibar, they will be 13 points off the top of the table when the game kicks off.

Betis have 24 hours less time to prepare due to a Cup game against Real Sociedad on Thursday, but a win for Quique Setien's attractive side would lift them to within just a point of Madrid.

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