Setién’s Villarreal CF aim to halt the impressive run of leaders FC Barcelona

Having started 2023 with five LaLiga Santander victories in a row, FC Barcelona have consolidated their grip on first place over the past few weeks. However, the Catalan club have a very difficult fixture coming up this Sunday, as they visit Villarreal CF for a blockbuster Sunday night duel. Real Madrid, whose own Matchday 21 fixture is pushed back to next Wednesday due to their participation in the Club World Cup, will be hoping to cut the gap to the Blaugrana over the course of this crucial round of action.

There are several other objectives being fought for at various levels of the table this weekend, such as Cádiz CF’s desire to climb out of the relegation zone. The Andalusian side host Girona FC in the first fixture of the round, on Friday night, and know that a victory would, at least temporarily, lift them out of the bottom three. Given that Sergio González’s outfit have been playing more attack-minded football of late and given that Girona FC are also a vertical team, this should be a fun back-and-forth contest.

The first two matches of Saturday also take place in Andalusia, starting with one along the coast at UD Almería as they host regional neighbours Real Betis. Manuel Pellegrini’s side are going through a difficult run of form, so the Power Horse Stadium is one of the last places they’d want to visit, given that UD Almería have collected six home wins this season, the second-most in the division behind the eight of leaders Barça.

Then, Sevilla FC vs RCD Mallorca is next up as Los Nervionenses aim to maintain their own positive home record. They have played three home games so far in 2023 and won them all, so will hope the roar of the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán crowd can inspire them to another victory against Javier Aguirre’s in-form RCD Mallorca side.

On Saturday night, Valencia CF and Athletic Club meet at Mestalla for a classic fixture of Spanish football. This is a match-up that actually took place just a couple of weeks ago, when the Basque side won 3-1 at Mestalla in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals. Los Che will hope for a better result this time around, or else they risk finishing the weekend inside the relegation zone.

There are four matches on Sunday and the first of them is a capital city derby, as Andoni Iraola’s in-form Rayo Vallecano make the short trip to Getafe CF. With Rayo Vallecano entering this weekend in fifth place, their fans are dreaming of a return to European football for the first time since 2001. Taking three points from Getafe CF would be huge to their chances of achieving that goal.

RC Celta vs Atlético de Madrid is next up on Sunday afternoon, a match that will see two of the best up-and-coming midfielders going head-to-head in 20-year-old Gabri Veiga and 19-year-old Pablo Barrios. Accompanied by veteran stars such as Iago Aspas for RC Celta or Antoine Griezmann for Atleti, this promises to be an evenly matched battle in Galicia.

The action then moves to Valladolid, where confidence is in the air after Real Valladolid’s January signing Cyle Larin came off the bench to score the winner twice in a row, in back-to-back wins against Valencia CF and Real Sociedad. The fans are excited about their new striker and hoping he’ll get his first start when they host CA Osasuna.

On Sunday night, at 21:00 CET, FC Barcelona will try to pass one of their toughest tests remaining on the calendar when they go away to Villarreal CF. The coach of El Submarino Amarillo is former Barça boss Quique Setién, so he knows the Catalan club’s squad well and will try to put together a gameplan capable of stopping the league leaders’ impressive run of five consecutive LaLiga Santander victories. Xavi, meanwhile, knows from experience that the Estadio de la Cerámica is one of the hardest away grounds to visit, so he’ll be plotting intensely too. This all means it should be a spectacle and it’s also likely to produce goals, with an average of five goals having been scored per game over the last four Villarreal CF vs FC Barcelona fixtures.

On Monday night, RCD Espanyol and Real Sociedad will meet in Catalonia. With Joselu out injured, Martin Braithwaite will lead the line for the Catalan team and hope to add to his tally of five goals.

Then, the matchday will reach its conclusion later than usual, with Real Madrid taking on Elche CF on Wednesday night, after Los Blancos return from the Club World Cup. Although it’s a duel between the teams in second place and last place, it’s Elche CF who have actually tasted victory more recently in LaLiga Santander and they’ll travel to the Bernabéu with confidence.

Watch LaLiga Santander live this weekend on [LOCAL BROADCASTER].

MG Team

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