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La Liga Report: Jornada 24

A look back at the matches from last week and a look forward to Jornada 24, 20 February 2015. All times are local to the matches.

Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images


Getafe hosts Espanyol 18:45

Getafe finished last week at 15th on the table with a narrow loss to 4th place Valencia.  Surprisingly, Getafe basically outplayed Valencia, but could not finish their attempts. The left side of the field played well and they were able to complete many tackles and break up Valencia’s attack, though they gave up a late penalty that ended up the winner for Los Che. Espanyol beat Malaga 2-0 and are now within 6 points of the 7th place squad. The other Barcelona team surely outplayed Malaga, particularly on the flanks, though it was mostly a defensive show. They were incredibly efficient, though, and got two goals off their two shots on target.  Espanyol have thrived on the wings while Getafe has struggled to protect wide attacks. These two teams are not far apart in season form, although Espanyol is further up the table. Getafe have played well as of late, stunning a sluggish Sevilla and forcing an in-form Valencia to rely on a penalty to get by. Espanyol has been successful at scoring goals, but Getafe has done relatively well to not concede. Espanyol’s poor form away from home should play a factor, and I think Getafe can get the win here, or at least earn a draw.


Barcelona hosts Malaga 16:00

Barcelona can’t lose!  Read the in-depth previews here at BarcaBlaugranes!

Cordoba hosts Valencia 18:00

Although Valencia saw as many goals as they did wedding proposals last week in the Mestalla[i], they were probably ecstatic to continue moving up the standings, gaining ground on Atletico and keeping ahead of Sevilla. Cordoba could have helped Los Che further, but caught a rebounding Sevilla and lost 3-0 in the process. Cordoba held on strong until right before the second half before Sevilla pulled away, a red card for Patrick Ekeng in the 53rd minute effectively sealed it (he is also suspended for this match). This match should see Valencia playing mostly in Cordoba’s half, as Cordoba has trouble keeping possession and often just try to keep the ball in front of them. Fausto Rossi comes back from suspension for the home side while Valencia will be missing out on Antonio Barragan and Enzo Perez (suspension), while Paco Alcacer is expected to be out with injury. Despite missing some strong players, Valencia should have no problem with last place Cordoba, who has managed only 9 points at home this year.

Atletico Madrid hosts Almeria 20:00

After a statement win against city rivals Real Madrid, Atletico looked lackluster in an upset to Celta Vigo. Celta, a team that features good talent albeit inconsistently, is not a squad you have to be embarrassed to lose to, but given the previous week’s play and chance to keep up in the standings, Atletico must be bitterly disappointed. However, after being thoroughly outplayed and making many careless and sloppy mistakes, they can only blame themselves. Almeria have just had a disappointing season in general, though not much was expected. Crazy enough, five of Almeria’s six wins on the season have come away from home, and they’ve shown grit lately, earning seven out of a possible nine in their last three matches. This will be of little consolation, as Atletico is excellent at home, should be angry about losing, and have all the potential to dominate Almeria solely through the air and set pieces. Arda Turan returning from suspension should help Atletico make do without Koke, while Gimenez and Ansaldi are expected to slide into the back four, with the dangerous pair of Mandzukic and Griezmann up top (Simeone had come out to say that he had gotten his tactics wrong against Celta). Almeria only have one injury, though they have not had a consistent IX this year, regardless. I expect Atletico to dominate this match.

La Coruna host Celta Vigo 22:00

Celta Vigo showed their true talent in the match with Atletico discussed above, with both Nolito and Orellana playing excellently on the wings. La Coruna was unlucky to catch Real Madrid coming off an embarrassing loss, and though they were able to create goal scoring chances throughout the 90 minutes, they finished rather poorly. La Coruna have collected most of their points at home, though sit only five points off the relegation zone.  They are only four points back from Celta Vigo, but their level of play has not been nearly as high as the Galician side. La Coruna has conceded a large number of goals at home, but Celta has not been particularly good on the road either. They certainly have talent and have shown it, but their performances have been up and down all year. They appear to be in a better run of form as of late, the win against Atletico the highlight, with points earned in four of their last six. La Coruna should get back their best defender, Sidnei, while the dependable right back Laure will be out on suspension. They continue to have to deal with injuries in the rotation. While Celta have more talent, especially wide, they have struggled to score many goals recently and La Coruna have been stingy at home, while Celta continues to struggle on the road. If trends continue this would likely be a low-scoring match and quite possibly a draw.


Real Sociedad hosts Sevilla 12:00

Real Sociedad are coming off a 2-2 draw with 16th place Almeria which saw both teams play to an absolute stalemate (each team had the same exact match rating per RSD were efficient with their shots, mostly created with through balls, though they continue to underwhelm this year. They still are in danger of falling into relegation, even though their play and talent suggest a top half side. Sevilla bounced back last week by beating Cordoba 3-0, though they still fall a point out of 4th behind Valencia. Sevilla utterly dominated the hapless, last place Cordoba, who actually played at an equal level until about 35 minutes in. Krychowiak received a red card and will be banned against RSD, so some midfield shuffling will be in order for Unai Emery. Sevilla will only be a few days removed from a Europa League clash with BMG, so fatigue could play a factor (though they did play well). This is tough to call because RSD have been largely inconsistent, though they have been much better at home. Sevilla continues to show the ability to beat lesser La Liga teams, even away. I would look for Sevilla to win unless it’s a good RSD day, in which case they could easily draw or even get a win. David Moyes will continue focusing on learning more about Spanish culture and language[ii]

Athletic Club hosts Rayo Vallecano 17:00

Bilbao played cellar dweller Granada in a tedious 0-0 draw that saw each team take a lot of shots that didn’t go on target, neither side looking like it deserved or wanted to win. Granada actually had the best chance to score from counters, but could not deliver the goals. Bilbao also had a Thursday Europa League tie with Torino, so it will be seen if rotations come into play. Bilbao still sit too close to relegation for comfort, but they have played better than their points suggest, with Laporte and Etxeita providing real strength in the back line. Rayo, the team that likes possession almost as much as Barca, are coming off an unexpected but well-deserved win over Villareal. They have played even better on the road than at home, but have serious issues with conceding goals. Though Rayo are able to create chances and score, also playing well on the road, Bilbao are very stingy with goals and like playing at home. I’d take Athletic Club, too, because their strengths and weaknesses match up well with Rayo.

Villareal hosts Eibar 19:00

The third of La Liga’s Europa League clubs, Villareal had the surprise loss to Rayo discussed above followed on Thursday with a win against Salzburg in the first game of the tie. Villareal are watching their chances of Champions League slip away as Sevilla and Valencia pull ahead, though they seem to be in no danger of giving up their Europa League spot to 7th place Malaga. They played with very little of anything last weekend, often losing possession without a fight and finishing poorly after creating a few good chances. Eibar continue to be my favorite non-Barcelona club this year, as the Basque club with a stadium that holds 5,000 people continues to defy the financial structure of La Liga through an equity offering, while competing to avoid relegation in their first season in the top flight.  Form has been poor as of late, with four straight losses in their last four matches. However, they still sit in 10th and look to push for a well-deserved spot in La Liga again next year, clear of relegation by eight points at the moment. Villareal will likely be too much at home, but I’ll keep rooting for little Eibar to keep proving everyone wrong.

Elche hosts Real Madrid 21:00

Elche took a 1-0 victory at Eibar last week, though they were thoroughly outshot and probably didn’t deserve the win. They still sit only four points out of relegation. Elche have been decent enough on the road this year, but Real Madrid will be far too much for them to handle. Madrid managed a 2-0 win over lowly La Coruna, and while much was made that it wasn’t the fireworks display we seem to expect from RMD in every match, they did control the game early and cruised to victory with little effort. The same could be said about their Champion’s League match from this week against Schalke. It will be seen if the Madrid side can up the style and intensity when need be, but they can easily control lesser teams such as these while they search to rediscover form. Marcelo’s importance to the side was demonstrated and they will continue to be happy his suspension is over. Real should be far, far too much for Elche, though this was the same side they needed a 96th minute *cough* bullshit *cough* penalty to steal a win from in 2013.  Anything can happen, and Cules will be hoping for a miracle upset combined with a defeat of Malaga to push them into first.

Regardless of outcomes, here’s wishing you a fantastic weekend!

Visca El Barca!  Visca l’espectacle!

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