Thursday, 22 November 2018

LaLiga Santander Returns with a huge top of the Table Clash, Fresh Starts and Friends Reunited

LaLiga Santander returns from the international break this weekend with leaders Barcelona visiting third-placed Atletico Madrid, along with the prospect of some fresh starts and welcome friends-reunited stories.



Saturday evening’s game at Wanda Metropolitano should be one of the top events of 2018/19 so far, with current table-toppers Barcelona kicking off just one point ahead of hosts Atletico in what is shaping up to be the tightest LaLiga Santander title race in decades.

In team news, blaugrana captain Lionel Messi showed no ill effects on his return from a broken arm in his team's most recent league game while Atleti teenager Francisco Montero could keep his place at centre-back given the injury issues within the rojiblanco squad.

Barça could well have dropped to second by kick off on Saturday, as surprise package Alaves will jump to the top of the table should they win at Leganes in Friday evening’s game. The two coaches at Butarque – Alaves’ Abelardo Fernandez and Leganes’ Mauricio Pellegrino – know each other well; they were, of course, teammates at the Camp Nou during the 1998/99 season.

Saturday lunchtime sees Santiago Solari’s first game as Real Madrid’s new permanent head coach after picking up league wins over Valladolid and Celta Vigo as interim boss. Another three points won’t be easy, however, given Eibar’s strong record at their tight Ipurua ground.

The action then switches to Valencia, where a Los Che side still looking for their first home league win of 2018/19 welcome to Mestalla a 19th-placed Rayo Vallecano team in great need of points. 20th-placed Huesca also really need a victory to kick-start their season but Saturday’s visitors to El Alcoraz Levante have won three of their six games on the road so far this term.

Sunday lunchtime’s game brings together two other teams who will be aiming for a change of fortune after the international break, with Athletic Club hosting Getafe at San Mames.

Depending on results earlier in the weekend, Sevilla may have a chance to go top themselves by beating Valladolid on Sunday afternoon, although the visitors to the Sanchez-Pizjuan have lost only once on the road since returning to LaLiga Santander this season.

Sunday evening will see Espanyol aiming for a sixth victory in six at home this term, while Catalan neighbours Girona also have a 100% record at Cornella El-Prat, having won on their only LaLiga visit to date last season. Espanyol's coach Rubi will recognise many of the opposition side, having taken charge of Girona in LaLiga 1l2l3 back in 2012/13.

The final two games of the Matchday have a distinct Mexican feel to them, pitting LaLiga Santander’s four Mexican internationals against each other.

Sunday’s late game between Villarreal against Real Betis then brings together two of LaLiga’s most inconsistent sides this season and also two close friends in Mexico internationals Miguel Layun and Andres Guardado.

Turning to Monday, the evening game sees Real Sociedad’s experienced centre-back Hector Moreno welcoming his ‘El Tri' international colleague Nestor Araujo of Celta Vigo to Anoeta, in what will be new Celta coach Miguel Cardoso’s first LaLiga game in charge of the Galician side.

Watch Matchday 13 of LaLiga Santander this weekend On SuperSport 7.

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