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Wednesday, 3 April 2019

All to Play for at Both Ends of the Table as Laliga Santander Revs up for Midweek Action

LaLiga Santander's three-day midweek programme could see Barcelona take another step towards retaining the title, while also clarifying many issues in the hunt for European qualification and battle against relegation.

10 points clear at the top with nine games remaining, Barça are aiming for a seventh consecutive victory when they travel to relegation threatened Villarreal on Tuesday evening. Lionel Messi and company enjoyed Saturday’s derby win against Espanyol, while 17th placed Villarreal were pulled closer to the drop zone by a painful defeat at fellow strugglers RC Celta.

Second-placed Atletico de Madrid kept up the pressure with Thomas Partey on the scoresheet in Saturday’s 4-0 win at Alaves. Diego Simeone’s team will have an extra motivation on Tuesday at the Wanda Metropolitano as the visitors are the Girona team which eliminated los rojiblancos from the Copa del Rey back in January.

Third-placed Real Madrid travel to Mestalla on Wednesday evening with coach Zinedine Zidane likely to bring stars Luka Modric and Toni Kroos back into the starting XI for a stiff test against a Valencia team who have climbed to sixth spot thanks to an 11-game unbeaten streak.

Bottom club Huesca, who lost 3-2 in agonising fashion at Real Madrid over the weekend, have a huge home game Wednesday evening with 18th placed Celta travelling to El Alcaraz boosted by their Iago Aspas’ inspired 3-2 victory over Villarreal on Saturday.

Tuesday also brings together two teams hurting from weekend derby defeats, with Espanyol aiming to bounce back from a loss at Barcelona against a Getafe side beaten by neighbours Leganes but still sitting in fourth place and a Champions League qualification spot.

19th placed Rayo Vallecano picked up only a point at home to Real Betis on Saturday, meaning their need for a victory is even greater on Wednesday when they visit an Eibar team who look safe in mid-table now.

Wednesday also sees in-form Athletic Club looking to stretch their unbeaten run at San Mames to 11 games, while visitors Levante are looking over their shoulders after just two points from their last five LaLiga outings.

Thursday's programme features a Leganes side buoyed by their South Madrid derby victory at the weekend taking on Real Valladolid who remain just outside the drop zone after picking up just a point at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Qualification for Europe next season is the issue on Thursday at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, where both hosts Sevilla and visitors Alaves will want three points after disappointing reverses against Valencia and Atletico at the weekend.

Similar thoughts will be uppermost during the final game of the midweek action late on Thursday in San Sebastian, where home side Real Sociedad and opponents Real Betis must both realistically win to keep their hopes of getting into the Europa League in 2019/20 alive.

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