New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) LaLiga Santander returns this weekend, following the March international break, and there are several huge games now that we're into the final third of the season.
This weekend there are two regional derbies, as well as a couple of especially important fixtures in the race for the top four. The teams currently placed between third and sixth will face off against each other, with Villarreal CF vs Real Sociedad and Atletico de Madrid vs Real Betis both coming up on Sunday evening.
CA Osasuna are also hopeful of qualifying for European football and they'll visit RCD Mallorca for the first game of Matchday 27, as LaLiga Santander returns with this duel in the Balearic Islands on Friday night. It'll be a particularly special game for RCD Mallorca coach Javier Aguirre, as he takes on the first Spanish club that he coached.
Four fixtures take place on Saturday and the first is a Catalan derby, as Girona FC host RCD Espanyol. These teams played out a fun 2-2 draw earlier in the season and more goals should be expected at the Estadi Montilivi, as these are two of the three clubs whose matches have produced the most goals this season, with 3.12 total goals on average in Girona FC's LaLiga Santander matches and 2.85 goals in games involving RCD Espanyol.
Athletic Club vs Getafe CF is next up and the Basque side will hope Unai Simon can return from injury in time for this one, especially since their opponents boast one of the most in-form strikers in European football in Enes Unal, who has netted nine league goals already in 2023.
Another derby follows, with Cadiz CF vs Sevilla FC. The team from Seville have struggled on the road all season long, but will hope for a better result when making this short trip as this will be their first match with new coach Jose Luis Mendilibar.
Elche CF also changed coach during the March international break and their new boss, the Argentine Sebastian Beccacece, will make his debut against FC Barcelona on Saturday night. That will be a very difficult start for the young tactician, as the bottom-placed side host the league leaders, but we've seen throughout this LaLiga Santander season that shocks do happen.
Sunday starts with in-form RC Celta taking on out-of-form UD Almer?a. The Andalusians will hope that the international break can act as a reset, as they aim to finish the season strong and escape the relegation zone.
Real Madrid vs Real Valladolid follows at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday afternoon, and the visitors will travel to the capital feeling confident after putting in a very good performance against Los Blancos earlier in the season, even if two Karim Benzema goals ultimately secured a 2-0 win for Carlo Ancelotti's side. Since then, Real Valladolid have signed striker Cyle Larin, who has five goals in eight appearances for the team, averaging a goal every 102 minutes for his new club. He'll be a threat to the Real Madrid defence.
On Sunday evening, attention will turn to the race for Champions League qualification as sixth-placed Villarreal CF host fourth-placed Real Sociedad and as third-placed Atletico de Madrid take on fifth-placed Real Betis in the capital. The race to finish inside the top four is wide open and all the players and coaches at these four clubs know that a win this Sunday could ultimately make all the difference. It should be thrilling, given what's at stake and given the attractive styles of football employed by this quartet.
Matchday 27 concludes on Monday and it does so with a huge match at Mestalla, as Valencia CF take on Rayo Vallecano. With Los Che currently inside the relegation zone, they need a result. Coach Ruben Baraja will feel confident of achieving a three-point haul against the team from Vallecas, given that Valencia CF have won both of his home matches so far.
April 1, 12:30 a.m., Mallorca vs Osasuna
April 1, 5:30 p.m., Girona vs Espanyol
April 1, 7:45 p.m., Atheltic Club vs Getafe
April 1, 10:00 p.m., Cadiz vs Sevilla
April 2, 12:30 a.m., Elche vs Barcelona
April 2, 5:30 p.m., Celta Vigo vs Almeria
April 2, 7:45 p.m., Real Madrid v Valladolid
April 2, 10:00 p.m., Villarreal vs Real Sociedad
April 3, 12:30 a.m., Atletico Madrid vs Real Betis
April 4, 12:30 a.m., Valencia vs Rayo Vallecano
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