La Liga: Catalan Derby to end first half of the season in Spain; Real Madrid face Sociedad

Madrid, Jan 27 (IANS) This weekend’s matches for Matchday 19 of the 2022/23 La Liga season, closing the first half of the campaign and involve some huge fixtures including a Catalan derby between Girona FC and FC Barcelona and a top-of-the-table duel between second-placed Real Madrid and third-placed Real Sociedad.

Though the matchday begins on Friday night on the south coast with Almería hosting the in-form Espanyol, the focus will be on the big encounter between Girona and Barcelona.

The action stays in the south of Spain for the first fixture of Saturday, which is Cadiz CF vs Mallorca. Given that the Andalusian side are currently in the relegation zone, they need to start picking points up quickly, especially at home.

The Catalan derby then follows at the Estadi Montilivi, as Girona welcome Barca for just the fifth-ever La Liga meeting between these clubs.

Barca won 3-0 and 2-0 in their previous two visits to Girona FC’s home ground and will hope to achieve another victory in the neighbouring city to secure their position as winter champions, finishing on top of the table at the midway stage of the season.

Sevilla FC then have a second home game in a row just like they achieved last weekend thanks to a late Ivan Rakitic penalty. This time they’ll take on bottom-placed Elche CF and Jorge Sampaoli knows that this is the kind of game that Los Nervionenses need to win if they’re to pull away from the relegation zone.

The last of the day’s games involves two sides that have lost their past three matches, as Getafe CF host Real Betis. Both these clubs need something to cheer about, so will be giving their all in the south of Madrid this Saturday night.

There are four more fixtures on Sunday, with Real Valladolid vs Valencia CF first up. With Real Valladolid having dropped into the bottom three, they’ll be determined to win this weekend and will hope that their new striker, Canada international Cyle Larin, can fire them to victory.

Osasuna vs Atlético de Madrid is next up, as Atleti hope to keep up their fantastic record against the Pamplona-based club. Los Colchoneros have won their past eight clashes with CA Osasuna, scoring 22 and conceding two in that run.

After that, Athletic Club will be chasing their first La Liga win of 2023 when they visit Celta. The Basque side have had a tough run since the resumption of club football, but they’ll hope to win in Galicia just like they did last season when an Iñaki Williams goal earned them a 1-0 win.

There is then a huge match on Sunday night as second-placed Real Madrid welcome third-placed Real Sociedad to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Both these clubs boast several in-form players, such as Karim Benzema, Vinícius and Thibaut Courtois for Los Blancos or Alexander Sørloth, Takefusa Kubo and Brais Méndez for La Real. It should be a spectacle when they face off, as both these sides seek important LaLiga Santander points.

The matchday then concludes with a very attractive fixture on Monday, as Villarreal and Rayo Vallecano meet at the Estadio de la Cerámica. Both these sides play a thrilling brand of football, given that Quique Setién’s outfit are one of the best possession football sides around and given that Andoni Iraola’s Rayo Vallecano play incredibly vertical football. When these two styles come up against each other, goals should be expected.

–IANS

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