La Liga: Spanish top flight returns with big game in Bernabeu

La Liga returns to action in Spain following the international break with a round of games that comes a week before another break for the final of the Copa del Rey. La Liga

Madrid, March 28 (IANS) La Liga returns to action in Spain following the international break with a round of games that comes a week before another break for the final of the Copa del Rey. La Liga leaders Real Madrid face cup finalists Athletic Bilbao in the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night, with Vinicius Jr out through suspension and Eduardo Camavinga likely to miss out after suffering an ankle injury while playing for France.

Eder Militao could return after tearing his cruciate knee ligament in Bilbao during the first match of the season, but Thibaut Courtois won’t return after needing another operation after damaging his meniscus ligament, reports Xinhua.

Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde has a balancing act, with his side currently fourth in the table and looking to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Valverde has to decide whether to risk key players such as Nico and Inaki Williams six days from the Cup final or give some game time to reserve keeper Julen Agirrezabala, who will play in the final.

The weekend kicks off with a vital match in the battle to avoid relegation, with third-from-bottom Cadiz at home to second-bottom Granada. Cadiz are five points from safety and have to win against a rival that appointed Jose Ramon Sandoval as their third boss of the campaign during the break.

Sevilla coach Quique Sanchez Flores takes his side to play Getafe, where he had three spells in the dugout. Sevilla are only six points ahead of Cadiz and despite improving since Quique’s arrival, they still have plenty of work to do to assure their survival and the pressure will increase if Cadiz win on Friday night.

Pepe Mel led Almeria to their first win of the season in the last game before the international break, and his bottom-of-the-table outfit might think they have a chance to make it two wins in two games when they entertain Osasuna.

Osasuna were rocked on Tuesday when Jagoba Arrasate announced he would step down as coach at the end of the season after six years in charge, and Almeria will look to take advantage of any uncertainty among the visitors.

Mallorca prepare for their cup final against Athletic Bilbao with a visit to a slightly irregular Valencia, with the visitors also likely to rest some key players.

Barcelona need to keep the pressure on Real Madrid when they entertain a Las Palmas side that looked to have run out of steam before the break, with five games without a win.

Barca are still without Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, while Andreas Christensen’s Achilles tendon will keep him out, and Robert Lewandowski and Ronald Araujo both have muscle problems that could see them rested.

Three defeats in five games have ended Girona’s title chances and their top-four finish now seems less secure than a month ago. Michel Gonzalez’s side entertained Betis, who had slipped into crisis before the break with three consecutive defeats.

Winger Savio is suspended for Girona, while midfielder Yangel Herrera and defender David Lopez are injured.

Alaves and Real Sociedad play a Basque derby where the visitors will welcome back winger Ander Barrenetxea after injury.

Celta Vigo and Rayo Vallecano both look for points to climb away from the bottom three, while Atletico Madrid end the round of games on Monday, with a difficult visit to in-form Villarreal.

–IANS

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