Madrid, Jan 26 (IANS) The La Liga season reaches its midway point in Spain this weekend, with several clubs involved in the Copa del Rey knockout tournament, facing a pile-up of fixtures in a non-stop beginning to the year.
League leaders FC Barcelona face a short trip to play Girona, just three days after booking their place in the semifinals of the Cup with a 1-0 win at home to Real Sociedad.
Midfielder Pedri is a slight doubt for the game with a muscle problem that saw him forced off on Wednesday and with another league match against Betis next week. Barca coach Xavi Hernandez may not risk such a key player.
Ferran Torres is available again after suspension, but Robert Lewandowski is out as he serves the last game of a three-match ban.
The weekend gets under way on Friday with a game in the bottom half of the table, as Almeria look to build on their draw in Valencia on Monday at home to Espanyol.
Espanyol travel south after consecutive wins have given them some breathing space in the fight against relegation.
A last-minute penalty in Seville last weekend condemned Cadiz to a defeat that means they have to win their home match against a Mallorca side that neither scores, nor concedes many goals under the guidance of Javier Aguirre, reports Xinhua.
Sevilla have little time to digest their Cup defeat to Osasuna ahead of their match at home to Elche on Saturday evening. Elche remain bottom of the table, without a win all campaign, but after consecutive draws, there are signs of improvement under Pablo Machin, who had a brief and unsuccessful spell coaching Sevilla.
Current Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli commented in midweek that some of his players were suffering from the intense calendar, and playing 120 minutes in Pamplona on Wednesday will only have tired them further.
There will also be urgency as Getafe entertain Betis, with Getafe level on points with third-bottom Valladolid, while Betis have lost their last three games in all competitions.
Valladolid need to stop a five-match losing streak, which has dumped them in the bottom three and will be optimistic against Valencia, who have a Cup quarterfinal at home to Athletic Club Bilbao on Thursday night.
Athletic travel to Celta Vigo after a run of two points from their last four matches has dropped them to eighth in the table.
Osasuna entertain Atletico Madrid in a cold El Sadar Stadium, with the home side missing striker Chimy Avila through suspension. Chimy showed his importance with the opening goal as Osasuna beat Sevilla on Wednesday night, and Osasuna’s 24-hour more recovery time from their cup game could be a factor, with Atletico playing Real Madrid in the Cup on Thursday.
Real Madrid end Sunday’s matches with arguably the game of the weekend as they entertain Real Sociedad, whose nine-match winning run was ended in the Camp Nou by Barca in the Cup this week.
Real Sociedad will be without the influential duo of Mikel Merino and David Silva through injury, while David Alaba’s return will boost Carlo Ancelotti’s options in defense for Madrid.
The round of matches ends on Monday as Villarreal, who this week lost forwards Arnaut Danjuma and Nicholas Jackson to the Premier League, face an always entertaining Rayo Vallecano.