Tue, 28 Mar 2023

MADRID, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona face a difficult away game against Villarreal, while Real Madrid have to wait until well into next week before they play in La Liga.

Real Madrid's presence in the World Club Cup final on Saturday means their scheduled league game against bottom side Elche won't be played until February 15, which means Barca have the chance to go 11 points clear at the top if they win away to Villarreal.

Barca were ruthlessly effective in beating Sevilla 3-0 last weekend, and Xavi Hernandez gave his players two days off in midweek to help recover from an exacting start to the year.

Ousmane Dembele is still injured, but Raphinha's form since taking the French international's place has been encouraging, and although Sergio Busquets is out with a twisted ankle, Frenkie de Jong has been in good form to compensate.

Villarreal welcome Barca after a home defeat to Rayo Vallecano and after becoming the first side to lose to Elche all season, and the departure of Arnaut Danjuma in the transfer window does appear to have hurt Quique Setien's side.

It will be the first time Setien has faced Barca since his short and ill-fated spell as coach at the Camp Nou, and the Villarreal boss will no doubt be desperate for a win.

The weekend gets underway on Friday with Cadiz at home to Girona, with the home side needing to recover from their 4-1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao a week ago.

Both Almeria and Real Betis need points from their Andalusian derby on Saturday afternoon; Almeria because their defeat to Rayo Vallecano on Monday left them too close to the bottom three, while three defeats in four games have seen Betis drop to seventh in the table.

Betis are without central defender Luiz Felipe after his controversial sending off in last weekend's 4-3 defeat at home to Celta Vigo.

Sevilla entertain Mallorca, with the visitors likely to again put faith in their impressive defense that has only conceded 18 goals all season.

There will be drama at Valencia as the home side face fan complaints, with talks of supporters either boycotting or walking out of their match against Athletic Bilbao in protest at club owner Peter Lim.

Valencia are only a point above Cadiz and could be in the bottom three by kick-off, and recent displays imply they are deep in a crisis of performances and mentality. They will also be without the suspended Hugo Guillamon and Gabriel Paulista against the side who beat them comfortably 3-1 in the Copa del Rey at the Mestalla just over two weeks ago.

Second-from-bottom Getafe take on high-flying Rayo Vallecano in a south Madrid derby on Sunday. Getafe showed grit to take a point from Atletico Madrid last weekend but need to start winning, while Rayo have had to fend off interest in coach Andoni Iraola from Leeds United.

Celta are looking for a third consecutive win when they entertain Atletico Madrid on Sunday afternoon, while Valladolid entertain Osasuna.

Canadian loanee Cyle Larin has had an immediate impact at Valladolid, scoring both goals as Pacheta's side have taken six points from two games to ease relegation worries.

Espanyol will be without key striker Joselu for Monday's visit of Real Sociedad, but Espanyol's injury list is nothing compared to the Basque side, who have 10 players, including Mikel Merino and David Silva, in the treatment room.

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