La Liga MD 14 Preview: Xavi Set To Make Barça Debut In Catalan Derby

Club football is back with a bang following the November international break. Saturday night sees FC Barcelona host city rivals RCD Espanyol in what will be Xavi Hernández’s first match as head coach of the club. All eyes will be on that historic event, while there are several other LaLiga Santander fixtures worth watching.

The action kicks off with Levante UD vs Athletic Club on Friday night, as Javier Pereira seeks his first victory since taking over as Levante’s new coach. The Basque side will be more than motivated too, given that they suffered a disappointing loss to Cadiz just before the international pause. Having had two weeks without a game, they’ll be determined to put their best foot forward as soon as the ball gets rolling.

One of the teams that went into the break on a high was RC Celta, who produced an epic three-goal comeback to draw 3-3 with FC Barcelona in front of their home fans on Matchday 13. Now, they have another glamour fixture at their Abanca Balaídos home as Villarreal CF come to town. The home side will be determined to carry on that momentum and to avoid a repeat of what happened last season when the Yellow Submarine secured a dominant 4-0 away win.

Sevilla FC’s 100 per cent home record will be put to the test next, as they host D. Alavés at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. They’ll be confident of staying strong at this early stage of the season; Sevilla are the only team to have won every home match so far this LaLiga Santander campaign. Reigning champions Atlético de Madrid will then target a home triumph of their own later on Saturday when CA Osasuna visit, but that might be easier said than done. Osasuna have picked up more points on the road this season (13) than Atleti have at home (12). This could be a potential banana skin for Diego Simeone’s men.

Then comes the Saturday night showdown in Catalonia, with FC Barcelona vs RCD Espanyol (9pm). With both these sides level on 17 points and this being the first derby in two years, anticipation and expectation is through the roof. Barça fans will be anxious to watch Xavi’s first match since taking over as coach; after playing 505 times in Spain’s top division, this will be his first time in charge of a LaLiga Santander dugout and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The stakes will also be high in Sunday’s first fixture in which Getafe CF host Cádiz CF in a relegation six-pointer. Granada CF are another club in relegation bother and they now have the daunting prospect of a visit from Real Madrid (4.15pm), who have won their past 12 meetings with the Andalusian side – with Los Blancos scoring an average of 3.33 goals per game in that run.

Later on Sunday evening, Real Betis will look to bounce back from what was a nightmare week just before the break. Not only did they lose the Seville derby, but they also suffered a couple of other heavy defeats that week, so the Verdiblancos will be determined to get back to winning ways when they visit Elche CF.

The late Sunday night fixture then sees LaLiga Santander leaders Real Sociedad return to action for an intriguing match against Valencia CF. José Bordalás is one coach who has managed to frustrate Imanol Alguacil’s La Real in the past and he’ll hope to do so again as he takes Los Che north to the Reale Arena.

The final fixture of Matchday 14 takes place in the capital: Rayo Vallecano hosting fellow newly-promoted side RCD Mallorca. Both these teams have done well since making the jump from the second tier to LaLiga Santander, with Rayo Vallecano especially impressive at home. They haven’t lost in front of their own fans yet and boast the best home record in the division, but the islanders will hope to change that by doing what they did in January when they earned a 3-1 win in Vallecas.