Matchday 16 in LaLiga Santander could be a decisive one, as third-placed Real Sociedad host league leaders Real Madrid in San Sebastián on Saturday night. The three points on offer could be crucial in the title race, even at this early stage of the campaign. There are other huge fixtures too this weekend, such as FC Barcelona vs Real Betis and Sevilla FC vs Villarreal CF.
The round starts on Friday night, with Granada CF vs D. Alavés. Both sides enjoyed comfortable Copa del Rey victories in midweek and will be looking to carry that momentum into the weekend. They currently hover just above the relegation zone, but they know that every point is vital and those taken from direct rivals even more so.
Then comes a super Saturday, starting with a meeting of the last two winners of the Europa League, as Sevilla FC host Villarreal CF. Over the past four seasons, these clubs’ clashes have produced three draws, three Villarreal wins and two Sevilla wins, so it has certainly been a competitive rivalry in recent times. With Gerard Moreno returning from injury, the Yellow Submarine will travel to Andalusia with confidence that they can add another win to their tally.
FC Barcelona then host Real Betis at the Camp Nou at 4.15pm. This will be Xavi’s fourth game in charge of the Blaugrana, with a creditable two wins and a draw in his first three matches, and a substantial helping of drama. With Real Betis coming into this one in excellent form, this could be the toughest test yet for the new Barça boss.
Defending champions Atlético de Madrid are in action next as they welcome RCD Mallorca to the Wanda Metropolitano. Having just won two LaLiga Santander games in a row for the first time since August, Diego Simeone will hope his side can build on the recent results and string a lengthy series of wins together.
Then at 9pm comes the heavyweight game of the weekend: Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid at the Reale Arena. The home side are third, currently level on points with Atleti, while Real Madrid lead the way thanks to the best attack in the division. After 15 matchdays, Carlo Ancelotti’s men have been top for nine rounds, Real Sociedad for five rounds and Sevilla FC for one, making this Saturday’s fixture a title race six-pointer. The Basque side will feel confident too, as coach Imanol Alguacil has an excellent record against Los Blancos: three wins, two draws, and just two defeats. As he takes on Ancelotti for the first time, the Italian knows this will be a tough one.
Four more matches follow on Sunday, starting with Rayo Vallecano vs RCD Espanyol, a meeting of two newly promoted sides who have started the season so well that they’re both currently in the top half of the table. It’s Elche CF vs Cádiz CF next, as two of last season’s newly promoted teams look to stay in the top division for another season.
Bottom-placed Levante UD are hoping to make a great escape and to stay in the top-flight as well and they’ll be aiming to kickstart a new survival push when they host CA Osasuna on Sunday evening. The Granotas are currently searching for their third coach of the season and will be led out by caretaker Alessio Lisci this weekend. The young Italian coach is excited about the challenge, admitting he stayed up until 5am in the morning to watch videos of Osasuna matches after getting the call.
RC Celta vs Valencia CF is the primetime Sunday night game this weekend, a match of reunions with Santi Mina and Maxi Gómez set to lead the lines for their current clubs against their former clubs. Danish international Daniel Wass will also be facing his former teammates in what will be an emotional game on both sides.
The matchday then concludes on Monday night with Getafe CF vs Athletic Club. Geta have now avoided defeat in four of their past five LaLiga Santander outings, so they come into this round in good form and know that a victory could finally lift them out of the relegation zone.