Matchday 18 is the penultimate matchday of the first half of the 2021/22 LaLiga Santander season and it could be an explosive one, with several big fixtures on the slate. There are heavyweight clashes like Real Sociedad vs Villarreal CF, Sevilla FC vs Atlético de Madrid and Athletic Club vs Real Betis, plus a Valencian derby on Monday night as Levante UD take on city rivals Valencia CF.
Before that, RC Celta and RCD Espanyol kick off the action on Friday night. Each side comes into this game on the back of a hard-fought midweek Copa del Rey win, yet the focus now returns to LaLiga Santander as these two midtable teams look to finish the first half of the campaign on a high.
Saturday’s slate of games is mouth-watering, starting with Rayo Vallecano vs D. Alavés. The capital city side boast the best home record in the league, having won seven and drawn one of their eight home fixtures so far. Against a team that have struggled in the past few weeks, the home fans at Vallecas will hope to celebrate another victory this Saturday afternoon.
Next up is Real Sociedad vs Villarreal CF, which sees two of last year’s top seven do battle at the Reale Arena. It’s always a special occasion for Unai Emery to return to the club where he started his career and to take on his former teammate Imanol Alguacil. He’ll hope the Yellow Submarine can collect the three points, especially with Gerard Moreno back and in scoring form.
FC Barcelona will then take to the Camp Nou pitch at 6.30pm looking to escape their run of poor form when Elche CF come to town. Barça haven’t won any of their past four, including a midweek Maradona Cup loss on penalties against Boca Juniors, so the Blaugrana need a three-point haul urgently. It’ll be fascinating to see what Xavi Hernández comes up with for this one.
The Saturday night game at 9pm is one of the most anticipated fixtures of the whole season, as Sevilla FC meet Atlético de Madrid for a match that almost always produces some fireworks. This game brings goals too, with only two of the 23 meetings held over the previous decade finishing goalless and with both teams having scored in 13 of these past 23 Sevillavs Atleti matches.
More entertainment should follow on Sunday, starting with Granada CF vs RCD Mallorca. The last few matches of these two outfits have been thrilling, with Granada scoring an 86th minute winner two weekends ago and then an 88th minute equaliser on their most recent outing. The islanders, meanwhile, are still celebrating Takefusa Kubo’s 90th minute winner against Atleti from earlier this month. Their meeting, then, could produce some late drama.
Two of Spain’s most historic sides then face off in the Sunday afternoon game, with Athletic Club hosting Real Betis. Their form coming into this game could hardly be more different, with the Basque side struggling to find the back of the net while almost everything that Betis, and especially Juanmi, touch turns to gold.
Getafe CF will then look to keep up their good run of form when they welcome CA Osasuna to the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, with the Azulones having lost just one of their past seven in league play. They’re slowly fixing their terrible start to the season and will view this as another opportunity to add to their tally.
League leaders Real Madrid then return to action on Sunday night, with Cádiz CF playing what will be their first game at the Bernabéu since 2006. They did take on Real Madrid at Valdebebas last season on their return to the top flight and won that game 1-0, so the team from the south will have some reason to be confident as they aim to halt Los Blancos’ 10-match winning run.
The matchday then concludes with a derby, as Levante UD host Valencia CF at the Estadi Ciutat de València. With the Granotas bottom of the table, they desperately need a spark and there’d be nothing like a derby victory to kickstart a push for survival.