LaLiga Santander MD 20 Preview: Second Half Of Season Gets Underway

epa08185546 Atletico Madrid's Yannick Carrasco (R) enters the pitch in substitution for Vitolo (L) during the Spanish LaLiga soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain, 01 February 2020. EPA/Rodrigo Jimenez

The second half of the 2020/21 LaLiga Santander season begins this weekend.

Almost every team in the division has now played their first 19 fixtures of the 38-match campaign, so Matchday 20 marks the start of the business end of the season.

It gets going with a Friday night clash between Levante UD and Real Valladolid, two teams who come into this round after thrilling 2-2 draws on Tuesday, against Cádiz and Elche, respectively. Both sides are missing some key players, so this will be a huge opportunity for others to step up.

There are four fixtures on Saturday, the first of which is SD Huesca vs Villarreal CF. It’ll be a tough challenge for the newly promoted side, but they have a new coach in the form of Pacheta and this will be his first home game at El Alcoraz, so optimism will be high. Considering Huesca earned a draw when these sides met earlier in the season, the visitors can’t take anything for granted.

Saturday’s second match is an Andalusian derby as Cádiz CF make the short trip to take on regional giants Sevilla FC. It’ll be a particularly special occasion for in-form Sevilla forward Suso as he takes on his hometown club and a team whose academy he started out in.

Real Sociedad vs Real Betis is up next and this promises to be a fascinating tactical tussle between two teams in the top six for possession stats this season. They can’t both win the possession battle in this one, though, so it’ll be interesting to see how these coaches adapt their styles and which one wins out.

On Saturday night, in the 9pm time slot, there is a huge game for D. Alavés. They’re hosting reigning champions Real Madrid and are doing so 100 years to the day of their club’s founding.

The Babazorros were founded on 23 January back in 1921 and will bring in their centenary with one of the biggest fixtures of the season. They’ll also do so with Abelardo in the dugout, their former coach who returned to the helm last week. He has prior experience of defeating Real Madrid as Alavés coach, so the team from the capital will need to be careful.

Four more matches follow on Sunday, starting with CA Osasuna vs Granada CF. These two teams actually met as recently as 12 January, when they played their postponed meeting from the first round of the season and when Granada won 2-0. We’ll soon find out if Osasuna can do any better this time around.

Elche CF take on FC Barcelona next and the pressure is really on the home side to take a positive result away from this match, considering they haven’t won any of their past 12 league games. Barça, meanwhile, will be looking to overcome the disappointment of their Spanish Super Cup final defeat yet they’ll be without the suspended Lionel Messi for this game and others will have to try to overcame that absence.

The next match on Sunday could be a tense one as RC Celta clash with SD Eibar in Galicia, a game that has finished goalless the last two times they met. This could be a similarly tight game between two sides who are still looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone.

After that, there’s a match that could produce many goals. Two giants of Spanish football will meet in the capital as Atlético de Madrid face Valencia CF and there have been 14 goals over these sides’ past five meetings.

Atleti are top of the table and will be considered favourites, but Valencia have shown this season that they can raise their game for the biggest occasions. Los Che have already defeated Real Madrid and Real Sociedad and drawn away at FC Barcelona. On Sunday night, their next heavyweight bout takes place.

There’s also a Monday night fixture in this round as Spanish Super Cup champions Athletic Club make a triumphant return to San Mamés to play Getafe CF.

The Basque side will still be full of confidence after lifting the first trophy of the Spanish football season, but they’ll want to start putting league points on the board too in what will be new coach Marcelino’s fifth match overall, but only his second LaLiga Santander game.

Getafe have been rejuvenated by the loan arrivals of Takefusa Kubo and Carles Aleñá and this means an excellent contest of skill and physicality should be expected.