LaLiga Santander MD 30 Preview: ElClásico & The Title Race

One of the most decisive Clásicos in years will take place this weekend in LaLiga Santander, as Real Madrid host FC Barcelona at the Estadio Di Stéfano on Saturday night at 9pm. Both sides come into this rivalry fixture in excellent form, with Real Madrid having won four in a row in the league and Barça six on the bounce.

That is most certainly the blockbuster match of the week in European football, with both teams knowing that they can, at least temporarily, reach the top of the LaLiga Santander table with a victory.

Currently, Atlético Madrid lead the standings with 66 points ahead of their Sunday night trip to Real Betis, with FC Barcelona second on 65 points and Real Madrid third on 63 points. This makes this a crucial match in the title race. Even if Atlético Madrid go on to win the title, the result of this fixture could prove key.

Real Madrid have a couple of important absences for this match as they’ll be without their injured captain Sergio Ramos and also without his central defensive colleague Raphaël Varane, who has tested positive for COVID-19. Barça, meanwhile, will be closer to full-strength. They still have a couple of long-term injury absentees, but Lionel Messi will lead his in-form team out in his record-equalling 45th ElClásico.

This will be a particularly interesting ElClásico as it’ll be the first to be held at the Estadio Di Stéfano, making the temporary home of the Real Madrid first team the 12th stadium to host a competitive fixture between these two old foes.

At Valdebebas, Los Blancos will aim to make it three ElClásico victories in a row, after winning 2-0 in their last home ElClásico and then 3-1 at the Camp Nou earlier this season. The head-to-head tiebreaker between these two teams is also, then, within Real Madrid’s grasp, and that would separate the sides if they finish the season level on points.

ElClásico is the headline act of Matchday 30, but there are several other interesting fixtures coming up in Spain, starting with the Friday night six-pointer between SD Huesca and Elche CF. The former is currently at the edge of the relegation zone on 24 points and the latter, on 26 points, the closest of the teams currently in safety.

On Saturday afternoon, Getafe CF and Cádiz CF will meet in a match between two sides not completely safe from the threat of relegation yet, before Athletic Club host bottom-placed Deportivo Alavés for a Basque derby. With Deportivo Alavés having changed coach this week, hiring Javi Calleja to replace Abelardo, they have renewed hope that they can escape the drop zone. SD Eibar, the other side currently in the relegation, then host Levante UD in a huge Saturday evening fixture as they seek to end a 12-match winless run in LaLiga Santander.

Then comes ElClásico, kicking off at 9pm on Saturday night. On Sunday, the result of that big rivalry match will still be the main talking point in Spain, but there will still be half a matchday to complete and Villarreal CF and CA Osasuna will take each other on in the day’s first game. It could be a fascinating battle between two top strikers as LaLiga Santander’s second-top scorer Gerard Moreno lines up for Villarreal CF and as the back-from-injury maverick Chimy Ávila is in line for more minutes with CA Osasuna.

A clash between two of Spain’s most historic clubs follows as Valencia CF host Real Sociedad at Mestalla. With La Real fresh from winning the Copa del Rey title, and after two consecutive Basque Derbies, they’ll now look to keep adding to their LaLiga Santander points tally as they strive to return to European competition.

Real Valladolid and Granada CF will face off next and the former will be looking to repeat one of their best wins of this season, when they conquered Granada CF 3-1 away from home earlier this campaign. Although Real Valladolid are missing many players right now, they battled excellently as they narrowly lost to FC Barcelona last time out and they’ll aim for another big performance this weekend.

On Sunday night, in the 9pm slot, there is another huge game in the title race as Atlético Madrid visit Real Betis. Los Rojiblancos also visited the city of Seville last Sunday night and lost to Sevilla FC, so they’ll hope for a more fruitful trip this time around, especially as they might find themselves off top spot depending on the result of ElClásico.

But it won’t be easy for Diego Simeone’s side as Real Betis actually have a better points-per-game ratio in LaLiga Santander in the calendar year of 2021 than Atleti.

There is another intriguing game on Monday night to round off the matchday, with RC Celta Vigo hosting Sevilla FC.

Celta Vigo are marching towards the European qualification spots, while Sevilla FC are also in excellent form and still have an outside chance of fighting for the title. As Iago Aspas takes on his former club, it promises to be a fascinating watch between two sides who like to take possession and attack.