Vital Champions League ties on horizon in La Liga week 16 (Preview)

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Madrid, Dec 2 (IANS) The 16th round of games in La Liga sees both Real Madrid and FC Barcelona face touch games, while Atletico Madrid will hope for an easier time as they prepare for a vital European game next week.

Real Madrid rode their luck after being outplayed by Athletic Club Bilbao for much of their 1-0 win in the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night, and they will probably have to play a lot better if they want to win away to Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Despite moving seven points clear at the top of the table, Real Madrid looked lackluster on Wednesday and have little recovery time ahead of their trip to San Sebastian, where the home side needs to recover after their last two league matches ended in a draw at home to Valencia and a 1-0 defeat to Espanyol.

FC Barcelona have been fortunate in their first two league matches since Xavi Hernandez took over as first team coach, with controversial wins over Espanyol and Villarreal.

Real Betis will provide a stiff challenge for Barcelona in the Camp Nou Stadium, where Barca will again be without Pedri, Martin Braithwaite, Kun Aguero and Sergi Roberto.

Xavi may have to carry out some squad rotations ahead of his side’s decisive Champions League visit to Bayern Munich next week.

Atletico Madrid’s Champions League future is also very much in the balance and their upcoming visit to Porto could be on Diego Simeone’s mind as his team prepares to face Mallorca.

Atletico have shown two distinct sides this campaign: one that struggles in attack and another that scores goals with ease — as in their 4-1 win in Cadiz last weekend. Which one we will see on Saturday is anyone’s guess.

Sevilla and Villarreal are two more teams with work to do to reach the last 16 of the Champions League, and they will both have one eye on the coming week when they go head-to-head in the Sanchez Pizjuan, reports Xinhua.

Sevilla made hard work of Cordoba in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday night, while Villarreal have Gerard Moreno available again after he returned with a goal in the 8-0 routing of Victoria CF in the Cup.

The round of games kicks off with Granada at home to Alaves and continues on Sunday as sixth place Rayo Vallecano look to continue their impressive form with a home game against Espanyol who are without captain David Lopez after an ankle operation.

Francisco Rodriguez makes his league debut in the Elche dugout as his side entertains Cadiz in a clash between the teams placed fourth and third bottom of the table in which the loser is assured of ending the weekend in the relegation zone.

Javier Pereira became the second coach to be sacked by Levante this season earlier this week and the team from Valencia has Alessio Lisci in temporary charge as they take on Osasuna still in search of their first win of the season.

Sunday ends with Celta Vigo at home to Valencia before Monday sees second from bottom Getafe (who are improving under Quique Sanchez Flores) at home to Athletic Club, who return to the capital after a run of six games without a win.

–IANS
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