WINDHOEK, DEC. 18 – The 2018/19 La Liga season will have just one more round of matches on 21-23 December, before going on recess over the festive season and early New Year, with the pick of the fixtures the clash between Barcelona and Celta de Vigo this coming Saturday evening.
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The Liga leaders have not enjoyed the most impressive of domestic campaigns thus far (compared to their usual incredible standard), yet they have had enough class and consistency to top the standings through most of the first half of the 2018/19 season. Manager Ernesto Valverde will want to see his team put up a strong showing in their last match of the calendar year, and once again he’ll turn turn to superstars such as Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez for inspiration.
Celta, meanwhile, have had a very respectable season thus far and remain in contention to qualify for European club football next term. Manager Miguel Cardoso will know his team are major underdogs heading to the Camp Nou, but in the likes of Iago Aspas, Maxi Gomez and Moroccan Sofiane Boufal he had some potent attackers to call on and an upset is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Another key match in the 17th round is Villarreal hosting Real Madrid – though the match will only be played on Thursday 3 June 2019, as ‘Los Blancos’ will be in the United Arab Emirates this week participating in the Club World Cup.
There remains a question mark over manager Santiago Solari and a trip to Estadio de la Ceramica is always challenging, even if Villarreal have struggled to produce their best football this season. If the CWC in the Middle East doesn’t go well for Solari and his charges, then this match against the ‘Yellow Submarine’ – who can call on African stars Karl Toko Ekambi and Samuel Chukwueze in attack – takes on huge significance.
And Real’s match on 3 January comes on the eve of the 18th round of fixtures, which will be played on the weekend of 4-6 January (with final dates and kick-off times yet to be confirmed by La Liga). The big game on the first full round in 2019 sees Sevilla host Atletico Madrid.
Sevilla have been one of the surprise packages of the Liga season thus far, with manager Pablo Machin doing a fantastic job in turning the Andalusian club into outsiders for the title – and in Wissam Ben Yedder and Andre Silva they have one of the most potent forward lines in Spain.
Yet they will be tested to the limit by an Atletico Madrid side which has been gradually building their confidence through the 2018/19 campaign, and of course with Diego Simeone as their manager a resilient defence to counter Sevilla’s attacking threat is to be expected. Also keep an eye for Ghanaian midfielder Thomas Partey, who will hope to feature for the visitors at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Other key games in this round see Mubarak Wakaso come up against Geoffrey Kondogbia in a midfield battle for Deportivo Alaves v Valencia, Real Madrid will welcome Real Sociedad to Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, and Djene Dakonam’s Getafe will host Barcelona at Colisuem Alfonso Perez.
Key match stats
Barcelona v Celta de Vigo – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 42
Barca wins 21
Celta wins 9
Villarreal v Real Madrid – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 36
Villarreal wins 4
Real wins 21
Sevilla v Atletico Madrid – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 49
Sevilla wins 17
Atletico wins 17
La Liga fixtures, 21 December – 6 January
All times CAT
Friday 21 December
20:30: Girona v Getafe – LIVE on SS7
22:00: Real Sociedad v Deportivo Alaves – LIVE on SS7
Saturday 22 December
14:00: Real Betis v Eibar – LIVE on SS7
17:15: Atletico Madrid v Espanyol – LIVE on SS7
19:30: Barcelona v Celta de Vigo – LIVE on SS7
21:45: Athletic Bilbao v Real Valladolid – LIVE on SS7
Sunday 23 December
13:00: Valencia v Huesca – LIVE on SS7
17:15: Leganes v Sevilla – LIVE on SS7
19:30: Rayo Vallecano v Levante – LIVE on SS7
Thursday 3 January
22:30: Villareal v Real Madrid – LIVE on SS7
Friday 4 January
20:00: Levante v Girona – LIVE on SS7
22:00: Espanyol v Leganes – LIVE on SS7
Saturday 5 January
14:00: Real Valladolid v Ray Vallecano – LIVE on SS7
17:15: Deportivo Alaves v Valencia – LIVE on SS7
21:45: Huesca v Real Betis – LIVE on SS7
Sunday 6 January
13:00: Eibar v Villarreal – LIVE on SS7
17:15: Sevilla v Atletico Madrid – LIVE on SS7
19:30: Real Madrid v Real Sociedad – LIVE on SS7
21:45: Getafe v Barcelona – LIVE on SS7
Monday 7 January
22:00: Celta de Vigo v Athletic Bilbao – LIVE on SS7 – Contributed