Madrid, Feb 5 (IANS) Atletico Madrid have the chance to temporarily draw level on points with league leaders FC Barcelona when they entertain Eibar on Saturday afternoon at the Vicente Calderon Stadium here.
The fact that Barcelona and Real Madrid don’t play until Sunday lunchtime gives Atletico the opportunity to bounce back from their defeat in the Camp Nou Stadium a week ago, although that game has given Atletico coach Diego Simeone a host of problems, reports Xinhua.
Both Diego Godin and Felipe Luis were sent off in Barcelona and are suspended, while Juanfran Torres is also out after reaching the end of a 5-booking cycle and with Stefan Savic limping out of Wednesday, training session, Simeone is going to have to put together a makeshift defense with perhaps, Saul Niguez partnering Jose Gimenez in central defense.
Saturday also sees sixth place Athletic Club Bilbao entertain fourth placed Villarreal, who can take a big step towards assuring a place in the Champions League if they can come away from San Mames intact. However, in order to do that, they will have to survive the in-form duo of Inaki Williams and Aritz Aduriz, who will lead the Athletic line.
There is a relegation battle in Vallecas as Rayo Vallecano entertain Las Palmas in what promises to be a tense, but open affair, while Saturday ends with Sporting Gijon entertaining Deportivo la Coruna looking for their third consecutive win.
Sunday kicks off at midday in Valencia as Barcelona visit bottom of the table Levante with coach Luis Enrique knowing his side’s 7-0 win over Valencia in Wednesday’s Cup semi-final means he can play his strongest side on Sunday and rest players for the return leg in the Cup as the job has already been done.
Levante have just 17 points in 22 games, but will look to recent arrival Giuseppe Rossi to give them some hope in attack.
Real Madrid meanwhile play away to Granada in the evening with the press still raving about Zinedine Zidane in the wake of his third home win since replacing Rafael Benitez as head coach at the start of January.
Pepe is out with a foot injury and Sergio Ramos will again play against the side which is second from bottom of the table.
Betis have slipped worryingly close to the relegation zone and the legal problems of striker Ruben Castro will not have helped matters at the club, however, their worries are far less than those of Valencia coach Gary Neville whose side has not won a league match since his arrival and lost 0-7 to Barcelona in the Cup on Wednesday.
Failure to win away to Betis could well see the Englishman’s coaching debut come to a premature end despite the support of club owned Peter Lim.
Sunday also sees Sevilla play Celta in the second of three meetings in a week, given that they also play in the other King’s Cup semi-final, while Espanyol can be expected to dig deeper at home to Real Sociedad on Monday than they did away to Real Madrid a week ago.