Big weekend in La Liga ahead of international break

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Madrid, March 17 (IANS) The last round of football games in the La Liga before the forthcoming international break may just give Atletico Madrid the chance to claw back some points from FC Barcelona.

While Barcelona travel to play fourth placed Villarreal on Sunday in what is their toughest away game until the end of the season, Atletico travel to the north of Spain to face a Sporting Gijon in a crisis of results which has seen them plummet into the relegation zone, reports Xinhua.

Sporting have taken just three points from 24 possible, losing five of their last six games and now look set for a rapid return to the second division unless they can turn things around.

Their best hope on Saturday is that Atletico, who will be without injured defender Diego Godin, are still feeling the effects of the 120 minutes effort they put in to knock PSV Eindhoven out of the European Champions League on Tuesday night.

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The round of matches kicks off on Friday night with Getafe, who last week dropped into the bottom three after suffering their eighth defeat in nine games, at home against Eibar. Failure to win would see Getafe coach Fran Escriba get the sack, while a win for Eibar would assure they are safe for another season.

Other games relevant to the relegation battle on Saturday see Granada at home face Rayo Vallecano, while Las Palmas travel to take on Real Sociedad. Las Palmas coach Quique Setien will want to see his side continue trying to play the football that so nearly earned them a point at home against Real Madrid last weekend.

Levante also have a chance to build on last weekend’s win at home over Valencia when they face a Deportivo la Coruna side that has so far failed to win in 2016.

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Sunday sees several key matches: Espanyol entertain Athletic Club Bilbao, who could climb to within just three points of Villarreal if they are able to recover from Thursday night’s Europa League tie in Valencia and claim a win.

Valencia meanwhile are at home against Celta Vigo in what promises to be another tricky game in the Mestalla Stadium.

Villarreal have taken just one point from a possible nine to see what looked like a comfortable gap in fourth reduced to just five over fifth placed Sevilla and they need to take something from FC Barcelona.

Barcelona booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday and will have Gerard Pique back in the side for what is a key match, especially as the league leaders entertain Real Madrid after the Easter holidays.

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Real Madrid entertain Sevilla, who may be fifth and pressuring Villarreal, but who have failed to win away from home all season.

Nevertheless Unai Emery’s side will travel to Madrid thinking that if they can repeat the display which saw them beat Villarreal last weekend they have a chance of ending that run, despite being without the suspended Ever Banega.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane was critical of his side last week and will be looking for an improvement on Sunday.

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