La Liga Lowdown: Best Bets As Xavi Returns To Barca

Savage gives his thoughts on the best action from Spain's Primera División and looks forward to Xavi taking charge in the Barcelona Derby on his La Liga return

The La Liga action returns this weekend with one of the league’s most decorated players beginning his managerial stint at Camp Nou with a Barcelona derby.

Barcelona (9) v Espanyol (11)

Camp Nou, Sat 20 Nov 20:00 (Ireland/UK), 21:00 (Spain)

There is some added intrigue leading into this Barcelona Derby as one of Catalonia’s favourite sons has been welcomed home with open arms. Sitting just two places above their city rivals in 9th is not where Xavi would have wanted to start his tenure as manager. Barca will be smarting having squandered a 3-0 first half lead against Celta before the international break. The fans will be hoping that their former midfield general will have restored some confidence in this team in his short time in charge. Espanyol by contrast have been in relatively good form of late, losing only once in their last 6 outings. Raul de Tomas’s rich vein of form led to him making his international debut for Spain over the break. History, and the fixture being played in the Camp Nou, suggests Barcelona will be too strong for Espanyol in this one.

Granada (17) v Real Madrid (2)

Los Cármenes, Sun 21 Nov 15:15 (Ireland/UK), 16:15 (Spain)

Granada fans may have hoped their comfortable victory over Levante in match day 12 would generate some much needed momentum. However, they put up little resistance against Espanyol as they went down 2-0 in Barcelona. The last team they will want to see on their doorstep this weekend will be an in form Real. Madrid have been free scoring thanks to the wonderful partnership forged between Vinicius Jr and Benzema. Los Blancos have only failed to register a goal in two of the 12 matches in the league. This must be a concern for Robert Moreno whose team has only managed 2 clean sheets in the same time. This should be a routine outing for Madrid who will continue to heap the pressure on the league leaders.

Real Sociedad (1) v Valencia (10)

Reale Arena, Sun 21 Nov 20:00 (Ireland/UK), 21:00 (Spain)

Los Txuri-Urdin continue to defy expectations by picking up points at every turn. Their only defeat came on the opening day of the season against Barcelona. Centre-forward Alexander Isak has found some goals in recent weeks, which has eased the burden on his teammates. The Swedish international could definitely pose a problem to this Valencia defence that was ruthlessly exposed by Atlético before mounting their heroic comeback.

The visitors are substantially better in attack than they are in defence with the likes of Guedes and Soler in their ranks. That being said Sociedad have been positively miserly when it comes to conceding goals at home. Iker Muniain’s freak stoppage-time goal is the only one allowed in their 6 games at the Reale Arena. Expect this one to be a relatively low scoring affair but the home side might just eek out another 3 points.

Round 13 Review

There was plenty of action to choose from in Round 13 with two six-goal thrillers being decided by injury time goals. The pick for this week goes to Valencia versus Atlético Madrid.

Game of the Weekend: Valencia 3-3 Atlético Madrid

Given both teams form coming into this fixture nobody would have anticipated the late drama that unfolded at the Mestalla. Luis Suarez netted his 7th of the season when he nudged the ball past Cillessen and off the post after some slick Atlético interplay. Valencia were fortunate to pull themselves level when Guedes’ cross-cum-shot was initially parried by Oblak only to be turned into his own net by Savic. Antoine Griezmann put the visitors back in front on 57 minutes with a superb individual goal that was definitely a goal of the weekend contender. The Frenchman picked the ball up in his own half and made a driving run straight to the edge of the Valencia box. He managed to get the ball out from under his feet and unleashed an unstoppable rising drive into the top corner of the net.

Atlético cruising or so they thought

Madrid extended their lead with one of the scrappiest goals you’re likely to see. Suarez made a nuisance of himself inside the box as the ball bobbled off multiple players. He was able to get the slightest of touches to edge the ball to Vrsaljko who bundled it across the line. The champions looked to be comfortably claiming all three points as the clock ticked into the 7 minutes of added time. Hugo Duro had other ideas. The substitute made a perfectly timed run to latch onto to Jose Gaya’s excellent cross. His first time effort flew past the Madrid keeper. Guedes was once more involved as his free-kick delivery met the unmarked Duro on the edge of the six yard box. The Spaniard’s header rippled the back of the net to send the home fans into raptures. The champions were left to rue more points dropped on the road.

Goal of the Weekend: Adria Pedrosa v Granada

There is something so enjoyable about the simple pleasure of watching an exquisitely executed volley find the back of the net. Adria Pedrosa’s opener against Granada was a fine example of training ground routine that clearly paid dividends. Sergi Darder’s out-swinging corner was met of the edge of the box by Pedrosa who made sublime contact with the ball on the volley. Luis Maximiano was left rooted to the spot as the ball found the corner of his net.

And the rest…

Levante (19) v Athletic Bilbao (8), Fri 19 Nov 20:00 (Ireland/UK), 21:00 (Spain)

Celta Vigo (15) v Villarreal (12), Sat 20 Nov 13:00 (Ireland/UK), 14:00 (Spain)

Sevilla (3) v Alavés (14), Sat 20 Nov 15:15 (Ireland/UK), 16:15 (Spain)

Atlético Madrid (4) v Osasuna (7), Sat 20 Nov 17:30 (Ireland/UK), 18:30 (Spain)

Getafe (20) v Cádiz (16), Sun 21 Nov 13:00 (Ireland/UK), 14:00 (Spain)

Elche (18) v Real Betis (5), Sun 21 Nov 17:30 (Ireland/UK), 18:30 (Spain)

Rayo Vallecano (6) v Mallorca (13), Mon 22 Nov 20:00 (Ireland/UK), 21:00 (Spain)


SRD Selections:

Barcelona v Espanyol- BTTS @ 5/6

Granada v Real Madrid – Madrid to win & O2.5 Goals @ Evens

Real Sociedad v Valencia – Valencia to win @ 15/4

Treble of the above at a little under 15/1