LaLiga Santander Matchday 15 preview: Spain’s top division returns this Thursday, ahead of a Barcelona Derby on New Year’s Eve

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Following the seven-week pause for the 2022 World Cup, LaLiga Santander finally resumes this week as Matchday 15 takes place across Thursday December 29th, Friday December 30th and Saturday December 31st. All 20 top-flight teams will be in action over the course of these three days and there are several regional rivalries, including the Barcelona Derby between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol.

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The very first fixture after the hiatus is Girona FC vs Rayo Vallecano at 17:00 CET on Thursday, and it should be a fun one as these are two teams whose matches this season have produced a lot of goals. For the home side’s coach Míchel, it’ll be an extra special game as he’ll go up against his former club.


Later on Thursday evening, Real Betis and Athletic Club will face off in what should be an extra competitive match, considering both teams entered the break on 24 points. Both these clubs believe they could secure Champions League qualification this season and that makes these three points especially valuable.


Atlético de Madrid are also on 24 points and they’ll look to finish 2022 on a high when they host Elche CF on Thursday night at the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano. Diego Simeone’s side failed to win any of their final three league games before the World Cup break, so they desperately need to put points on the board and will hope to do so against the division’s bottom-placed side, who have a new coach in the form of Pablo Machín.


On Friday, there are four more fixtures and the first one of the day is again at 17:00 CET, with Getafe CF welcoming RCD Mallorca to the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez. The islanders’ Vedat Muriqi scored in each of his previous five LaLiga Santander appearances, so will hope to keep up that fine goalscoring form now that club football has returned.


There are then two matches taking place simultaneously at 19:15 CET. One of them sees 17th-placed RC Celta host 18th-placed Sevilla FC for a duel between two clubs desperate to pull away from the relegation battle as soon as possible. The other game at that time slot is an Andalusian derby, as Cádiz CF host UD Almería, with both clubs also targeting survival as their primary objective this season.


Reigning Spanish champions Real Madrid then play at 21:30 CET on Friday night, as they travel to Real Valladolid, the club presided by former striker Ronaldo Nazário. Karim Benzema could make his long-awaited return to action in this game, having spent the past few weeks recovering from injury.
On Saturday, the day’s action begins with a Barcelona Derby as current league leaders FC Barcelona host RCD Espanyol at the Spotify Camp Nou at 14:00 CET. The Blaugrana have an excellent recent record in this fixture, having won their past 12 home league matches against their neighbours, including last season’s 1-0 win courtesy of a Memphis Depay goal in what was Xavi’s debut as Barça coach. This is always a fiery fixture, so there could be early fireworks to enjoy this New Year’s Eve.


Another regional rivalry follows, with CA Osasuna making the short trip to visit Real Sociedad. These are two teams who started 2022/23 in excellent form, with La Real sitting third in the table and with CA Osasuna in seventh, dreaming of a return to Europe.
Then, the final LaLiga Santander match of 2022 takes place at the newly redeveloped Estadio de la Cerámica, as Villarreal CF return to their home ground. There, they’ll host regional rivals Valencia CF in a repeat of their New Year’s Eve match from 2015, when a Bruno Soriano freekick gave El Submarino Amarillo a 1-0 win. On this night of festivities, Villarreal CF will hope for a similarly positive result this time around too.

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