LaLiga Santander Matchday 17 preview: The first Basque Derby of the season is finally here

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Matchday 17 of the 2022/23 LaLiga Santander season is coming up this weekend and it’s a round that has been marked on calendars across the Basque Country for several months. That’s because there is huge anticipation for the first Basque Derby of the campaign, as Real Sociedad host Athletic Club at the Reale Arena on Saturday night.

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When these teams last played a competitive game, Athletic Club ran riot and won 4-0 against their rivals, but that game was back in February of 2022, meaning supporters and players of La Real have had to wait for a whole 11 months to have a shot at revenge, because of the World Cup pause and how the fixture list fell. Now, finally, they’ll have a rematch this weekend.

That’s not the only big game of this round, though. Matchday 17 is split into eight games that take place this weekend and two other fixtures that will be held in February involving the four Spanish Super Cup teams, and there are some tasty match-ups coming up.

The round kicks off with Quique Setién’s in-form Villarreal CF travelling to RC Celta for a Friday night showdown, with El Submarino Amarillo making this trip full of confidence after Yéremy Pino and Gerard Moreno goals earned them a victory over Real Madrid last weekend, their sixth win in a row across all competitions. RC Celta are in decent form too, though, under their own new coach Carlos Carvalhal, so this should be a close contest.

Four matches are then taking place on Saturday, starting with Real Valladolid vs Rayo Vallecano. Neither of these sides have won in LaLiga Santander since the World Cup pause, so they’ll seek three points at the Estadio José Zorrilla this matchday.

Then, Girona FC host Sevilla FC and the Catalan side do so in good form, unbeaten across their past six LaLiga Santander matches. With Cristhian Stuani leading the line this weekend, they’ll hope for another point or three against a Sevilla FC side that are still struggling near the bottom of the table.

Later on Saturday, Javier Aguirre takes his current team, RCD Mallorca, to Pamplona to visit his first Spanish club, CA Osasuna. This match will feature a lot of strong attacking talent, such as Ante Budimir and Chimy Ávila in the home team’s ranks, or Vedat Muriqi and Kang-in Lee for the islanders. 

Then, at 21:00 CET, it’s the blockbuster match of the weekend, the Basque Derby between Real Sociedad and Athletic Club. This is always a special fixture, one with a unique atmosphere, but this meeting will be especially important considering where both teams are in the table. Imanol Alguacil has his Real Sociedad side in third place and on course for Champions League qualification, but Athletic Club are just six points back in seventh place and Ernesto Valverde also has continental aspirations of his own, as he is determined to bring European football back to Bilbao. In this game, therefore, it’s not just bragging rights up for grabs. There are three vitally important points in play too.

The first game of Sunday sees Getafe CF take on RCD Espanyol at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, where Joselu will hope to keep up his blistering form. The Spanish striker has nine goals this season and is the second-top scorer in the division, even though his RCD Espanyol side are second-bottom in the table. There is a heavy burden on his shoulders, but that hasn’t at all thwarted him in recent weeks.

Atlético de Madrid then make a trip to the south coast, as Diego Simeone takes Los Colchoneros to the Power Horse Stadium to challenge UD Almería. This will be the first meeting between these two teams since 2015, when Atleti won 3-0 thanks to a brace from Antoine Griezmann, who is the star man of this team again all these years later.

Then, the eighth of the Matchday 17 fixtures that’ll take place this weekend will be a basement battle as third-bottom Cádiz CF host bottom side Elche CF on Monday. Both clubs have made some January signings to try to pull out of the relegation zone, so they’ll hope the likes of Youba Diarra and Lisandro Magallán can make a difference.

The final two matches that form Matchday 17, Real Betis vs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid vs Valencia CF, are then scheduled to take place on February 1st and February 2nd.

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