LaLiga Santander Matchday 20 preview: The second half of the season begins with the champions in Mallorca and the leaders facing Sevilla FC

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With every LaLiga Santander team having played 19 matches, the first half of the season has been completed and FC Barcelona are winter champions. In 17 of the 26 seasons in which Barça were top at the halfway stage, they went on to win the championship and they’ll look to do exactly that in 2022/23, but have a tricky test in Matchday 20 as Sevilla FC will be coming to town.

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That is one of several attractive fixtures taking place this Matchday 20, while another is Athletic Club vs Cádiz CF on Friday night. Although the Basques thrashed Cádiz CF 4-0 on the road earlier this season, the Andalusian side did win 1-0 the last time these teams met in Bilbao and they travel north with fresh confidence following a busy transfer deadline day that saw Cádiz CF sign quality players such as Sergi Guardiola, Chris Ramos and Jorge Meré.

There are four fixtures on Saturday, starting with RCD Espanyol vs CA Osasuna, as the Catalan outfit’s coach Diego Martínez takes on his former club. These are two squads whose best players are their forwards, so it should be a fun duel as Joselu, Martin Braithwaite and co. take on Ante Budimir, Chimy Ávila and Abde Ezzalzouli.

A pair of regional derbies follow on Saturday, starting with Elche CF vs Villarreal CF. The home side didn’t manage to secure a single victory over the first half of the season, so will hope to do so here against another club from the Valencian Community. Then, it’s Atlético de Madrid vs Getafe CF as these two neighbours do battle in the capital. Diego Simeone has still never lost a game to Los Azulones as a coach, with 19 wins and three draws from 22 previous meetings, and he’ll hope to keep that formidable record going.

On Saturday night, the Estadio Benito Villamarín is the central stage as Real Betis host RC Celta. Gabri Veiga earned the Galician side a 1-0 victory when they faced Real Betis earlier in the season, so Los Verdiblancos will look to avenge that loss in front of their home fans.

The reigning champions Real Madrid are in action early on Sunday, as they play away at RCD Mallorca in the 14:00 CET time slot. Since the islanders won promotion back to LaLiga Santander in the summer of 2021, Real Madrid have really enjoyed facing RCD Mallorca, winning all three meetings since then and doing so by scorelines of 6-1, 3-0 and 4-1. Los Blancos will seek another morale-boosting win here to keep the pressure on leaders FC Barcelona.

Girona FC vs Valencia CF is next up, a repeat of one of the fixtures from opening weekend. On that occasion, Valencia CF won 1-0 to get the Gennaro Gattuso era off to a good start, but a lot has changed at Mestalla since then and the Italian is no longer at the helm. The newly promoted side responded well to that opening day loss and currently sit comfortably in mid-table, having achieved positive results, while playing good attacking football along the way. They’ll hope to keep that up when Los Che visit on Sunday.

Next up is Real Sociedad vs Real Valladolid, which will be a tricky test for the third-placed team in the table given that they could have as many as 10 injury absentees for this match. That means Imanol Alguacil will need to rely on some of his young up-and-coming talents, such as Robert Navarro, Pablo Marín or Jon Ander Olasagasti. The Basque coach knows it won’t be easy against a Real Valladolid side that have improved with the January signings of quality players such as Jovane Cabral, Darwin Machís and Cyle Larin.

On Sunday night, at 21:00 CET, all eyes will be on the Spotify Camp Nou as FC Barcelona host Sevilla FC. Barça boast an excellent home record against Los Nervionenses, who they haven’t lost to at home in LaLiga Santander in more than two decades, not since December of 2002. Since then, Barça have won 16 and drawn three of their 19 league meetings in Catalonia, scoring a whopping 50 goals in the process. With Robert Lewandowski back leading the line, Xavi’s side will hope to achieve another big win to strengthen their grip on first place.

On Monday, the final fixture of the round takes place as Rayo Vallecano host UD Almería. Both these clubs were buoyed over the past month by the signings of quality centre-forwards, with Raúl de Tomás being registered for Rayo and with Luis Suárez joining the Andalusians. A night-time game in Vallecas always produces a special atmosphere, so this will be a fun way to bring Matchday 20 to a close.

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