LaLiga Santander Matchday 26 preview: A decisive ElClasico caps off a super Sunday of five matches


The second LaLiga Santander ElClasico of the 2022/23 season is taking place this weekend, with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid doing battle at the Spotify Camp Nou on Sunday. That could be a decisive game in the title race as the leaders host their closest challengers, but it’s not the only important fixture of Matchday 26. There are several other key match-ups in the race for Europe and in the relegation battle.


The first fixture of the round is the Friday night game between Real Valladolid and Athletic Club. The Basque side haven’t won any of their past four matches, so they’re getting desperate for a victory. Having comfortably dispatched the Pucela 3-0 at home earlier in the season, a match that included a Gorka Guruzeta brace, Ernesto Valverde will hope for a similarly successful outing here.

There are four fixtures on Saturday and the first of them is both an Andalusian derby and a relegation six-pointer at the same time, as 19th-placed UD Almería host 16th-placed Cádiz CF. Just two points separate these regional rivals in the ever so tight relegation battle, so both will give their all in search of the three points.

Next up is a match between two of the most fun teams to watch in all of LaLiga Santander, as Rayo Vallecano take on Girona FC. These two sides play vertical and attacking football, scoring a lot of goals and conceding a lot of goals. That’s what happened earlier in the season as they played out a dramatic 2-2 draw, so this one is well worth tuning in to.

RCD Espanyol vs RC Celta is next and this could be a key game in the battle for the Zarra Trophy, given out each season to the highest-scoring Spaniard. Los Pericos’ Joselu currently leads that ranking with 12 goals, but RC Celta talisman Iago Aspas is just one behind on 11 goals. On Saturday, they go head-to-head.

Atlético de Madrid’s Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano then hosts Saturday’s final game, with Atleti taking on Valencia CF. Los Che have certainly improved under new coach Rubén Baraja, however they haven’t scored a goal or taken a point on the road yet under the new boss. Going away to Atlético de Madrid, who thrashed Sevilla FC 6-1 in their previous home game, will be a true test for Baraja’s boys.

A super Sunday follows, as there are five LaLiga Santander fixtures in total, concluding with ElClasico. The first game of the day is Real Betis vs RCD Mallorca, a fixture that has produced a lot of goals of late, averaging 3.4 goals over their past five meetings. That includes the 2-1 Real Betis win earlier in the season, when a pair of Borja Iglesias penalties earned the three points for Los Verdiblancos.

There are then two matches at the same 16:15 CET timeslot, with CA Osasuna vs Villarreal CF and with Real Sociedad vs Elche CF. In the first, both clubs are targeting European qualification so that’ll be an interesting direct battle, while the latter match presents La Real with an opportunity to return to winning ways against the bottom-placed side.

Getafe CF vs Sevilla FC follows and this is another direct duel between two teams involved in the relegation battle. Even though Sevilla FC are 13th and their opponents are 18th, marking the edge of the relegation zone, they are separated by just two points. In Enes Ünal, Getafe CF boast one of the top-four in-form strikers in Europe in the 2023 calendar year, so the home fans will look to him to fire Los Azulones to what would be an important victory.

Then, at 21:00 CET, it’s time for ElClasico, as Real Madrid travel to the Spotify Camp Nou looking to cut the gap at the top of the table. They know that victory would reduce the gap to just six points, and they’ll feel confident of achieving that since Los Blancos have lost just once there on their past nine visits in all competitions, even winning the past two.

FC Barcelona, though, are in great form and are expected to welcome back Pedri from injury. Xavi Hernández knows that this is a great opportunity to put one hand on the LaLiga Santander trophy, so Barça will give their all.

ElClasico always delivers, as there have been just two goalless matches between these old foes from their 65 meetings in the 21st century. This blockbuster duel will be the perfect way to conclude the LaLiga Santander action ahead of the March international break.


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