Over the last week we learned a lot about the different battles across LaLiga, and now we enter a crunch period for every club with eight games on Sunday followed by a full round of mid-week fixtures, with the fight for survival, battle for Europe and the title race still all up for grabs.
At the top of the league, I can see Real Madrid being too strong. Once Real Madrid get going on a run like this, they can be unstoppable and the club has a good chance of winning a remarkable LaLiga and Champions League double, something that was unthinkable at the start of 2021.
Chelsea fans should be worried ahead of their Champions League semi-final clash later this month. When you are playing against Real Madrid, you are not only playing against those players but also the philosophy and the aura of the club.
Despite winning El Clásico and successfully navigating a difficult trip to Anfield in midweek, in some ways their next match against Getafe is the most difficult out of them all. Not because Getafe are a difficult opponent, in fact they are the opposite and are really struggling, but because the Real Madrid players may have a hangover from midweek, and they will need to pick themselves up for this game to avoid any complacency.
Getafe, based on the outskirts of Madrid, have a friendly rivalry with Real, so much so that Ángel Torres, their president, is a season-ticket holder at Real Madrid. The club have benefitted from loaning some of Real’s best youth prospects over the years, including Takefusa Kubo this season.
Getafe’s friendliness to their rival extends so far that they have lost 23 times to Real Madrid, their worst record against any opponent in LaLiga. Getafe are still fighting to avoid relegation so I don’t see them making it easy, and it may be that former Barcelona players like Marc Cucurella and Carles Aleñá are even more motivated to hurt Real Madrid as this three-way title race heats up.
For Real Madrid, Marco Asensio could be the difference in this game, he’s arguably been one of Real Madrid’s most important players this season. He didn’t start against Barcelona, but this was purely tactical from Zinedine Zidane to ensure Federico Valverde could stop Jordi Alba. After a long injury, he’s now had a run of games and is starting to fulfil his potential. Asensio is becoming more mature, taking responsibility and he’s always had an eye for goal.
Across Madrid, Atletico will be keen to get back to winning ways against bottom of the league Eibar. Diego Simeone’s side will have been buoyed by their performance last week, despite not winning at Real Betis.
Injuries are still an issue for Atléti with Luis Suárez and João Félix ruled out and Kieran Trippier a slight doubt for Sunday. Between now and a potential title showdown with Barcelona in early May, they have four favourable fixtures, three of those against relegation candidates. To keep their title hopes alive, they need to pick up close to maximum points while Suárez and Félix get back to fitness.
Simeone does have Marcos Llorente back in contention and I expect he will start up front with Ángel Correa, as that’s the only options he has available. I saw glimpses of positivity against Betis, they had chances to win it and kept going right up till the 94th minute and the fact they’re still leading LaLiga will be a huge psychological boost for the players.
Simeone said after the game that he relished the grind and it’s almost that he enjoys the struggle. When Atlético were 10 points clear last month Simeone didn’t seem comfortable, and Atlético didn’t play with the same positivity we saw at Betis - it is almost as if he prefers to have this battle.
Eibar are rock-bottom, four points from safety and on a 13-game winless run and I don’t see them getting out of trouble. Their only hopes are on the shoulders of Bryan Gil and Kike to produce some quality, but Atlético should win this.
Early on Sunday afternoon, Elche travel to Osasuna, live on FreeSports and LaLigaTV, in desperate need of three points in their bid to avoid the drop.
Elche struggled to cope defensively with Rafa Mir against Huesca and alongside Eibar they look likely to go down. Guido Carillo went off in that match with an injury, so they will be relying on 40-year-old striker Nino and Lucas Boyé to provide the goals in a must-win game for them.
Eight points clear of relegation, Osasuna should be safe now, and unbeaten in four they were excellent defeating Villarreal last week. It has been a strange season for them, and if it wasn’t for teams like Elche or Eibar below them, they could have been in trouble this season.
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