Four things to look out for in Spain's Matchday 24

Saturday, 2019-02-16 07:41:25
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Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action. (Photo: Reuters)
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Matchday 24 in the Liga Santander this weekend sees Barca in action after a rare midweek rest, another Madrid derby and a series of matches affecting both ends of the table. Here are some things to keep an eye out for this weekend in Spain.

1. Will a rest have helped Barca?

FC Barcelona looked jaded in their last three games, which saw them draw at home to Valencia and Real Madrid and away to Athletic Club Bilbao.

Barca looked especially flat at Bilbao as they struggled to break down a rival, who would have won had it not been for the performance of keeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen.

This week was Barca's first without a midweek match since the turn of the year and coach Ernesto Valverde, who signed a new contract on Friday, will hope it has given his players the chance to recover tired legs ahead of Saturday's game hosting Valladolid.

With a daunting fixture calendar ahead, including the Champions League last 16 tie against Olympic Lyon and two massive games in four days against Real Madrid, it's vital this week has helped recharge Barca's tired batteries.

2. Vallecas vital for Rayo and Atletico

Rayo Vallecano going into their home game against Atletico Madrid on Saturday after two defeats in two games ended their excellent start to 2019 and returned them to the bottom three.

Late goals against Leganes and Espanyol have been cruel for Rayo, but they can expect little sympathy from Atletico, who make the short trip to Vallecas on the back of successive defeats which have seen them slip to eighth in the table, eight points behind Barca and two behind Real Madrid.

After extending Diego Simeone's contract on Thursday, Atletico have to win in Vallecas to keep their title hopes alive, but with a Champions League tie at home to Juventus Diego Simeone has a tough call to make. This year's Champions League final is in Atletico's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium and Atletico desperately want to play it, but can Simeone afford to rest key players and lose Saturday's game and end their domestic hopes?

3. Make or break for Eusebio against Madrid

Real Madrid go into Sunday's home game against Girona, six points behind Barcelona and with their morale sky high and they will expect another three points at home to Girona, who have slipped to just above the relegation zone after a terrible run of form.

After starting the season well and challenging for a place in the top six, Eusebio Sacristan's side has not won in 13 games in all competitions and in their last 10 league games. They also suffered home and away defeats to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey during that period.

Part of the reason for their problems is the drought suffered by top scorer Cristhian Stauni, who has only one goal since December 2nd and unless he starts hitting the target again, Girona could be in the bottom three and Eusebio looking for a new job.

4. Wu Lei into action as European games affect league form?

Chinese striker Wu Lei has made a rapid impact since joining Espanyol with two impressive substitute appearances and the knee ligament injury suffered by Espanyol forward Pablo Piatti could give him a chance to start away to Valencia as Espanyol look to climb away from the danger zone.

Valencia are one of the four sides in Europa League action on Thursday and after a start to 2019 that has seen them and Betis played twice a week without a break, they may be vulnerable.

Elsewhere Villarreal and Sevilla, who also played Europa League on Thursday, go head to head in a key game in their respective ambitions to escape the relegation zone and to qualify for the Champions League.