Soccer Spain LaLiga 6 March 2023
Barcelona vs Valencia - Match Preview
Thursday’s 1-0 El Clásico away win in the first leg of the Copa del Rey provided the perfect remedy for Barcelona after Europa League elimination at the hands of Manchester United and a shock 1-0 defeat at Almería last weekend. Coach Xavi Hernández blasted the Almería defeat as “the worst game of the season” and although they still top the table by seven points, their race for a first league title since 2018/19 could get tricky with another slip-up.
With Valencia in town, the Catalan club have a chance to equal their longest league winning streak against the side, having won the last four La Liga (LL) H2Hs. And still guarding an ominous unbeaten home record this league campaign (W9, D2) means Barça may feel the odds of achieving that feat are stacked in their favour.
Valencia start this round in the relegation zone but boosted their survival chances with a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad last weekend, a result which also halted a six-game competitive losing streak. That result of a “very emotional” return to the Mestalla could fuel new manager Rubén Baraja’s mission to prevent Los Che from being demoted from the top flight for only the second time in the club’s history.
Baraja may bank Valencia’s hopes on home form, as their away record has been relegation-worthy with no wins across their last seven league road trips (D2, L5). Yet, five of those winless results have either been by narrow 1-0 scorelines or due to strikes conceded beyond the 80th minute, suggesting the visitors can stay competitive having also quelled Barça until stoppage time in the reverse fixture (L 1-0).
📋 Players to watch: Barça’s midfield general Frenkie de Jong has more LL goals (two) against Valencia than any other club, both arriving in three-goal margin wins. His midfield battle could be with Hugo Guillamón whose five-goal involvements (G1, A4) have helped Valencia pick up ten points.
⚡ Hot stat: Valencia has dropped the most points from winning positions (17 – W6, D4, L3) this league campaign ahead of the round.
Rayo Vallecano vs Ath Bilbao - Match Preview
It appears to be 2021/22 all over again for Rayo Vallecano who, for a second consecutive La Liga (LL) edition, appear to be squandering another golden opportunity to qualify for UEFA competition. In a potential repeat of last season in which they converted fourth place at Christmas into a bottom-half finish, three consecutive winless outings against bottom-half opposition (D2, L1) have left them holding onto sixth place by goal difference only ahead of the round.
Now without a half-time lead for six consecutive LL home matches (W2, D2, L2), it has been almost four months since Vallecano’s first and only home LL win against any club beginning this round 14th or higher (D2, L3). That understandably leaves many questioning how they will find three points against Athletic Bilbao, a top-half opposition with their own ambitions for a long overdue return to European football.
Whilst Vallecano’s own form will be their main concern, Athletic’s recent struggles leave this contest wide open. Ernesto Valverde’s side has suffered five losses from their last seven LL fixtures (W2) and thus have, like Vallecano, struggled to prevent the top five clubs from breaking away in the standings. Their struggles were displayed again last weekend after falling 3-2 at home to Girona, meaning no team has recorded more losses as a LL pre-match favourite inside 23 rounds than Athletic (W9, D5, L5).
A 1-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first leg loss away to Osasuna during the week further hurt their chances of success in 2022/23, and Valverde lamented his team’s struggles to “control the game” that is in part due to an inability to establish an early advantage. After opening the scoring in just one of their last nine LL matches, Athletic may have to scrap for the points, as they did in their previous LL away win (2-1 at Valencia) when coming from behind.
📋 Players to watch: Vallecano’s most recent LL win was their fourth in which Álvaro García found the back of the net between the 40th and 65th minute. Athletic will be hoping Oihan Sancet will be on the scoresheet, as he was in their last LL win as well as the reverse H2H (W 3-2) this season.
⚡ Hot streak: Ernesto Valverde has won his last six personal meetings with Vallecano.
Betis vs Real Madrid - Match Preview
Real Betis started this season with three straight La Liga (LL) wins before losing 2-1 to Real Madrid in the reverse fixture, and has recently achieved another league hat-trick by beating Almería, Valladolid and Elche, they must again try to beat the reigning champions to make it four in a row. However, they will enter this battle without key man Nabil Fekir, who is out for the season with a serious knee injury.
His exit took the shine off their 3-2 win at Elche and his absence will be keenly felt against Madrid, who Betis have only beaten once in the last eight home H2Hs (D1, L6). This is therefore a tough return to Estadio Benito Villamarín for Betis, where they’ve won just one of their last six home league games (D2, L3).
Madrid’s midweek 1-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg defeat to Barcelona was another blow to their already slim hopes of landing a quintuple this season, given they trailed their rivals by seven points in the league following the last matchday. They’ve not yet gone three competitive games without a win this term (D1, L1), so maintaining that record is essential if they’re to keep pressure on the leaders, particularly as Barcelona play before them.
But Los Blancos have alternated between wins ‘to nil’ and defeats by single-goal margins on the road in La Liga recently (W4, L3) so that pattern could spell danger for manager Carlo Ancelotti. Coincidentally, their last defeat to Betis came here in March 2020, so there are no guarantees against a side gunning for UEFA Champions League qualification.
📋 Players to watch: Betis’ Borja Iglesias has already matched his tally of ten LL goals from last season, with the last five of those coming after the 60th minute. Madrid’s Karim Benzema is one goal ahead of him and more likely to strike early given his last three LL goals arrived before half-time.
⚡ Hot stat: Betis have scored in ten of their 11 home league games this term (W6, D2, L3).
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