Barcelona derby highlight of Matchday 29 in Spain

The Liga Santander returns to action this weekend as the Spanish competition begins the downhill straight to the end of the season with a busy week which includes a midweek round of games.

Matchday 29 kicks off on Friday night when Girona entertain Athletic Club Bilbao, who need an away win to keep their hopes of qualifying for Europe next season alive.

Saturday starts with a south Madrid derby as Getafe face Leganes. This is actually the closest rivalry there is in Spain as the grounds of both clubs are separated by just five kilometers.

Getafe go into the game fourth in the table with a two-point lead over fifth placed Alaves and with strikers Jorge Molina and newly capped Spain international, Jaime Mata in fine form.

The biggest game of the weekend is on Saturday afternoon when FC Barcelona entertain Espanyol in the Barcelona city derby.

The game isn’t just interesting because of the historic rivalry between the sides, but also because it gives fans the chance to see Leo Messi and Wu Lei on the same pitch together.

Wu Lei has been excellent for Espanyol since arriving from China in the summer, but Messi remains the best in the world as his 29 goals from 26 games show. Two of those goals came when Barca won 4-0 away to Espanyol earlier in the season and the league leaders are clear favorites to take another three points on Saturday.

The derby in the Camp Nou is followed by an absolutely vital game in the battle to avoid relegation as third from bottom Celta Vigo face fourth bottom Villarreal.

Villarreal travel to Vigo after an upturn in form and with a four-point cushion over the relegation zone, while Celta will hope the return of their talismanic captain, Iago Aspas can help spark a much-needed reaction.

Saturday’s last game pits fifth against second as Atletico Madrid visit Alaves. Atletico had a dreadful week before the international break, crashing out of Europe and losing in Bilbao and this week they suffered the news that defender Lucas Hernandez is joining Bayern Munich this summer and the game is a test of character for Diego Simeone’s men.

Sunday sees Real Madrid, who have Marcos Llorente available again in midfield but are still without Vinicius Jr, play at home to bottom of the table Huesca and are clear favorites for all three points.

Rayo Vallecano have a new man in charge as Paco Jemez returns to the club following Michel’s sacking as coach. Rayo have lost their last seven matches and have to beat Betis in what promises to be an entertaining contrast in styles with Jemez’s all-out attack against Betis’s preference for possession football and building from the back.

The weekend’s last two games see sixth place Sevilla at home to Valencia. Sevilla need a win to keep in touch with the top-four, while Valencia’s record form has seen them climb to just three points away of their rivals. Wissan Ben Yedder has been in excellent form for Sevilla, while Rodrigo Moreno has also started scoring goals for a Valencia side that is very hard to beat.

Finally Valladolid, who are still not safe from relegation, entertain Real Sociedad, who are actually won more games on the road (five) than in front of their home fans (four).

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