The return of LaLiga from the international break sees leaders Barcelona face a tricky trip to Sevilla, with important fixtures elsewhere in the race for European qualification and in the battle against the drop.
Many of LaLiga’s top stars were on duty with their countries preparing for this summer’s World Cup, and Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde will be hoping his 16 internationals all return ready for Saturday evening’s trip to visit fellow Champions League quarter-finalists Sevilla.
Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella had just six players away during the break, a potential advantage as he hatches a plan to try to be the first team to beat Valverde’s side in LaLiga all season.
Second placed Atletico Madrid welcome back 11 internationals as they look to protect their unbeaten LaLiga record at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium against 19th placed Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday evening. Depor coach Clarence Seedorf may inspire his side with memories of his famous long-range goal against Atletico when playing for Real Madrid back in the ‘97/98 LaLiga campaign.
Seedorf’s former side are the LaLiga team who sent the most players on international duty – 20 in total. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has a selection dilemma ahead of Saturday afternoon’s trip to Las Palmas, with his team at Juventus on Tuesday in the Champions League quarter-final first leg. The Canary Islanders’ are in real need of points in their relegation struggle, and showed both quality and battling spirit in getting a 1-1 draw at home to Barça a few weeks ago.
Fourth placed Valencia will aim for a seventh win in eight LaLiga games when visiting Leganes on Sunday afternoon, with the suburban Madrid side still holding an outside chance of Europa League qualification. Two other Europa League hopefuls go head to head on Monday evening – as free scoring Real Betis visit a Getafe side who have conceded just once in the last four games at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium.
Also in the race for a Europa League spot are Girona, who on Saturday lunchtime will aim for a seventh straight home win against a Levante side who have won both games under recently installed coach Paco Lopez. Real Sociedad’s new boss Imanol Alguacil debuts with a tough trip to fellow Basques Eibar – who have won this ‘Derbi’ fixture in each of the last three seasons.
With just nine LaLiga games remaining, bottom team Malaga really need to get a victory at home to Villarreal on Sunday afternoon, although the visitors themselves want the points to retain their hold on fifth position. Espanyol host Alavés on Sunday lunchtime with both teams hoping that their internationals – from a combined total of seven different countries – have enjoyed their break.
Athletic Club’s traditional Basque-only policy could be an advantage ahead of their home game with Celta Vigo on Saturday afternoon. The Galician’s however have won each of their three matches following an international break this this season.