The last round of matches in the Liga Santander before the Christmas holidays will not see Real Madrid in action, giving their rivals at the top of the table the chance to open the gap over Santiago Solari’s side.
Real Madrid’s commitments in the Club World Cup in the UAE mean their scheduled game against struggling Villarreal has been postponed until January 3, but there should still be plenty to enjoy as Spain prepares for the break, reports Xinhua news agency.
The round of matches kicks off with two games on Friday as Girona, who have lost their last two games, entertain Getafe, who have moved to the edge of qualifying for Europe after recent results.
Their last victims, Real Sociedad are also in action on Friday with a Basque derby at home to Alaves.
Alaves have dropped to sixth in the table after four games without a win, but will be optimistic of a positive result in the Anoeta Stadium where ‘La Real’ have only one win all season.
The big game on Saturday sees FC Barcelona look to end 2018 on a high as they entertain Celta Vigo. Barca have scored 9 goals in their last two games (4-0 away to Espanyol and 5-0 away to Levante) and have Leo Messi in outstanding form.
The Argentinean picked up the European Golden Boot away for 2018 during the week and his five goals in Barca’s last 2 games have taken him to 14 league goals so far for this campaign, to which he can also add 10 assists.
The only issue for Barca coach Ernesto Valverde is in defense where Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto and Thomas Vermaelen are all sidelined through injury.
Betis have moved up to fifth after a run which has seen them win four of their last five league matches and recover the fluid passing game which served them so well last season.
They face the always difficult to beat Eibar on Saturday, knowing a win would take them to within just a point of Real Madrid, who they play early in the New Year.
Atletico Madrid will hope to put rumours about the possible departure of Lucas Hernandez to the back of their mind, when they entertain Espanyol, who visit the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium after suffering five defeats in their last five matches.
Saturday ends with Athletic Club Bilbao at home to Valladolid. Although Athletic kick off in the relegation zone after a poor start to the season, the arrival of Gaizka Garitano as coach has seen them improve drastically in defence with two clean sheets in their last two games and has brought a more positive attitude to the club.
The visit of bottom of the table Huesca to Valencia on Sunday lunchtime should give the home side the chance to pick up their second home win of the campaign.
It promises to be interesting in Leganes where second place Sevilla look to keep the pressure on Barca.
Sevilla are unbeaten in their last 7 league games, but Leganes have climbed out of the relegation zone with a six-game unbeaten run in which they have conceded just 4 goals and it promises to be close.
The year ends with second bottom Rayo Vallecano at home to Levante who want to put last weekend’s 5-0 defeat to Barca behind them as soon as possible.