Matchday 33 awaits La Liga fans as the league hots up. Let’s talk about the most exciting moments of the week to come.
As a top four battle closed matchday 32, a relegation six-pointer opens the new round of matches in La Liga. Matchday 32 was ruthless with managers. After Real Betis’ Rubi in the previous round of matches, RCD Espanyol’s Abelardo and Valencia’s Albert Celades saw their way out. Barcelona’s Quique Setién is walking on thin ice after his 2–2 draw in Vigo too.
Matchday 33 looks to be exciting, with a key encounter in the relegation battle, a title-decider and European place-deciders all happening within a day or two. These are the three best games from La Liga in the matchday 33 that begins today:
Mallorca vs Celta de Vigo
Tuesday 30th of June
Celta de Vigo look safe and feel safe at the moment. Iago Aspas is in the form of his life, the Galicians have notched up seven points from nine in the league, and their direct rivals for relegation are all choking it in the deciding moments. Mallorca are the best example, as they are one place below Celta in the league, but have eight points less after a tough run of fixtures. If they want any chance of survival, Mallorca will have to win at home against a direct rival in the relegation battle.
Mallorca can’t afford to lose in matchday 33 if they want to keep fighting to avoid relegation in La Liga | Photo by Imago
However, they couldn’t have faced Celta at a worst time. As mentioned, the Celestes are in fine form and are playing with confidence. Having battered Deportivo Alavés, gone to Real Sociedad’s Anoeta to win, and taken points from Barça, Celta are significantly improving and Mallorca should be a pushover for them. Also, with the Vigo side having found its goalscoring the magic.
Tuesday 30th of June
Barcelona are distraught. They let the game go in Vigo. They possibly let the title go too against Celta after leading twice in the match. They played well, arguably the best outing since the return, but they only managed a 2–2 draw. A heartbreaking draw furthermore.
On the other hand, Atlético de Madrid are smiling. The rojiblancos have had a good run of form since returning from lockdown and have looked like the team that wants the third place the most. Having drawn at Athletic Club’s San Mamés, recorded a thumping victory at Osasuna’s El Sadar, and done the job in the other games, their confidence is through the roof, especially considering Barcelona’s really low morale.
The blaugrana players will have to dig in to win, and hope Real Madrid lose against Getafe. This clash pits two sides that haven’t lost in their last five fixtures, but one seems happier than the other. It is also a title-decider because, if the Catalans lose and Madrid win, all hopes of lifting the trophy could be gone by the next day. It’s a must-win match for both parties, but particularly for Quique Setién’s men.
Valencia vs Athletic Club de Bilbao
Wednesday 1st of July
July makes its entry with four La Liga fixtures, but one stands out directly. The clash between Valencia and Athletic Club de Bilbao will be heated as the latter are only two points behind the former in the league, and they will want to mount a top four or top five challenge before the league ends. Valencia sacked Albert Celades on Monday after an abysmal run of form, losing three out of their last five meetings so far. Their usual managerial saviour Voro González has been entrusted again by Los Che for the sixth time
Voro will look to save Valencia once more | Photo by Imago
For Gaizka Garitano’s side, life is good as they only lost to Barça a week ago and they seem ready to push for Europe. Asier Villalibre’s form, accompanied by Unai Simón’s, have changed the Basque club’s fate in La Liga, and football seems pretty good over there ahead of matchday 33. Valencia will either wake up or collapse, and Athletic are ready to pounce on the occasion to overtake their opponent on Wednesday.
What are the possible outcomes for Barça?
Barcelona have no choice: they have to win against Atleti. If they fail to win, Real Madrid will have further incentives to beat Getafe. If Barça win and Madrid win, the two-point gap stands on top of the table. If Barça win and Los Blancos draw, the head-to-head ruling comes in play and the Catalans are still second. If the culés win and Madrid lose, which is unlikely, the blaugrana side will go atop of La Liga. If Barcelona draw, Madrid will be first either way. If Barcelona lose, it will be catastrophic, and Madrid will further their advantage.
Players to watch
Another round of matches, another hundred of players to watch. For Barça, it would be nice to see Luis Suárez add more goals than his brace in Vigo. The midfield will also be scrutinised. In Madrid, both Karim Benzema and Vinícius Júnior are playing like monsters, and Thibaut Courtois hasn’t conceded in two games. For Valencia, the whole squad will want a more positive outcome, especially the more experienced players like Dani Parejo, Rodrigo Moreno and Jose Luis Gayà.
Enric Gallego’s two goals for Osasuna on the weekend will surely intrigue more than one for his performance against Eibar on Wednesday. Celta’s Iago Aspas is a definite must-watch this week, much like Jesús Navas, whose Sevilla faces Leganés at Butarque on Tuesday. Of course, the eternal Santi Cazorla’s superb assist for Villarreal against Valencia has reignited his notoriety within La Liga, and many would be interested to see him add to his assist tally in matchday 33.
Determining Barcelona’s best line-up for the Clasico
El Clásico is the biggest club rivalry in the world as its links with Spanish history make it more and more heated year after year. In recent years, Barcelona came out on top in most fixtures with Ernesto Valverde having one of the most impressive records against Real Madrid. The likes of Pep Guardiola, Gerardo Martino, and Luis Enrique, too, all have El Clásico nights they’ll surely remember for as long as they’re alive. This weekend, Ronald Koeman takes on Madrid for the first time.
Who starts? Who sits? Koeman has a lot of thinking to do. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)
The aforementioned coaches had set teams with players such as Samuel Eto’o, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, and Carles Puyol at their disposal and they went to play Madrid deeper into the season than where Ronald Koeman is now. For example, in the 2-1 win at Camp Nou, where Luis Suarez scored the winner, Luis Enrique went into the game off the back of a superb run of fixtures and knew which team would start the game.
Due to the recent crisis, Ronald Koeman comes into his first El Clásico with, perhaps, some blank spaces as his team is in a transition period. After a loss against Getafe on the weekend, Koeman’s side demolished Ferencvaros in the Champions League, helping the squad gain morale. That said, he will have to thing hard and through about the team selection, otherwise it could come back to hurt the team in an important game.
With Marc-Andre ter Stegen out injured, there is little time that Neto will start this game. He has been solid so far for the Catalan giants, so it is far from being a problem for Ronald Koeman. In the defence, Koeman has other fish to fry, and the right-back position is a much more problematic one.
Roberto usually puts on a show against Madrid – but is that enough to warrant a starting spot? (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images)
With Jordi Alba out for the recent few games, Sergiño Dest started the last two fixtures on the left, but the former Valencia defender is expected to be back for El Clásico, which raises doubts over who starts on the right. Rushing Alba back is not the most intelligent decision, but the defender was rumoured to be ready to play the Hungarians on Tuesday, and Koeman might have taken his left-back out of the team to start him against Madrid.
If Alba starts, which he’ll most likely do, Koeman cannot overlook Dest’s recent performances, and he should start ahead of Sergi Roberto, who isn’t in his best run of form.
With the two full-backs sorted, Koeman will surely start his best centre-back pairing in Gérard Piqué and Clément Lenglet since they’re fully fit for the game.
The former Everton manager has a clear plan at Barça, and he’s played a 4-2-3-1 in every game as Barça coach. Frenkie de Jong is a constant in the double pivot, starting every game and will undoubtedly feature against Zinedine Zidane’s side.
An experienced head alongside de Jong shoulders. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)
However, Koeman hasn’t found de Jong’s partner in midfield yet, and Miralem Pjanic’s performance against Ferencvaros was from his best. Sergio Busquets began every game prior to this one under his new coach, so getting him back in the side after rest might tempt Koeman. De Jong looked comfortable alongside both players but was evidently freer next to Pjanic. That said, it looks like a far call to see him start again.
For the mediapunta or attacking midfielder, role, Philippe Coutinho will take up that place as he confirmed his superb start to the term with a great goal against the Hungarians. Pedri should get some minutes as his recent outings have been spectacular. The former Las Palmas midfielder will undoubtedly come on, regardless of the scoreline.
Lionel Messi is the best player in the world, and he showed more intent against Ferencvaros and will most definitely start against his favourite opponents. As for the left-wing, Ansu Fati has been on fire this term and, with his performance on Tuesday has cemented his place in the starting lineup.
The big debate takes place on the right, where three players fight for the right-winger position. Ousmane Dembélé, Francisco Trincão, and Antoine Griezmann are the three players in contention to start El Clásico.
Griezmann is going through a rough patch, and while he needs all the confidence in the world, mustn’t be in the Catalan giants’ XI for the most significant encounter of the season yet.
With the World Cup winner out of the conversation, Trincão and Dembélé – both of whom made heads turn against Ferencvaros are in pole position to be the third attacker in the lineup. Trincão started the game against the Hungarians, impressing on the right, but was not efficient enough as he did not score or assist on the night.
However, a lot of attacks came from his side, something that did not happen when Griezmann was in the eleven. Dembélé, who replaced the Portuguese, was a welcomed addition to the side and his piece of skill before assisting Pedri was a joy to watch. His easy goal shouldn’t make him a clear favourite, but his performance made his chances of starting rise.
Fati has been marshaling the Barcelona attack this season – will he do it again against Madrid? (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)
Nonetheless, Dembélé is recovering from a long-term injury and lacks match sharpness right now. The Frenchman could be an impact sub for Trincão or Fati as his pace might terrify the tired legs of fellow Frenchman Ferland Mendy. That said, Koeman could start the 23-year-old against Madrid, subbing him off early for a more lethal finisher like Griezmann.
Barça Universal’s Starting XI against Madrid:
Dest – Pique – Lenglet – Alba
Busquets – De Jong
Trincāo – Coutinho – Fati