Top 10 La Liga Games to Watch in 2013

Michael CernaCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2013

Top 10 La Liga Games to Watch in 2013

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    We are not quite halfway through the La Liga schedule, but already 2013 has given us a few surprises.

    Malaga have started the new year in very disappointing form, but they will have no time to dwell on their dropped points with mighty Barcelona coming to town next weekend.

    La Blaugrana started right where they left off by dominating Espanyol in the local derby, while their rivals won a very tough match against Real Sociedad thanks to some inspired play from Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Those three matches were a great way to start the new year, but the second half of the season has many more vital games that will have a great impact on how the standings look when all the dust has settled.

    Let's take a look at the 10 biggest matches remaining on the league schedule and discuss why every fan of Spanish football would be wise to tune in.

    Please let us know which matches you are most looking forward to, even if they were not listed here.

Malaga vs. Barcelona

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    When: January 13 at 3:00 p.m. EST

    Where: La Rosaleda, Malaga

     

    Why Watch

    It will have been nearly eight months since these two teams last met, and the hosts look like a very different team than the one Lionel Messi and company dominated last May.

    Los Boquerones are battling for a spot in the Champions League, and if they want to make a real statement as a new power in Spain, taking points from both of the big two would be a great way to do it.

    Manuel Pellegrini's men have already beaten Real Madrid, but their league-leading defense has yet to face an attacking force like the one Barcelona will bring to La Rosaleda.

Valencia vs. Real Madrid

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    When: January 20 at 3:00 p.m. EST

    Where: La Mestalla, Valencia

     

    Why Watch

    No team in Spain caused Real Madrid more trouble in 2012 than Valencia apart from Malaga.

    Los Che were the only team to take points in both La Liga matches last year, and they will not want to end that streak in late January.

    The club started very poorly this season and changed coaches in hopes of forcing a revival in time to finish in the top four.

    Winning three of their last four has the team within striking distance, and if they can once again stifle Los Merengues at home, they just might complete a big comeback to show their quality again.

Levante vs. Malaga

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    When: February 10 at 11:00 a.m. EST

    Where: Ciutat de València, Valencia

     

    Why Watch

    This battle between two of La Liga's fastest risers has actually become one of the better matchups to watch over the last few seasons.

    Since 2010, Levante and Malaga have had some very close matches with the home side coming out on top every time.

    With both clubs vying for European qualification and potentially the same spot a month from now, the winner of this one could be the only team to play in Europe next season.

Betis vs. Malaga

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    When: February 24 at 11:00 a.m. EST

    Where: Benito Villamarín, Seville

     

    Why Watch

    At this moment, these two teams are level on points and battling for the final Champions League spot.

    Teams like Valencia, Real Sociedad and Levante will stay in the thick of that race, but these two clubs have shown the most consistency so far.

    This match is especially important for Betis, because they may not even have to finish ahead of Malaga. They might just need to keep their place in fifth.

    If Los Boquerones do end up being banned from European play next season, it will be Betis (right now) who would take their place.

    Should that happen, Pepe Mel would make a strong case for being La Liga's top manager this season.

Malaga vs. Atletico Madrid

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    When: March 3 at 11:00 a.m. EST

    Where: La Rosaleda, Malaga

     

    Why Watch

    Whether it is fourth vs. second or fifth vs. third, this match will have enormous implications for both clubs.

    The Vicente Calderon Stadium hasn't been louder this season than when Weligton (or was it Falcao?) allowed the game-winning goal for Atleti to cement their place above Real Madrid last October.

    The matchups in this match will be as good as any for the rest of this season for La Liga fans.

    Arguably the two best coaches in Spain will square off in a battle of wits between Manuel Pellegrini and Diego Simeone.

    In a huge battle of future stars, Isco will battle it out against his national teammate, Koke—two rising stars who could lead La Roja's midfield one day.

Valencia vs. Levante

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    When: March 3 at 11:00 a.m. EST

    Where: La Mestalla, Valencia

     

    Why Watch

    This Spanish derby has become much more than a battle for local pride in the last two seasons, as it has had a major impact on how the top six has finished.

    This time around it might actually decide which Valencia team will play in Europe next season and which will not.

    La Liga's sixth and seventh-placed teams at the moment might both benefit from Malaga's potential ban, but you can guarantee neither will rest on that thought in March.

Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

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    When: March 3 at 11:00 a.m. EST

    Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

     

    Why Watch

    March 3rd might be the most pivotal day in La Liga for the remainder of this season.

    The previous two matches will probably have great importance, but each will almost exclusively be viewed by supporters of those teams.

    The rest of the world will be fixated with the greatest rivalry in European football—El Clasico.

    Barcelona looks like they will have La Liga basically wrapped up by then, but that will not make this match any less of a heated battle.

    Madrid will try to win back some pride and momentum, while La Blaugrana would love to put an emphatic stamp on this potentially historic season.

Deportivo De La Coruña vs. Celta Vigo

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    When: March 17 at 12:00 p.m. EDT

    Where: Riazor, A Coruña

     

    Why Watch

    Apart from El Clasico, you will struggle to find an atmosphere more electrifying than the one in Galica on March 17.

    Neither team has won the Galician Derby in La Primera Division since back in 2007 when the likes of Fabricio Coloccini, Nene and Joan Verdu were still involved in the rivalry.

    The March encounter would be huge in any situation, but since it very well could decide the first-division fate of one or both clubs, fans will be in a frenzy, and this match should not be missed.

Betis vs. Sevilla

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    When: April 14 at 11:00 p.m. EDT

    Where: Benito Villamarín, Seville

     

    Why Watch

    "They may not be as important as a Barca-Real in terms of the quality of players, the spectacle on offer, and the media coverage, but they are passionate games. They are tougher than a Clasico."

    Those were the words of Dani Alves when asked how big the Sevilla Derby is. In 2012, we saw each team win one match with a draw to start off the new year.

    This edition will probably see Betis enter the match as favorites, as Los Rojiblancos have been in awful form over the last few months.

    Of course, after the 5-1 demolition Los Verdiblancos suffered at the hands of their rivals last November, it would be unwise to call either team favorites in this one.

Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid

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    When: April 28 at 11:00 p.m. EDT

    Where: Vicente Calderon, Madrid

     

    Why Watch

    El Clasico will sell the papers and win the global TV ratings, but the Madrid Derby is the biggest, most important match remaining this season.

    Barcelona are running around with the league, and unless they suffer a historic collapse, will win the title by a very comfortable margin.

    The battle for second place, however, should continue to be very close until at least the final week of April.

    Atletico Madrid are so close to proving to the world and themselves that they can be one of Europe's elite teams with this roster.

    In order to really prove that, though, they have to beat or at least take points from their great rivals.

    It has been 13 years since Los Colchoneros last beat Madrid, and they will never gain the mentality of champions until they end that streak,

    If they do it in front of their fans this April, it could be the win that pushes them over that final hump and inspires them to be true contenders in the coming years.