Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will look to keep their stranglehold atop La Liga as they enter into Matchday 20.
Last week's draw was arguably the best possible result for Real Madrid because it meant they could move to within three points of the lead, which they did following a 1-0 win over Espanyol. Los Blancos look poised to make a major run at first in the coming weeks.
They're helped out by what should be a relatively easy match against bottom-of-the-table Real Betis. Betis have scored six goals and conceded a whopping 24, so Madrid should get all three points, which only increases the pressure on their rivals.
Both Atletico and Barca have tricky matches, with Los Colchoneros welcoming in seventh-placed Sevilla and the Catalans hitting the road against 11th-placed Levante, who can be hard to break down at home. Don't be surprised if either or both clubs end up dropping points.
The other intriguing matches include Elche playing at home to Rayo Vallecano, as this one has relegation implications. Getafe vs. Real Sociedad should also be interesting, with Sociedad's recent resurgence making them a serious top-four contender again.
It should be another entertaining week of football in Spain.
|La Liga Table (as of Jan. 17)|
|La Liga Matchday 20 Fixtures|
|Jan. 18||Real Betis||0-5||Real Madrid|
|Jan. 18||Elche||2-0||Rayo Vallecano|
|Jan. 18||Espanyol||1-0||Celta Vigo|
|Jan. 19||Getafe||2-2||Real Sociedad|
|Jan. 19||Atletico Madrid||1-1||Sevilla|
|Jan. 20||Athletic Bilbao||4-2||Real Valladolid|
In Matchday 20's first result, Malaga earned a 0-0 home draw against Valencia. Despite the scoreline, it was a spirited affair.
The two sides combined to have a total of 28 shots, 10 of which were on goal, according to WhoScored.com. Willy Caballero for Malaga and Diego Alves for Valencia found themselves under constant pressure, yet made all of the important saves. Either player could be considered man of the match.
Valencia's midfield combo of Oriol Romeu and Daniel Parejo did well sitting in front of the back four. Romeu made the key interceptions, while Parejo was breaking up the attack.
Jeremy Mathieu also defended admirably, doing his part to snuff out Malaga's best chances at goal. The centre-back made a total of eight clearances and blocked one shot.
Real Madrid played as expected against Real Betis. Los Blancos coasted to a 5-0 win, which puts them second in the table, ahead of crosstown rivals Atletico on goal differential.
Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria notched a goal and an assist.
Gareth Bale earned most of the plaudits, though, with his beautiful free kick in the 25th minute. It was a brilliant set piece and left the goalkeeper rooted in place.
The other match with major implications was Elche's 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano. The defeat means Rayo remain stuck in the relegation zone.
When Rayo's Raul Baena was sent off in the 18th minute, it was all Elche. They recorded 10 shots on target, compared to one for Rayo Vallecano, according to WhoScored.com.
Rayo have a major uphill battle if they're going to escape relegation this season.
Real Sociedad had a chance to separate themselves from Sevilla in order to sit more comfortably at the No. 6 spot with a match against Gatafe, but a 2-2 draw kept that from happening. TWo early goals from Imanol Agirretxe had them in business, but Getafe answered with two of their own to make it a disappointing draw for Real Sociedad.
Perhaps the most surprising result of the week came between Levante and Barcelona. For just the fourth time this year, Barca didn't come away with a win in La Liga play, going to a 1-1 draw in this one. After a goal in the 10th minute from Levante's Loukas Vyntra, Gerard Pique was able to score for Barcelona just nine minutes later.
That was all the scoring that happened, however, as Barcelona was unable to get the three points.
Atletico Madrid had a chance to take the top spot, and things were looking good after a goal from David Villa. But a penalty kick in the 73rd minute from Ivan Rakitic helped Sevilla tie it at 1-1, with the game ending in a draw.