The battle for the top spot on the La Liga table is as tight as ever, and with four more weeks of action to go, the intensity will continue to mount in drastic proportions.
Week 32 features some highly contested matchups, as the top teams continue jockeying for position heading into this week's fixtures.
Now that we are in the waning weeks of the season, each match has an increased level of importance. Let's take a look at the full Week 32 schedule followed by some of the biggest storylines to keep an eye on.
La Liga Week 32 Schedule
|Date||Time (ET)||Team 1||Team 2|
|Fri., April 4||3 p.m.||Almeria||Osasuna|
|Sat. April 5||10 a.m.||Atletico Madrid||Villarreal CF|
|Sat. April 5||12 p.m.||Barcelona||Real Betis|
|Sat. April 5||2 p.m.||Real Sociedad||Real Madrid|
|Sat. April 5||4 p.m.||Rayo Vallecano||Celta de Vigo|
|Sun., April 6||6 a.m.||Malaga||Granada CF|
|Sun., April 6||11 a.m.||Elche CF||Getafe|
|Sun., April 6||1 p.m.||Sevilla||Espanyol|
|Sun., April 6||3 p.m.||Valladolid||Valencia|
|Mon., April 7||4 p.m.||Levante||Athletic Bilbao|
Week 32 Storylines
Barcelona is sitting in second position on the table, trailing Atletico Madrid by just one point. Unfortunately, it will not be easy for Barcelona going forward, as the team has been plagued with injuries.
Defender Gerard Pique will be sidelined for four weeks after suffering a hairline fracture in his right hip during the team's draw with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, according to BBC.com.
Gerard Piqué sustains a pelvic contusion, will undergo additional tests to determine the extent of the injury http://t.co/mGhHbrraBM— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 1, 2014
Marc Bartra substituted from Pique after his dismissal from the game, and it looks like Barcelona will have to rely on him to remain in the mix going forward.
Cristiano Ronaldo's Status
Cristiano Ronaldo was substituted in the 80th minute of his Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund due to what looked like a problem with his left knee.
According to a report via FoxSports.com, coach Carlo Ancelotti downplayed the severity of Ronaldo's injury:
He was bothered a bit by his knee, we needed to defend and to avoid any risks, we've substituted him. It's not a problem. He isn't injured.
We'll see how it goes. At this moment we're not concerned by the niggle. If it continues, naturally we'll rest him but we're not thinking about that because the player is calm. There's not a problem at the moment.
Ancelotti: Cristiano Ronaldo's knee is fine. Better than last Saturday. #HalaMadrid— SocialRMadrid (@SocialRMadrid) April 1, 2014
Ronaldo has been fantastic this season. Keep a close eye on his status in the coming days. Real Madrid simply cannot afford to lose him at this juncture.
Will Neymar Respond to Criticism?
Neymar, the 22-year-old Brazilian, is in the midst of his first season with Barcelona—he hasn't been able to escape the critics since his arrival.
Due to his illustrious past and big-money contract, the expectations of Neymar were along the lines of Lionel Messi's production. After concerns and question continued to surface over Neymar, Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino came to his defense, according to an Associated Press report from FoxSports.com:
Neymar may be more comfortable on the left than the right, but Barcelona players are good enough to play in any position. I try to bring all the players together in the best way. Neymar is comfortable playing in any three of the attacking positions.
If you are not concentrated at this level, then you need to find the way because we are at a crucial moment in the season. Mentally, he seems fine to me, motivated. When people start talking stupidities about your father, it's normal to get upset. But to be a football player you have to separate your personal life and your work.
Barcelona banned from signing players for the next 2 transfer windows for breaching rules RE Neymar deal.— 8 Fact Football (@8Fact_Footballl) April 2, 2014
Dealing with criticism from fans and media is one thing; however, when a coach must come to the defense of his player—with the best intentions in mind—there could be some repercussions.
Neymar will have to shake this off and keep a good frame of mind. His confidence seems to be shaken at this point, which could only lead to more disgruntled critics and poor play.
It will be very interesting to see how he responds with his next on-field performance.