Leaders Real Madrid face a tricky challenge in Week 28 of the La Liga season, as Los Blancos travel to the Basque country to take on Athletic Bilbao.
Bilbao beat rivals Real Sociedad 2-0 in their last match and always seem to play their best against the top teams―Real had better bring their A-game on Saturday.
Barcelona will attempt to bounce back from the shock defeat against Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, as they host Valencia. Atletico Madrid and Sevilla go head-to-head, with the winner taking a big step toward securing third place.
Here's a look at the schedule, complete with live-stream options and predictions:
|La Liga Schedule|
|Friday, March 17||Las Palmas||Villarreal||Sky Go, BeIN Sports Connect||1-1|
|Saturday, March 18||Eibar||Espanyol||Sky Go, BeIN Sports Connect||2-1|
|Saturday, March 18||Athletic||Real Madrid||BeIN Sports Connect||1-2|
|Saturday, March 18||Alaves||Real Sociedad||Sky Go, BeIN Sports Connect||0-2|
|Saturday, March 18||Real Betis||Osasuna||Sky Go, BeIN Sports Connect||2-0|
|Sunday, March 19||Leganes||Malaga||Sky Go, BeIN Sports Connect||1-1|
|Sunday, March 19||Atletico Madrid||Sevilla||Sky Go, BeIN Sports Connect||2-0|
|Sunday, March 19||Gijon||Granada||Sky Go, BeIN Sports Connect||1-1|
|Sunday, March 19||Deportivo||Celta Vigo||Sky Go, BeIN Sports Connect||0-0|
|Sunday, March 19||Barcelona||Valencia||Sky Go, BeIN Sports Connect||3-1|
Bilbao's San Mames Stadium needs no introduction for regular followers of La Liga, who know the Bilbao home ground is one of the more intimidating venues in Spain and gives the hosts a significant advantage.
Los Leones have won three of their last four and chase Sociedad by just four points in the race for a place in Europe following last week's 2-0 win in San Sebastian. With momentum on their side, this match against Los Blancos comes at a great time.
Real completed a comeback win over lowly Real Betis in Week 27 to regain the top spot in the standings. Los Blancos weren't even close to their best, and without the heroics of Sergio Ramos and a little aid from the official―who should have sent off Keylor Navas in the first half―the comeback wouldn't have taken place at all.
According to manager Zinedine Zidane, Los Blancos will travel to the Basque country without young defender Raphael Varane, as he told Javier Garcia of the club's official website: "It's looking unlikely that [Varane will] be involved on Saturday away at Bilbao. We're going to try and get him back as soon as possible. He's just returned to training, and we've got to take things slowly with him.”
The full week of preparation will be a major advantage for Real, however―due to European competition, Los Blancos have frequently faced their domestic opponents on short rest, and for the first time in weeks, that won't be a factor.
Barcelona suffered a shock loss against Deportivo last week that many fans and pundits attributed to the hangover effect of their UEFA Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain. They'll have the chance to prove that was the case against a Valencia side that has improved since the start of the campaign but is winless in its last two matches.
As shared by Squawka News, Los Che will be without one of their star young forwards at the Camp Nou:
Santi Mina hasn't been a huge factor of late, however, making most of his appearances off the bench. West Ham United flop Simone Zaza has been preferred up front, and he's been in solid form since moving to Spain.
While the Italian isn't much of a scorer, his work rate opens up tons of space for his team-mates, and it's his blend of mobility and brute strength that has caused problems for Barcelona's defence in the past.
The Catalans have been excellent when their best XI have played and mediocre when some of their back-ups have taken to the pitch. With the international break on the horizon, expect manager Luis Enrique to field a strong team and the Blaugrana to win.