Madrid, March 10 (IANS) With just two rounds of games until the next international football break, the end of a long winter spell of continued football is drawing to a close for Spain's top clubs, but weekend matches will not allow them to take their foot off the gas, reports Xinhua news agency.
1) How will Betis treat Sunday's visit to Madrid?
In an interview published earlier this week, Real Madrid forward, Gareth Bale commented that one of the differences between the La Liga and the English Premier League (EPL) is that in England you have to give 100 percent in every game if you want to win, whereas in Spain the big clubs can ease off against less powerful rivals in the second half of matches, something that is surely a major help when it comes to playing in big European clashes as the season draws to a close.
Sunday sees Real Madrid entertain Betis in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium after they played on Tuesday and Betis played on Wednesday. Betis were away to fellow strugglers Deportivo la Coruna and fielded their strongest possible side in a 1-1 draw. With a home match against rock bottom Osasuna next weekend, the question is will Betis coach Victor Sanchez once again field his strongest side or will he rest key players, meaning will Real Madrid indeed be able to take it easier than normal?
2) How far will euphoria carry Barcelona?
FC Barcelona made football history on Wednesday night when they overturned a 0-4 first leg defeat against Paris Saint-Germain to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League amid scenes of ecstatic celebration in the Camp Nou Stadium.
After what has at times been a difficult season and just a week after Luis Enrique confirmed he would not continue as coach next campaign, Barcelona looked more united than ever and have now scored an incredible 17 goals in their last three games.
Sunday sees them defend their league leadership away against Deportivo la Coruna, who have taken five points from three games and are unbeaten since Pepe Mel replaced Gaizka Garitano as first team coach.
Tiredness is bound to be a factor, but Barcelona are on a high: the question is, will Wednesday's euphoria carry them to a new victory, or will they suffer a Champions League hangover?
3) Granada's home form a worry for Atletico Madrid
Fourth place Atletico Madrid travel to Granada on Saturday ahead of a Champions League clash at home to Bayer Leverkusen and as such Atletico coach Diego Simeone may be tempted to rotate his squad.
At first glance, Granada, who are five points adrift of safety, appear to be relatively easy meat for Atletico, but a look at the form shows they have won their last three matches in their Los Carmenes Stadium, which will be packed for the game.
Granada's away form is dreadful and the side is clearly mentally weak on the road, but they have turned into a different beast at home - one that is fighting for its Primera Liga survival, and as such Atletico will have to be wary.
4) Who will Basque in glory in derby with Europe in sight?
The Basque derby between Real Sociedad and Athletic Club Bilbao will have a lot to say if one or both of the two clubs play in Europe next season.
Real Sociedad entertain Athletic fifth in the table, but with the option to move fourth if Atletico Madrid drop points in Granada, while Athletic are seventh, but needing to move up to sixth to ensure a rapid return to European football.
They were the better side when they defeated Real Sociedad 3-2 in their first clash earlier this season: a result which hardly reflected their dominance, but poor away form means they have not won on the road since November and 'la Real' will look to exploit that to try and move 10 points clear of their neighbours.
Finally, Athletic travel with increased doubts over whether or not Ernesto Valverde will continue as coach next season, but with striker Aritz Aduriz recovered from a hamstring injury for a game in which personality as much as form is often the deciding factor.