La Liga preview: Barcelona hope to extend stay at top

Sajith B Warrier

Bengaluru, December 20: The last La Liga weekend of 2018 sees Barcelona looking to stay ahead of chasing Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, with opportunities also for teams towards the bottom to send their fans happily into the winter break.

Leaders BarÇa are at home to Celta on Saturday, with five goals in his last two La Liga games having pushed blaugrana captain Lionel Messi to the top of the league goal scoring charts.

Celta are unbeaten in their last three games under new coach Miguel Cardoso and have won one and drawn another of their last four La Liga visits to the Camp Nou.

La Liga fixtures | Results | Points table

Bogey team

Second-placed Atletico Madrid are too in action on Saturday as they host Espanyol, with red-hot Antoine Griezmann and company out for three points which would continue their La Liga-leading home record so far.

Espanyol are something of a 'bogey' side for Simeone's men however, having won both their most recent La Liga meetings including a 2-0 victory for the Catalans at the Wanda Metropolitano last season.

Tight game

Third-placed Sevilla will also aim to stay right in the mix at the top when they visit Leganes on Sunday. A tight game is likely as Pablo Machin's side have drawn their last three on the road, while in-form 'Lega' are now unbeaten in their last six league outings.

The weekend this time begins early on Friday with Girona hosting Getafe at Montilivi in a meeting of two teams who have both had excellent 2018s and will want a result to stay in the top half over the break.

Friday's late game is a Basque derby which sees Real Sociedad host Alaves. The visitors from Vitoria will be looking for a first La Liga win at Anoeta in over a decade.

Garitano's challenge

Saturday will see a resurgent Real Betis aiming for a fourth straight La Liga victory to ensure they spend the winter break in fifth spot, although visitors Eibar will remember their 4-0 victory at the Estadio Benito Villamarin just two years' back.

The late game on Saturday sees new Athletic Club coach Gaizka Garitano look to stretch his unbeaten run to three games. Visitors Real Valladolid travel to San Mames aiming for a win which would be an excellent end to a great last 12 months for the Castilian club.

Picturesque Mestalla

Sunday's matches starts with Valencia looking to end the year on a high at Mestalla against bottom team Huesca, whose performances have improved in recent weeks.

The final La Liga game of 2018 has Rayo Vallecano aiming for a second straight win at their Estadio de Vallecas, but visitors Levante can go into the winter break having stretched their unbeaten away run to six games.

Real Madrid and Villarreal are not in La Liga action this weekend, with the reigning UEFA Champions League holders in Abu Dhabi defending their FIFA Club World Cup trophy. Their meeting will now be La Liga's first action of 2019, at Villarreal's Estadio de la Ceramica on January 3.

The La Liga Matchday 17 this weekend can be watched on Facebook, SONY TEN 2 and SONY TEN 2 HD

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La Liga preview: Barcelona aiming to stay top