Big guns ready to fire as La Liga reaches halfway point
Madrid, Jan 16: The Spanish football season reaches its halfway point this weekend with a crucial set of matches that could prove to be important tests for the top three teams in the La Liga points table.
Due to their King's Cup commitments Thursday, the top three teams - Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid - all play their 22nd round of matches Sunday, reports Xinhua.
Real visit struggling Getafe
League leaders Real Madrid make a short trip south of Madrid to face a Getafe side who needs to avoid another defeat in order to stay away from the relegation zone.
The arrival of Quique Sanchez Flores as coach to replace Cosmin Contra has so far failed to kickstart Getafe's season, although they did qualify for the last eight of the Cup Wednesday with a scrappy win at home against Almeria.
Iker Casillas will return in goal for Real, who will look to overcome the disappointment of their Cup exit against Atletico, while defender Pepe would be out of action for two or three weeks with a rib injury.
Fresh Barcelona squad face Deportivo challenge
Barcelona travel to the far northwest of Spain where they play Deportivo la Coruna. Coach Luis Enrique was able to rest key players in his side's easy Cup win Thursday, so fatigue should not be a factor for strikers Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
The Barcelona coach would be hoping his side could replicate last weekend's 3-1 win at home against reigning champions Atletico. Barcelona have been criticised heavily for indifferent form this season amid reports of insurgency against the coach, led by team talisman Messi.
A repeat of that performance should silence the criticism labelled against the team for some time, but a repeat of the display that saw them lose to Real Sociedad a week earlier, would plunge the club back into crisis.
Atletico, fresh from knocking Real out of the Cup, would look at their home match against Granada to bridge the gap between them and the leaders.
At the bottom of the table, Granada, after crashing out of the Cup Wednesday, desperately need to win against the title holders for their coach Joaquin Caparros to keep his job, having been on a winless streak since September.
The weekend action kicks off Friday when an improving Cordoba entertain Eibar.
Real Sociedad, who are gradually improving under new coach David Moyes, will face visiting Rayo Vallecano Saturday.
Valencia will look to recover from the shock of their Cup exit at the hands of Espanyol when they face Almeria.
Villarreal are another side enjoying a good season and would hope to take advantage of Athletic Club Bilbao's poor form. Espanyol take on Celta Vigo, who need a win to leave fears of relegation behind them.
The weekend ends Sunday with a relegation zone battle between Elche and Levante, while Seville face Malaga.