Madrid, Spain | THE INDEPENDENT | Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is again under pressure when his side travels to play Alaves in the 20th round of La Liga matches this weekend.
Madrid’s Copa del Rey humiliation to third-tier side Alcoyano on Wednesday, which followed their Supercup semifinal defeat to Athletic Club Bilbao and a goalless draw away to Osasuna, has again put the coach in the firing line and he needs both a win and a good performance to regain the confidence of the club.
Players such as Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, who were all rested in midweek, need to perform against a rival that won 2-1 away to Zidane’s side earlier in the season.
Abelardo Fernandez has seen two defeats from two games since replacing Pablo Machin as Alaves coach, although they were slightly unlucky to lose to Sevilla in midweek and the home side also needs points to avoid dropping into the relegation zone just as they celebrate their centenary.
The weekend kicks off on Friday night with Levante, who are in mid-table, at home to a Valladolid side that needs points to climb away from the drop zone.
Huesca kick off Saturday’s matches with a home game against Villarreal with Pacheta looking for his first win since replacing Michel in the Huesca dugout in order to stop his side starting to be cut adrift in last place.
Sevilla moved into fourth after their win away to Alaves on Tuesday and are favorites for another three points at home to Cadiz in an Andalusian derby. Sevilla won in Cadiz earlier in the season, but Cadiz tend to get better results away from home where they can sit deep and look to play on the break.
Real Sociedad need to stop their sliding form in La Liga, but an in-form Betis led by former Real Sociedad midfielder Sergio Canales may prove tough rivals in the Reale Arena.
FC Barcelona will be without the suspended Leo Messi for their visit to struggling Elche on Sunday afternoon, but that can be no excuse as Ronald Koeman looks to keep their slim title hopes alive.
Koeman needs an improved performance from Thursday night when Barca struggled past third-tier Cornella in the Copa del Rey after missing two penalties and needing extra time.
League leaders Atletico Madrid beat Eibar 2-1 on Thursday thanks to a dubious late penalty, but will expect to at least maintain their seven-point lead at the top of the table when they entertain Valencia, who remain deep in trouble after a 1-1 draw at home to Osasuna on Thursday.
Joao Felix could return for Atletico after starting recent games on the subs’ bench.
Celta Vigo hope to have striker Iago Aspas available for their home game against Eibar. The club from the north-west of Spain has won just one out of the last 21 matches they have played without their talisman and captain. Osasuna entertain Granada in what is likely to be a tight game with few chances from open play.
The round of matches ends on Monday night when newly crowned Supercup champions Athletic Club Bilbao entertain Getafe.