La Liga 2023-24: Atletico vs Girona kicks off super Saturday as league returns to action (preview)

Madrid, April 12 (IANS): Following a mini pause for the Copa del Rey final, the Spanish La Liga resumes this coming weekend, continuing with several hugely important direct duels in the race for spots in the Continental event.

The fact that Athletic Bilbao won the cup and are also sitting in the European qualification position means that seventh place in the standings would now grant access to next season’s Conference League. As such, the battle to play continental football has become even wider and the Monday night duel between CA Osasuna and Valencia CF is all the more important.

Real Betis are one of the teams who are targeting that seventh place, and they host the opening fixture of the round when RC Celta visit the Estadio Benito Villamarín on Friday night. Currently eighth and just two points off seventh, Los Verdiblancos have a good chance of qualifying for Europe for a fourth season in a row, however, they have lost each of their past four matches and need to show a reaction.

It’ll be an action-packed Saturday and the first game should be very entertaining, as fourth-placed Atletico de Madrid take on third-placed Girona FC in the Spanish capital. These two teams produced one of the best games of the season so far when the Catalan side edged a 4-3 thriller in January, and this upcoming duel promises to be just as much fun and just as important in the Champions League race.

The action stays in the capital for a Madrid derby between Rayo Vallecano and Getafe CF. New Rayo Vallecano coach Inigo Perez hasn’t lost any of his three home games so far and will aim to keep that streak going at the atmospheric Estadio de Vallecas.

League leaders Real Madrid get into action next, paying a visit to an RCD Mallorca side looking to bounce back following its loss on penalties in last weekend’s Copa del Rey final. Coach Javier Aguirre will have warned his squad that there is little time to mourn that defeat, given that the islanders aren’t completely safe from the threat of relegation yet.

The team currently occupying the final relegation spot is Cadiz CF and the Los Amarillos will take on FC Barcelona in the Saturday night game of Matchday 31.

They’re on something of a hot streak, as two of Cadiz CF’s four league victories this campaign came in their past three matches. This could be a tricky test for Xavi’s Barca side, in their final league game before the El Clasico.

Four more fixtures follow on Sunday, starting with UD Las Palmas vs Sevilla FC. The Canary Islanders are in a poor run of form, as the newly promoted side has had no wins from their past six and three defeats in a row, so they’ll look to get back to winning ways in front of their home fans.

The other two teams who were promoted to La Liga last summer meet in the following fixture when Granada CF face off against Deportivo Alaves. Although the former finished first and the latter finished fourth last season, it’s Deportivo Alaves who have done much better upon their return to the top flight. The Basque outfit knows that another win or two should confirm their place in the competition for next season.

On Sunday evening, Athletic Club will play for the first time since their triumph in the Copa del Rey final and a jubilant atmosphere is expected as the San Mames crowd offers the players and coaching staff a heroes’ welcome. Curiously, the opposition will be Villarreal CF, meaning Marcelino, the last coach to win a trophy with Athletic Club, will be there too in the opposition dugout. It should be quite the occasion in Bilbao.

Across the Basque Country, the Reale Arena in San Sebastian will host the final one of Sunday’s fixtures, a meeting between Real Sociedad and UD Almeria. La Real are currently set to qualify for the Europa League, given that they sit sixth, and they’ll want to put as many points as possible on the board between now and the end of the season.

El Sadar is the venue for the final fixture of Matchday 31, one which is suddenly vitally important in the race for Europe. Entering this weekend’s round of matches, CA Osasuna are ninth and just five points behind seventh-placed Valencia CF, their next opponents. Knowing that seventh now offers a ticket to Europe, both teams will give their all in this intriguing Monday night clash.


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Title: La Liga 2023-24: Atletico vs Girona kicks off super Saturday as league returns to action (preview)

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