Round 19 of the 2018/19 La Liga season will see Barcelona looking to consolidate their strong hold on first place, while Real Madrid need a win to ease the growing pressure on manager Santiago Solari.
Barca enjoy a five-point advantage at the top of the log after taking full advantage of a draw between nearest chasers Atletico Madrid and Sevilla last weekend. The Catalans are expected to ease to another three-point haul when they host Eibar on Sunday evening and the exceptional form of Lionel Messi (who has netted seven goals in his last four Liga matches and tops the scoring charts with 16 strikes this season) gives them confidence that they will rack up a ninth straight league win over the Basque side.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, face a must-win clash away to Real Betis at Estadio Benito Villamarin in the late kick-off on Sunday. Los Blancos have picked up just one point from two matches in 2019 and find themselves a full 10 points off the pace of Barcelona. Challenging their great rivals for the title now seems an impossibility, but even securing UEFA Champions League football for next season appears to be a tough task, with Solari’s side placed outside the top four heading into the weekend.
Betis opened their work in the New Year with a disappointing loss away to bottom-of-the-log Huesca, but the Verdiblancos will be fired up for the visit of the heavyweights and determined to close the four-point gap between the teams.
Elsewhere, struggling Athletic Bilbao will host high-flying Sevilla at San Mames Barria. The visitors are on the fringes of the title race (though it’s hard to see them closing a seven-point gap to the top) and will need to come away from Bilbao with a positive result – anything less and they may well be overhauled by Deportivo Alaves, who will back themselves to win away to a Girona side which has failed to secure victory in any of their last four league outings.
Second-placed Atletico Madrid would have been bitterly disappointed to fall five points behind Barcelona, but they could narrow the gap to just two points when they play the early game on Sunday. Diego Simeone’s team are at home to Levante (also winless in their last four league games) and hopeful of repeating the 3-0 win they claimed when the teams last met back in April 2018.
Key match stats
Real Betis v Real Madrid – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 44
Betis wins 8
Madrid wins 23
Barcelona v Eibar – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 8
Barcelona wins 8
Eibar wins 0
Athletic Bilbao v Sevilla – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 48
Bilbao wins 14
Sevilla wins 23
La Liga fixtures, 11-14 January
All times GMT
Friday 11 January
8:00pm Rayo Vallecano v Celta de Vigo
Saturday 12 January
12:00pm Leganes v Huesca
3:15pm Valencia v Real Valladolid
5:30pm Girona v Deportivo Alaves
7:45pm Villarreal v Getafe
Sunday 13 January
11:00am Atletico Madrid v Levante
3:15pm Athletic Bilbao v Sevilla
5:30pm Barcelona v Eibar
7:45pm Real Betis v Real Madrid
Monday 14 January
8:00pm Real Sociedad v Espanyol