There is plenty up for grabs as we enter the second half of the La Liga season. Atletico Madrid are in pole position to win the title, but Barcelona and Real Madrid will not have abandoned all hope just yet. Below the big boys, Sevilla, Real Sociedad, and Villarreal are fighting for Champions League qualification.
The battle for the Europa League places is even more intense, with just nine points separating the sixth spot from 14th at the time of writing. At the bottom, Eibar, Real Valladolid, Osasuna, Alaves, Huesca, and Elche are battling against the drop. Three will stay up and three will be relegated.
It promises to be a fascinating few months in the world of Spanish soccer, so we have picked out the La Liga fixtures 2021 top 10 games to watch.
All dates are subject to change
Barcelona are not having the best of seasons. This is a club used to winning titles, but they are well off the pace at present – as of the beginning of February, Ronald Koeman’s side are 10 points adrift of top spot. That gap may have narrowed by the time this game comes around, but there is at least as good a chance that it will have widened.
Sevilla are battling for a place in the top four, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they will finish above Barcelona. If you are only going to watch one of February’s La Liga fixtures, make it this one.
There is no love lost between Villarreal and Valencia. These two teams contest the Derbi de la Comunitat, and they will renew hostilities on March 7. Even though supporters will not be present at Mestalla, this should be a fiery affair – especially as Villarreal signed three players from Valencia last summer.
Managed by Javi Gracia, Valencia are experiencing significant financial difficulties and have had to reduce their expectations accordingly. Villarreal, on the other hand, are competing for a top-four finish this term.
As mentioned above, this season’s La Liga title is Atletico Madrid’s to lose. Diego Simeone’s side last finished on top of the pile in 2013/14, and they are well-positioned to once again beat their neighbors – and Barcelona – to the prize.
Real Madrid are the defending champions and will not relinquish their crown easily, though. This is always one of the most intense and hard-fought La Liga fixtures. This clash on March 7 will be no different.
The Seville derby that pits Sevilla against Real Betis is arguably the best in Spain. Residents of this city in southern Spain sure love their soccer, and the battle between red-and-white and green-and-white is fiercely contested.
This will be the 99th league meeting between the rivals. Sevilla have been the more successful side, winning 46 games to Real Betis’ 29. Neutrals will be hoping for a repeat of the eight-goal thriller at the Sanchez Pizjuan in January 2018.
Barcelona will hope to still be in the title race by the time this match comes around. The La Liga fixtures will be starting to run out by the end of March, and it will be hard for Barcelona to shrink the 10-point deficit if it still stands in six weeks’ time.
Real Sociedad made a brilliant start to the season but have fallen away in the last couple of months. Imanol Alguacil’s side are fighting for a Champions League spot, and taking a scalp like Barcelona’s would boost their chances of qualifying for European soccer’s most prestigious club competition.
This is one of those La Liga fixtures that needs no introduction. Real Madrid vs Barcelona is the biggest club game on the planet and millions of people around the world will be tuning in when the rivals do battle at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 11.
Madrid and Barcelona are neck-and-neck on 40 points at the time of writing. Both have gone through poor runs of form this campaign, and it is difficult to predict the outcome of this match two months out. One thing is for sure, though: you will not want to miss it.
The bottom of the La Liga title is not as glamorous as the top, but you should not neglect the relegation battle when it comes to choosing the La Liga fixtures to watch.
This could be a winner-takes-all encounter between Huesca and Elche, the bottom two sides at present. In the six-way battle to avoid demotion, at least one of these teams is likely to fail. Expect this to be a scrappy but engaging affair.
No one relishes a trip to San Mames. Athletic Bilbao’s stadium is renowned as the most atmospheric in Spain, and although no fans will be inside when Atletico Madrid visit the Basque Country in April, this will still be a tough test for Diego Simeone’s men.
Atletico could be close to wrapping up the title by this stage. It is even possible that they might have already won it, or that they could seal it with a win at the San Mames. Whatever the state of play, this will be a must-watch match.
Atletico Madrid won their last La Liga title at the Camp Nou. A 1-1 draw in May 2014 was enough to give the club from the capital the trophy at Barcelona’s expense. A repeat of that scenario is distinctly possible this term.
Of course, Barcelona will hope to still be involved in the title race by the time Atletico visit the Camp Nou. This will be the fourth-from-last round of La Liga fixtures, and this game in Catalonia could have huge repercussions for both clubs.
Of the 10 La Liga fixtures scheduled for the final day of the season, this one stands out. Real Madrid’s title hopes will probably be over by then, but they could still be in a situation where they need a win to secure their position in the table – be that second, third or fourth.
There is a good chance that Villarreal will have something to play for too. The Yellow Submarine are targeting a top-four place and victory over Madrid would be a brilliant way to secure it.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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