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La Liga second half to kick off as fixture pile up continues (Preview)

Madrid, Feb 2 (IANS) The second half of La Liga season gets underway this weekend as the fixture pile up continues in Spain.

Athletic Bilbao and Cadiz get the weekend underway on Friday night, with the home side looking for their first league win of 2023. Athletic also need to start scoring goals after having found the net just once in their five league matches since the start of the year. 

The fact Cadiz won 1-0 on their last two visits to the San Mames Stadium could be a worry to the home side.

Espanyol’s recovery suffered a setback when they lost to Almeria last weekend, but Diego Martinez’s side has a chance to get back on track against a tough Osasuna. As always, Joselu will be the main threat for Espanyol, having scored 11 of their 23 league goals this season, although home fans will be keen to see some of the five new signings the club made during the winter transfer window.

Villarreal will view their visit to bottom side Elche as the opportunity to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat at home to Rayo Vallecano on Monday night.

Elche remain without a win all season and will be without defender Pedro Bigas, who was sent off in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat against Sevilla.

There is a Madrid derby in the Metropolitano Stadium when Atletico Madrid entertain relegation-threatened Getafe.

Despite having players such as Borja Mayoral and Enes Unal in their squad, Getafe have slipped to second from bottom, and a defeat could spell the end for coach Quique Sanchez Flores, who faces one of his former clubs.

Atletico need midfielder Rodrigo de Paul to build on his impressive display against Osasuna, where he controlled the midfield and laid on the assist for the winning goal.

Saturday’s last game sees Real Betis at home to Celta Vigo, with the home side having little recovery time after Wednesday’s defeat to Barcelona. William Carvalho is suspended for Betis after having been sent off for protesting after the final whistle, but Ayoze Perez could start after his move from Leicester City.

Real Madrid will visit Mallorca, who have conceded just 18 goals in 19 matches this season. Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will have to rotate his squad after Thursday’s league match against Valencia and ahead of their debut in the Club World Cup in Morocco next Wednesday.

Valencia, who have club delegate Voro Gonzalez in charge after Gennaro Gattuso’s departure at the start of the week, also have little recovery time, and depending on results elsewhere, they could go into their match in Girona in the relegation zone.

Real Sociedad have a long injury list, with Aritz Elustondo, Andoni Gorozabal, Mikel Merino and David Silva all sidelined for their home match against Real Valladolid, and that will give coach Imanol Alguacil problems in defense against a team who has won one and lost five of their last six matches.

Sunday’s last game pits FC Barcelona against Sevilla, who have recovered slightly with two wins in their last two league games. Sevilla’s main problem will be scoring against a Barca defense that has conceded just seven goals in La Liga, but the return of Lucas Ocampos has given Jorge Sampaoli’s side more options in attack.

Barca will be without Ousmane Dembele who is out with a thigh injury, but Robert Lewandowski showed his value with the second goal in their midweek win away to Betis.

The round of matches continues on Monday as Rayo Vallecano aim to continue their impressive season at home to mid-table Almeria.