LaLiga Preview: Match Day 17

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LaLiga returns in 2021 but with no winter break this time, it hasnโ€™t really gone away.

There is usually no action in Spain over the Christmas period, but there were two rounds of the competition squeezed in over the holidays to allow for a break in January when the Spanish Supercopa takes place.

Atletico Madrid finished 2020 at the top with 35 points, two more than city rivals Real Madrid in second. The Rojiblancos have also played two fewer fixtures.

Real Sociedad are now down to third, with Sevilla in fourth, Villarreal fifth and Barcelona 10 points off the lead in sixth.

LaLiga Match of the Weekend: Real Betis vs Sevilla

The Seville derby is perhaps the most intense match in the Spanish football calendar, with one of the nationโ€™s biggest cities completely divided between the green and white of Real Betis and the white of Sevilla.

Without fans, this intense and passionate clash will never be quite the same, but it is still worth watching and is this weekendโ€™s standout match in LaLiga.

The game is under some doubt as Betis have been hit with a wave of positive Covid-19 tests and it could yet be called off at the last minute.

Both clubs have also asked their fans to avoid the traditional meet-ups outside the hotel and the stadium ahead of the match in order to keep in line with Covid-19 protocols.

Joaquin, Andres Guardado and Martin Montoya will all miss El Gran Derbi for Betis after positive Covid-19 tests, while Marc Bartra, William Carvalho, Victor Camarasa, Cristian Tello and Dani Martin are all sidelined.

For Sevilla, Jesus Navas is doubtful and Fernando is out through suspension.

Betis are in ninth with 19 points, while Seville are fourth with 26 and have played two fewer fixtures than their rivals.

Rest of the Weekend

Saturday starts with Villarreal versus an improving Levante in the early match as Unai Emeryโ€™s men look to return to the Champions League places after dropping out of the top four with defeat to Sevilla on Tuesday.

The Seville derby follows, if it can be played, before Getafe (14th) host Real Valladolid (18th) in a clash between two struggling sides at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

In the late game, champions Real Madrid (in second place) are at home to a revitalised Celta Vigo, with the Galicians having turned their season around by winning five and drawing the other in their last six fixtures to move from the relegation zone up to eighth place.

League leaders Atletico are away to Deportivo Alaves (in 13th) on Sunday, with Barcelona (sixth) also in action at bottom-of-the-table Huesca. Lionel Messi is expected to shake off his ankle problem in time for that match.

Valencia, above the drop zone on goal difference alone after back-to-back losses and winning just three points in December, close the 17th round of LaLiga by welcoming ninth-placed Cadiz to Mestalla on Monday.

LaLiga Player to Watch: Iago Aspas – Celta Vigo – ยฃ0.66

No player symbolises Celta Vigo quite like Iago Aspas and the popular striker has kept the Galician side in LaLiga with vital goals over the past few seasons.

Aspas is still going strong at the age of 33 and recently became Celtaโ€™s all-time top scorer in Spainโ€™s top flight.

This term, he has nine goals in 16 LaLiga appearances already and looks like finishing as the leading Spanish scorer once again.

He has played his part in Celtaโ€™s recent revival and in an improved team on fine form, he poses a significant threat to Real Madrid when the two teams meet on Saturday.

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