Hazard returns for Real as Barcelona struggle to keep their sparkle

– Champions League awaits –

While Barcelona and Real have another week to prepare for their return to the Champions League, Atletico Madrid host Liverpool next Tuesday and Valencia play Atalanta in Milan on Wednesday.

Conveniently they were scheduled to meet this weekend in Valencia and La Liga has brought the game forward to Friday. Their Champions League opponents are both playing league matches on Saturday.

If they want to return to the competition next year, Friday’s meeting could prove crucial. Atletico are clinging onto the fourth Champions League place only on goal difference from Sevilla while Valencia are just two points back in seventh.

Ones to watch: Willian Jose and Loren Moron

Barcelona are making noises about asking for an exemption to buy a striker because of their injury problems.

Real Sociedad’s Willian Jose, a 28-year-old Brazilian who has gone from journeyman to must-have striker in the last month, and Moron, a 26-year-old who has only established himself in the Betis team in the last 18 months, are reportedly top of the list.

They can improve their value by adding to their modest eight league goals each this season on Sunday. Willian’s Real Sociedad make the short trip to Eibar and Betis visit Leganes.

Key stats

14: Lionel Messi is the top scorer in La Liga

11: Lionel Messi is the top assist provider in La Liga

75: Yellow cards Getafe have accumulated, most in La Liga. They collected four against Barcelona in September, but Barcelona edged them with four yellows and a red

Fixtures (GMT)

Friday

Valencia v Atletico Madrid (2000)

Saturday

Mallorca v Alaves (1200), Barcelona v Getafe (1500), Villarreal v Levante (1730), Granada v Real Valladolid (2000)

Sunday

Sevilla v Espanyol (1100), Leganes v Real Betis (1300), Eibar v Real Sociedad (1500), Athletic Bilbao v Osasuna (1730), Real Madrid v Celta Vigo (2000)

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