The Plaza Mayor in Valladolid presents one of the jewels of Spanish Baroque architecture.

As La Liga heads into the midway point of the season, these next few rounds are some of the hardest of the campaign because the toil of playing for five consecutive months begins to wear on the players and the coaching staff both physically and mentally.  Motivation is a hard concept to renew during these times, but those teams who find that shred of extra impetus to fight on through this ennui will be manifested in the win column.

The two most alluring matchups are exclusive of Real Madrid and Barcelona.  The late Saturday night match between Deportivo La Coruña and Athletic Bilbao at El Riazor pits two teams that play very similarly: tough defenses to break down and opportunistic counter-attacking offenses.  Depor will play in light of a tepid 0-3 defeat at Sevilla’s hands in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals on Wednesday.  Athletic will employ their direct, physical style to try and achieve a result that will influence who receives a European place at the end of the season.

The Madrid derby (not THAT Madrid derby) between Getafe and Atlético Madrid on Sunday involves two of the most inconsistent teams in the league. Of Getafe’s eighteen league matches, they won nine and lost nine.  The only time they have been consistent has been in the Copa del Rey, and their most recent match in the cup on Wednesday was one of the wins of the season in Spanish football when they defeated Mallorca at the ONO Estadi, where Mallorca had won all their matches at home up to that point.  Atlético Madrid’s schizophrenic personality this season has been well-documented, but the inept performance against Segunda División side Celta de Vigo on Thursday after three dominant performances provides the microcosm for their season.

The times listed are Eastern Standard Time (EST) and include the pregame pleasantries, although sometimes the matches on the DIRECTV La Liga specific channels may not go to match coverage until right before kickoff.

Jan. 23

Sevilla vs. Almería – 11:55 AM on Gol TV

Real Valladolid vs. Barcelona – 1:55 PM on Gol TV

Deportivo La Coruña vs. Athletic Bilbao – 3:55 PM on Gol TV

Jan. 24

Espanyol vs. Mallorca – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 456

Villarreal vs. Real Zaragoza – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 457

Sporting Gijón vs. Racing Santander – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 458

Tenerife vs. Valencia – 10:55 AM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN 360

Getafe vs. Atlético Madrid – 12:55 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN 360

Real Madrid vs. Málaga – 2:55 PM on ESPN HD/ESPN Deportes/ESPN 360

Unfortunately, the Xerez – Osasuna match at El Chapín will not be shown on US TV.

Copa del Rey

Despite the lack of the historically successful teams left in the Copa del Rey (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, and Valencia), the eight remaining intrigued fans with potentially spellbinding second legs in the coming midweek.  Although Depor faces a three-goal deficit going into Sevilla, the Blanquiazules can look in their past to arguably their most impressive win in the team’s history, when they came back from three goals down heading into the second leg against AC Milan and trounced the Rossoneri 4-0 to earn a place in their first ever UEFA Champions League semifinal. The other three ties are all within one goal or even and should provide some wonderful theater as the cup begins its crescendo toward the final in May.

Jan. 27

Sevilla vs. Deportivo La Coruña – 4:55 PM on Gol TV (Sevilla 3-0 Deportivo La Coruña after the first leg) (This match will kick-off live at 4:00 EST, but Gol TV will show the Coppa Italia quarterfinal between AC Milan and Udinese at 3:00 PM.  If this Coppa Italia quarterfinal ends within the ninety minutes, the Sevilla – Deportivo La Coruña match will be shown at 4:55 PM EST, but if AC Milan and Udinese go into extra time and a possible penalty shootout, the match will be shown immediately following the Coppa Italia quarterfinal, tentatively around 5:30 – 6:00 PM time block.)

Jan. 28

Getafe vs. Mallorca – 1:55 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN 360 (Getafe 2-1 Mallorca after the first leg)

Celta de Vigo vs. Atlético Madrid – 3:55 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN 360 (Celta de Vigo 1-1 Atlético Madrid after the first leg)

Unfortunately, the Osasuna – Racing Santander second leg quarterfinal at the Reyno de Navarra will not be shown on US TV (Osasuna 1-2 Racing Santander after the first leg).