La Liga: Cup hangovers, referee controversy to influence weekend games

The 22nd round of matches in La Liga this weekend are to be conditioned by the midweek Copa del Rey quarterfinals and also the refereeing controversy in the match between Real Madrid and Almeria last weekend.

 The 22nd round of matches in La Liga this weekend are to be conditioned by the midweek Copa del Rey quarterfinals and also the refereeing controversy in the match between Real Madrid and Almeria last weekend.

The performance of VAR referee Hernandez in the Santiago Bernabeu, which saw him give four big decisions all in favour of Real Madrid, has led to a week of controversy, with referees in the eye of a hurricane and their performances will be watched closely throughout the coming weekend.

Almeria are first into action this weekend as they continue looking for their first win of the season, with Alaves the visitors.

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Alaves have climbed seven points clear of the relegation zone with consecutive wins and another three points would go a long way towards confirming their survival for next season. Real Madrid travel to Las Palmas without the suspended Jude Bellingham and with Brahim Diaz filling in his attacking midfield role.

Las Palmas won 2-0 away to Rayo Vallecano and after last weekend, it goes without saying that there will be as much, if not more, attention on the referee’s performance as the players. Even though they weren’t involved in the match, FC Barcelona complained long and loud about the refereeing in the Real Madrid v Almeria game but would be better focusing on their football after they were knocked out of the Copa del Rey 4-2 in an epic game away to Athletic Club Bilbao on Wednesday.

That game saw Alejandre Balde, Andreas Christensen and possibly Ronald Araujo join Barca’s already extensive injury list for Saturday’s game at home to Villarreal, with the visitors hoping to find Barca feeling the effects of 120 minutes of intense football.

Mallorca qualified for the Copa del Rey semifinal after a 3-2 win at home to Girona on Wednesday and they will test their legs at home to Betis, whose main threat continues to be veteran midfielder Isco. League leaders Girona and Celta Vigo both rested the majority of their regular league starters in their midweek cup defeats and that puts the pressure on when Celta host Girona on Sunday afternoon.

Celta fans voiced their anger at coach Rafa Benitez’s decision as they lost tamely to Real Sociedad on Tuesday night and the failure to beat Girona could see his job in danger. Mauricio Pellegrino returns to La Liga as the new coach of third-from-bottom Cadiz needing to end a 17-game run without a win when his side faces Athletic Club Bilbao. Athletic are currently fifth, but it remains to be seen if their Copa del Rey epic against Barca has taken a toll on the players.

Depending on results elsewhere, Sevilla could be in the bottom three when they kick off at home to Osasuna. Osasuna has had all week to prepare for the game, while Sevilla has a tough Copa del Rey quarterfinal away to Atletico Madrid on Thursday, which leaves them short of recovery time.

New Sevilla coach Quique Sanchez Flores has suffered three league defeats in four games in charge, with his side collapsing to a 5-1 loss in Girona a week ago.

Atletico play Sunday’s last game as they entertain a Valencia team that has climbed to seventh after four consecutive wins and Ruben Baraja’s young side will be a stern test for another team likely to lack freshness.

(IANS)

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