Tue, 06 Jun 2023

MADRID, March 30 (Xinhua) -- La Liga returns to action this weekend following the international break, with 12 games left in the season.

FC Barcelona's 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the last game before the break looks to have given Xavi Hernandez one hand on this season's title as they lead their rivals by 12 points.

Barca travel to bottom side Elche on Saturday night, looking to extend that lead to 15 points - at least for a day - but Xavi has injury problems ahead of the match, with Frenkie De Jong and Ronald Araujo both doubts after missing their international matches with physical problems.

Pedri and Ousmane Dembele are still sidelined, while Andreas Christensen, who had been in excellent form before the break, picked up a calf injury with Denmark and won't play either.

With a Copa del Rey semifinal return leg against Real Madrid next Wednesday, Xavi won't risk any players against a side that is doomed to the drop and named Sebastian Beccacece as their fourth permanent coach of the campaign during the break.

Real Madrid entertain Real Valladolid on Sunday afternoon, and with David Alaba returning for action with Austria, Carlo Ancelotti has no injury worries against a rival who slipped worryingly close to the drop zone after a 3-1 defeat at home to Athletic Bilbao before the break.

Valladolid have only won once at the Santiago Bernabeu in their history and will be without forward Darwin Machis for the visit.

The round of matches kicks off on Friday night with Real Mallorca at home to Osasuna. Osasuna have lost their last two matches, and with key striker Chimy Avila injured, they could rest players ahead of their Copa del Rey semifinal away to Athletic Bilbao next Tuesday.

Saturday kicks off with a Catalan derby between Girona and Espanyol with the visitors traveling after a painful defeat at home to Celta Vigo that left them just one point and one place above the relegation zone, and their hopes depend on the form of Spain's newest international striker, Joselu.

Athletic are at home to Getafe, who have climbed out of the bottom three after three wins and a draw in their last five games, although they have a slight doubt over the fitness of top scorer Enes Unal.

Jose Luis Mendilibar makes his debut as Sevilla coach in a vital relegation derby away to Cadiz. Expect Mendilibar to attempt to return some defensive order to a side that at times looked chaotic under his predecessor, Jorge Sampaoli.

Celta get the ball rolling on Sunday at home to second-from-bottom Almeria. Iago Aspas and Gabri Veiga will be the main threats for the home side against a rival in apparent freefall and who have lost pacy forward El Bilal Toure through injury for the rest of the season.

Villarreal will be without Spain international Gerard Moreno for their home match against fourth-placed Real Sociedad in a key battle to qualify for Europe next season.

There is another big game in the Metropolitano Stadium between an in-form Atletico Madrid and fifth-placed Real Betis. Betis midfielder Sergio Canales was hit by a four-game ban in midweek and his side's creativity is further dented by the loss of Nabil Fekir after a knee operation.

Atletico have a full squad and have won their last three league matches to sit just five points behind their neighbors Real Madrid.

The round of matches ends on Monday when third-from-bottom Valencia look for their third consecutive home win against a Rayo Vallecano side that was starting to look tired ahead of the international break.

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