Source: China State Council Information Office
La Liga continues with hardly a break for the Christmas holidays, as the 16th round of matches is played over Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, although one man at least will enjoy a longer festive break than most.
Lionel Messi has been given permission to stay longer than expected in Argentina by FC Barcelona and misses his side’s home game against Eibar on Tuesday night.
Messi refused to be drawn into speculation over his future in a TV interview broadcast on Sunday night, but the official reason for his prolonged stay is that he is suffering with a slight ankle complaint.
Messi was Barca’s standout player in their 3-0 win away to Real Valladolid before Christmas, and Eibar will be happy not to see him on the pitch given that he scored five goals against them last season. Jordi Alba also misses out through suspension, while Gerard Pique and Ansu Fati remain injured.
Tuesday also sees sixth-placed Sevilla host Villarreal, who have lost only one league game so far this season. The game also sees Villarreal coach Unai Emery return to face the club he led to three consecutive UEFA Europa League titles, and the tactical battle between Emery and Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui will be the focus of much attention.
Valladolid’s defeat at home to Barca before Christmas saw them slip back into the bottom three and Sergio Gonzalez’s side now travel to Cadiz, who are just four points above them in the table.
Wednesday’s big game sees Real Madrid look for their seventh consecutive win when they visit Elche, who have gone seven games without a win and have slipped down the table as a result.
Eden Hazard should finally make his return from a thigh strain in the Martinez Valero stadium, although Real Madrid lose Brazilian winger Rodrygo after he picked up an injury in their 2-0 win at home to Granada before Christmas.
Granada look to get back to winning ways with a home game against struggling Valencia, although they have lost Luis Milla after the midfielder tested positive for COVID-19, while visiting coach Javi Gracia is probably bracing himself to see if any more key players will be sold in the January transfer window.
League leaders Atletico Madrid have a local derby at home to Getafe, and although Atletico were rocked on Monday by the news that striker Diego Costa wanted to rescind his contract due to “family reasons”, coach Diego Simeone’s problems are nothing compared to his Getafe counterpart Pepe Bordalas, who has virtually his entire first choice defense suspended, with Erick Cabaco, Mathias Oliveira, Allan Nyon and Damien Suarez all sidelined.
Celta Vigo look to continue their improvement under Eduardo Coudet at home to bottom side Huesca, who travel without the injured Sandro Ramirez, Pablo Maffeo and Antonio Valera.
Thursday ends the round of matches with two Basque derbies as Athletic Bilbao entertain Real Sociedad and Osasuna face Alaves.
Real Sociedad looked shattered before Christmas and will be grateful for a week’s rest. They should have forward Mikel Oyarzabal back after injury as they look to end a run of nine games without a win, while Asier Villalibre should be back for an improving Athletic.
Osasuna, meanwhile, have not won in eight games, and coach Jagoba Arrasate needs to tighten up a defense that has conceded eight goals in three games in order to keep Alaves forwards Joselu and Lucas Perez under control.