Iniesta at Barça-Espanyol / FOTO: ARXIU FCB

2013 kicked off in La Liga on Friday night, when Betis won 1-2 in Zaragoza to draw level on points with fourth placed Malaga, who are away to the bottom club Deportivo on Saturday. The Galicians sacked their manager Luis Oltra over Christmas and appointed the Portuguese coach Domingos Paciencia as their new boss. Deportivo have not won for eight games, whilst Malaga come into the game on the back of a great win over Real Madrid and just one defeat in their last six matches.

Injury and suspension devastate Madrid defence

Real Madrid’s problems continue to mount as the new year begins, with Pepe out for a month with an ankle injury. With the injured Marcelo, Albiol and Coentrao and suspended Sergio Ramos also unavailable and doubts as to whether Casillas will again be on the bench, Mourinho will have to put together a makeshift defence for the visit of the improving Real Sociedad. The Basques are up to seventh after an unbeaten run of seven games that has included impressive away wins at Malaga and Valencia, in contrast to Madrid’s recent form that’s seen them win just one of their last three league games and go down in the Cup to Celta.

Falcao suspended for Mallorca trip

Before the last league game of 2012, second place Atletico Madrid would have been pretty happy about starting 2013 at Mallorca – the Islanders had failed to win in their last ten games before the end of year visit to Betis, but their 1-2 win there will have boosted confidence in Caparros’ team, whilst Atletico will be without the suspended Falcao for Sunday’s clash. In Saturday afternoon’s first game, Levante will be without their top scorer Obefami Martins, who is suspended, for the visit of Atletico Bilbao to the Ciutat de Valencia – a ground where Levante have only lost to Real Madrid and Barça so far this season.

Osasuna travel to Seville

At the bottom, Espanyol are not the only team to face a tough away trip, with Osasuna travelling to Seville, who will be desperate to forget a terrible end to 2012 which saw them take just one point from their last five games. Celta, level on 15 points with Espanyol and just a point ahead of Osasuna, host Valladolid- who’ve lost just one of their last four games on the road, whilst Granada, whose win in Pamplona at the end of 2012 took them momentarily at least out of the danger zone and up to 16 points, are at home to the unpredictable Valencia. Valencia have won just once on the road, whilst Granada have the worst home record in La Liga, with a single win and have failed to score at home in their last three games.

Monday night’s game is a Madrid derby between Rayo and Getafe – the fifth time this season that Rayo have been scheduled to play on a Monday night.