Juventus announced this week that Bilbao’s out of favour striker Fernando Llorente would be joining them in the summer, though the Basque’s boss Marcelo Bielsa insists: “this changes nothing, we’ve known he’d be leaving since last August”. Although Arduriz, Llorente’s replacement in the Bilbao team, has bagged 12 goals so far this campaign, Bilbao have failed to reach the heights they achieved last season and as well as being eliminated from Europe early on, they were humiliated in their favourite competition – the Spanish Cup- by second division neighbours Eibar . Their league form has also suffered and at their normally tough San Mames ground, they have won just one of their last six games – losing to Zaragoza and Rayo in their last two. On Sunday they will host second place Atletico Madrid – the team who many feel triggered their decline by beating them in last year’s Europa League Final. Atletico will be without the injured Falcao, but will be lifted by their Cup quarter final win against Betis in midweek.

Getafe …. then Barça!

Real Madrid face neighbours Getafe on Sunday lunchtime and Jose Mourinho will be hoping to celebrate his 50th birthday with a win ahead of Wednesday’s big game against Barça. Adan looks likely to replace the injured Casillas, though emergency signing Diego Lopez from Seville is unlikely to figure. Rayo Vallecano have crept up behind Malaga and Betis in the fight for fourth spot and Pepe Mel’s Betis will have to lift themselves after their cup knock out to Atletico when they visit Vallecas on Sunday. Malaga were also knocked out of course, and they travel to Mallorca, which, given that their hosts haven’t won at home since September, looks to be an easier game.

Strugglers aim to exploit home advantage

Deportivo (16 points) are the only team below Mallorca(17) and they host Valencia on Saturday in desperate need of points after last week’s defeat in Pamplona. Valencia seemed to be getting back on track under new boss Ernesto Valverde, but last weekend’s thrashing and their subsequent Cup defeat to Real Madrid may have set them back. Good news for Valverde is the possible reappearance of one time wonder kid Sergio Canales, who came on for the last 20 minutes in midweek after his nine month injury lay off. Celta are on 19 points, one ahead of Osasuna, and will be hoping to lift themselves clear with a win against Real Sociedad at Balaidos in Saturday’s opening game of the weekend. The Galicians are sweating on their top scorer Iago Aspas, whilst Real – the only team to beat Barça this season – know that a win would take them up into contention for a European spot.

Espanyol travel to Zaragoza

Ahead of Celta, Granada (20 points)face a derby trip to Cup semi-finalists Seville on Monday night, whilst Espanyol (21) are at Zaragoza, just a point ahead of them, on Saturday night. Espanyol have won their last two league games, whilst in contrast Zaragoza – who were thrashed 4-0 in the Cup by Seville midweek – have yet to take a point in 2013.

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