Primera Iberdrola Week 16 Preview: Barcelona aim for an undefeated second half of the season as action resumes amid COVID-19 effects

Primera Iberdrola Week 16 Preview: Barcelona aim for an undefeated second half of the season as action resumes amid COVID-19 effects

The defending champions were undefeated in the first half of the 2021/22 campaign and are aiming to continue with the fine run as action resumes in the second half of the season with a date with Granadilla Tenerife on Saturday. Meanwhile, the match between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid has been postponed due to COVID-19.

Granadilla Tenerife start the new year with a home date against defending champions Barcelona at the Estadio La Palmera in Tenerife on Saturday evening. The hosts finished the year 2021 in fourth position with the same number of points as third-placed Atlético Madrid on 28 points. Barcelona on the other hand will have to be at their best due to having a lot of absentees in their team due to COVID-19 positive cases, though they will be welcoming forward Asisat Oshoala from injury. They will be without attackers Alexia Putellas, Claudia Pina, Jenni Hermoso and defender Ana Crnogorcevic who tested positive for COVID-19.

The two teams have met 12 times and Barcelona have been the dominant side in the fixtures though they lost two of the five away fixtures in 2017 and 2019. Barcelona’s last visit to Tenerife saw the hosts lose 1-0 in a hotly contested encounter and they are aware of the threat posed by their opponents. The hosts will be motivated by their chances of qualifying for Champions League football next season. Meanwhile, it is not yet known if the hosts will field their new signing, Venezuelan midfielder Verónica Herrera.

Elsewhere, second-placed Real Sociedad host Athletic Club on Sunday at the Centro de Entrenamiento Zubieta in a local derby. The home side ended 2021 on a five-match unbeaten run and are hoping for the same as they kick start the second half of the campaign in 2022. The visitors, on the other hand, have been inconsistent and find themselves in fifth position on 23 points though they have played a game less. Athletic Club have a favourable record against Real Sociedad but the last three head-to-head results show that the hosts have improved against their opponents, winning two of them. Their last meeting saw Sociedad claim a 1-0 win away at Athletic Club. A win for the hosts in this match will open a nine-point gap between them and third-placed Atlético Madrid, who are inactive due to postponement of their fixture against Real Madrid due to COVID-19.

No room for inconsistency as relegation looms

Sevilla and Madrid CFF lock horns on Saturday at the Estadio Municipal Nuevo Matapinonera. The two sides have been inconsistent in 2021 and cannot afford to do the same in the second half of the campaign. Sevilla have drawn three of their last five matches, whilst the hosts have lost four of their last five matches. Sevilla have won three of their last four matches at this venue, only losing 1-0 in their last visit in January last year. During this campaign, the hosts have been doing well away from home.

In another Saturday fixture, struggling Villarreal hosts Alavés at Ciudad Deportiva in a match neither side can afford to lose. The home side will be hoping to collect maximum points to avoid the chop at the end of the season. The two teams have met just once, with Alavés winning the encounter at home in September 2021. Alavés are doing well in their first season in the league and a win over Villarreal will take them to fifth position.

Levante will lock horns with Betis away at the Ciudad Deportiva Luis de Sol on Sunday. The visitors are ninth on the log standings with 19 points after 15 games. The two sides have met ten times with Levante dominating the fixtures and have won their last two visits to Betis.

Rayo Vallecano hosts Eibar at the Ciudad Deportiva Rayo Vallecano Campo 5 on Sunday. The two sides find themselves under relegation threat and a win for either side will be a crucial boost in their quest for survival. Rayo are 15th on the log standings tied on 5 points with bottom placed Villarreal while Eibar is 13th on 10 points.

Sporting Huelva welcome Valencia at the Campo Federativo de la Orden on Sunday. Valencia have won four of the last seven meetings at this venue and are hopeful to cause another upset as they look to build on their two consecutive wins before the break at the end of 2021. The hosts have registered four draws in their last five matches before the break and another draw will not help in their quest to avoid the chop at the end of the season, whilst Valencia are not safe sitting on just 14 points from 15 games.

Fixtures (Saturday): Madrid CFF vs Sevilla (12:00); Villarreal vs Alaves (12:00); Granadilla Tenerife vs Barcelona (17:00)

Fixtures (Sunday): Rayo Vallecano vs Eibar (11:00); Real Betis vs Levante (11:30); Real Sociedad vs Athletic Club (12:00); Sporting Huelva vs Valencia (12:00)

All times are Central European Time (CET)

(Photo by Gari Garaialde/Getty Images)