Real Madrid hope to welcome back Eden Hazard to the La Liga fray while injury hit Barcelona face Getafe test
Zidane could have €100m Belgian in his side to take on Celta Vigo as Real look to maintain lead over Barca at the top
Real Madrid could welcome back their priciest Galactico this weekend, while Barcelona must adjust to life without yet another of the most expensive members of their squad.
Eden Hazard cost Real €100 million ( Dh 410m) last summer, eclipsing the fee paid for Gareth Bale. So far, Real have not got much for the money they paid Chelsea.
The Belgian started the season with a hamstring problem, then broke a bone in his foot against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in late November. He has not played since. He is expected to be on the bench at home against Celta Vigo.
The Galicians climbed out of the relegation places last Saturday with a home win over Sevilla. But Celta's victory was their only win in six games while Real, on a run of five straight wins, are the hottest team in league.
For Hazard, and for Real, Celta are not the target, nor are mid-table Levante who they face next Saturday.
The date ringed on their calendars will be February 26 when they face Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
After a difficult autumn, Zinedine Zidane has his team purring and the endless questions over Bale's role are a sideshow he can ignore.
The other team in what is turning into a traditional Spanish two-horse race are looking less comfortable.
Barcelona were top as recently January 25. Now they trail Real by three points.
They also face a traditional also-ran at home this weekend. But Getafe are the surprise of the Spanish season and have won four straight matches to climb to third and can cut the gap to second to four points with a first league victory away to Barcelona.
Last week, against Real Betis, Lionel Messi assisted all three goals, setting up midfielders Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets and defender Clement Lenglet.
Of the players Barcelona have bought to provide creativity and goals alongside Messi, only Antoine Griezmann, who started on Sunday is available. Philippe Coutinho is on loan to Bayern Munich, Luis Suarez is recovering from a knee injury and the club confirmed this week that Ousmane Dembele is out for the season.
Barcelona has asked the league for permission to sign a player outside the transfer window to fill in for the long-term injury sustained by the French attacker.
Lenglet will be missing too. Seven minutes after scoring his second league goal of the season he was sent off. He also picked up a red when Barcelona won at Getafe in a bad-tempered match in September.
Getafe has surpassed expectations for two consecutive seasons by playing hard-nosed defense that breaks the rhythm of rivals, and wears them down so its forwards can produce decisive finishes.
The game plan and teamwork drawn out of middling talent by coach Jose Bordalas has allowed the small club from southern Madrid to out-perform richer clubs.
Getafe’s budget is less than €60m, putting it in the middle of the financial power ranking of the 20-team league. That is compared to around €170m for Valencia and more than €600m each for Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Bordalas’s players tackle hard, hustle to help one another, and rarely leave their defense exposed when they counterattack.
Opponents frequently walk away saying that playing the physical Getafe is just no fun.
“Getafe has a magnificent team and when you don’t go out there to compete you are going to suffer,” Valencia manager Albert Celades said after his team was manhandled by Getafe 3-0 in their last match.
While Barcelona and Real have another week to prepare for their return to the Champions League, Atletico Madrid host Liverpool next Tuesday and Valencia play Atalanta in Milan on Wednesday.
Conveniently, they were scheduled to meet this weekend in Valencia and La Liga has brought the game forward to Friday. Their Champions League opponents are both playing league matches on Saturday.
If they want to return to the competition next year, Friday's meeting could prove crucial. Atletico are clinging onto the fourth Champions League place only on goal difference from Sevilla while Valencia are just two points back in seventh.
Updated: February 14, 2020 01:58 PM