La Liga returns to action with a series of injuries

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La Liga resumes on Friday night after the last international break of the year, with the 14th round impacted by a series of injuries suffered by key players over the past two weeks. The relegation battle between Alaves and Granada is a do-or-die for Granada coach Paco Lopez. A defeat to a direct rival to avoid the drop could lead the club to lose faith in him. Barcelona visit Rayo Vallecano on Friday in a game marked by the high price of tickets, with the cheapest costing 70 euros, and the injury to Barca midfielder Gavi. The 19-year-old is out for the rest of the season after tearing a cruciate knee ligament in Spain’s win at home to Girona and will be a big loss for coach Xavi Hernandez.

The good news for Xavi is that Frenkie de Jong has been training with the squad and will be available again after his ankle injury, while Pedri will also continue to get back to 100 per cent fitness. Celta coach Rafa Benitez will go up against his former “student” Ruben Baraja when Celta travel to play Valencia. Celta remain in the bottom three after being unlucky to lose in Bilbao before the break, while Valencia need to recover after a poor second half saw them lose 5-1 away to Real Madrid. Getafe will be confident of three points at home against tailender and winless Almeria, who have lost all four games since Gaizka Garitano took over as the first-team coach.

Almeria has lost two of those games to goals conceded in injury time, but another defeat could mean the end for the Basque coach. Atletico Madrid are at home waiting for Mallorca which missed Vedat Muriqi who suffered a muscle injury during the international break. The absence of the big striker should make Atletico’s task much easier, and Diego Simeone’s big decision is whether to start Antoine Griezmann, who played 90 minutes for France against Greece on Tuesday. Real Madrid have a worrying injury list for their visit to struggling Cadiz, with Vinicius Jr and Eduardo Camavinga out until 2024. They picked up injuries with their national teams.

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Jude Bellingham should be able to play after missing England duty with a shoulder injury, and Kepa may have recovered from a groin problem, but with Eder Militao, Aurelien Tchouameni, Thibaut Courtois, and Arda Guler also out, Carlo Ancelotti will be crossing his fingers for no more setbacks. Mikel Oyarzabal’s hamstring injury, which he also picked up while on Spain duty, will sideline him as Real Sociedad entertain Sevilla, who are still looking for their first league win under an increasingly under-pressure Diego Alonso. Marcelino Garcia Toral returns to Villarreal’s Estadio de la Ceramica for the start of his second term at the club with a home game against Osasuna.

The experienced Marcelino replaced Pacheta during the international break and kicked off with a narrow away win in the cup to fourth-tier Zamora on Wednesday. Marcelino is hampered by a long injury list which includes Alexander Sorloth, Aissa Mandi, and Yeremy Pino, who is also out for the season with a cruciate knee injury. Las Palmas will hope to continue their very solid form away to Betis, while league leaders Girona will look for an incredible 12th win in 14 games when they entertain fifth-place Athletic Bilbao on Monday night. Athletic score a lot of goals but have struggled in defense in recent games and that could favor Girona’s free-flowing attack.