La Liga: Five things to look out for this weekend

Real Madrid’s involvement in the Club World Cup means the Barcelonas, Atletico Madrids and Valencias can take advantage by winning this weekend.

Barcelona has a chance to open an 11-point gap between itself and the defending champion, though Real Madrid will have a match in hand.   -  AP

Real Madrid's Club World Cup commitments mean Barcelona, Valencia and Atletico Madrid have a huge chance to put even more distance between themselves and the European champion this weekend.

Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad face off at San Mames, while newly-promoted Girona and Getafe have the chance to move into the top six.

Here, AFP Sports looks at five things to watch for this weekend in La Liga:

Barca's big pre-Clasico chance

If it beats Deportivo la Coruna at the Camp Nou on Sunday, Barca will take a commanding 11-point lead over Real.

Next weekend, Barca travels to the Santiago Bernabeu bidding to end the year with an El Clasico win over Real Madrid.

Read: 'Real Madrid wants to win Club World Cup'

Even with a game in hand, Madrid has never overcome such a deficit to win the league and to remain in the title race would realistically need to inflict Barca's first defeat since it last visited the Bernabeu back in August to win the Spanish Super Cup.

Suarez back in business

Further aiding Barca's bid to regain the title is Luis Suarez's return to form after a poor start to the season.

Suarez struggled for both form and fitness after rushing back from a knee injury suffered as Barca fell to Madrid in the Super Cup.

However, the Uruguayan has scored in his last two outings against Celta Vigo and Villarreal with the latter strike in particular displaying the touch and speed of movement of Suarez at his best.

Read: Suarez, Messi restore five-point La Liga lead

Playing Deportivo also tends to bring the best out of the former Liverpool striker, having netted six times in his last three meetings against the Galicians.

Bleak times in the Basque country

Athletic and Sociedad are both in need of some festive cheer in the midst of hugely disappointing campaigns so far only propped up by progress to the Round of 32 of the Europa League.

Both sides have just two league wins each since mid-September and were dumped out of the Copa del Rey by third-tier opposition in Formentera and Lleida Esportiu.

However, with just six points separating sixth from 17th in the table, European ambitions for next season are still a realistic goal for the Basque teams if the squads boasting the talents of Spanish internationals Kepa Arrizabalaga, Inaki Williams, Aritz Aduriz, Asier Illarramendi and Alvaro Odriozola start playing to their potential.

From second-tier to top six

With Girona hosting Getafe before Villarreal's trip to Celta Vigo on Sunday, a win for either side will take it into the top six for a few hours at least despite having two of the five smallest budgets in the division.

"Money isn't everything, with humility Girona are competing very well," said Girona boss Pablo Machin after Monday's 1-0 win at Espanyol.

In its first ever season in the top flight, Girona's tiny budget on paper is aided by Manchester City's part ownership of the Catalan club with five players on loan from the Premier League leader.

After bouncing straight back after relegation, Getafe has learned from the mistakes made during its 12-year stay in La Liga between 2004 and 2016 with crowds up at the Alfonso Perez Coliseum and Jose Bordalas building a side that caused even Barca and Madrid problems and inflicted Valencia's only defeat of the season.

Alaves threatens Atletico charge

End 2017 strongly and Atletico could be very much in the title race come the new year with nearly 100 million euros of talent in Diego Costa and Vitolo finally freed up to play from January.

Read: Atletico Madrid sets club-record unbeaten run in La Liga

Victory over Alaves in their final home game of the year on Saturday will see Diego Simeone's men sleep just three points off the top and open up a five-point lead over city rival Real.

However, despite still languishing in the relegation zone, Alaves poses a more potent threat with Abelardo Fernandez in charge, having masterminded two wins from two since being named the Basques' third coach of the season.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday (2000): Sevilla v Levante

Saturday: Athletic Bilbao v Real Sociedad (1515), Eibar v Valencia (1730), Atletico Madrid v Alaves (1945)

Sunday: Girona v Getafe (1100), Celta Vigo v Villarreal (1515), Las Palmas v Espanyol (1730), Barcelona v Deportivo la Coruna (1945)

Monday: Malaga v Real Betis (2000)

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