MADRID, March 30 (Xinhua) -- The Spanish Liga Santander begins the downhill stretch to the end of the season with Matchday 29 this weekend kicking off 11 days of none-stop football which will see three vital rounds of matches as the battle for the title, for Europe and to avoid relegation hots up.
The 29th round of games kicks off on Friday night with ninth placed Espanyol, who still have an outside chance of qualifying for next season's Europa League, at home to a Betis side 10 points above the relegation zone and in no-man's land with no chance of Europe and little danger of relegation.
Saturday sees fifth placed Villarreal, where the future of coach Fran Escriba is being questioned ahead of next season, entertain eighth place Eibar. A win for Villarreal would give them three vital points against a direct rival for Europe.
Athletic Club Bilbao travel to rock bottom Osasuna, who nevertheless will put up stiff resistance in another derby game. Osasuna are doomed to relegation and seventh place Athletic will hope to repeat the performance which saw them beat Real Sociedad and outplay Real Madrid without reward without reward, before the international break.
Real Sociedad meanwhile have to contend with the loss of midfield trio Esteban Granero, Asier Illaramendi and David Zurutuza as they receive Leganes in the Anoeta Stadium.
Saturday ends with Malaga entertaining Atletico Madrid knowing they need a win to avoid being sucked into the relegation dogfight after a run which has brought them just one win in 2017.
Sevilla will hope the international break has allowed them to refresh tired legs and jaded minds before they take on third from bottom Sporting Gijon on Sunday lunchtime. Sevilla went into the international break with just one point in three games and looked exhausted after being knocked out of the Champions League by Leicester City.
League leaders Real Madrid have no injury worries for the visit of Deportivo Alaves to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Alaves have improved all season, but key midfielder Marcos Llorente can't play against Real Madrid due to a clause in his loan agreement to the Vitoria based club.
A win for Madrid would open a five-point lead over Barcelona, who will be without the suspended Leo Messi for the trip to second bottom Granada on Sunday evening. Neither Barca nor Granada have any room for slip ups and Arda Turam will probably have the job of replacing Messi, who has completed a cycle of five bookings this season.
Sunday also sees Valencia entertain Deportivo la Coruna, before the round of matches ends on Monday with Celta Vigo at home to Las Palmas, just 24 hours before Matchday 30 kicks off on Tuesday.