2011 kicks off in Spain with matchday nearly doesn't happen

12:36, January 02, 2011      

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The decision of a judge in Madrid this Thursday to describe himself as without the authority to decide whether or not the Spanish football players union (AFE) had the right to call a strike for Sunday means that 2011 will kick off in Spain this Sunday.

The AFE was angry that the league had not respected their right for a 10-day break without football in the country and the fact is that some players will have only had nine days between matches when they take to the pitch for their games on Sunday.

Levante will want to forget about the 8-0 cup thrashing they received from Real Madrid before Xmas, but a trip to the Camp Nou is not usually the best way to recover from a defeat.

League leaders Barca aim to kick off the year with a win, but will be without central defenders Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol through suspension and injury. Eric Abidal will play in the middle with a youngster from the B-team, but Barcelona's attack, which averages almost 3.5 goals a game will be confident of doing enough to win the game with few problems.

Athletic Bilbao kick off the year with a home game against Deportivo la Coruna with the main doubt being over the fitness of striker Fernando Llorente, who is recovering from a muscle injury.

Sunday also sees a tense relegation struggle between Sporting Gijon and Malaga, with Malaga looking to give debuts to new signings, Sergio Asenjo and Camacho.

Sevilla look to avoid a fourth consecutive home defeat when they face an Osasuna that has struggled away from home all season, while fourth place Valencia can consolidate their position with a home win over fifth placed Espanyol.

There are five matches to be played on Monday with the most interesting in Getafe who entertain Real Madrid.

Getafe have been in excellent form of late and habitually take points off Madrid in the Alfonso Perez Coliseum, while Madrid will be without Ricardo Carvalho who was sent off against Sevilla before Christmas.

Villarreal will be without injured duo of Nilmar and Marcos Senna for the visit of Almeria, but will nonetheless be favorites against a side that has improved since the arrival of Jose Luis Oltra as coach, but which is still fourth from bottom of the table.

Elsewhere Mallorca will aim to return to form against a Hercules side whose players are owed over a month's wages. The failure to keep up wage payments has seen loan player Royston Drenthe refuse to train in the run up to the game and presumably the winger will be missing from his side's starting 11.

Finally Zaragoza desperately need to start the year with a win when they face Real Sociedad. Javier Aguirre's men have not lost away from home since he was named as coach, but have so far lost their two home matches under his stewardship.

Real Sociedad meanwhile travel on the back of an undeserved home defeat against Valencia.

Source: Xinhua
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