Goal Global - what to look out for in world football this weekend
Ronaldo & Messi start battle for 2014 Ballon d'Or
By Ander Bilbao | Goal Spain
The second half of the Primera Division season starts on Friday, with Malaga hosting Valencia. Juan Antonio Pizzi's side, eliminated from the Copa del Rey by Atletico Madrid in midweek, will be back in league action as they await news of a potential takeover. Tycoon Peter Lim was first linked with a buy-out in December, but he is not the only suitor who has made an offer for the club. Meanwhile, Sergio Canales, one of Valencia's most talented players, has reportedly asked to leave in the winter window. Malaga, for their part, are waiting to finalise a deal for Espanyol forward Thievy.
Real Madrid travel to Sevilla to take on bottom club Betis on Saturday. The Andalusians are going through one of the worst moments of their history at the moment, suffering problems on and off the pitch. They will be hoping that new loan signing Leo Baptistao will boost their tally of just 11 points. They look unlikely to start this weekend, however; Carlo Ancelotti's side are in very good shape, having reached the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey after beating Osasuna on Thursday night. They also closed the gap on joint leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to three points last weekend. Marcelo returns to the team in the absence of Fabio Coentrao, who was sent off in the cup clash against Osasuna. The Portugal left-back has been linked with a move to Manchester United, while another man linked with an exit, Alvaro Morata, will not be involved at the Benito Villamarin either. Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, will be the main problem for Betis. The World Player of the Year has scored 30 goals this season and nobody can stop him.
Barcelona, meanwhile, will play Levante, who they beat 7-0 at Camp Nou in the first half of the season. Levante coach Joaquin Caparros believes his side could be on the end of another hiding; he compares playing against Barcelona to a visit to the dentist. Neymar will miss the match after going off injured against Getafe in the cup on Thursday. The bad news for Caparros is that Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba will be ready for the game as they were not risked in Madrid. Also, this week Barcelona announced that Marc Bartra is going to renew his contract in the coming days. There are also rumours about Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Gundogan, who could replace Xavi if the iconic midfielder moves to MLS.
The weekend closes with an interesting match: Atletico Madrid versus Sevilla. Cholo Simeone's team have not lost at the Vicente Calderon this season and need to keep up with Barca at the top of the table. Sevilla, on the other hand, are seventh and fighting for a place in Europe next season. Atleti won the first meeting 3-1, with two goals from Diego Costa, who now has 19 goals in as many league games.