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Eleven matches to go from villains to heroes

LaLiga Santander kicks off on Thursday evening for the most anticipated restart of a domestic competition in living memory, and it's not only the case for fans either with a number of players having an 11-match marathon to go from a villain to a hero within their respective clubs.

Sevilla host Real Betis in what is likely to be one of the most watched Seville derby matches the world over in recent years, yet with 33 more points on offer to each club, everything is still to be decided.

Will Barcelona or Real Madrid take the title? Will Getafe get over their psychological hurdle and burst through the glass ceiling of Spanish football and qualify for the Champions League? Finally, will Espanyol suffer their first relegation since 1993?

Not only is it clubs that have their future on the line in this manic run of matches, but there are a selection of players who can do wonders for their own reputations with a string of good performances, think of it almost like an international tournament and we know how players can often get transferred following a positive one of those.

1. Antoine Griezmann - Barcelona waits to see the best of you

The marquee signing of Barcelona's 2019 summer window has failed to deliver what has been expected of him thus far at the Camp Nou.

He was supposed to reinvigorate their chances in LaLiga Santander and the Champions League, but his individual performances have been far below what we saw during his time with Atletico Madrid.

Not just in terms of goals but also moments of brilliance which turn matches on their head. The Griezmann that has pulled on the rather ugly chequered Blaugrana shirt has been a dull player, without the spark he had in Madrid. He doesn't know his position in the team well and he hasn't forged a relationship with Lionel Messi.

2. Real Madrid dream of seeing the Eden Hazard that Chelsea had

Hazard was supposed to replace Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid. On June 7, 2019, he became Los Blancos' record signing and he was expected to drive Zinedine Zidane's attack forward in 2019/20.

However, a year on and Real Madrid are still dreaming of the day when they see the Belgian at full flow, the version of the player that Chelsea had. Injuries have curtailed his adaptation to life in Spain and he has barely been able to contribute aside from some glancing goals.

He has been given a chance to resurrect his season though, having previously been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign, and will be determined to leave his impression on Real Madrid supporters.

3. Luuk de Jong has to start finding the net in Seville

Monchi's success rate with regards to signing forwards is almost flawless, and he did another fine job in the summer constructing a team that Julen Lopetegui has steered to third in the table, yet there remains question marks over the decision to sign Luuk de Jong.

A player who was poor at Newcastle United has been poor in Andalusia, scoring just five goals in 24 LaLiga Santander matches.

This isn't the return of a forward who can lead the line for a team that will be successful, yet he has the chance to build some form.

4. Willian Jose owes the Anoeta

Transfer talk in January threatened to derail Willian Jose's career with the Basque club, and it certainly damaged his standing amongst supporters.

Now he needs to rebuild the trust and the best way he can do that is by scoring the goals that put La Real into the Champions League.

5. Deyverson needs to find a way into the Bordalas system

It's difficult, verging on impossible to find a Getafe player who can actually improve in the 2019/20 season with the team sitting in position where they can qualify for the Champions League.

However, January arrival, Deyverson, needs to find a way into the Jose Bordalas system and if he can do that then he will endear himself to supporters.

6. Joao Felix arrives and then disappears again

Ever since arriving at Atletico Madrid, the Portuguese sensation has lacked consistency. He shows moments of brilliance but never enough to change a match, and his injury record is problematic too.

A lot of pressure was put onto his shoulders to replace Griezmann, and he has struggled to deal with it. Simeone has to find a way to trust him in a match and he needs to make a difference.

If he can put together a run of form and guide Atleti into the top four then any doubts over his second season will dissipate.

7. Where is Guedes? The Mestalla wonders

After being crowned king of Valencia and one of LaLiga Santander's finest jewels, Goncalo Guedes has faded into the darkness.

His progress has been lost by a litany of injuries and dull displays, yet the break has given him a chance to get away from the spotlight and rebuild himself for the final 11 matches.

8. Villarreal need more than one goal from Carlos Bacca

The Colombian striker has had a disappointing campaign, with his goalscoring record limited to one goal, a shadow of the man he was at Sevilla.

He's a regular on the bench and this could be his last chance in Europe's elite, while Bruno could be the star signing to come into the squad.

9. Koybasi, new arrival yet to play at Granada

Like with Getafe, it's not easy to find a way into Diego Martinez's team and the Turkish full-back was one of the team's signings last summer who has yet to make an impact.

He's seen more games from the stands than he has played in, featuring in just three so far, and he has a point to prove.

10. Kodro and the inheritance of Aduriz

Athletic return to LaLiga against Atletico Madrid, the first team that Kenan Kodro scored against for the Basque club.

He's often left out by Gaizka Garitano but Aritz Aduriz's retirement puts him in prime position to benefit.

11. Robert Ibanez searching for form of old at Osasuna

His impressive form last season made Robert Ibanez a key man for Osasuna in their attack this season, but injuries have robbed him of the chance to gain consistency.

With one goal in 14 games, a long-term injuries and struggles for form have meant he's yet to get started.

12. Betis can't find their panda

Borja Iglesias was Rubi and Real Betis' big investment this summer to sign him from Espanyol, but 10 months later he's yet to be found.

Three goals in 24 games and a starting position looking more uncertain, the derby is the ideal way to turn things around.

13. Morales is a soldier for Levante

After two excellent seasons, Jose Luis Morales' level has dropped this campaign and he's been left on the bench at times as a result.

With two goals, he has work to do to meet last season's return of 12 or the 10 of the year before, even if his contract renewal has been agreed.

14. Pere Pons hasn't started in Vitoria

Alaves were hoping to get the Pere Pons who stood out at Girona, but he hasn't excelled in the same way under Asier Garitano.

He's started just five games and played less than 30% of the available minutes in LaLiga.

15. Pucela still waiting for the Ben Arfa effect

One of the most surprising signings of the January transfer window was Hatem Ben Arfa's move to Real Valladolid, the latest move in a career of bizarre moves for a player who promised so much.

He's played just 25 minutes across two games, but those who have seen him train since returning after lockdown say that he's fully fit to have an impact before the end of the season.

16. Sergi doesn't Enrich Eibar

Jose Luis Mendilibar misses the play and goals of Sergi Enrich, whose season was brought to a halt by injury early on in the campaign.

Since then, he's had just one goal in 17 games and improvements are needed.

17. Celta Vigo lost for words with Pione Sisto

On quality alone, Pione Sisto would be one of the first names on the teamsheet, his talent is gold dust, but there's no way of making him focus on the game.

The pandemic has cost him 60,000 euros for his getaway to Denmark in the middle of the state of emergency.

18. Kubo's risk could pay off at Mallorca

Going to Mallorca was Takefusa Kubo's decision, and while his season hasn't been bad with 13 starts in 24 appearances and three goals, it hasn't built on the high hopes some had.

He has 11 games to show his incredible talent and, at the age of 19, try to keep Mallorca in the division.

19. Guido Carrillo is Leganes' fighting chance

Much of Leganes' hopes of survival depend on the form of ex-Southampton forward Guido Carrillo.

The exits of Yousseff En-Nesyri and Martin Braithwaite mean that the club rely on him for goals, scoring his only strike this season two games before the break and then assisting in the next game.

20. Does anyone remember Ferreyra?

Arriving in January 2019 to prepare for a potential future without Borja Iglesias, 16 months have gone by but Facundo Ferreyra has scored just twice.

The club had to bring in Raul de Tomas for goals, but Abelardo needs a miracle and bringing back the Ferreyra of his Shakhtar days would be a real bonus.

Source: Marca / Miguel Ángel Lara - Chris Winteburn - Sam Leveridge

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