The third round of matches in Spain’s Liga Santander sees FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and newly promoted Elche finally make their league debuts, while Real Madrid travel to play one of the in-form teams at the start of the season.
For the third consecutive week, La Liga changed the kick off times of two matches at short notice, with the Basque derby between Eibar and Athletic Club, which was originally scheduled to be played on Friday night, moved to Sunday lunchtime, while Sevilla’s debut away to Cadiz has been brought forward from Monday night to Sunday evening.
The weekend now kicks off on Saturday lunchtime with Alaves looking for their first point of the season when they entertain an always complicated Getafe, who are coached by former Alaves boss Jose Bordalas.
Newly promoted Huesca then visit Valencia, who should have winger Denis Cheryshev and keeper Jasper Cillessen both available after last weekend’s defeat in Vigo.
Elche mark their return to the top-flight with a home game against Real Sociedad, but with new coach Jorge Almiron still waiting official clearance to sit in the home side’s dugout. The missing paperwork is not the Argentinean’s only problem given that he only has 15 professional players available for what will certainly be a tough return to the elite.
Saturday ends with a difficult test for Real Madrid as they visit a Betis side under the guidance of former Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini.
Pellegrini has had a perfect start to life at the club with two wins from two games and with Betis looking a lot harder to score against than last season.
Real Madrid kicked off with a 0-0 draw away to Real Sociedad in their opening game, which again highlighted their problems in creating chances. Zinedine Zidane is still likely to be without Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio due to fitness problems, and there is a slight doubt over Martin Odegaard, who returned a positive COVID-19 test result, followed by a negative in a second test on Tuesday.
Barca make their debut at Sunday’s big game when they entertain an impressive looking Villarreal, and their strike trio of Paco Alcacer, Gerard Moreno and Take Kubo. All eyes will be on Ronald Koeman’s league debut in charge of a side that no longer contains players such as Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal or Ivan Rakitic.
Leo Messi will also be in the spotlight after a summer in which he asked to leave the Camp Nou, while the pressure will also be ramped up on Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho, who has returned following his loan to Bayern Munich.
It’s probably too soon for Suarez to make his debut for Atletico Madrid as Diego Simeone’s side entertains Granada in the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Granada are another team with a 100 percent start to the campaign, while Atletico are without central defender Jose Gimenez, who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Elsewhere, Osasuna central defender Aridane Hernandez has a muscle injury and will miss their return to their remodeled El Sadar Stadium to take on Levante, while both Eibar and Athletic Club look for their first win of the season in their rescheduled lunchtime kickoff.
Cadiz entertain Sevilla in another rescheduled game that has taken 24 hours off Sevilla’s recovery time from the European Supercup final in Budapest. Valladolid face Celta, who will hope that striker Iago Aspas continues the form he showed as they beat Valencia a week ago.