La Liga returns to action in Spain this weekend after the international break with an interesting round of fixtures that should test Spain’s top four clubs.
The first match kicks off on Friday night with Levante at home to Real Mallorca, with the Saturday lunchtime kick-off seeing bottom side Leganes entertain league leaders FC Barcelona.
On paper, it should be a comfortable win for Barca, but Ernesto Valverde’s side were not in convincing form before the international break, while Leganes showed signs of life with a 1-1 draw away to Real Sociedad in Javier Aguirre’s first game in charge.
The experienced Mexican will look to make life difficult for Barca by packing the midfield and defense, and looking to cause problems on the break and from set pieces. Valverde will hope that Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi return in good shape after their internationals, and he will have to weigh up the risk of fatigue for Sergio Busquets ahead of a key Champions League game in midweek.
Real Madrid are at home on Saturday and Zinedine Zidane’s men aim to continue the improved form they showed in their 4-0 win away to Eibar when Real Sociedad visit the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
Zidane will be without the injured James Rodriguez and will have to decide whether to include Gareth Bale in his squad after the Welshman showed his fitness on international duty, but also celebrated with a flag reading “Wales, Golf, Madrid – in that order” which has angered many within the Madrid establishment.
Real Betis coach Joan Ferrer ‘Rubi’ is under pressure after his side lost the Seville derby a fortnight ago, and could lose his job if his team loses at home to Valencia, who have been in good form recently and have been hard to beat away from home.
Atletico Madrid visit Granada, whose dream start to the season has ground to a halt with three consecutive defeats. Atletico will look to Alvaro Morata to continue with his impressive run of six goals in his last six games, while Joao Felix is still out through injury.
Second-from-bottom Espanyol are still searching for their first home win of the season, but have a tough task to defeat a well-organized Getafe side, whose strikers Angel Rodriguez, Jose Mata and Jorge Molina are always a threat.
Osasuna coach Jagoba Arrastate signed a new contract during the week and will hope to celebrate with a home win against Athletic Bilbao, who have yet to win away from home this campaign and lost midfielder Iker Muniain to injury on Wednesday, while Osasuna are unbeaten in their last 31 home games.
Eibar need a win in a Basque derby at home to Alaves, while third-from-bottom Celta Vigo will be without first-choice keeper Ruben Blanco for their visit to Villarreal. Celta improved in their first match under new coach Oscar Garcia a fortnight ago in the Camp Nou, but need to continue their improvement as they have just nine points from 13 games.
The weekend comes to an end with Real Valladolid at home to fourth-placed Sevilla, with the visitors seeking to maintain the feelgood factor of their derby win against a side that is tough to beat on their home ground. Enditem