Ah, Joga Bonito – The Beautiful Game! Week 5 of the 80th La Liga campaign is here and the weekend couldn’t come soon enough.   The big match of the weekend will see two of the only three teams never to be relegated, in all 80 seasons of the competition, face off.

Barcelona will make the trip up to the Basque country to face Los Leones in San Mames, while Real Madrid will travel to Valencia to take on new comers Levante.

The first matches of the weekend will see Sporting Gijon back in El Molinon to welcome Valencia, who are aiming to keep their unbeaten start to the season going, while the hosts will be looking to bounce back after their narrow defeat in the Camp Nou.  Although the times are early Sporting Gijon will no doubt be looking to keep up their good home start (a win and a draw) when they meet Valencia.  The current standings of both teams are Valencia in second with 10 points and Sporting Gijon in 15th with 4 points.

The match that kicks off right after the previous, will be Real Madrid’s visit to Levante.  The hosts picked up their first win in the previous match day, recording a 1-0 away win over Almeria and will be hoping that they can emulate fellow new comers Hercules and take the scalps of Real Madrid when the two face off.  However, Real Madrid have notched up three straight victories in the league as well as they remain one of three teams undefeated in the league.  Jose Mourinho called up 20 men to make the trip to Valencia and it includes youth teamer, Juan Carlos.  The visitors will have to make do without Kaka, Gago, Garay, Albiol and Canales who are all injured, while new signing Khedira didn’t make the cut due to a coaching decision and commanding centre back Pepe is out due to suspension.

The big match up of the weekend will kick off immediately after Levante and Real Madrid play and we will see two of the biggest teams in Spain face off, in what is usually an enthralling encounter.  Barcelona will be making the trip to the Basque Country where they will come up against a strong Athletic Bilbao team in the Lion’s Den, which is never an easy place to go for any team.  Athletic Bilbao held Barcelona to a draw in last season’s encounter at San Mames with Toquero’s 62nd minute strike cancelling out Dani Alves’ earlier strike and they also beat Real Madrid by a 1-0 in their match up last season.  Athletic has a perfect home record at the start of this campaign with 2 wins in 2 games and will be hoping that they can keep this undefeated record going for longer than two games.  Barcelona will be without star player Lionel Messi, who despite recent reports that he was back in training, will not make the trip as he is still recovering from his ankle injury.  Eric Abidal will also miss the match due to personal reasons.  Youth teamer Thiago Alcantara was also, included in the squad list of 18 players.  In a press conference earlier today, Pep praised the Basque side for sticking to their roots of only using Basque players in their team.

On Sunday we will see Racing take to the pitch in El Sardinero to face Getafe.  Racing are currently on a “good” streak as they picked up their first win on match day 3 and recorded a draw against Sevilla on match day 4.  They will be aspiring to keep the streak going by gaining all three points against Getafe.  However, the Madrid based team will be looking to bounce back from their 2-0 loss at home to Malaga.  Getafe will be without defender Rafa as he was sent off in their last match, however they will have Pedro Mosquera, who is just coming back from his suspension.  Racing is 14th and Getafe is 11th in the table both with only 4 points but separated by goal difference.

Deportivo and Almeria will battle it out for a win as they are two of three teams still searching for their first win of the season.  Both teams lost by the bare minimum in the prior match day and will hope that they can secure their first three points of the season.  Deportivo will have back the services of Jonathan Urretaviscaya and will be counting on both he and Guadardo to make the difference between both teams.

Espanyol coming off that loss at the Bernabeu in the recent round will be back at home to take on Osasuna- who recorded their first victory of the season over Real Sociedad.  Espanyol will be without the suspended Forlin and Galan.  Also, they could be without the injured Osvaldo.

Mallorca will entertain Real Sociedad at the Ono Estadi as both teams will be looking to rebound from their mid week losses at the hands of Athletico Bilbao and Osasuna respectively.

The other match ups of the weekend will see Hercules playing hosts to Sevilla, while Real Zaragoza will make the trip to Madrid to take on Atletico Madrid and Malaga will be home to face Villarreal.  Sevilla are currently going through a slump and although still undefeated are finding it hard to score goals and to rediscover their fluid playing style.  Their team is definitely missing Jesus Navas and Renato and they will be hoping to get the two back soon.  Real Zaragoza are one of the teams still hunting their first victory and may find it even harder to get one in the Vicente Calderon when they face Atletico Madrid.  Jose Aurelio Gay stated earlier in the week that he hopes his team’s fortunes can change in the upcoming match against Atletico but he may have to wait a while longer.  Malaga have had a good start to their campaign only losing to two good teams in Valencia and Sevilla, although I can say they gave both teams a fair amount of trouble in defence.  They will be hoping that they can give their fans something to cheer about when they host Villarreal.  Villarreal find themselves in 3rd place of the standings and they look set to hold on to their position or climb even higher and with their recent performances who is to say they won’t?

The weekend looks set to be entertaining and my three top games I would recommend as must see are Levante – Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao – Barcelona and Malaga – Villarreal.  If you didn’t get to watch be sure to check back on my blog to get a run down of the results and highlights of each game that took place on the weekend.

ATHLETIC BILBAO VS BARCELONA (HIGHLIGHTS FROM LAST SEASON)