Another weekend of lovely Spanish football is here and we should see some wonderful games and some fairly easy games for the big boys. Real Zaragoza will welcome defending champions, Barcelona to La Romareda, Real Madrid will have a visit from struggling Racing Santander while Valencia will be welcoming Mallorca to the Mestalla. Villarreal taking on Atlético Madrid is certainly the key match up this weekend.
Real Zaragoza vs Barcelona
The league’s 80th campaign kicks off on Saturday evening with Barcelona traveling to a struggling, bottom of the table Zaragoza. The home team is still searching for their first win of the campaign and are having problems finding the back of the net, only managing six goals thus far and if that is not bad enough, they are leaking goals at the other end of the pitch conceding 12 goals, the second worst defence in the league. It will take a huge effort from the Blanquillos to keep their opponents from breaching their net this weekend. However, Barcelona have been quite unlike themselves this season and have been having some problems breaking down very defensive teams, so that may be a glimmer of hope for the Zaragoza faithfuls. Real Zaragoza haven’t beaten the blaugrana in their last four league games suffering heavy defeats in their last two meetings, however, the most important point for the home team is that they have scored at least once in the last four defeats against the visitors. The home team will welcome back defender/defensive midfielder Jiri Jarosik, who is returning from a suspension while Pinter will miss the game through suspension. Leo Franco, Ikechukwu Uche and Victor Laguardia are still out injured for the home side. Victor Valdés had missed Barcelona’s midweek match against Copanhagen due to a virus he picked up, however, the Barcelona number 1 has made a recovery and is expected to travel with the team. The visitors will have to do without the heart and soul of their midfield, Xavi as the team’s doctors suggested that he be rested as a precaution for his tendon problems. Milito will continue to be absent as he is still suffering from a muscular problem.
Real Madrid vs Racing de Santander
An in form Real Madrid is back at home and will be welcoming Canales’ old team to the Bernabéu on Saturday. A match that kicks off immediately after their arch rivals’ game. The home team have steadily been getting better, scoring goals yet remaining solid in defence and playing like a unit. Confidence is sky high at the Bernabéu and the home team will be looking to keep their run of form going. The verdiblancos on the other hand have been quite inconsistent and are currently hoovering over the drop zone with a point advantage. Like Zaragoza, Racing is also having problems finding the net and have only managed 4 goals so far and only ONE on the road, which came against Sevilla in that 1-1 draw. Their opponents however, have the best attack in league and have managed 16 goals, 10 of which came in the last two outings and if that is not bad news for Racing then the home team’s strong defence will be a problem for the verdiblancos to break down as they have only conceded 3 goals. Racing have failed to defeat their host in the last five attempts and have not scored against them in any of the last 5 matches. Both teams will have close to a full squad. Ex- Madridista Munitis and left mifielder Arana both overcame their midweek scare and were included in the squad list. Despite their injury problems, Madrid can boast of a having enough depth to cover the loss of Kaká, Garay, Gago and Sergio Ramos.
Valencia vs Mallorca
After finally suffering their first loss of the league campaign and stumbling midweek against Rangers,Valencia will be hoping to take out their anger and midweek frustration on visiting Mallorca. Despite picking up their first point on the road some two weeks ago, the visitors are still having problems on their travels only scoring one goal and conceding six. The Mestalla haven’t been kind to Mallorca in their last two visits picking up only a point from the encounters while suffering a heavy 3-0 defeat in the other. However, Mallorca can boast of having the better of Valencia in their last 5 encounters, winning three, drawing one and losing one. The away team has been struggling to find goals and Laudrup aware of this placed emphasis on offence for much the team’s training this week. Valencia will still be without Joaquín, Miguel and Feghouli due to their persisting injuries, while their opponents have a full strength squad.
Getafe vs Sporting de Gijón
Getafe will on Sunday welcome Gijón to the Coliseum. Getafe are coming off two consecutive defeats, the first coming last weekend against Atlético in the “Madrid mini-derby“ and a midweek defeat to Stuttgart in the Europa League. Both teams are in mid table but are still only just above the drop zone with Getafe having a 4 point edge while Sporting has a 2 point edge over the drop zone and will be seeking a victory to further themselves away from the drop. Getafe have been superior to Sporting in the previous four meetings between the two, winning two, drawing one and losing the other. The latest reports out of Getafe’s camp is that on Monday Miguel Torres suffered an injury to his femoral biceps of his right leg and will be out for three weeks while José Ortiz also suffered a tear on his right adductor muscle and is also expected to miss three weeks. Ibrahim Kas continues to miss out for the home team through a persistent injury. Sporting on the other hand have been hit with a lot of injuries in the past week. Eguren, Diego Costa, Sangoy and Rivera all suffered from a virus. However, Eguren was able to train today and both he and Rivera are widely expected to make the trip to Madrid. Still, Diego Costa and Sangoy are huge doubts for the trip as they are still being monitored by the club’s doctors. Ayoze had to abandon Wednesday’s training with a thigh injury and is still a doubt for the trip. Canella is definitely ruled of squad with an injury.
Almería vs Hércules
Struggling Almería welcome the giant slayers Hércules to the Mediterraneo on Sunday. Almería are already in a relegation battle and are tied on points with 18th place Osasuna but are above the Pamplona side by virtue of goal difference. Hércules have been dark horses to some of the big teams in the league thus far, their first upset came in the Camp Nou against Barcelona winning 2-0 there and although suffering a 2-1 defeat pushed Valencia to the limit and followed that up by defeating Sevilla 2-0 at home and just Monday hindered Villarreal from leading the league table in a 2-2 draw. However, they have struggled to repeat those performances against the “smaller/weaker” teams in the league. If you think the top half of the table is close then the bottom half is extremely close and a win or loss is the difference between relegation and salvation at the moment. Both teams are separated by only 2 points and a victory for Almería could see them climb up the table with Hércules dropping down the table. Almería are also one of the teams struggling to score goals managing only 5 goals but can also pride themselves on a very solid back line conceding only 6. Almería may however continue to suffer a struggle with scoring goals as their top scorer Kalu Uche is still struggling with a hamstring problem and Pellerano and Nieto are still long term injuries for the team. Hércules will have to do without Trezeguet for the next two games after being sent off on Monday against Villarreal. Stand out player Drenthe is also a doubt for the clash on Sunday as he was said to be hit by a virus in midweek while Kiko is still absent through injury. However, they will welcome back Aguilar from suspension.
Osasuna vs Malaga
Osasuna will welcome Malaga to the Reyno de Navarra on Sunday. Osasuna are having difficulty in attack and have only scored 4 goals but they have a very solid defence conceding 6 goals. However, all 4 goals scored by the home team have come on home turf and the fans will be hoping that their team will be able to score on Sunday against the visitors. Malaga is only a point above Osasuna and the drop zone. The visitors have the 3rd best attack in the league scoring 13 goals, 8 of which have been on the road and have picked up all 7 points on the road, so Osasuna will have to be extremely solid to avoid conceding against the anchovies. The last five meetings between the two have been less than kind to Osasuna picking up only 3 points out of a possible 15 and the last two meetings between both teams in Pamplona ended in a draw and a loss for the home team. Osasuna have been getting nothing but good news prior to the encounter, they should have back defender Sergio as well as Pandiani from injury and Puñal will be available after his suspension. However, they will be without Camuñas who is suspended for this game albeit he would have missed through injury.
Espanyol vs Levante
Espanyol will welcome Levante to the Cornella El Pratt on Sunday evening. Espanyol are coming off their first victory on the road 1-0 against Mallorca. Espanyol have been perfect at home securing 3 wins in 3 and have been solid defensively only conceding 1 goal. Levante on the other hand have been picking up points of late and remain undefeated in the last four picking up 2 wins and 2 draws. The last four encounters between these two teams coming back in the 06-07 and 07-08 seasons have resulted in three draws and a win for Espanyol. Osvaldo will miss the next three games after being hit with a 3 match ban by the FA after his dismissal in last weekend’s game against Mallorca. There hasn’t been any fresh injury updates on the club’s website. Levante on the other hand will continue to miss Rafa Jorda to long term knee injury but should have a full squad to select from as there were no injury updates on their website.
Sevilla vs Athletic Bilbao
Another clash of the titans! Sevilla showed that they are still a work in progress under new coach Manzano after winning their first game under the new coach against Atlético then followed that up by losing 2-0 to Gijón and picked up a 1-o away win midweek in the Europa league against Karpaty Lviv. Bilbao has had a good, solid start to the season and is only a point behind 7th place Sevilla. Their big center forward Llorente has been in fine form and as such it has prompted the media to be heavily linking the big man with a move to the Capital City. Sevilla have had the better of the results in the teams’ previous meetings, securing three wins, a draw and a loss. Sevilla are struggling with injuries and will miss Navas for the next two league games, while Cigarini is also suffering from a back injury and may not be available. Koné, Fazio, Sergio Sánchez and Dragutinović are still long term injury problems for the club. Bilbao on the other hand will be missing three key players, both Amorebieta and Aitor Ocio are injured while Jon Aurtenetxe is away on u19 duty with Spain.
Villarreal vs Atlético Madrid
Having failed to once again win a game on week 7 and also take top spot in the league Villarreal will be looking to bounce back in El Madrigal when they welcome 5th place Atlético on Sunday. Villarreal were finally held to a draw on Monday night by Hércules after a run of 6 consecutive wins in all competitions. They will be hoping to rebound with a win on Sunday evening. Villarreal have scored 14 goals, 9 of which have come through both Rossi and Nilmar. Three points separate both teams. After slumping to defeat to Sevilla 2 weeks ago Atlético have notched up two consecutive vicotries against Getafe last weekend and Rosenborg in midweek and will look to continue putting together a run of form before they meet Real Madrid in two weeks. The hosts have won three of the last league meetings between the two teams and have drawn one and lost the other. However, this is a game that is known for high scoring and high entertainment and rather up tempo. Both teams have scored 22 goals in the last five games. Villarreal will be without both Senna and Marchena who are both injured. While, Atlético will be the happier of the two as they finally welcome back key man Aguero who featured in their midweek Europa league match to great effect scoring a goal and setting up another. De Gea missed the team’s midweek encounter due to picking up a slight injury in training this week and was left on the bench as a precaution, however, he is expected to start on Sunday. Dominguez and Asenjo are still both absent due to injury while Valera is still waiting to find out if he will be able to feature after he had to be substituted just 22 minutes into the team’s midweek fixture.
Real Sociedad vs Deportivo la Coruña
Two struggling teams will meet on Monday evening in what should be a low scoring yet boring game. Both teams have manged a combination of 10 goals and have conceded 11 goals each. I can’t see either of them picking up a win and with Deportivo struggling to find the net, scoring only once from the round of play and their other two goals coming from the penalty spot in the same game. There were recent reports that Deportivo’s coach Lotina has brought in a Psychologist to speak with his team in the coming weeks as he is quite concerned with their poor start to the campaign. The past four meetings between these two have been in favor of the away team with Deportivo picking up three wins and losing the other. So far, the only new injury worry coming out of the Deportivo camp is that of Antonio Tomás who suffered a muscle injury in his right leg. However, Valeron, Riki and Michel still have some time left on the sidelines and Juca and Guadardo were both struggling with a hamstring problem last weekend and may still be missing for the weekend’s visit to San Sebastian.
Top matches of the weekend
- Real Madrid vs Racing Santander: the league leaders will welcome Racing to the Bernabéu in what should be a special game for the young lad Canales facing his ex-club. Both teams are at different levels of form and it should be an entertaining game for the Madridistas as they are fully expected to dispatch Racing with ease however, one should remember that no matter the struggles Racing may be going through they are always a tough team against Madrid especially defensively and the last five encounters between the two teams have been close despite the verdiblancos being on the losing end all 5 times. Real Madrid should pay much attention to ex-Madridista Munitis who lives for this game every season.
- Sevilla vs Athletic Bilbao: always a great match between these two, solid, tight competition, neither backing down and although Sevilla have been beneficial in the last five meetings between the teams, Sevilla are under a new coach and have been “inconsistent” (although three games is sort of hard to judge them by). As well, Sevilla are having some injury concerns and key man Navas is expected to miss the match up. Maybe this is the match for Bilbao to get the upper hand over the Andalucians.
- Villarreal vs Atlético Madrid: this should be the most entertaining match up of the weekend as it is often a high scoring affair recording 22 goals in the last five match ups. Atlético will be very happy to welcome back star striker Aguero who will be a big boost for them, while Villarreal will miss captain Marcos Senna and veteran Marchena through injuries. However, despite that Atlético will still need to be solid in defence as Villarreal has a VERY potent attack as both strikers Rossi and Nilmar are on some unbelievable form with the latter being tied for top spot in the goal scoring chart with 5 goals ALL from the round of play, while his strike partner has only one goal less than he does. Atlético in previous seasons boasted of having the most potent strike partnership with both Aguero and Forlan striking up a wonderful partnership however, the partnership has dwindled a bit after constant injuries to Aguero that left Forlan being solely responsible for getting goals.