The weekend is here and you know what that means…it’s time for FOOTBALL!  We are now up to week 9 in La Liga and this weekend we will see a tricky little match for the league leaders who visit Alicante to take on Hércules.  Arch rivals Barcelona are in action at the Camp Nou against their Andalucian rivals, Sevilla in what should be a very good game if history is anything to go by minus Sevilla constantly selling themselves out!  Valencia has been in a bit of a slump lately and this weekend’s game is the perfect setting for them to redeem themselves as they will be visited by a struggling Real Zaragoza at the Mestalla.

Valencia vs Real Zaragoza

Struggling Zaragoza will make the trip up to Valencia in the hope that they can finally get that all important first win of the campaign but it is a tough match up for the blanquillos regardless of the “slump” the hosts may be in.  The home team have now found themselves on the wrong side of 3 consecutive disappointing results all set off by that loss to Barcelona which followed up with a lucky draw against Rangers in the Champions League and then a surprising loss in league last weekend to a team that has never really done well on their travels– Mallorca.  The visitors on the other hand are in dire need of a win but lack all sorts of creative edge and finishing ability.  A win would do the visitors a whole lot of good and a lift in morale for the players, coaching staff, club officials and fans alike.  They find themselves rock bottom with only a meager three points from their opening eight games scoring only 6 goals and conceding an astounding 14.  The hosts are certainly in pole position to win this match and if the past 5 meetings between these two teams are anything to go by it suggests that Valencia should win it easily although they lost the last meeting against the visitors but with the current state of affairs in this Zaragoza team it is highly unlikely that they should be able to repeat that 3-0 beating they handed to Valencia back in March and it also doesn’t help that it came at home and not on the road.  As a matter of fact, the visitors haven’t won at the Mestalla in their last three visits being outscored 6 goals to 1.  Valencia has a nearly clean bill of health with the only player to be absent is Feghouli.  However, goalkeeper César is still questionable for the game as he only just started training this week and is probably not fit enough to take part in tomorrow’s game.  The visitors on the other hand are having some injury worries as well as suspension problems.  Goalkeeper Leo Franco is still absent with injuries and both Uche and Laguardia are still longterm injuries.  Ponzio was sent off last weekend for a childish gesture on Dani Alves who disgracefully fell to the ground and made a meal of the incident.  They should however, have back Sinama-Pongolle who was bothered by a muscular problem last time out.

Hércules vs Real Madrid

The league leaders will make the trip to Alicante this weekend to take on the giant slayers, Hércules of Alicante.  The home team has been making some noise this season both in the pre-season and since the start of the season.  They brought in some quality players in the likes of the big French man Trezeguet from Juventus, Paraguayan striker Valdez and Dutch winger Drenthe on loan from Real Madrid.  Although the latter should be unavailable for the game due to the clause in the loan contract.  Hércules have already taken three scalps (could have been five easily but both Valencia and Athletic Bilbao escaped with narrow wins) this season defeating two and taking two points away from the other.  Both Barcelona and Sevilla have fallen 2-0 victims to the new boys and Villarreal were held in a 4 goal thriller which inevitably cost the yellow submarines the opportunity to go top of the league that week.  The home team seems to only be able to motivate themselves for the big games since they have yet to beat any of the “small/weaker” teams in the league thus far.  Hence, this game is a potential banana skin for the merengues and if they take it too lightly then they are in for a potential upset at the hands of modest Hércules.  However, Mourinho never allows for his team to become complacent and with the form that Real Madrid are in and as I’m sure they have seen the damage that the hosts have already caused to some of the top teams they will be ready and fully focused for the game to earn a positive result and a further three points.  Hércules has a clean bill of health and the only player that should miss the encounter is Dutch winger, Drenthe who is on loan from Real Madrid and should he play then Hércules will have to pay a €2 million fine to Real Madrid. Trezeguet should be back in the starting line-up after he served a two match ban handed to him by the FA some weeks ago.  Real Madrid on the other hand has some injury concerns with Kaká, Garay, Gago and Lass out.  However, the whites will welcome back Alonso, Özil and Carvalho to the squad list as they were rested mid-week for the King’s Cup match against Murcia.  Madrid’s last trip to Alicante, a friendly back in August, ended in a 1-3 win for the away team which saw them lift the Alicante cup.

Barcelona vs Sevilla

Here is a match up this weekend that is potentially mouth watering if history is anything to go by!  Sevilla visits the Camp Nou this weekend in hopes that they can pick up a victory but they have been sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for much of this season and even as Manzano is still fairly new has only taken charge of three league games which saw Sevilla absolutely dazzle in his home debut, then “codswallop” away to Sporting Gijón in the second game followed by another thriller with Bilbao last weekend which in itself saw Sevilla’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality come out during that game.  Barcelona have been less than spectacular this season and more so they have been very weak at home picking up only seven points from a possible twelve, scoring a meager 4 goals and conceding 4.  As the past would have it, Sevilla haven’t won a league game against Barcelona in the past two seasons.  Additionally, both teams have met a surprising five times since the turn of the new year with Sevilla losing four of the five encounters being outscored 13 goals to 5.  Either way, this game has all the makings to be a thriller and it should be interesting to see which team comes out on top.  Xavi and Milito were back in training this week and both should be available for the weekend.  However, youngster Jeffren is suffering from a back injury and will be unavailable for selection should Pep wish to use him.  Sevilla is still having some injury problems as influential winger Navas is still recovering from his injury and so is Fazio.  Palop is also sidelined for the match this weekend and Guarente is still undergoing tests for his knee.  Acosta is doubtful with an ankle injury and so is Navarro but even if he regains full fitness would still miss the encounter due to his suspension.

Deportivo la Coruña vs Espanyol

Now here’s a match that should be far from entertaining, although I said that about Deportivo’s last match and that turned out to be a goal fest for Sociedad.  However, Deportivo have been less than super this season and find themselves 19th with only FOUR points from the first 8 games and they look unlikely to beat an Espanyol side that has been doing well for themselves in league albeit not on the road but their last away game suggests that they are gaining some kind of confidence after winning a difficult game in a difficult stadium and this game couldn’t have come at a better time for the parakeets as the odds are firmly stacked in their favor and a win would be a confidence booster for them where road games are concerned.  Deportivo’s coach Lotina from here on out may well be going into every match wondering if it is his last as head coach.  They need to start winning especailly if they don’t want to end up like Xerez who had a very similar start to their campaign last season and by the time they started hitting form it was too late and were subsequently relegated.  The hosts have been struggling to find the back of the net and of the 8 games played found the net only THREE times, two of which came in the same game from the penalty spot scored by the same player and at the other end they have some big holes to fill as they have now conceded 14 goals.  As luck would have it or lack of luck I should say, Deportivo haven’t won a game against Espanyol in their last three league encounters, outscored 8 goals to 3.  Both teams have some personnel issues.  New signing Urretavizcaya is still missing for the home side with a knee injury as is Tomás.  However, some good news for the home team is Claudio Morel is expected to play after missing the last two games for the team and it is said that Mexican winger Guadardo should be available for the fixture.  Espanyol on the other hand will continue to be without striker Osvaldo who is still serving a 3 match suspension for his antics in Palma de Mallorca, while the baby buddah De la Peña, new signing Mattioni and Galan are still sidelined due to their respective injuries.

Racing vs Osasuna

This should be an interesting match-up for both teams to see how they will carry on in this game.  One team is completely demoralized from their last league outing not to mention a disastrous performance in the King’s Cup mid-week which saw them lose 2-0 away to Córdoba, while their opponent earned themselves a confidence boost from their last league run out.  Racing have been less than impressive this season and as such found themselves on the end of a heavy defeat in Madrid at the hands of the league leaders while their opponents finally found the back of the net more than once only for the second time this season scoring three goals against an unsuspecting Malaga.  Racing may have a glimmer of hope if they are to consider their last three league games against Osasuna- they have managed to win the last game and the previous two games saw them held in a 1-1 draw.  Not bad considering they secured 5 out of a possible 9 points.  Racing has an almost clean bill of health with Arana the only real concern for the verdiblancos.  Osasuna still have some injury question marks with Sergio still recovering from a knee injury and Camuñas is also recovering from a hamstring injury.  Panidiani seem to still be niggled by a calf injury but should be expected back soon.

Sporting Gijón vs Villarreal

Sporting are back home and host second place Villarreal this weekend at El Molinón.  After a bad week not only due to poor results but also injuries, the home team should have all their players back, fit and ready to go for the encounter with the exception of Eguren and Alvarez who may be game time decisions.  They are currently hoovering above the drop zone with only a point advantage over Racing and desperately needs to secure three points to gravitate from the relegation zone.  However, the yellow submarines have been very impressive this season and it looks as if their run of form could continue for a little while longer as the players are really enjoying their football and are very confident going into every match.  It also helps that they have one of the most potent strike partnerships in the league and they will cause all sort of problems for Sporting’s weak defence.  And, if that is not bad enough for the hosts then they certainly wont be looking to the past for any comfort as they have come out the losers in three of the last four encounters against their opponents this weekend.  So far Villarreal have had a clean bill of health and should have all their players available for the fixture if called up on to make the trip.

Real Sociedad vs Malaga

The Basque side will play host to the Andalucians this weekend when they meet in week 9 of La Liga.  Both teams were on either end of a 3-0 resultMalaga falling victims to a rampant Osasuna while Sociedad ran amok on a lackluster Deportivo.  Both teams are only separated by three points and the visitors need to secure maximum points to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone, which they are currently just above on goal difference.  The Andalucians are scoring goals in abundance but they are also conceding plenty!  They have the worst defence in the league conceding an astounding 19 goals.  Malaga can count themselves very unfortunate when it comes to playing against the txuri-urdin, they have lost the last three and haven’t registered a single goal in any of those encounters.  Malaga is missing some key players and surely this should be a major blow to the visitors with Rondon, Apoño and Martinez expected to miss through injury.  Sociedad on the other hand will be without Tamudo and Sutil due to injuries.

Atlético Madrid vs Almería

Almería have been dismal this season and have only registered one win and four draws from the opening eight weeks.  Atlético have been their usual Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde again this season and have had some good and some bad performances and find themselves in 8th place with only 13 points one off the last European Cup spot.  However, if they secure a win and other results go their way then they should be able to climb back into the top four.  They however, face a desperate Almería team seeking a win at all costs because they need points before they start meeting the big boys.    Of the last five encounters between the two teams Atlético have won two, drawn two and lost one.  The hosts still have some injury problems and both Domínguez and Valero are expected to miss the match, although the former have begun training but word about the streets is that he will be saved for the Madrid derby next weekend.  Almería should have a full strength squad with the exception of Pellerano and Nieto who are both long term injuries.

Athletic Bilbao vs Getafe

Los Leones are back home after a tough loss at Sevilla last weekend to take on Getafe, who thrashed Sporting 3-0 in the Coliseum.  Both teams are only separated by three points and Getafe find themselves in 7th place one point out of a European spot and surely they will be fighting to come up with a result against Bilbao but even a simple draw is a tough task at San Mames as it is Bilbao’s fortress and their only two defeats at home this season came to very strong teams, Atlético and Barcelona.  And, it doesn’t help that Bilbao are looking to bounce back from a hard fought loss last weekend.  However, Getafe has won 8 of the last 15 points contested between these two and they have taken 4 points from their last two visits to San Mames.  Getafe are in the middle of an injury crisis with 6 key players out with injuries- Gavilan, Pareja, Alvarez, Torres, Mane and Casquero.  While, Bilbao have only two players that are likely to miss out due injuries- Amorebieta and Ocio.

Mallorca vs Levante

Monday night’s game will see Levante travel to Palma de Mallorca to take on Mallorca- a tough home team.  Mallorca find themselves 11th in the table while their opponents are 15th with a point advantage over 18th place.  After a poor start to the campaign Levante have begun to pick up points and they will be hoping to pull an upset on Monday.  After their shock defeat at home to Espanyol two weeks ago Laudrup will be instructing his boys to go out and be ruthless.  Levante will be bothered by their history against Mallorca particularly in Mallorca losing in their last two visits conceding 6 goals and scoring only 1.

Top matches of the weekend

  • Hércules vs Real Madrid: a potential banana skin for los blancos as I am sure they have seen what the hosts have done to the likes of Barcelona, Sevilla and Villarreal.  This means they need to take the match seriously to avoid any embarrassment.  Hércules  have shown bite against their top opponents and certainly will be looking to put up a tough fight against the merengues.
  • Barcelona vs Sevilla: never lacking in entertainment even when Sevilla goes down by a heavy scoreline it is still largely entertaining.  This weekend we hope to see a much more close fought match and Sevilla not selling themselves out.  The match will see Adriano, Keita and Dani Alves face some of their old teammates.