Athletic Bilbao vs Almería
Bilbao is back home after they suffered the wrath of El Madrigal last weekend falling 4-1 to Villarreal who still remains undefeated at home. Almería on the other hand are coming off a disappointing 1-1 draw at home against Sporting Gijón. Almería’s trip to San Mames will be a difficult ask for them to pick up points as Bilbao rarely every loses points at home and have only lost their twice this season to two very strong teams in Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. The visitors are only hoovering above the drop zone and are separated from 20th by two points and with a loss coupled with a Málaga win then they are certain to be the bottom team at the end of the match day. In the last five games between these two, both have won two a piece and drawn the other, including that 3-1 victory for Almería in 2008 in San Mames. Athletic still have a few injuries persisting with Amorebieta, Ocio and Gómez still unavailable for selection while both Toquero and Susaeta are doubtful for the fixture. Aurtenetxe is suspended for the match after being sent off last weekend and Gurpegui was set to miss the game after picking up his 5th yellow, however, it was lifted by the FA and he will be available for selection. As for Almería, they received some good news as Piatti is set to return following a knee injury and should be able to make an appearance for the visitors.
Atlético Madrid vs Osasuna
Atléti are back in the Calderón after their lost last weekend at the hands of their cross town rivals– los blancos to face an Osasuna side coming off a big 3-0 victory over Hércules last weekend. However, the visitors haven’t won on the road since January, they have lost their last 13 away games and have lost their last game in the Calderón. Atlético seem to be on a downward spiral in La Liga since losing to Barcelona in round 3– going on an inconsistent run which saw them win only two of their last seven league matches, losing three and drawing the remaining two. The past five meetings between these two sides have seen Osasuna win two while Atléti have won two and the other ended in a draw. Osasuna will be looking to their 2-4 performance back in 2009 as a means of motivation in helping them to secure their first road win of this season. There are question marks over both De Gea and Agüero prior to the match while Godín is still battling against his injury and so is Asenjo. Diego Costa will miss the match after being sent off mid-week in the King’s Cup. Osasuna is still missing their two key players in Camuñas and Pandiani who are both still unavailable because of a hamstring injury and a thigh injury respectively.
Barcelona vs Villarreal
The biggest match of the weekend will see Villarreal make the trip to Catalonia to take on Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Villarreal have been in tremendous form this season while their opponents have been less than impressive, are yet to hit their stride or replicate the form shown last season much less the season prior to that and so far this season they have been far from strong at home where they have struggled to score goals this season and within their first four home games had only managed four goals and in the process conceding four. With the form the yellow submarines are in Barcelona will have to be careful in order to avoid yet another defeat at the Camp Nou. Villarreal as mentioned before are on a magnificent undefeated run in La Liga and are yet to lose since their opening game against Sociedad and that has been largely down to the form their attacking trio- Rossi, Nilmar and Cazorla have been in. Villarreal currently lie in 3rd place, 2 points behind their opponents and three points behind league leaders Real Madrid and most certainly will be looking to close the gap between themselves and the top spot. Villarreal have been one of the few teams that have really brought the game to Barcelona in the past couple seasons always pushing their opponents. In the last five matches between the two teams Villarreal have secured one victory and two draws. The visitors last three trips to the Camp Nou have all gone in their favor picking up a win and two draws. This weekend they will hopefully be aiming to remain undefeated in league and also, undefeated in the Camp Nou over the past couple seasons. Barcelona are having some serious issues in defence as Piqué is suspended for the game after being sent off last weekend against Getafe, Milito is once again injured and is likely to be out for around 6 weeks and Adriano is said to be doubtful for the encounter. It is rumored that youngster Bartra is likely to be given the nod alongside captain Puyol (who is to take part in his 500th game for the Catalan team) in defence. Villarreal however, can boast of a healthy squad with the only question mark over captain Senna, but should he decide to sit out Bruno will be raring to go.
Real Zaragoza vs Sevilla
Real Zaragoza FINALLY picked up their first win of the season and how better to do it than against Mallorca and coming back from being a goal down to win 3-2? They will receive a visit this weekend from Sevilla, a team that has been so Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season and against this confidence boosted Zaragoza side will have to be careful or could find themselves losing yet another road game. Sevilla picked up a 2-0 win last weekend against a slumping Valencia side and should at their best be too much for Zaragoza but the home team will not sit back and invite the Andalucians onto them. Despite their win last weekend Zaragoza are still in the drop zone on 7 points but a win could see them climb just above the zone, while their opponents sit in 6th place and their aim will be to take all three points while hoping that both Valencia and Espanyol pick up minimal or no points in their respective games which would see the visitors climb to 4th. Sevilla’s last two trips to La Romareda ended in losses for los nervionenses so that will be a statistic that the visitors will be hoping to correct on Sunday. Good news for the visitors this week as Palop is said to be fit to feature but Fazio will continue to miss out due to injury. Zaragoza’s wonder kid, Ander is doubtful for the encounter with a hamstring problem and so is López, Obradović and Lanzaro.
Hércules vs Real Sociedad
The team that always stands up to the bullies yet stand down when they meet up with the “weaker teams” in La Liga this season will be back at home to take on another “weaker team” in Real Sociedad who have been on the up and up in recent weeks picking up three consecutive wins while climbing all the way up the table to 7th place. Hércules on the other hand have been less than impressive in their last two games losing both coincidentally one of those losses coming against the giants of all giants, Real Madrid and as such now find themselves sitting just above the relegation zone only a point over 18th place and two points over 20th. The home team however can take comfort in their head-to-head record in the past five encounters between the two which saw them earn two victories and a draw. Also, Sociedad’s last trip to Alicante ended in a 5-1 hammering by the home team. Hércules are having major injury problems with at least 5 players out and Aguilar’s midweek red card only added to the troubles of the largely depleted squad. Sociedad are also having some injury problems but they are expected to have back both Tamudo and Ifrán for the travel to Alicante.
Racing Santander vs Espanyol
After last weekend’s lost to Sociedad up in San Sebastian, Racing are back home to welcome Espanyol to the Sardinero. Racing of late have been picking up points at home securing three wins from their five home games this season. Espanyol who seemed to be back on track where away games are concerned were hit by a resurgent Deportivo side in their last away game and will be approaching this game cautiously hoping to at least gain a point to secure their very comfortable position in the table but a win is what they need in order to remain 4th for another week. The home team will look to their wonderful head-to-head in the past five encounters as a source of motivation as they have been undefeated against Espanyol in the last two games and they haven’t lost to the Catalan side at home in the last two games. Arana will be missing for the home team after undergoing surgery this week while Serrano and Tziolis are also, long term injuries. Espanyol are having a host of injury troubles with Dátolo, David García, Coro, Duscher, Mattioni and Galán all out.
Málaga vs Levante
This weekend will see the league debut of Málaga’s new coach Pellegrini at the helm of his third La Liga team after marking his official debut with a dramatic 3-2 home win midweek in the King’s Cup against Hércules. The home team find themselves rock bottom in the table on 7 points and the Chilean tactician have been entrusted with the task of avoiding relegation and turning around the hosts horrible home run since February this year. Levante are only a point ahead of their host, sitting in 18th place. They have had a very inconsistent start to the season, losing their first three league games but then went on a wonderful undefeated period of four games winning two and drawing two but then that turned in to their current run of three consecutive losses which saw them pulled back into the relegation zone. Despite both Luque and Gaspar being able to return to action from their respective injuries, the home team still have some injury concerns with Rondón and Rubén certain to miss out while both Juanito and Juanmi are doubtful ahead of the game. Levante will miss Del Horno who picked up his 5th yellow card and Pérez, Xisco, Rodas and Nacho González are all out injured.
Mallorca vs Deportivo La Coruña
A resurgent Deportivo side who have now notched up two straight victories will have a tough test this weekend when they travel to Palma de Mallorca to take on a tough home team in Mallorca, whose only loss this season came to Espanyol. Deportivo’s two consecutive wins have seen them climb 5 places up to 15th, 2 points above the relegation zone. A win will see them further distance themselves but a loss coupled with wins by Malaga, Levante and Zaragoza could see them fall back into the bottom three. Mallorca on the other hand sit somewhat comfortably in 9th and a win coupled with other results going in their favour would see them climb all the way up to 5th. Head-to-head statistics from the past five games between the two says Mallorca should earn something from the encounter having won two and drawn two while of course remaining undefeated in their last three home games against the visitors. The home team will have a full squad to select from with the only concern being Crespi. The visitors only major concern is that of the Mexican Guadardo and Rindarøy is also listed as doubtful.
Sporting Gijón vs Real Madrid
Only head coach for 6 months and already Mourinho’s mind games have pissed an opponent coach off. Victim? Manuel Preciado. Mourinho stated that Preciado had fielded a weakened team when his men faced Barcelona in the Camp Nou back in September and they really didn’t try their best to defeat the Catalans. Manuel Preciado responded by saying Mourinho was showing a lack of respect to his team and as such if Madrid doesn’t teach him respect he will. Read the article in full here. Mourinho’s mouth have also earned him a two match touchline ban following his sending off due to provoking the referee during the midweek King’s Cup match against Real Murcia. He will have to sit in the stands for this weekend’s trip to Gijón and the visit from Bilbao the following week. However, he will be back in the dugout for el clásico at the Camp Nou. Gijón haven’t made a great start to their campaign and have only notched up 10 points which is good enough for 13th but a loss this weekend could see them plummet down the table. Real Madrid on the other hand remain undefeated under the Portuguese coach and sit atop the league with only a point over Barcelona but could find themselves in 2nd prior to kick off if Barcelona manage to gain all three points from their match against Villarreal and as such a win would be important for the merengues. Preciado’s side will probably not be looking forward to this match up as his team have lost four of their last five games against the visitors while earning themselves a credible draw last season during Real Madrid’s visit to El Molinón and if that isn’t bad enough then the fact that Madrid have been undefeated since the 94/95 season in El Molinón will certainly give the Gijón team something to worry about. Preciado will have a full strength squad to select from after the recent bout of injuries that had left the Cantabrian boss with plenty of selection headaches. Madrid on the other hand still have some persisting injuries with Garay, Gago, Dudek, Mateos and Kaka all out injured. However, Carvalho’s injury last weekend wasn’t as bad as most thought and it was only a deep cut on the bottom of his eye so the hard-nosed Portuguese will be available for selection. Özil, Pepe and Khedira should all return to the line up after being rested midweek.
Valencia vs Getafe
A slumping Valencia will welcome a visit from Getafe in a match up that will see both teams hoping to put their poor form in the league behind them. Valencia have been slumping down the table ever since that defeat to Barcelona picking up only a point since then and as such slid from first all the way down to 5th. The Valencian club needs a win to remain in the top 5 past this weekend, especially if both Sociedad and Sevilla pick up wins in their respective matches. Getafe have been slightly better picking up three points from their last four outings in league. Both teams are separated by four points and the away team will be keen on closing the gap by three this weekend. However, the past four league meetings between the two have been less than kind to Getafe, losing three and winning the other. César Sánchez will continue to miss out for the host while Domínguez is expected back this weekend. Getafe still has some persisting injuries and they can now add Arizmendi to it after he fell ill at half time during the King’s Cup, he was immediately taken to hospital and released on Friday. However, the Getafe medical staff will be running a series of tests on the player to find out what was wrong so he should be unavailable for the fixture on Sunday.
Top matches of the weekend
- Barcelona vs Villarreal: should be a very wonderful match up between both teams. Especially interesting to see how Villarreal approach this game and if they will continue their impressive start to the campaign or fall victims at the Camp Nou and as such fall into the slump that have met both Valencia and Atlético after their defeats to the blaugrana coming after both had impressive starts to the season. Although, Villarreal have never been one of those teams to back down from either Real Madrid or Barcelona. On either side of the pitch are two wonderful footballing teams and as such the match should make for a great game of football.
- Sporting Gijón vs Real Madrid: this match in my opinion only gained a lot more interest because of the midweek war of words between both coaches with Preciado insisting if Madrid doesn’t teach Mourinho respect, he will. So it will be quite interesting how he will instruct his team to go out and play. Preciado stated he wouldn’t greet Mourinho on the touchlines but he won’t have the chance to do so even if he wanted to because Mourinho will be sitting in the stands due to a two match ban handed to him by the FA.
- Valencia vs Getafe: should be an interesting match up between the two because both are in a slump and should both be eager to earn a positive result. On one hand it should be a fairly easy match for Valencia given the fact that Getafe’s team is plagued by injuries and is far from full strength but the form that Valencia find themselves in may be enough for Getafe to exploit. A win for either team will certainly boost morale. Incidentally a Getafe player mentioned on his twitter account Saturday that his team needs this win to boost morale in the side. His exact words were “de camino a Valencia, con ganas de ganar y volver a cojer moral” – meaning “on the way to Valencia with the desire to win and return to fucking moral”.