After the midweek of International friendlies La Liga is back!  League leaders, Real Madrid will be back at the Bernabéu to welcome Athletic Bilbao, in what is one of the many fierce rivalries in the La Liga.  A week before the much anticipated El Clásico at the Camp Nou, 2nd place Barcelona will make the trip to Andalucia to take on struggling Almería.  There will also be the Valencian Derby between 3rd place Villarreal and 4th place Valencia in El Madrigal.


Villarreal vs Valencia

The weekend kicks off in brilliant style with Valencia making the short trip to cross town rivals Villarreal on Saturday in the Valencian Local Derby.  Villarreal’s undefeated streak of 9 games in league came to an abrupt end last weekend when Villarreal slumped to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the little Argentine wizard and his Barcelona team in the Camp Nou.  However, they will be back on familiar grounds where they are yet to be defeated and have only conceded once this season, that goal coming to Athletic Bilbao’s Llorente in Villarreal’s last home game.  However, will Villarreal fall victim to the curse of Barcelona and begin to slump down the table?  It is possible as it happened to both Atlético Madrid and Valencia.   After losing to Barcelona both teams went on a poor run of form which Valencia have only just managed to correct last weekend picking up a 2-0 win against Getafe at home and will look to carry that positive result over into this weekend’s derby against one of their hated rivals.  Villarreal’s last 6 home games have all been wins scoring an average of 2.67 goals per match while conceding only one goal in those last 6 games.  Valencia on the other hand have had a fairly “ok” record away from home; in their last 6 away games they have lost 3 and won 3.  Additionally, they haven’t won in El Madrigal in their last three attempts, being outscored 8 goals to 1.  The away team will certainly have their work cut out for them against a strong Villarreal team.  Valencia may be without Mata who had withdrawn from the Spanish National team earlier this week because of a nagging knee injury while they will definitely be without Mathieu who suffered a calf muscle injury against Getafe last weekend.  Albelda is suspended for the game and both César and Feghouli are set to miss out due to injury.  Villarreal on the other hand has a full strength squad to select from.

Almería vs Barcelona

Barcelona will make a trip out to Andalucia to take on struggling Almería.  Almería have had a torrid start to their campaign and as such find themselves sitting in 18th place on only 9 points from a possible 33.  Last weekend ended in yet another disappointing result for the Andalucian side falling 1-0 to nine men Athletic Bilbao.  Almería are struggling at the Mediterráneo and are yet to pick up a win there, while their opponents have been flawless on the road picking up all 15 points from their 5 road games, outscoring their opponents 13 goals to 3.  Almería’s last 6 home games have been dismal results, drawing 4 and losing 2.  Albeit, they have been undefeated in the last three picking up 3 consecutive draws and Barcelona’s last visit to the Mediterráneo ended in a 2-2 draw.  However, the last 6 away games for Barcelona have all been wins with them scoring 16 goals and conceding 5.  The Catalans will certainly miss Milito while Piqué is still a concern after abandoning the midweek International friendly with Spain due to a hamstring injury.  Almería on the other hand will continue to miss three players due to long term injury in the shape of Nieto, Pellerano and Cifre.

Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao

The whites will be missing Mourinho on the bench for another game this week as he will serve the last of his two game touchline ban handed to him after verbally abusing the referee during Real’s King’s Cup victory against Real Murcia.  This weekend the whites will welcome the Basques to town in what should be an enthralling encounter between two rivals that have never been relegated from the top division and have been hated rivals since the emergence of Real Madrid in 1902.  Real Madrid have been undefeated thus far under new coach Mourinho and can boast of the hottest start of Europe’s top leagues.  They have a perfect home record in all competitions with 8 wins total as well Mourinho continues to increase his undefeated home streak in league to 141 games without defeat.  If those impressive statistics aren’t enough to worry Bilbao then the fact that they haven’t won in the Bernabeú since February 2005 where they picked up a 2-0 win should be troubling to them and before that win they hadn’t won in Madrid since the 1999 campaign where they scraped a 1-0 win.  Also, Bilbao have only picked up 4 points from their last 6 away games, losing in their last 3 away games.  Real Madrid will have a full strength squad with the exception of their 3 long-term injured players: Kaká, Gago and Garay.  Athletic Bilbao will however, be without Ocio, Amorebieta and Gómez through injury while they will be without Castillo, Koikili and Gurpegui who are all suspended for the match.

Osasuna vs Sporting Gijón

After last weekend’s testy affair against Real Madrid, Sporting Gijón will make the trip to Pamplona to take on Osasuna, who are coming off a poor performance last weekend which saw them lose 3-0 to Atlético Madrid.  Osasuna have been impressive at home this season winning 3 of their home games and drawing the remaining 2.  They have now picked up two consecutive 3-0 wins at home and they will look to continue scoring and picking up points at home at the expense of Gijón this weekend.  Gijón have been poor on their travels this season picking up a meager 2 points from a possible 15 and  Sporting’s last trip to Pamplona ended in a 1-0 loss for them.  Both teams are separated by two points and will be doing everything they can to secure maximum points to distance themselves from the drop zone which see Osasuna three points clear while Gijón is only a point clear of the drop.  A loss for the away side coupled with wins by Almería, Levante and Zaragoza could see them slip rock bottom of the table.  Osasuna will remain safe for another week if they were to lose, falling only as far as 17th granted they could fall all the way down to 18th with an Almería win but I think it may be safe to say Almería probably will not pick up any points against Barcelona and would be lucky to earn even a point.  Osasuna’s Monreal will be suspended for the game while Sergio is still a doubt having not recovered fully from his previous injury while, both Pandiani and Camúñas are still sidelined with their respective injuries.  Gijón could welcome back Ayoze to action this weekend while Matabuena, Marcos, Álvarez and Canella are all sidelined for the encounter.  As well, youngster Botía will be unavailable due to suspension after being sent off last weekend.

Espanyol vs Hércules

Espanyol are back in their domain Cornella El Pratt after gaining a point against Racing last weekend and will welcome the Greek God of Alicante, Hércules.  For a team that shows so much fight against the “big boys” they really tend to lack motivation when they face similar opponents to themselves and as such Hércules should try to improve this attitude when they meet Espanyol on Sunday or they will risk being sucked into the drop zone.  Espanyol have been brilliant at home and are one of the remaining 5 teams who are undefeated at home.  Hércules’ away form has been “más o meno” or “so-so winning one, drawing two and losing two which is good enough for the 8th best away team in La Liga this season.  The trouble however, is they are up against La Liga’s third best home team and they have found it hard to beat the “weaker” teams in the league.  Espanyol haven’t lost to Hércules at home since 1982 when they fell 1-0.  In fact, Hércules have only managed to gain 3 points from their last 5 visits to Barcelona.  Rufete will not be available for the away team when they take on his former club.  They [Hércules] will also be missing Abraham Paz, Farinós, Sendoa and Piet for the match.  Espanyol on the other hand continue to be without the baby Buddah [De la Peña], Mattioni, Galán, Dátolo, Duscher and Victor Ruiz.

Levante vs Racing Santander

Levante will welcome Racing on Sunday to the Cuitat de Valencia.  The hosts have been on a four game losing streak and will most definitely need a win coupled with some bad results for Alméria, Málaga, Deportivo and of course the visitors, to claw themselves out of the drop zone.  It is possible for the hosts, as they have not lost to Racing at home as far back as 1946 and have only dropped 6 points against the visitors at home.  But, this weekend they are both the 19th best home and away teams respectively and it should be a rather close match.  A win is vital for both teams in their fight against relegation; Racing needs a win to stay out of the bottom three while Levante needs to record a victory to claw themselves out of the drop.  Iborra, Pérez, Nacho and Héctor will all be sidelined for the the hosts while for the visitors Arana, Serrano and Tziolis are all sidelined with long-term injuries.

Deportivo la Coruña vs Málaga

A resurgent Deportivo takes on a somewhat resurgent Málaga on Sunday in the Riazor both hoping to continue their undefeated streak.  Deportivo have now been undefeated in their last four games in all competitions picking up three consecutive wins while Málaga have now picked up 2 consecutive wins under new coach Pellegrini.  The visitors haven’t earned a point at the Riazor since 2002 where they recorded a 1-1 draw and their last win against the Galicians came in 1999, a 1-0 victory and before that it was way back in 1981 where they recorded a 2-0 win.  Deportivo is the 16th best home team and Málaga the 6th best away team which most definitely suggests that the away team should at the very least gain something from the match but their last two away games ended in defeat.  The home team has an extensive list of unavailable players– Juca, Rindarøy, Zé Castro, Antonio Tomás, Claudio Morel, Urretavizcaya, Míchel and Guadardo are all expected to miss out because of injuries while Laure is a doubt for the clash.  Málaga’s Juanito, Iván González, Manu Torres, Luque, Rondón, Rubén, Rosário, Duda and Gaspar should all be unavailable for selection because of injuries.

Sevilla vs Mallorca

Sevilla are back in the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán to take on one of the weaker road teams, Mallorca.  Sevilla are coming off a fortunate win against Zaragoza while Mallorca are coming into this game off the back of a fairly disappointing draw against Deportivo.   Both teams are separated by 5 points with Sevilla sitting in 5th and Mallorca in 10th.  The visitors haven’t been all too impressive on the road and have only earned themselves 4 points from their 5 road games, not scoring plenty goals either managing only 5.  Mallorca’s last win in Sevilla came back in 2007 when they recorded a 2-1 victory.  Also, they haven’t won against Sevilla in their last 5 attempts managing a draw once.  Navarro will be suspended for the match this weekend after being sent off last weekend and Palop, Romaric, Guarente, Navas, Koné, Sánchez, Dragutinović and Fazio should all be unavailable for the clash because of their respective injuries. Mallorca will continue to be without Corrales and Tuni due to injury.

Real Sociedad vs Atlético Madrid

Atlético will travel up North to San Sebastian to take on Sociedad on Sunday evening.  Atlético picked up a win last weekend against Osasuna while Sociedad are coming off a loss away to Hércules.  The Basques have been brilliant at home this season and are ranked the 7th best home team thus far in league with 4 wins and 1 loss, which came at the hands of the league leaders.  Atlético haven’t always been good away from home and are 11th in the away table, with one win, one draw and three losses.  If that isn’t bad enough then Atlético’s inability to secure maximum points at the Anoeta since 1991 should be something in the back of Quique Sánchez Flores’ mind when he sends his troops out on Sunday evening.  Atléti will be without Godín and Asenjo for the travel to San Sebastian.  Sociedad will be without Sutil, Bergara and Ifrán for the encounter.

Getafe vs Real Zaragoza

José Aurelio Gay was on Thursday replaced by former Atlético Madrid and Mexico boss, Javier Aguirre and the new coach will make his debut against Getafe on Monday night when they travel to Madrid.  Getafe are hoping to turn around their recent dip in form which have seen them now slump to three consecutive defeats.  Zaragoza after their impressive comeback win against Mallorca 2 weeks ago seemed as if they were on the verge of turning their season around but instead slumped to a defeat against Sevilla which eventually led to Gay being sacked.  Getafe haven’t won a home game against Zaragoza since 2005 when they recorded a 5-2 victory against their opponents.  Since then they have drawn two and lost one, that loss coming last February when they fell 2-0.  Getafe will have to do without Cata Díaz who is suspended while, Arizmendi, Gavilán, Miguel Torres and Mario are all sidelined with injuries.  Also, Íbrahim Kaş could return to action this weekend.  Zaragoza will be without the suspended Diogo while promising youngster Ander, Jorge López, Paredes, Uche and Laguardia are all sidelined due to injuries.

Top Matches of the weekend

  • Villarreal vs Valencia: when has a derby never been entertaining?  For that mere reason the match should be a “doozy between two wonderful, quality teams.  Hopefully Mata will be fully fit for the encounter which would make it even better.  This is a game that cannot be considered over at 3-0 as the opponent is likely to fight back and pull level before the game ends.
  • Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao: one of La Liga’s fierce rivalries and between two teams that have never known life outside of the primera division.  One team is notable for their achievements in league and Europe’s premiere club competition versus one that can boast of having the most King’s Cup trophies (depending on what side of the fence you sit on).  Either way it should be an intense match between two strong sides, one team with some of the best players from around the world while the other boasts the best Basque players.  Indeed, a mouth-watering affair.
  • Almería vs Barcelona: not entirely a mouth-watering affair when you consider Barcelona’s opponents but it will be an interesting match as it is the match that will lead up to the biggest match in all of Spain and perhaps all of football, El Clásico.  This should be an easy match for Barcelona and as such worthwhile watching because you are probably bound to see some lovely, silky football from the visitors.
  • Sevilla vs Mallorca: this should be a great match because it will be a match that Mallorca and their fans will be relishing in hopes of recording a win as a means of paying back Sevilla for stealing their 4th place position on the last day, with a minute left, when Negredo scored the winning goal against Almería last season to secure the final Champions League spot in Spain (granted Mallorca wouldn’t have been able to play in the Champion’s League because of their debt problems).  However, it is also a match that all eyes will be on because Manzano, Mallorca’s former coach is now the manager of Sevilla.