Spanish League Preview, Week 8

Alexis vs. Granada / PHOTO: Miguel Ruiz - FCB
La Liga returns with a full programme this weekend, with Real Madrid and Barça both facing Galician opposition, Atlético Madrid in Donosti and Espanyol after their first win of the season

Málaga kick off the action

All four La Liga teams involved in the Champions League next week play on Saturday, with Málaga kicking off the action at four o’clock with a home game against Valladolid. Málaga’s last gasp defeat at the Vicente Calderón was their first of the season and they remain in third spot, five points adrift of the front two, as well as top of their Champions League group ahead of Wednesday’s visit of Milan, whilst newly promoted Valladolid have had a topsy-turvy return to the top flight with three wins, three defeats and a draw so far, leaving them in a relatively comfortable mid table berth.

Madrid hit by “FIFA virus”

Real Madrid are next up, at six, when they entertain Celta at the Bernabéu. Mourinho’s side have been hit by the “FIFA virus”, with Marcelo out for three months and Coentrao and Arbeola also missing after picking up injuries with Portugal and Spain.  Khedira is doubtful too and Pepe, Ronaldo, Higuain and Benzema all returned from international duty with knocks. At eight, Valencia are at home to Athletic Bilbao and with both teams having taken just eight points so far this season, Pellegrino and Bielsa will be equally desperate for the points. Valencia welcome back Banega after an eight month layoff, whilst Gurpegui is suspended for the Basques.

Tough trip for Atlético

Atlético Madrid also face Basque opponents, travelling to Donosti late on Sunday night to face Real Sociedad, who have won all three of their home games so far this campaign, whilst the visitors have won two and drawn one on the road. One of those away wins for Atlético was at Betis, who are currently fourth and on Sunday travel to Pamplona, where second from bottom Osasuna desperately need a repeat of the big win over Llevant in their last home game as they fight to get out of the relegation places. Only Espanyol have fewer points than Osasuna and they will be looking for their first win of the season when they host Rayo on Sunday.

In the weekend’s other games, Getafe are at home to Levante, whilst there looks to be a prospective six-pointer in Granada, who face fourth from bottom Zaragoza. Monday night sees Sevilla and Mallorca in action at the Sánchez Pijuán, where Michel will be without the suspended Chilean Gary “pitbull” Medel, who was also held for a few hours by police after he was involved in a scuffle with reporters in Santiago in midweek.