Clubs wary of Euro hangover
Leader Barça faces Granada at home while Real goes to Rayo in Madrid derby
Saturday’s late kick-off will see league leaders Barcelona take on Granada at the Camp Nou. The Catalan outfit, which is the only side with a 100-percent winning record in La Liga, will be heavily fancied to make it five wins out of five against the struggling Andalusian outfit, which has yet to register a victory this season.
Granada will, however, take heart that Barça has only kept one clean sheet in all of its seven matches so far this season — against Valencia — and is without its first choice central defensive partnership, as Gerard Pique joined Carles Puyol on the sidelines after limping off early on in Wednesday evening’s 3-2 triumph over Spartak Moscow.
In the build-up to the game, coach Tito Vilanova has played down any defensive frailties, saying that “what’s important is winning,” before adding that he wouldn’t mind seeing a second clean sheet of the season. “Although, of course, it would be great if we didn’t concede,” he said.
The visitors though, have only won one of their last 11 away games, and are missing five first-team regulars through suspension and injury.
In the day’s early kick-off, Zaragoza faces bottom-of-the-league Osasuna in what could prove to be a crucial game in the battle to avoid relegation come the end of the season, while Getafe travels to Celta de Vigo, and Real Betis hosts Espanyol.
Real Madrid makes the short journey to Vallecas in the south of the city on Sunday night for what is the second Madrid derby in a week involving Rayo Vallecano.
Real will be looking to build on their midweek European victory over English champions Manchester City in what is their third away trip of the campaign.
The record books are certainly in their favor. Madrid is the most successful visiting team at the Vallecas Stadium in La Liga, having won nine, drawn one and lost only three of their previous 13 visits there, including five wins in the last five visits.
Rayo, which last week succumbed to its first defeat of the season, 3-4 away to Atlético Madrid, currently sits a full six places ahead of its more illustrious city rivals in sixth.
Cristiano Ronaldo, scorer of the winner in midweek, also scored the only goal in Real’s victory at Vallecas last season with a superb back-heeled effort, and coach José Mourinho will hope his countryman’s recent bout of unhappiness at the Bernabéu has been resolved.
This season’s new Sunday noon kick-off sees Valencia travel to high-flying Mallorca. After the disappointing nature of its Champions League defeat, Los Che will be keen to get three more points on the board after a difficult start to the season that has included away trips to both Real Madrid and Barcelona.
In-form Atlético Madrid welcomes last season’s playoff winners Real Valladolid to the Vicente Calderón Stadium, looking to score four goals against an opponent for the third consecutive Liga match running. Having given star striker Ramadel Falcao a rest at Thursday night’s 3-0 victory away to Hapoel Tel-Aviv as Atlético successfully started the defense of its Europa League crown, you would not bet against Diego Simone’s men being involved in yet another goal fest.
In what could prove to be the game of the weekend, struggling Athletic Bilbao hosts undefeated Málaga.