Four things to look out for in Spain's Matchday 9
Football returns to La Liga this weekend following the international break. Here are some things to look out for over the coming days.
MADRID: Football returns to La Liga this weekend following the international break. Here are some things to look out for over the coming days.
1. One rule for some, one rule for others
This weekend's games between Real Madrid and Athletic Club Bilbao and Atletico Madrid and Granada have been postponed by La Liga because the South American players at the Madrid clubs will arrive late and La Liga say they want to avoid 'adulterating' the competition.
However, the lack of available dates to play these games could see the Athletic Club and Granada players forced to sacrifice some of their X'mas holidays to shoe-horn the games in on December 22, while the same two clubs will also be three weeks without a game (23 days in Athletic Club's case) with the subsequent risk of losing match fitness in mid-season.
La Liga's decision would be easier to understand if it were across the board, but Real and Atletico are the only sides whose games have been postponed. The fact that Rayo Vallecano play Elche on Sunday despite Radamel Falcao's commitments with Colombia, while Barca play Valencia even though Ronald Araujo plays for the same country as Atletico's Luis Suarez says little for La Liga's consistency in this question.
2. Fati and Kun to help Koeman
Barca coach Ronald Koeman surprisingly clung onto his job two weeks ago after his side lost 2-0 away to Atletico Madrid, but he now faces a vital week with a league game against Valencia on Sunday followed by a Champions League game that his side have to win against Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday and the first 'Clasico' of the season against Real Madrid next weekend.
The good news for Koeman is that he should have striker Kun Aguero available for these games after the new signing make his Barca debut in a friendly during the week. Although Aguero probably won't start against Valencia, Koeman will have his goalscoring talent on the bench and the veteran's ability to poach a goal out of nothing could be vital.
Ansu Fati made three substitute appearances before the international break, but two weeks of training should have allowed the talented youngster to build up his fitness and he will probably start on Sunday to give Koeman another boost.
3. New coaches go head-to-head
Both Levante and Getafe sacked their coaches during the international break after poor starts to the season with Javier Pereira leaving his job in China to join Levante, while Quique Sanchez Flores returns for a third spell with Getafe.
The fixture calendar sees the two teams meet in Valencia on Saturday as they both seek their first win of the campaign and Getafe could be slight favorites. The squad looks more suited to Quique's style of football than it did to his predecessor, Michel Gonzalez, while the fact Pereira only returned to Spain on Wednesday has limited the time he can spend working with his new players.
4. Real Sociedad have the chance to go top
There will be a celebratory atmosphere in the Reale Arena on Saturday night when Real Sociedad entertain Mallorca. The ground will be at 100 percent capacity for the first time since the start of the pandemic and the Real Sociedad players will show off the Copa del Rey trophy they won against neighbors Athletic Club back in April. The postponement of Real and Atletico Madrid's games means that a point would lift the Basque team to the top of the table and with forwards Alexander Isak and Mikel Oyarzabal in top form they will be favorites to take the win. IANS