Tough away games for Barca, Real Madrid; Atletico to entertain Elche
The second round of matches in the new La Liga season sees both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid face difficult away trips while defending champions Atletico Madrid return home to take on an easy-looking game against Elche.
MADRID: The second round of matches in the new La Liga season sees both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid face difficult away trips while defending champions Atletico Madrid return home to take on an easy-looking game against Elche.
The round of matches kicks off on Friday night when Betis entertain Cadiz in an Andalusian derby after both teams kicked off the season with draws.
Saturday's big game sees Barcelona travel to face Athletic Bilbao, with 10,000 fans (20 percent capacity) back in Athletic's San Mames Stadium for the first time since March 2020 to see if their side can take their first win of the season.
After a good pre-season, Athletic disappointed with a 0-0 draw in Elche in their first league match and coach Marcelino Garcia Toral has problems at right-back where Oscar de Marcos, Ander Capa and Alex Petxarroman are all injured.
Barca impressed in their season opener as they beat Real Sociedad 4-2, although they too have Philippe Coutinho, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele all out with long-term problems, reports Xinhua.
Saturday's other game kicks off with Alaves at home to newly-promoted Mallorca as the home side look to recover from their 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid last weekend. Striker Lucas Perez has been allowed to leave the Basque club, although that means top scorer Joselu is likely to stay.
It should be a close game when Granada entertain Valencia, who are without the suspended Hugo Guillamon after his early red card in last weekend's 1-0 win at home to Getafe, while Espanyol faces a tough match at home to Villarreal, who are still without injured midfielder, Dani Parejo.
Espanyol signed midfielders Aleix Vidal and midfielder Manu Morlanes during the week, with Morlanes joining on loan from Villarreal.
Alexander Isak is back for Real Sociedad as they entertain Rayo Vallecano on Sunday afternoon with both teams looking for their first points after kicking off with defeats.
Luka Zidane misses out for Rayo after the keeper's sending off against Sevilla a week ago.
Real Madrid got off to a confident start with their win away to Alaves and play away again this weekend as work continues for revamping the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Levante could pose more of a challenge than Alaves did, with Paco Lopez's side looking solid in defense and midfield, while players such as Jorge de Frutos, Jose Luis Morales and Roger Marti give them more bite in attack.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is unlikely to make changes to the team that beat Alaves with Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard partnering with Karim Benzema in attack.
New Getafe coach Michel Gonzalez faces one of his former clubs as Sevilla visit the Coliseum Alfonso Perez and he will need a big improvement from last week's tepid display in Valencia if Getafe are to take anything from the match against a team tipped for another top-four finish. The good news for Getafe is that defender Erick Cabaco will be able to play after having one of the two yellow cards he was shown against Valencia rescinded.
Mario Hermoso is out for Atletico's game at home to Elche after his sending off at the end of last weekend's win away to Celta with Felipe replacing him in defense as Atletico prepares to show their league title off to the fans in the Wanda. Atletico's ground has been one of the key vaccination centers against COVID-19 in the Spanish capital, although vaccination will be stopped on matchdays for sanitary reasons.
The round of games ends on Monday when Osasuna play Celta Vigo in what should be an even game with Celta missing Hugo Mallo after his incident with Hermoso last week. IANS