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La Liga preview: Barcelona aim to continue perfect run

By Pti
Barcelonas Lionel Messi (right) and Luis Suarez take part in a training session

Madrid, September 21: Barcelona go into the weekend as the only team left with a perfect record in La Liga and will be in action against Girona on Sunday (September 23).

Meanwhile, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, who are already playing catch-up on the Catalans will be in action against Espanyol and Getafe, while Villarreal host rivals Valencia at the Estadio de la Ceramica this weekend in one of the key battles.

Here, we take a look at five things to look out for in the Spanish top flight this weekend.

Barca and Girona do battle in Spain

Girona took the lead at the Camp Nou last season but by the finish, Luis Suarez had a hat-trick and Barcelona had scored six. It would be a brave person to bet against another home win on Sunday but hanging in the air too will be the very real possibility this match is not returned.

The reverse fixture in Girona in January is set to be switched to Miami, even if various parties still need to give the plan the green light. Part of the deal is for this weekend's Camp Nou game to be free for 5,000 Girona fans. It could be their last chance to see Barca up close for another year.

Valencia in need of a boost

Mestalla was rocking for Valencia's Champions League return on Wednesday (September 19) and so was the team's defence as 10-man Juventus, without the sent off Cristiano Ronaldo, still cruised to a comfortable win.

"I am not worried but I expected a better performance," said their manager Marcelino, who has worked wonders since becoming the club's sixth coach in 20 months, but is yet to taste victory this term.

A frenzied grudge match away to Villarreal could be the antidote, particularly as their opponents are struggling too, 14th, with only two goals in four games.

Real Madrid set for another keeper swap

Even their first points dropped at Athletic Bilbao last weekend have done little to puncture the enthusiasm at Real Madrid, who have made a stronger start to life after Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane than many expected.

Espanyol are the visitors on Saturday and they will probably be up against Thibaut Courtois, with Keylor Navas likely to find his impressive midweek display insufficient to stay in goal. Alternating keepers is a diplomatic solution but, probably, not a long-term one.

Getafe ready to capitalise on Atleti dip

Atletico have not lost, or even conceded a goal, to Getafe in 13 meetings, a run that stretches back to 2011. Diego Simeone's favourite opponents arrive at a time of need, given Atleti's sluggish start puts them already seven points adrift of Barcelona.

A morale-boosting victory away to Monaco on Tuesday (September 18) could prove a springboard but Getafe should offer a sterner test this time.

Jose Bordalas took charge two years ago this month with the team second bottom of the second division, before leading them to promotion, and an eighth-place finish in La Liga last term. They now sit fifth - four spots above Atletico.

Valladolid chase a win, and a goal

They have the one of the game's greatest ever strikers as their owner but the Brazilian Ronaldo's Real Valladolid are yet to score in the league.

Only two goalless draws keep them off the bottom but neither form, nor changes higher up, appear to threaten the position of coach Sergio Gonzalez, who has been given a contract extension until 2020.

They face another difficult assignment on Saturday (September 22), a trip to high-flying Celta Vigo. Celta sit third and, even if defeat to Girona last weekend clipped their wings a little, they have their sights set on Europe.

Fixtures (all times IST)

Saturday (September 22)

Huesca vs Real Sociedad (12.30 AM)

Rayo Vallecano vs Alaves (4.30 PM)

Celta Vigo vs Real Valladolid (6.45 PM)

Eibar vs Leganes (6.45 PM)

Getafe vs Atletico Madrid (10 PM)

Sunday (September 23)

Real Madrid vs Espanyol (12.15 AM)

Levante vs Sevilla (3.30 PM)

Villarreal vs Valencia (6.45 PM)

Real Betis vs Athletic Bilbao (11.30 PM)

Monday (September 24)

Barcelona vs Girona (12.15 AM)

Broadcast and Streaming: Sony TEN network and Sony LIV

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Story first published: Friday, September 21, 2018, 12:18 [IST]
Other articles published on Sep 21, 2018
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