The world’s most poorly timed international break has come to an end and domestic football in Europe’s top leagues is set to re-commence this weekend, including in La Liga where, after just two matches, things haven’t really got going so far.
Whilst Real Madrid still stand as the favourites to win the title, it’s anyone’s guess how the relegation battle and the fight for European football will finish- and we’re still left with no idea what’s going on at Barcelona’s Catalonia circus.
The problems of Luis Enrique’s side are set to take centre-stage this weekend in a crucial Catalan derby, where we’re likely to see Ousmane Dembele make his debut. There is, of course, no Philippe Coutinho and there’s plenty of other action to keep you occupied over the course of the weekend.
Here’s our preview for match-day three.
Leganes v Getafe (Friday, 20:00 BST)
Madrid-based minnows Leganes have certainly made an impression in their maiden La Liga campaign, standing as just one of three sides to have won both of their opening matches- alongside Real Sociedad and Barcelona.
Against a Getafe side who have just one point to their name and are yet to score this season, Leganes’ 100% record could certainly continue on Friday night and they’ll be hoping for a positive result to strengthen their chances of avoiding an immediate return to the Segunda.
Real Madrid v Levante (Saturday, 12:00 BST)
Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid are favourites to retain their La Liga crown but Los Blancos haven’t had things their own way so far this season, drawing 2-2 to Champions League hopefuls Valencia before the international break.
Cristiano Ronaldo and company are expected to utilise their home advantage this weekend and take all points off Levante, despite the fact that their visitors are yet to taste defeat this season having beaten Villarreal and drawn 2-2 with Deportivo before the international break.
Valencia v Atletico Madrid (Saturday, 15:15 BST)
Valencia had a season to forget last term, continuing a trend that they’ve endured for the past few years, but there’s positivity around the camp this season as they aim to fight their way back into the Champions League spots- an area where they really should be.
Having beaten Las Palmas and drawn with Real Madrid, Marcelino’s side welcome Atletico Madrid this weekend and Diego Simeone’s side haven’t quite been at their best this season. A surprise draw with Girona on the opening weekend, accompanied by a red card to Antoine Griezmann, was one to forget but they bounced back in style with a hefty victory over Las Palmas before the break.
Sevilla v Eibar (Saturday, 17:00 BST)
Champions League outfit Sevilla have been on a solid rise in the past few years but they have a stern test to maintain their spot this season. Their start has admittedly been relatively unimpressive, with a draw with Espanyol and a narrow victory over Getafe.
Eibar, meanwhile, will likely find themselves battling off relegation this season and have performed relatively well, especially in a 1-0 victory over Malaga. They lost to Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao before the international break though and will face a struggle to get a result from this one.
Barcelona v Espanyol (Saturday, 19:45 BST)
The big game of the weekend sees Barcelona aim to continue to battle against their off-field woes in a Catalan derby with Espanyol. Luis Enrique’s side have won both of their games so far this season, against Real Betis and Alaves, but the talk has orientated around their shambolic situation behind the scenes.
That may leave Espanyol with a consensus that their Catalan rivals are ripe for the taking this weekend, although it will take a massive improvement from their performance in the 1-0 defeat to Leganes before the break. Yet to win this season, a positive result at the Nou Camp may be too much to ask.
Deportivo v Real Sociedad (Sunday, 11:00 BST)
Deportivo have consolidated their position in La Liga over recent years but now face the challenge of trying to kick-on to a higher level. Having lost to Real Madrid and drawn with Levante so far this season, Pepe Mel’s side need a result and the return of local hero Lucas Perez, on-loan from Arsenal, could provide a timely boost.
Basque outfit Real Sociedad, however, will present a huge challenge to Deportivo. They’ve been in fantastic form at the start of the season, winning against Celta Vigo and Villarreal, and currently occupy top-spot. A Champions League finish is the aim this season and games against the likes of Deportivo are where La Real can’t afford to slip-up.
Athletic Bilbao v Girona (Sunday, 15:15 BST)
Like their Basque rivals, Athletic Bilbao are eyeing a Champions League spot this season but they’ll need to improve. So far, Athletic have scored just once in two games and seem to lack the cutting edge they need- although Iker Muniain believes he’s in the best form of his life and could play a huge part over the course of the coming months.
Newly-promoted Girona, aka Manchester City’s Spanish feeder club, have proved to be a resilient opponent so far this season though having already taken points off Atletico Madrid and beaten Malaga. A trip to the San Mames won’t be easy though, especially as it’s their first away trip of the season.
Celta Vigo v Alaves (Sunday, 17:30 BST)
Having lost to both Real Sociedad and Real Betis this season, despite scoring three goals, Celta Vigo need to kick start their season and will see Sunday’s hosting of Alaves as the ideal opportunity to pick up a victory that could see them shoot up the La Liga standings.
Alaves, who are likely to be fending off the threat of relegation this season, will also be looking to put points on the board having lost their opening matches against Leganes and Barcelona. The Basque side are yet to find the net this season though so a trip to Vigo won’t be easy.
Villarreal v Real Betis (Sunday, 19:45 BST)
Holding aspirations of qualifying for the Champions League this season via a top-four spot, Villarreal will certainly be unhappy with their start to the season as they’ve lost to both Levante and Real Sociedad. The Yellow Submarines are also yet to find the back of the net but are also set for their first home match.
Real Betis, meanwhile, have had a fairly standard start to the season. They suffered defeat on the opening weekend to Barcelona, a result that was expected, but responded with a victory over Celta Vigo before the international break. Any points they take off Villarreal will be seen as a major success.
Malaga v Las Palmas (Monday, 20:00 BST)
After their mammoth takeover and Champions League participation a few years back, Malaga have endured a slide in recent campaigns and face another season of consolidation ahead. A top-half finish is the aim but things haven’t gone to plan so far, as they’ve suffered back-to-back 1-0 defeats against Eibar and Girona.
Las Palmas have similar ambitions this season but the Canary Island outfit have also lost both games so far, being rather unfortunate to lose 1-0 to Valencia on the opening weekend before being torn apart by Atletico Madrid before the international break. They’re another side that’s yet to score but the addition of Loic Remy will provide a huge boost.