La Liga Preview Match Day 8: Atletico look to quell Barca’s dominance

La Liga

After another international break, albeit one that actually mattered as places for next summer’s World Cup were secured, European domestic football returns this weekend and there’s set to be plenty of eyes on La Liga.

Spain’s top-tier has some huge games this weekend but there’s still plenty going on off the field, as the country deals with the Catalan referendum from a few weeks ago and the shocking scenes that were pictured across the region.

Last time out, Barcelona were forced to play their match at the Nou Camp behind closed doors and there have been claims from the league leaders that this weekend’s opponents, Atletico Madrid, cannot provide away tickets for ‘logistical reasons’- a statement that Atletico deny.

Whilst that game will take the spotlight, there’s plenty of action ahead over the course of the next few days with many sides needing points for various reasons.

Espanyol v Levante (Friday, 20:00 BST)

Catalonia’s other big side, Espanyol, kick things off on Friday evening as they host Levante- in a match where both sides will be looking to secure points to consolidate their mid-table position and potentially fight towards a top-end finish.

The hosts enter the game on the back of just one defeat in four matches, which came last time out against Real Madrid, and a victory would see them leapfrog their opponents and potentially move into the top-half of the standings.

Levante, meanwhile, have slipped following two consecutive defeats and they boast just one win in their last six. They did, however, draw with Real Madrid last month so they have shown their ability in big matches.

Athletic Bilbao v Sevilla (Saturday, 12:00 BST)

A crucial game awaits for Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla, who will take part in an intriguing match at the San Mames. Both sides need points for extremely different reasons, with the Basque outfit underperforming and their counterparts from Andalusia flying high.

It’s now been six matches across all competitions where Athletic have failed to secure a victory, with the club clearly struggling to find their feet following Luis Enrique’s departure this summer. They need results fast but a clash against Sevilla will be a test.

Sevilla have lost just once this season, against Atletico Madrid, and have won their two games since. They’re currently Barcelona’s closest competitors and can use this game to either close the gap on the leaders or pull further away from Atletico.

Getafe v Real Madrid (Saturday, 15:15 BST)

With Atletico Madrid and Barcelona going toe-to-toe, defending champions Real Madrid will see this weekend as the ideal opportunity to close the gap on their two great rivals and they’ll be favourites to take all three points from their trip to Getafe.

A 4-0 drubbing of Villarreal three weeks ago has been the highlight of Getafe’s campaign so far but they have struggled for consistency, winning just two games this season and sitting in mid-table with eight points.

Following a slow start, Real Madrid have won their last six matches in all competitions but remain seven points behind leaders Barcelona. That needs to change and this weekend could provide that opportunity.

Alaves v Real Sociedad (Saturday, 17:30 BST)

Alaves, sat second-bottom of the division, need to start finding points and the same can be said for a Real Sociedad side who started the season fantastically but have started to see results slip away from them over the course of the past month.

The hosts have just three points to their name this season but will have had their confidence boosted before the international break, as their sorry run of six consecutive defeats was ended by a 2-0 win against Levante.

Real Sociedad, meanwhile, have not won a game in any competition for a month and played out a thrilling 4-4 draw with Real Betis before the international break. Five games without a win, results need to start going their way again soon.

Atletico Madrid v Barcelona (Saturday, 19:45 BST)

The big game of the weekend sees two of La Liga’s three remaining unbeaten sides go toe-to-toe, in a match where there’s more at stake than just three points and pride. The home fans are sure to give the visiting Catalans a noisy reception, due to the political unrest in the country.

Atletico Madrid’s biggest issue this season has been consistency, shown by their last three games in all competitions; a draw with Leganes, a Champions League defeat to Chelsea and La Liga victory against second-placed Sevilla.

Barcelona, on the other hand, have been in perfect form. They boast a 100% record in the league, scoring 23 goals and conceding just twice. They stand as favourites for the title but this is their first real test this season.

Eibar v Deportivo (Sunday, 11:00 BST)

Relegation-threatened duo Eibar and Deportivo kick-off Sunday’s action with a crucial test for the pair, where there’s currently just three places in the table and one point separating the two sides.

Eibar, third-bottom, have lost their last three La Liga matches and conceded 13 goals in the process. Overall, they’ve scored just three times in seven matches but boast six points, with two wins to show for their efforts.

Deportivo, meanwhile, have the edge over Eibar by a single point and have showed signs of improvement in the past few weeks, with two victories from their last three matches drastically improving their standing. However, it can change in an instant.

Girona v Villarreal (Sunday, 15:15 BST)

Girona and Villarreal are two sides who will have perhaps expected to have a bit more to show for their efforts so far this season, although perhaps that is a tad unfair on the former who are of course newly-promoted.

With six points to their name, Girona have tasted victory just once this season, against rock-bottom Malaga, and have three draws to their name. However, their one win was at the end of August so they’ll be hoping to drastically improve swiftly.

Villarreal, like many other La Liga sides, have consistency as their issue. A 3-0 win over Eibar before the international break will have boosted spirits but a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Getafe four weeks ago will still hurt.

Malaga v Leganes (Sunday, 17:30 BST)

As the only side in La Liga yet to secure a victory this season, Malaga need to improve swiftly if they’re to see off the threat of relegation and will see this weekend’s hosting of Leganes as another tough fixture.

Malaga’s only point this season came from a 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao three weeks ago but they then, rather expectedly, lost to Sevilla. Six defeats so far is an awful return but the fact they’ve already faced Athletic, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia will provide some solstice.

Leganes have been the surprise package this season, as they currently sit seventh in the standings with 11 points. A 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid last time out extended their unbeaten run to three matches and they’ll be aiming to secure their fifth win of the season on Sunday.

Real Betis v Valencia (Sunday, 19:45 BST)

Sunday evening’s La Liga offerings sees high-flying Real Betis and Valencia go toe-to-toe, in a crucial match for both sides in their quest to secure European football next term.

The hosts currently trail Valencia by just two points heading into the game and a win could see them fly up to third in the table, depending on how other results pan out. Scoring eight goals in their last two games, Betis will certainly have confidence.

Valencia will also be confident heading into the game though as they, alongside Barcelona and Sevilla, are one of La Liga’s three remaining unbeaten sides. The visitors have impressively scored 11 goals across their last three matches, with three consecutive wins.

Las Palmas v Celta Vigo (Monday, 20:00)

La Liga’s weekend action comes to a close in the Canary Islands this week, as a struggling Las Palmas side look to fly up the standings with a win against mid-table Celta Vigo.

Three consecutive defeats for Las Palmas, against Sevilla, Leganes and Barcelona, have seen the side from the islands plummet down the standings and they need to pick up form now that their difficult run of games is other.

Celta Vigo will prove to be difficult opponents though as their eight points have come across the last five game weeks, including a 3-3 draw with Girona prior to the international break and a 4-0 win against Eibar the week before.