La Liga: Highlighting the Key Matches to Watch This Weekend
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Another one of those annoying blips on the football calendar, otherwise known as an international break, has passed and La Liga is fortunately back in business this weekend.
The international break isn't something to be brushed away, however, as many of the top teams in Spain are now having to deal with those who ate up the miles on their travels during the week.
If you're tired of blaming the Spanish authorities for lazily putting together a schedule, there is always FIFA who will be happy to hear from anyone with a negative view on international football.
This weekend also marks another one of those noon Sunday kick-offs. The last time we saw a high-profile match take that time slot, Real Madrid put four past Getafe in a match in which the players didn't betray how early in the day it was.
This weekend, Getafe are once again on their travels and head to Barcelona. Another heavy defeat may be on the cards, or it could be yet another lazy Sunday afternoon.
Barcelona vs Getafe
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Getafe's Coliseum offers a bleak insight to the harsher realities of La Liga football. While the Camp Nou and Bernabeu are normally sell-outs; and even though the support at clubs like Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis draw plenty of inspiration, the Coliseum in Madrid is always just a few bodies above empty.
Fortunately, Barcelona's meeting with Getafe takes place at the Camp Nou on Sunday, so, much in the same way the authorities do, we can sweep any negative thoughts about empty stadiums under the carpet.
Much of the talk should surround David Villa at Barcelona. Here is a team who have drawn their last two games (Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey and Valencia in the league) and who are lacking an edge in front of goal. Funny, then, that Villa looks good to go and is one of Europe's finest marksmen.
Now, Getafe can put up a strong fight when they're in the mood. Barcelona, however, will be looking to make the most of home advantage and get back to winning ways. After all, the league-leaders remain nine points ahead of Atletico Madrid, but preparation for the approaching Champions League fixtures will be key.
The mental fatigue may weigh heavy on most of the Barcelona players, some of whom were in Qatar with the Spanish national team in midweek. However, this relatively low-key match against Getafe may be what Barcelona need in order to improve on their form, especially in front of goal.
Finally, it will be interesting to see how Jordi Roura responds in the dugout should Barcelona fail to convince for large parts of the game.
Real Madrid vs Sevilla
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The last time Real Madrid and Sevilla met in the league, the Andalusian side took all three points at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, the solitary goal coming from Piotr Trochowski.
But the form—no matter what kind it may be—of Sevilla won't be of concern to Jose Mourinho or his players. The minimum requirement here is to put right the poor display from last week against Granada and begin to look like a team who is prepared for Manchester United.
Cristiano Ronaldo may find himself at the head of the queue to make the difference, as it was his own goal which saw Real to their fifth defeat of the league season last week.
Another point, however, is that Mourinho may even opt to keep the Portuguese fresh for the Champions League tie on Wednesday.
This will certainly be an interesting and exciting La Liga clash.
Athletic Bilbao vs Espanyol
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Espanyol have won three of their last five and are looking far more assured under Javier Aguirre. The Catalan side go into this game a point behind Athletic Bilbao in 13th place, and the big draw from this game is that both sides have pulled a few surprising results out of the hat.
Bilbao swept away Atletico Madrid at the end of last month, defeating Diego Simeone's side 3-0 at San Mames. It was a Bilbao performance that brought back memories of their impressive campaign last year, capitalising and making opposition pay.
Both sides will be aware that the threat of relegation hasn't been banished yet, and that is sure to come out in this match. More than anything, this could play out to be a very open and exciting game with two teams who know they can play out wins to the best of their ability.
Rayo Vallecano vs Atletico Madrid
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It's always a surprise that Rayo Vallecano have managed to manoeuvre themselves into seventh place in the league table. But then the shock factor wears off when you're reminded that the Vallecas is often a very difficult place to travel to and Rayo have both wonderful and extremely hard-working talents in their side.
But this one should be about Atletico Madrid and whether Diego Simeone can return from a second difficult away game in three weeks, this time with all three points.
It will be about Atletico taking advantage of a stuttering Barcelona at the top of the table and a Real Madrid in all sorts of trouble just behind.
Radamel Falcao returned to the starting XI last week against Real Betis, however it was Diego Costa who took all the headlines for both positive and negatives actions in the game.
But teams like Atletico will need that and will encourage more of the same from the trigger-happy Brazilian. It won't always be about elegant football from a team like Atletico; there will be occasions when they'll need to use a battering ram like Costa to force their way to victory.
Regardless of the opposition, Atletico should be seen as one of the teams to watch every week in La Liga this season. They're a sure-bet for Champions League football next season and may just make Barcelona feel a little uneasy about their position atop the La Liga table.