Unexpected early pace-setters Celta Vigo and Getafe – separated at the top of the table by a single point – face tough tests on the weekend, as they seek to remain afoot the summit of La Liga.
Leaders Celta host a talented, though, struggling Sevilla on Sunday, having yet to drop a single point at home. More auspiciously for the newly promoted side, their opponents – who currently lie 12th – have yet to win on their travels.
New Brazilian striker Fernando Bianio – the Galacians top scorer with three goals – is quick to refute suggestions that the club cannot sustain their impressive early season form.
“We’ve got a very good side,” he told local paper La Voz de Galacia. “And if we play to the best of our ability, there is no reason why we can’t be up their with the best. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team ending the season in a European spot.”
On the downside, they will have to contend with the absence of Nestor Connobio, as the Uruguayan midfielder has yet to recover from an ankle problem.
Sevilla, for their part, will be without Argentine striker Javier Saviola, currently on loan from Barcelona, although Kanoute and Fabiano are both more than capable of threatening any team on their day.
Getafe, on the other hand, appear somewhat more pragmatic in their aims.
“Our only aim is to survive in the top flight,” said coach Bernd Schuster.
Centre back Anibal Matellan echoed these sentiments, insisting that the Madrid – based minnows cannot afford to be complacent ahead of their weekend tie against local rivals Atletico, who recently conquered champions Barcelona.
“Atletico will be very tough opponents”, he asserted, “but we will set out to play our own game. We are playing very well at the moment and I’m sure we will make it difficult for them.”
Meanwhile, thetraditional superpowers of the Spanish game are looking to kick-start their stuttering seasons.
With just one win and five points to their names this season, Real Betis and Barcelona will be hoping to go someway to atoning for their recent poor form when they meet in the Manuel Ruiz de Lopera stadium on Saturday.
The Catalans – buoyed by the news that skipper Carlos Puyol has signed a new long term contract extension – are expected to field the same side that drew with Valencia at the Camp Nou on Thursday. As such, Van Bommel and Ezquerro will more than likely have to wait further until they make their first La Liga starts for their new club.
Betis, for their part, will once again be without left – back Edu, who is still injured, and striker Dani, who ruptured a thigh muscle earlier in the week.
After picking up their first win in four against Athletic Bilbao on Thursday, Real Madrid should go into their away tie to second from bottom Alaves full of confidence.
‘Should’ because beleaguered coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo must contend with a number of absentees.
Zinedene Zidane is still nursing a calf injury, whilst striker Julio Baptista and centre – halves Sergio Ramos and Jonathan Woodgate are all suspended. In the absence of Ramos and Woodgate, Pavon will probably partner Helguerra at the back; it will be Real’s third different central defensive partnership in as many games.
Meanwhile, Chuchi Cos, the Alaves manager, is likely to ditch his nominally offensive 4-2-4 formation, and revert to a 4-4-2, seeing as his club have conceded six goals from five games this season.
Elsewhere, third meet fourth on Saturday Deportivo travel to La Romereda to face Real Zaragoza.
Depor’s Munitis returns from suspension, but the Galacians will have to make do without Momo (knee), Iva Cavrill (muscular problems), and Victor (knee). Diego Tristan, however, is expected to be fit to play, after sustaining a light injury during training.
Having climbed to tenth in the table after two consecutive victories, Real Sociedad travel to Valencia hoping to make it three wins on the bounce, and leap frog their rivals in the league standings.
However, after a disastrous pre-season, they have made a steady start to the current campaign, and will be confident about ending Real’s purple patch in light of their gutsy display at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, where they drew 2-2 with Barcelona.
Villarreal, who have failed to win any of their first four matches – have been exhorted by their Argentine playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme to improve quickly ahead of their clash with Espanyol, if they wish haul themselves off the bottom of the table, and replicate their impressive feats of last season.
“The problem,” he said, “is that we seem to be doing everything – even the basics – wrong. We have to be realistic and notice that e have to improve”.
The player, though, is confident that, in time, the Yellow Submarines will improve.
“We haven’t been able to play two games in a row with the same line-up and that has made things very difficult for us. But I believe that, when we have a more settled side, we will climb the table; we can’t be in the relegation zone.”
In other games, Real Mallorca host fellow strugglers Malaga at the Son Moix; Racing Santander – who’s victory against Espanyol earlier in the week catapulted them up to sixth – travel to the Basque country to face sixth – bottom Athletic Bilbao; and Cadiz, who salvaged an impressive point against neighbors Sevilla in their last match, are away to Osasuna.