Real Madrid will visit Racing Santander without Raul or Luis Figo as la Liga resumes progress on Saturday.
Raul aggravated a thigh injury in Spain’s victory against Northern Ireland last Saturday and will not be risked for the trip to Santander. Figo, meanwhile, lasted only 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute in Portugal’s midweek victory, and is understood to be undergoing treatment.
Real, currently in third position, will be looking to increase the pressure on the early season leaders, Cellta Vigo, following their emphatic 5-2 victory against Alaves in their last outing. Ronaldo and Morientes are both in the squad for the trip.
Early season surprise package Real Sociedad face their most difficult test to date, as they entertain league leaders Celta Vigo. The Basque side are unbeaten in five games under former Nantes coach Raynald Denoieux. They defeated arch rivals Atletico Bilbao 4-2 on the opening day of the season, and remain confident they can maintain their impressive form for the remainder of the season.
Real face the equally impressive Celta Vigo. Celta will be without influential creative midfielder Gustavo Lopez and defender Sergio through injury.
Barcelona will be hoping to improve their distinctly average start to the league campaign in the visit to Valladolid. The Catalan giants, whilst producing impressive Champions League form, have failed to convince in the league so far. Draws with Athletico Madrid and Osasuna, coupled with a defeat by Real Betis have Van Gaal’s side five points adrift of the leaders.
Six placed Real Betis entertain Mallorca without striker Alfonso. The Spanish international has undergone minor surgery on his Achilles tendon and is expected to return to first team action in two weeks. The team from Sevilla will be hoping to improve on their impressive 1-1 with Real Madrid and pressurise the league leaders.
Winger Kily Gonzalez, is likely to start for Valencia against Atletico Madrid. The Argentine star has not figured in the Valencia team this season due to a series of injuries. Gonzalez, will return against an Atletico side understood to be feeling the strain as a result of the internal power struggle between the club’s sporting director, Paulo Futre, and controversial president Jesus Gill.
Elsewhere in la Liga, Athletic Bilbao will attempt to resurrect their disappointing start to theseason against high flying Malaga. New coach, Juup Heynckes, is under increasing pressure and will be hoping to build upon their first win of the season in their last outing against lowly Recreativo de Huelva.
By Gareth Sibbald
Racing de Santander v Real Madrid
Sunday, October 20
Alaves v Real Sociedad
Celta v Rayo Vallecano
Osasuna v Sevilla