Atletico-Barcelona main course as La Liga returns to action

Madrid, Sep 10 (IANS) Spain’s La Liga returns to action on Saturday with games that will make the average football fan’s mouth water in anticipation of excitement and quite possibly, controversy.

The round of matches kicks off following the international break as Sevilla travel to Valencia to play Levante, reports Xinhua.

Sevilla need to recover following their 0-3 defeat at home against Atletico Madrid, while Levante have just one point from their first two games of the season.

There is no doubt that the most interesting game of the weekend is on Saturday evening as two title contenders — Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona — meet in the Vicente Calderon stadium here.

Both sides have six points from their opening two matches, but while Atletico are at full strength and expecting big things from strikers Antoine Griezmann and Jackson Martinez, Barcelona have problems.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique will only have one full training session with his squad ahead of the game as his players fly back after international commitments, while central defender Gerard Pique, who appears to have become the player everyone loves to hate, is still suspended.

Barcelona can expect a hostile welcome for a game which even at this early stage of the season looks vital.

Real Madrid are also in action and Keylor Navas will be back in goal for the first time after the club tried to sell him to Manchester United as part of the failed deal to sign David De Gea.

Real should hold few terrors for Espanyol as the Barcelona based side always seems to fare badly against them and with Gareth Bale recovering his goal touch, the big question is whether or not Cristiano Ronaldo, who has looked out of sorts in early season, can do the same.

Valencia need to take three points from Sporting Gijon or pressure will start to grow on coach Nuno Espiritu Santo, while Saturday ends with Real Sociedad looking for their first goal of the season away to Betis, who lost their last game 5-0 away to Real Madrid.

Sunday starts with Granada at home against always impressive Villarreal, before Athletic Club Bilbao entertain Getafe in a game between the two bottom clubs in the table.

Bilbao’s early season has been hit by a long injury list, but coach Ernesto Valverde will hope the arrival of Raul Garcia will provide extra bite to his side’s attack.

Early season table toppers, Celta Vigo will fancy their chances of making it three wins from three games when they play at home against recently promoted Las Palmas, while Eibar, who are currently second in the table travel to the south coast to face a Malaga side which lost key players during the summer transfer window.

The round of games finishes on Monday when Rayo Vallecano, who are used to ‘different’ kick off times play at home against Deportivo la Coruna.

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