MADRID, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) — La Liga returns to action with a reduced number of matches this weekend after the competition agreed to postpone the fixtures of Real Madrid vs. Athletic Club Bilbao and Granada vs. Atletico Madrid, due to World Cup duties.
La Liga argues that the decision has been taken to avoid ‘adulterating’ the competition, but appears to ignore the fact that the two games will now be played in midweek sometime in the future and this will hand a clear advantage to Real and Atletico, who have deeper squads and more ability to successfully rotate their first team.
Meanwhile, the fact that neither Athletic Club or Granada have European games next week means they will be three weeks without a competitive match – 23 days in Athletic Club’s case – with the subsequent risk of losing match fitness when compared to their next rivals.
The standout fixture of the eight games that will be played sees FC Barcelona at home to Valencia on Sunday night.
Ronald Koeman surprisingly remains as Barca coach after his side’s 2-0 defeat to Atletico ahead of the break, but desperately needs to see a win to ease the pressure a week ahead of the ‘Clasico’ against Real Madrid.
Ronald Araujo, arguably Barca’s best player this season, is out with a hamstring injury and either Clement Lenglet or Eric Garcia will partner Gerard Pique in attack. Koeman does finally have some good news on the injury front with Kun Aguero able to make his Barca debut after recovering from a knee injury, while Ousmane Dembele could be on the bench after suffering a muscle injury in the European Championships.
The round of matches kicks off on Saturday as Levante entertain Getafe in a game between two sides without a win who both sacked their coaches during the international break.
Javier Pereira, who abandoned his job in China, makes his debut as Levante coach after arriving back in Spain on Wednesday, while Quique Sanchez Flores kicks off his third spell in charge of Getafe.
Real Sociedad could take advantage of Real and Atletico Madrid not playing and go top of the league if they can win at home to Mallorca in a packed Anoeta Stadium. The home side have striker Alexander Isak fully fit again after his impressive recent displays for Sweden.
Sunday kicks off with Rayo Vallecano at home to Elche, with Radamel Falcao leading the attack of the Madrid based side, before Celta entertain Sevilla.
Sevilla’s surprise defeat to Granada before the break saw them miss the chance to go joint top with a game in hand and they will look to take advantage of a rival that has so far failed to produce the attacking form that saw them go close to Europe last season.
Villarreal remain unbeaten this season, but five draws from seven games mean they are down in 11th place and they need to start collecting points three at a time, starting with Sunday’s home clash with fifth placed Osasuna.
The round of matches ends with two games on Monday as Deportivo Alaves face Betis and Espanyol play Cadiz.
Alaves have lost six out of seven games this season and their coach Javier Calleja must be feeling nervous about his job, while Espanyol will be confident of taking something from a rival that has won just one game this season.