MADRID, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) — This season’s first meeting between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid will capture most of the attention this weekend in La Liga, but there are other key games that also merit attention. Here are some things to look out for this weekend in Spain.
1, Key Clasico for Barca and Real Madrid
Barcelona coach Ronaldo Koeman survived his side’s defeat to Atletico Madrid three weeks ago and has since seen how Barca claimed slightly unconvincing wins against Valencia and Dynamo Kiev. A win against Real Madrid would lift a lot of pressure from the coach’s shoulders, while a defeat would once again raise questions about his future at the club.
Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti was also under pressure after a run of poor results before the break, but his side returned to form with their 5-0 humbling of Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek. A win would raise the Italian’s status, but as with Koeman, a defeat would again put him in the spotlight.
2, Fati, Vinicius and Benzema the keys
With Pedri out injured, Barca fans will be putting their hopes on fit-again Ansu Fati to be their main threat against Real Madrid. The 18-year-old signed a new contract on Thursday and he has that bit of magic that has been missing since Leo Messi left this summer. Fati will probably start on the left and is likely to give a difficult afternoon to Lucas Vazquez, who will again cover for the injured Dani Carvajal in defense.
Real Madrid’s season has so far revolved around the form of striker Karim Benzema and winger Vinicius Jr and they will be Real Madrid’s main threat in the Camp Nou. Benzema has the ability to link well with his companions, as well as to score vital goals, while Vinicius has added goals and assists to his ability to beat defenders. And if they have a good day, it’s hard to see Real Madrid losing.
3, Atletico vs Real Sociedad is another huge game
The game between the teams fourth and first in the La Liga table kicks off just over three hours after the Clasico finishes and in any other weekend, it would be the standout game.
Atletico will be without the injured Manuel Llorente but have Joao Tomas starting to fulfill his potential, while Angel Correa and Luis Suarez will probably start after coming on as substitutes in Tuesday’s vibrant 3-2 defeat to home to Liverpool.
Real Sociedad fielded a strong side in their 1-0 Europe League win away to Sturm Graz on Thursday and will be without the injured Mikel Oyarzabal and the suspended Aihen Munoz, and coach Imanol Alguacil will hope that Diego Rico can slot into the left side of his team’s defense for what promises to be another thriller.
4, How will long lay-off affect Athletic Club and Granada?
Athletic Club Bilbao and Granada go into the weekend without playing in three weeks after their matches last weekend were postponed as their rivals (Real and Atletico Madrid) had players returning late from internationals in South America.
There is a worry that such a long lay-off in peak season will cause both Athletic and Granada to lose sharpness and match fitness when they most need it, with Athletic hosting a Villarreal side that won 4-1 in Switzerland on Wednesday and Granada (whose coach Robert Moreno is still under pressure) traveling to fifth-placed Osasuna.