Match Previews

Big Weekend Preview: CR7 (almost) on for a ton, while Barcelona line up the salads

Tim Stannard rounds up the biggest talking points ahead of another La Liga weekend...

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Five games in and La Liga has produced a top three without Real Madrid or Atlético Madrid in it. Pats on the head all round. This means the weekend is stuffed to the brim with a whole bunch of games worth watching: a tense Basque derby at the bottom, a proper test for Real Madrid against Villarreal, and Valencia at the top of the table looking to continue their free-flowing, team-whipping ways. May the good times roll for these posers. 

Can Valencia continue dream start to season?

It’s all just too weird. Valencia at the top of the table after five games, albeit on goal difference ahead of Barcelona and Sevilla. But the Mestalla side deserve it, after being consistently dominant (and consistently consistent) since the opening-round draw with Sevilla. The last four matches have seen Valencia scoring three in each encounter, the most recent being Thursday’s late-night victory over Córdoba. 
Even the crowd are getting on board - which is all too freaky - with coach Nuno saying it was the home supporters what done the victory. “In the dressing room we feel that Mestalla won this game. We thank the supporters because we began 1-0 up with this atmosphere.” 
Real Sociedad vs Valencia: Sunday 19.00 CEST 
Life is suspiciously rosy for Valencia boss Nuno

Will Barcelona start the day with salads?

Footballers have long eaten whatever the hell they like after games – science says they can – but nonetheless it was still amusing to see AS release Barcelona's post-match meal list after the Blaugrana's stodgy 0-0 draw with Malaga. 
Ham and cheese in various forms was very much de riguer as noshing options, though Gerard Piqué (and others) opted for a Nutella sandwich, which sounds very unpleasant. The dynamic duo of Leo Messi and Neymar scoffed on pizza. Granada will be hoping they're both still bogged down by cheese come Saturday.  
Barcelona vs Granada: Saturday 18.00 CEST 

Can CR7 score a century this season?

Well, the easy answer is that if Real Madrid get any more soft penalties on top of the two they 'earned' against Elche in Tuesday's 5-1 victory, then the Portuguese Man O’Phwoar certainly will. The four goals gives Ronaldo 12 for the season in eight official games across three competitions.
Tomás Roncero, writing in AS, is living this particular dream by working out that Ronaldo is on track to score a whopping 96 this year. “I know it is a Utopia to imagine that, at the age of 29, he can keep up this amazing record.” If only John Lennon were about to turn that into a song.  
Marca are backing the theory that this feat will be entirely possible, with Thursday’s lead story claiming Real Madrid have a plan to turn Ronaldo into a proper No.9, a move that the player has rejected in the past. But now that CR7’s joints and whatnot are due to enter their 31st year in February, Carlo Ancelotti’s role-playing might be a smart one. At least until the footballer heads to Old Trafford in the summer, anyway.
Villarreal vs Real Madrid: Saturday 16.00 CEST

Will Atlético get into gear against Sevilla? 

For a team that is not exactly firing on all cylinders this season and even being booed by its own fans, Atlético Madrid are doing rather well in the league table - two points off the top in actual fact. Of course the Rojiblancos are yet again relying on the old staple of corners and headers resulting from them. 
That’s because things aren’t really clicking elsewhere. The match against Almería had balls being played to players who weren’t there and midfielders passing the ball in a bit of a dithering manner without too many options. 
Atleti will have to step up at least eight gears against Sevilla at the Vicente Calderón on Sunday, but it is perhaps the challenge that Diego Simeone’s side need to raise their game a notch. Sevilla are similar to Atlético to the extent that they are not as blustering as Valencia, with whom they share the leadership, but are doing enough to get by while the team is being moulded by Unai Emery. Without elbow patches, these days. Which is a shame. 
Atlético Madrid vs Sevilla: Saturday 20.00 CEST 

Is life about to get worse for Athletic Bilbao?

Talk about a bit of a comedown after qualifying for the Champions League. The San Mamés side are now in an almighty slump with three league defeats in row, the last of which came on Wednesday night with Gorka howlers gifting Rayo Vallecano a 2-1 win. The latest loss, and win for Levante a day after, has pushed Athletic into the relegation zone. 
To make matters worse, little old Eibar from down the road are coming to town comforted by the fact that the Primera newcomers have already beaten the other Basque side in the division, Real Sociedad, and given teams like Villarreal and Atlético Madrid a heck of a game. 
Athletic Bilbao vs Eibar: Saturday 22.00 CEST
Athletic fans haven't had much to shout about yet

Can the cracking Coliseum crowd lift Getafe?

Regular readers or aficionados of the mighty Getafe may detect a slight bit of sarcasm. If a team are ever looking for a stirring set of supporters, they will never find them in a certain municipal stadium in the south of Capital City. Thursday’s rather sad defeat to Espanyol has left Geta second from bottom of the table, with fears rising that reality may have caught up with the club that has been punching well above its weight in a decade in La Liga. 
Coach Cosmin Contra is claiming the first final of the season in La Liga - Gabi may have got there first for Atlético - in what will be a biggie against Málaga on Sunday morning. “In 48 hours we have to recover mentally,” said the Romanian. 
Getafe vs Málaga: Sunday 12.00 CEST