As the Spanish Liga Santander moves into a 10-day period where each side will play three games, here are four things to look out for this weekend.
No place like home for Atletico Madrid?
It has been a long time coming, but after starting the season with three away games, Atletico Madrid finally make their debut in their new Wanda Metropolitan Stadium on Saturday night when they entertain struggling Malaga.
The move from the much-loved Vicente Calderon to the Wanda is whole new experience for Atletico players and fans who have to travel to the other side of Madrid to watch their heroes from now on. Meanwhile, Atletico only trained for the first time in their new stadium on Thursday, so they too are hardly familiar with their new surroundings.
So far, Atletico have shown themselves to be as tough as always to beat on the road, the question is how quickly will they adapt to their new home?
Who will score the goals for Real Madrid in San Sebastian?
Real Madrid face a crunch game on Sunday when they travel to play joint league leaders Real Sociedad in the Anoeta Stadium, knowing that defeat would see them fall to seven points off the top of the table after just four matches.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return in Wednesday’s Champions League win over APOEL Nicosia showed just what they are missing in front of goal as he serves his five-game domestic suspension; Alvaro Morata has been sold, Gareth Bale is short of confidence and Karim Benzema is injured, while Marcos Asensio is more at home as a second striker. Madrid have created enough chances to have won all of their games this season, but dropped points because they haven’t taken them. Against a rival that has scored 14 goals in their first four games this season, that could be vital.
Who will triumph in Valencia derby?
After a year’s hiatus the Valencia derby returns on Saturday as Levante take on Valencia in a game which promises to both entertain and fascinate. Both sides are unbeaten this season and both came away from Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium with a draw after solid and well-disciplined performances.
Last week saw Valencia show their organization when they took another point of Atletico Madrid to confirm that the turnaround by coach Marcelino Garcia worked. However, now is the time for his side to turn draws into wins and they may feel that Levante offers the chance of an away win.
Juan Muniz has also made a virtue of organization and team-work at Levante and his newly promoted side looked well-equipped to survive this season with few problems, but whether they can beat their neighbors may be another question.
Will Valverde start squad rotations?
So far Barca have had a perfect start to the season winning their first three league games and beating Juventus 3-0 in their Champions League debut. Leo Messi has led from the front with 8 goals in his last three games and the trials of a difficult summer are being forgotten (at least on the pitch).
On paper, Barca look to have a thinner squad than Real Madrid and with a calendar that gives his side six games in the next fortnight, coach Ernesto Valverde will have to rest players such as Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets sooner or later. Saturday’s trip to Getafe looks like a good place to start, but the worry must be that when Luis Enrique trusted squad players last season they let him down. Will Valverde manage the changes better than his predecessor? And if he doesn’t, will Messi be able to save Barca again?