Football returns to Spain as La Liga gets back in action after the international break, with Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Sevilla and FC Barcelona all in action on a Saturday when one star player is expected to be back after injury.
Leo Messi returned to full training with Barcelona during the week, and should be available when his team entertains Deportivo la Coruna on Saturday afternoon.
Barca go back into action after the break with something to prove following a 4-3 defeat to Celta Vigo, and although that defeat was due more to defensive errors than a lack of firepower, there is no doubt Messi’s return will be a morale boost.
Nevertheless, the return of defender Samuel Umtiti after a minor knee problem could be a bigger factor, as Barca look for a convincing win before their Champions League game at home to Manchester City.
Atletico Madrid were the in-form side in Spain before the weekend off, and Diego Simeone’s side is expecting to take the three points they will probably need to stay top of the table when they entertain bottom-dwellers Granada in the Vicente Calderon Stadium.
Granada have a new coach at the helm after Lucas Alcaraz replaced Paco Jemez to begin his third spell as Granada boss, but they will need to improve drastically against a side that has been playing excellent attacking football in recent weeks.
After a fine start to the season, four draws in four matches have put a serious break on Real Madrid’s title charge and raised questions about Zinedine Zidane’s experience as coach.
Zidane faces injury problems for a difficult trip to face Betis with Sergio Ramos joining Casemiro and Luka Modric on the injury list. Zidane likely hopes that Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals on international duty, even if they came against Andorra and the Faroe Islands, will mean the striker is back to his best form, but Zidane also needs to see improvements from players such as Tony Kroos and Karim Benzema if they are to claim all three points in Seville.
Sevilla look to maintain their excellent start to the season when Jorge Sampaoli’s side faces a difficult trip to the Leganes’ Butarque stadium, where the home side has yet to claim their first Primera Liga win in front of their supporters.
Sunday’s highlight is probably the La Liga Basque derby between traditional rivals Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Sociedad, and although the game doesn’t promise flowing football, tension and commitment are possibly going to be on display.
The game in San Mames is not the only Basque derby, as Osasuna make the trip to face an Eibar side looking to capitalize on their point in the Bernabeu over a team that has yet to win a game this season. Osasuna coach Enrique Martin could be the third to lose his job this season if his side loses.
Other games see a solid Alaves entertain a Malaga side yet to convince this campaign, while Celta Vigo measure their improvement with a trip to fifth placed Villarreal.
Cesare Prandelli makes his debut as Valencia coach in La Liga away to Sporting Gijon, who have slipped after a good start to the campaign. Las Palmas will be confident heading into the weekend with 3 points at home to a so far disappointing Espanyol.