La Liga Preview: Gameweek 127 min read
The international break came at a useful time for Real Madrid to get some more fit bodies back into training, with Los Blancos needing to answer plenty of criticism once again this weekend. A comfortable victory against Las Palmas hasn’t lifted the pressure off Zinedine Zidane, with a Madrid derby the perfect opportunity for the reigning champions to prove their title credentials against draw specialists Atleti. Diego Simeone is certainly not without his own share of problems at the Wanda.
Barcelona travel to the division’s surprise package Leganes, with Lionel Messi tasked with being the key man to break down the capital-based club’s organised lines, while Eduardo Berizzo welcomes his former employers to Seville. Celta Vigo have been in much-improved form of late and should be a real test for Sevilla at a time where they look defensively weak. Here is some of the best value ahead of the return of La Liga.
Leganes vs Barcelona
Recent defeats against Sevilla and Valencia have slowed down a fantastic start to the season for Leganes, but Asier Garitano continues to make Los Pepineros one of the toughest teams in the division to break down. Across their opening five home matches this season, the hosts are yet to concede inside the first half, and they’ve kept three consecutive clean sheets at Butarque heading into this weekend.
Barcelona have got the means to break down a tough, organised unit – namely Lionel Messi – but it may take them some time to make some headway. Second-placed Valencia only managed to find the back of the net against Leganes, in the first half at Mestalla recently, down to a free-kick effort from Dani Parejo. The underdogs are dogged and competitive, with it a real reality that Barca may struggle to hit second gear and break down the hosts early on.
Half-time Draw/Full-time Barcelona
Barcelona to Win, Under 3.5 Match Goals, Lionel Messi to Score First – #PriceItUp
Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid
Diego Simeone’s side remain unbeaten so far in LaLiga, but that hasn’t deterred plenty of criticism being levelled at the home side heading into the latest edition of the Madrid derby. Atletico are winless in their last four competitive matches at their new Wanda Metropolitano, dropping back-to-back LaLiga points versus Barcelona and Villarreal respectively. Los Colchoneros are definitely maintaining their reputation as draw specialists.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, are also in a state of ‘crisis’. Consecutive defeats to Girona and Tottenham left Zinedine Zidane with a lot of questions to answer, with a laboured win against Las Palmas before the international break an underwhelming response. Isco, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane should all be fit to start, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema’s goalscoring records this season are a worry. Two goals between them just isn’t the cutting edge we’ve come to expect from Los Blancos.
Athletic Club vs Villarreal
The weeks keep rolling by and Athletic continue to disappoint. Since the promotion of Kuko Ziganda to first-team coach this summer, due to the departure of Ernesto Valverde, Los Leones are yet to find their feet. Iker Muniain’s long-term injury is a major miss, with Ander Iturraspe the only fit playmaker that the Basque club have at the ready heading into LaLiga’s 12th match day. Creatively, they will be relying massively on their wide men, with Inaki Williams and Inigo Cordoba their live wires.
Villarreal, meanwhile, have profited hugely from changing boss. Javi Calleja is still unbeaten in LaLiga as manager since taking the reins from Fran Escriba, and his decision to move Pablo Fornals off the flank and into a number 10 role has paid huge dividends for the Yellow Submarine. Carlos Bacca and Cedric Bakambu look sharp up front, with the visitors capable of taking four points from tough visits to Montilivi and the Wanda Metropolitano recently.
Villarreal to Win
Both Teams to Score, Cedric Bakambu to Score Anytime, Jaume Costa to get booked - #PriceItUp
Sevilla vs Celta Vigo
Eduardo Berizzo faces the club where he made his name in Europe this weekend, with Sevilla conveniently having picked up in terms of performances and form in the last month. Last time out saw Los Nervionenses only lose narrowly to Barcelona, but there are certainly defensive frailties for Celta Vigo to take advantage of in Andalusia. The visitors’ front four have been terrific of late, and should cause their opposition a whole host of problems.
Pione Sisto continued his excellent league form during the international break with Denmark, while ex-Sevilla striker Iago Aspas has really hit a run of form over the last few LaLiga match days and now has six goals to his name. The hosts are unbeaten in their last 18 league outings at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and should be confident of taking three points, but they will definitely need to be very wary when on the back foot.
Tip: Sevilla to Win and Both Teams to Score