MADRID – There is no doubt which game is going to capture most of the headlines this weekend in La Liga as FC Barcelona and Real Madrid go head to head in the first ‘Clasico’ of the season in the Camp Nou Stadium.
What makes the game especially interesting is that neither of the two sides goes into the game in anything like convincing form, because although Barca beat a weak Ferencvaros 5-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday, their previous La Liga displays (a 1-0 defeat to Getafe and a 1-1 draw at home to Sevilla) have evidenced a team that has looked sluggish in midfield and at times vulnerable in defense.
Ronald Koeman rested Sergio Busquets and Philippe Coutinho in midweek and could have left back Junior Firpo able to start on Saturday, while doubts still remain over the form of Antoine Griezmann in attack.
If Koeman has problems, his Real Madrid counterpart, Zinedine Zidane appears to have even more after seeing his side lose 1-0 at home to newly promoted Cadiz last weekend before crashing to a 3-2 Champions League defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday after a chaotic first half display.
It’s true Real Madrid have been hampered by injuries, but although Sergio Ramos will be back to play in central defense on Saturday, Zidane is still without right backs Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola, attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard and Eden Hazard.
Zidane should have plenty of credit at the club, but after the last two defeats the press have started to question his management and a defeat in Barcelona would severely ramp up the pressure on the Frenchman.
After yet more changes to kick off times from La Liga, the round of matches kicks off on Friday with Elche entertaining a Valencia side that appears to be deep in an institutional crisis after losing key players and seeing midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia express his anger at the club’s directors.
Osasuna celebrate their centenary at home to Athletic Club Bilbao, who got back to winning ways at home to Levante last weekend. Osasuna will be without the injured Jonathan Calleri, while Jon Budimir is sidelined due to COVID-19 and Jon Moncayola is suspended.
Sevilla impressed on their visit to face Chelsea in midweek and will expect all three points when they play at home to Eibar at the same time on Saturday, before the day ends with Atletico Madrid at home to Betis.
Atletico won away to Celta Vigo after absorbing a lot of pressure last weekend, but were thrashed 4-0 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League in midweek, while Betis are showing themselves to highly erratic, with some impressive displays and defeats such as last weekend’s 3-0 loss at home to Real Sociedad.
Sunday kicks off with second from bottom Valladolid at home to third from bottom Alaves, whose coach Pablo Machin needs an improved performance to stop his job being at risk.
Cadiz have won their three away matches since returning to the top-flight, but have yet to win at home and second placed Villarreal will be tough to beat even without the injured Gerard Moreno and the suspended Take Kubo.
Granada need to recover from their Europa League trip to face PSV Eindhoven before they travel to Getafe fresh from last weekend’s win at home to Barca, before league leaders, Real Sociedad entertain Huesca, who have yet to win on their return to La Liga, but have only suffered one defeat from six games back in the elite.
Monday ends the round of games as bottom of the table Levante entertain Celta Vigo, whose coach Oscar Garcia could also be in danger of the sack if his side lose on the east coast.