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INTER
ROMA
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ICC (TBD)
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Weekend Preview – August 24th, 2007

La Liga kicks off this weekend and I am going to highlight three games. We start things off with a bang as the Madrid derby sees Real host Atlético. It has been revealed that new signings Arjen Robben and Gabriel Heinze will not make their Real Madrid debuts despite my feeling that at least Heinze would start. However, goalkeeper Iker Casillas has been included after injury, while six other summer signings have also been named to the squad – Christoph Metzelder, Pepe, Javier Saviola, Jerzy Dudek, Royston Drenthe and Wesley Sneijder. Both clubs transfer moves have been discussed in previous posts. It should be a great clash and I am looking forward to taking it in.

Another eye-catching match could be Valencia v Villareal on Sunday. Valencia are favourites to be in the top four and have bolstered their roster with some solid signings. They have picked up centre-back Ivan Helguera from Real Madrid who gives them an experienced replacement for Roberto Ayala who moved to Real Zaragoza. Valencia also signed former Racing Santander striker Nikola Zigic on a deal worth around 15 million euros The 26-year-old Serbian joined Racing from Red Star Belgrade last August and was one of the revelations of the season, top scoring for the Catabrian club with 11 goals. The imposing Zigic is likely to be the preferred strike-partner for David Villa, which puts Fernando Morientes out of the picture at the moment.

Valencia’s regional rivals Villarreal ended last season on an eight-match winning run but have lost top striker Diego Forlan to Atlético Madrid. Lined up as a replacement is another former Manchester United striker in Giuseppe Rossi. Rossi had trouble cracking the starting XI with United and asked to move on in search of first team football. Also moving on is Argentine playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme who fell out with coach Manuel Pellegrini. Where Riquelme ends up is not known at this point but he will find another club for certain.

Villarreal signed Deportivo Coruna’s Spain defender Joan Capdevila when their plans of signing Ayala fell flat. The 34-year-old agreed in February to join Villarreal when his contract with Valencia expired in June. Zaragoza apparently paid the buy-out clause in Ayala’s contract and swiftly signed him to a three-year deal. Villareal also lost left-back Jose Enrique to Newcastle United over the summer so it will be a different look to the club to start this campaign. Their strong finish to the season allowed them to qualify for this season’s UEFA Cup.

The Sevilla – Getafe match is intriguing more for off-the-pitch developments than anything else. Sevilla manager Juande Ramos and right-back Daniel Alves have both been the subject of heavy speculation this summer. Ramos was linked with a move to Tottenham earlier on in the week, while Alves had been tipped to join Chelsea during the current transfer window. Chelsea’s acquisition of Juliano Belletti has cooled talks of his departure but Alves still desires a move to a “bigger” club. Personally speaking, while he might get his move to a “bigger” club, I don’t know how much better of a club he could want to join. Sevilla have won the UEFA Cup two seasons in a row and have been among the top clubs in Europe the last couple of seasons. They are already off and running this season having won the Supercopa de España in a two-leg tie against Real Madrid.

Getafe have a few new faces in the squad but the most notable change is the manager. Bernd Schuster took up the challenge of defending the title with Real Madrid so Getafe have hired Danish manager Michael Laudrup. The Sevilla-Getafe fixture is a repeat of last season’s Copa del Rey final, which Sevilla won 1-0.

A quick note on last season’s runners-up (and my pick to win the league this season) Barcelona. They learned that Ronaldinho would be receiving his Spanish citizenship, which allows them to free up a non-EU roster spot. Barca open their league campaign away to Racing Santander on Sunday.

Complete list of fixtures:

Saturday, August 25
Real Madrid v Atlético Madrid
Sevilla v Getafe
Murcia v Real Zaragoza

Sunday, August 26
Athletic Bilbao v Osasuna
Deportivo La Coruña v Almeria
Mallorca v Levante
Racing Santander v Barcelona
Recreativo Huelva v Real Betis
Espanyol v Valladolid
Valencia v Villarreal

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →

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