This weekend, the Camp Nou hosts the first match between legitimate title contenders as FC Barcelona invites league leaders Valencia into the Catalan crucible on Saturday evening. Some might argue that the Atlético Madrid – Barcelona match in Jornada 3 provided the first clash between clubs that have a real chance to win La Liga, but until los colchoneros show consistency for more than a few matches, the rojiblancos cannot be considered as potential heirs to the throne.
To the more cynical crowd, the only teams that have any shot of holding the trophy at the end of the campaign are Real Madrid and Barcelona. Valencia, Villarreal, Sevilla, etc. merely provide faux threats to the duopoly. Valencia will try to debunk this theory in a small way on Saturday as Los Che look to justify their early season form with a positive result against the two-time defending champions.
Valencia’s start to the season has been its best in the ninety-one years of its existence. Five wins, one draw, and zero losses in their first six matches has Valencia flying into the heavens despite their high-profile losses in the summer transfer window, Carlos Marchena, David Villa and David Silva. Roberto Soldado and Aritz Aduriz have filled Villa’s shoes competently, scoring a combined four goals in their six matches, and while both strikers do not equal the talent and firepower of Villa, they have brought a different dimension that is not a part of Villa’s repertoire: height and physicality.
While a loss for Valencia will only leave a small dent, as their goal prior to the season was a top-four finish, a positive result will fill the players with a confidence that cannot be measured by points or goals. Their stellar start may look nice on paper, but others will only take them seriously as a title contender if they can avoid defeat against Barcelona.
Other intriguing matches this round include the “little Madrid” derby between Atlético Madrid and Getafe, a Valencian derby between Hércules and Villarreal on Monday night football, and a potential relegation six-pointer between Deportivo La Coruña, currently sitting in an unfamiliar place at the bottom of the table, and Osasuna, a team whose defense is solid but cannot score beyond “El Rifle” Walter Pandiani.
The times listed are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and include the pregame pleasantries, although sometimes the matches on the DirecTV La Liga specific channels may not go to match coverage until right before kickoff.
Atlético Madrid vs. Getafe – 11:55 AM on Gol TV HD
FC Barcelona vs. Valencia – 1:55 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Málaga vs. Real Madrid - 3:55 PM on Gol TV HD
Levante vs. Real Sociedad – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 477
Mallorca vs. Espanyol – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 478
Deportivo La Coruña vs. Osasuna – 10:55 AM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Zaragoza – 12:55 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Sporting Gijón vs. Sevilla – 2:55 PM on Gol TV HD
Hércules vs. Villarreal – 2:45 PM on DirecTV channel 477
Unfortunately, the Racing de Santander – Almería match at El Sardinero will not be shown on US TV.