The Valencian Derby between Villarreal and Valencia jumps out as the headline match of the weekend in La Liga. Since Villarreal rose to La Liga for the first time in 1998, their record at home against their neighbors Valencia is an impressive 7-2-2, including winning five of their last six meetings. While Villarreal lost 3-1 at the Camp Nou last weekend against FC Barcelona, the Yellow Submarine kept receiving the plaudits from fans and media alike for their performance because they played their style without deviating from their philosophy and was successful with their passing football.
Valencia’s form, however, has taken a precipitous dip since they led the league coming off the October international break. Los Che returned to winning ways in La Liga last Sunday with a routine 2-0 win over Getafe, their first victory in six weeks, but watching that match on Sunday night, Valencia had to exhaust little effort as Getafe bumbled around the Mestalla with no plan and no confidence. Tino Costa’s first goal in Spanish football provided one of the goals of the season with a left-footed volley from his own chest pass, and Valencia will hope to carry that momentum into El Madrigal on Saturday evening against a Villarreal team that still feels as though they have a shot to finish in the top two.
Another one of the top matches of the weekend falls on the late Sunday kickoff between Real Sociedad and Atlético Madrid at the Estadio Anoeta. La Erreala look as though they never spent the last three seasons in the Segunda División, as the triumvirate of Xabi Prieto, Joseba Llorente, and Antoine Griezmann have fueled the Sociedad attack with a fusion of power and flair. As with most teams, Sociedad’s home form dwarfs their poor away record, and they have won four of their five home fixtures with the one loss coming at the hands of Real Madrid, although for most of that match, Real Sociedad had the upper hand.
Atlético Madrid, much like Valencia, has not maintained their blazing start to the season, and their prosaic 3-0 victory over Osasuna last weekend marked their first win in La Liga in a month. Diego Forlán returned to the scoring ranks with a brace against Osasuna, and José Antonio Reyes continued as Atlético’s best player this season with speedy runs and accurate passing and crosses that severely troubled both Osasuna fullbacks Damià Abella and Spanish international Nacho Monreal. Los Colchoneros have not won in San Sebastián in nineteen years, when trainer Quique Sánchez Flores’ predecessor, Abel Resino, protected Atlético’s goal as their goalkeeper, and Forlán and Sergio Kun Agüero will have to be at the top of their game if they have any chance of breaching Claudio Bravo’s goal.
For Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, they face Athletic Bilbao and Almería, respectively, before the 162nd edition of El Clásico commences next Monday night, and with both playing important group matches in the Champions League midweek, they both need to resist the urge of looking ahead to those matchups and worry about their upcoming opponents. While Athletic has not defeated Real at the Santiago Bernabéu since 2005, Real’s most physically demanding matches each season are usually against Athletic, and for Barcelona, they have only won one out of three at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos, including an enthralling 2-2 draw last season, where Lionel Messi needed to score a double in order to squeak out a draw in Almería.
The times listed are Eastern Standard Time (EST) 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.
Villarreal vs. Valencia – 11:55 AM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Almería vs. FC Barcelona – 1:55 PM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Real Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao – 3:55 PM on Gol TV HD
Espanyol vs Hércules – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 477
Osasuna vs. Sporting de Gijón – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 478
Levante vs. Racing de Santander – 10:45 AM on DirecTV channel 479
Deportivo La Coruña vs. Málaga – 10:55 AM on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Sevilla vs. Mallorca – 12:55 PM on Gol TV HD
Real Sociedad vs. Atlético Madrid – 2:55 PM on Gol TV HD
Unfortunately, the Monday night football match between Getafe and Real Zaragoza at the Coliseo Alfonso Pérez will not be shown on US TV.