The El Clasico teams of Barcelona and Real Madrid have continued their battle for superiority at the top of the Spanish Primera Division this season, with both facing tricky fixtures over the next three weeks.
Valencia v Real Madrid
Valencia finished third last season and on their day have the ability to take on the big two; they host Madrid on Saturday 19th November at the Mestalla. Unai Emery’s team will want to put the 6-3 drubbing they received in the corresponding fixture last season to the back of their minds, and despite the loss of Juan Mata to Chelsea over the summer still have a strong side. Roberto Soldado has something to prove against his former club, but the Los Che rearguard must stand up to the attacking prowess of the visitors.
Real Madrid moved to the top of La Liga with a convincing 4-0 win over Malaga on Saturday 22nd October, and will look to keep picking up three points to stay there. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a quick-fire hat-trick in that win, and seems virtually unstoppable when he is in the mood. Jose Mourinho has not enjoyed playing second fiddle to Pep Guardiola over the last couple of years, and will urge his side to achieve glory this term.
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Real Madrid v Villarreal
Spain’s fourth Champions League representative Villarreal have not shown the same form that took them into Europe’s top club competition last year, and have started this campaign inconsistently. Despite this, the side from El Madrigal have a lethal strike partnership in the form of Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar, who will look to take advantage of Madrid’s over confidence. The loss of Santi Cazorla to Malaga over the summer was a blow, but Villarreal still can get something from the team if they play to their potential.
Madrid’s attacking players are well documented and well known, but if Jose Mourinho’s men are to truly challenge the Catalan champions, they must be more regimented at the back. Sergio Ramos and Ricardo Carvalho are integral to Los Blancos rearguard, and must marshall the opposition attackers to win this one.
Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona
Barcelona have lost none of their potency from the last few seasons, but face a difficult trip to Basque country on Saturday 5th November. Pep Guardiola’s team have looked just as ominous as ever this season, but have dropped points unexpectedly with three draws from their first eight games. Gerard Pique is unavailable through injury, and the Catalan side have missed the Spain international in their defence, conceding more goals than the Camp Nou fans would like.
Bilbao are looking to follow on from a competitive 2010-11 season, but have started slowly and sit in mid-table currently. Marcelo Bielsa’s men have the ability to qualify for Europe again, but their over-reliance on star striker Fernando Llorente has the ability to cripple them if he is unavailable. Despite this, the San Moix crowd will be sure to make it a difficult day for the visitors, and would love to see an unlikely victory.
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