Raring to go
MOST EXPERTS predicted giants Real Madrid and Barcelona would cruise through their early games in the Spanish Liga this season.
Instead, Real have already dropped two points – thanks to a surprise 1-1 draw at home to Villarreal yesterday – while defending champions Barca have let slip five points in home matches against Alaves and Atletico Madrid.
“This is turning out to be a more interesting season than most people expected. Wednesday showed that the big two are struggling to build up much of a rhythm, what with difficult opponents and injuries, commented Radio Marca after yesterday’s results.”
After five games, Real are top with 13 points. Sevilla are second with 11, Barca third with 10, while in joint fourth place, all on nine points, are Atletico, Las Palmas and Villarreal.
Real will be trying to return to winning ways tomorrow against a Las Palmas side which have impressed with their neat football – but crashed 4-1 at Real Sociedad yestersday.
Palmas will be without KevinPrince Boateng, who was sent off early in that loss.
“Tonight was terrible for us,” Las Palmas coach Quique Setien said.
“But Saturday could be very different, against a different kind of opposition. We are really looking forward to the match.”
Real will be without injury victims Keylor Navas, Marcelo and Casemiro.
Barca will travel to Gijon without idol Lionel Messi, who will be out for around three weeks with a niggling groin strain.
“Last year he had a longer injury and we overcame it,” coach Luis Enrique said. “With Leo we’re stronger, but we’ll continue to be strong.”
Midfield anchorman Sergio Busquets was Barca’s other injury victim yesterday against Atletico.
Tomorrow will also see second-placed Sevilla visit Athletic Bilbao, who are never easy opponents in San Mames.
The sixth round of games starts today with an interesting clash between southern rivals Real Betis and Malaga, whilst the Basque derby between Eibar and Real Sociedad has been scheduled for tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the big game on Sunday will be unbeaten Atletico Madrid against midtable Deportivo La Coruna.
Sunday will also see yet another new coach on the bench of troubled bottom team Valencia, away to Leganes.
Valencia sacked Pako Ayesteran on Tuesday. Eternal caretaker Voro is scheduled to be on the burning bench for this morning’s clash with Alaves, then probably a new man on Sunday at Leganes.
Whoever is chosen will be Valencia’s eighth coach in just five years. Also Sunday, Villarreal will face Osasuna and Espanyol will host Celta Vigo, while the clash between Alaves and Granada has been scheduled for Monday. – dpa