Humiliated European champions Barcelona can bounce back from their midweek 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Celta Vigo when Las Palmas visit the Camp Nou on Saturday.
Barcelona’s 100 per cent start to the league campaign was brought to a spectacular end on Wednesday as high-flying Celta inflicted upon them their heaviest league defeat since 2008. Luis Enrique’s men slipped down to fifth in the process, yet they have an immediate opportunity to move back to the top of the table for a few hours at least on Saturday with Real Madrid, Celta, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid all in action later in the day.
“After a result like that you always feel down, although we think the score is more exaggerated than we deserved,” said Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets. “We need to turn the page and learn from our mistakes. The best response is to win against Las Palmas on Saturday at the Camp Nou. The league is very long and until now we had won every game.”
Worryingly Barcelona were almost back to full-strength, as Gerard Pique made his first league appearance of the season after serving a four-match ban. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who is set to be sidelined for at least the rest of the month, remains a real headache however.
With Bravo in goal Barcelona have conceded just once in three games this season. Yet, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen as the last line of defence they have conceded 15 times in six matches, and conceded four three times.
- Record in sight for Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo will aim for Real Madrid’s all-time goalscoring record once more at home to Malaga later on Saturday. The FIFA World Player of the Year has been held scoreless in his last two outings as he stands just two goals short of Raul Gonzalez Blanco’s 323-goal record.
However, Karim Benzema has ably deputised for Ronaldo’s rare off days by scoring six times in his last five games, including twice in a crucial 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao in midweek. “He is one of the best strikers in the world and we are lucky to have him in our team,” Madrid midfielder Luka Modric said of the Frenchman.
Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Danilo will again be missing for Real, but Sergio Ramos could make his return from a shoulder injury.
The game of the weekend sees third take on fourth when Villarreal host Atletico Madrid. Villarreal are yet to be beaten in the league this season and a 1-0 win at Malaga on Wednesday gave them a share of the lead alongside Real Madrid and Celta.
“To have 13 points out of 15 means we are very happy,” said Villarreal boss Marcelino. “To beat Atletico Madrid would put the seal on an extraordinary week.”
Atletico boss Diego Simeone rotated his squad for Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Eibar ahead of a challenging week that will see Los Rojiblancos entertain Benfica and Real Madrid after their visit to El Madrigal. However, Atletico are expected to be at full-strength at the weekend with the likes of Filipe Luis, Jose Maria Gimenez and Tiago returning to the starting line-up.
Celta will be expected to keep their dream start to the season going when they travel to Basque minnows Eibar.
Meanwhile, Sevilla and Valencia are in desperate need of a boost ahead of their return to UEFA Champions League action next week when they host Rayo Vallecano and Granada respectively. Sevilla sit bottom after taking just two points from their first five games. And Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo has had to withstand calls for his resignation after a 1-0 defeat to Espanyol in midweek left them already six points off the top four.
- Spanish La Liga fixtures
Valencia v Granada
Barcelona v Las Palmas, Real Madrid v Malaga, Sevilla v Rayo Vallecano, Villarreal v Atletico Madrid, Eibar v Celta Vigo
Sporting Gijon v Real Betis, Deportivo La Coruna v Espanyol, Getafe v Levante, Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao