Madrid, Oct 14 (Ajit Weekly News) The ‘Clasico’ between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night is the big game of Matchday 9 in La Liga, but there are other things to keep an eye out for as well this weekend in Spain.
1. Real Madrid to twist the knife against Barca?
It has not been a good week for Barcelona after the wildly entertaining but ultimately disastrous 3-3 draw at home to Inter Milan left them needing a miracle to avoid an early exit from the Champions League for the second year running.
Real Madrid look well-placed to rub salt into the wounds, given that Carlo Ancelotti’s men are already assured of their place in the last 16 of the competition, and apart from questions over Thibaut Courtois, they will have everyone available, reports Xinhua.
Morale is high at Real Madrid, while Barcelona travel with their pride badly hurt and criticism coming from all sides.
2. Defence the issue for Barca
Barcelona had looked to be more or less in control on Wednesday, but once Inter scored their first goal, Barca fell apart in a way that must have players such as Karim Benzema, Vinicius Jr and Fede Valverde rubbing their hands in anticipation.
The losses of Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen and Hector Bellerin have taken defensive options away from Xavi Hernandez, and everything points to the ageing Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia starting in central defence.
Vinicius and Valverde will look to exploit Pique’s lack of pace, while Garcia, although a classy player with the ball, can be bullied at set pieces, and with Sergio Busquets not offering the cover he used to offer in his prime, Madrid will hope to find plenty of holes to exploit.
3. Big game in San Mames
The weekend’s next biggest match sees Athletic Bilbao entertain Atletico Madrid in the San Mames Stadium.
Athletic have had a flying start to the season that has lifted them to third thanks to some searing attacking play and the ability of their players to maintain a high press throughout 90 minutes.
Atletico have been less convincing, but are still fourth and have plenty of talent in their squad. The problem for coach Diego Simeone is that the match comes after a draining midweek 0-0 draw at home to Club Brugge in the Champions League, and just four days ahead of a home tie against Bayer Leverkusen that they have to win in order to remain in that competition.
Simeone will have to rotate his squad, but he will be worried that Athletic’s workrate and speed will be the key factors in this game.
4. Difficult return for Almiron
Jorge Almiron was surprisingly named as the replacement for the sacked Francisco Rodriguez at bottom side Elche on Wednesday, less than two years after he was sacked by the club following a run of 16 games without a win.
The Argentinian returns to Elche, who are bottom of the table with just two points from 24, and the first game of his second spell is a difficult visit to Valencia.
Valencia are unrecognizable from the side that bored rivals to death last season under Jose Bordalas, and Gennaro Gattuso’s men currently sit seventh in the table. They have scored eight goals in their last two home games and last weekend won away to Osasuna.
Almiron lasted 24 games in his first spell at Elche, but he will do well to better that this time around.
–Ajit Weekly News
News Credits – I A N S