Barcelona finally get their La Liga campaign up and running this weekend when they host Villarreal on Sunday, while Real Madrid are in action on Saturday against Betis.
Some teams in Spain have already played twice but Barca’s season begins this weekend when Ronald Koeman takes charge of the club he graced as a player for the first time in La Liga.
Koeman Hoping for Fast Start
The Dutchman has had a difficult summer following superstar Lionel Messi’s request to leave, which was ultimately rejected and resulted in the Argentinian eventually deciding to stay, while Luis Suarez has departed for Atletico Madrid this week.
After they surrendered a post-lockdown lead at the top of the table to arch-rivals Real at the end of last term, Barca were then humbled by Bayern Munich in the Champions League over the summer so it’s clear, all things considered, all is not well at the Nou Camp.
Koeman will hope to oversee a period of change with a quick return to the more successful times the club has enjoyed in recent years, but there’s no guarantee he will be able to rely on Messi to come up with his usual wonders, such is his apparent level of discontent after he publicly asked for a transfer.
All that being said, Barca should still kick-off their campaign with a victory over a Villarreal side who only drew with newly-promoted Huesca in their league opener before they just edged past Eibar 2-1 after going 1-0 down.
Madrid Aim to Get off the Mark
On Saturday, Real go to Betis as they aim for an improvement following a disappointing goalless stalemate against Real Sociedad in their opener. Zinedine Zidane, who will have been pleased to see Gareth Bale finally depart this week when he rejoined Tottenham on loan, will be aware this is a tough clash against a Betis side who have won their first two games.
Betis won 1-0 at Alaves before seeing off Real Valladolid 2-0 and will be full of confidence taking on the champions. Manuel Pellegrini’s arrival as manager appears to have galvanised Betis, who only finished five points clear of the bottom three last season in 15th, and they may be catching Los Blancos at the ideal time, so early in the campaign.
Betis also have a good recent record against Madrid, they are unbeaten in their last three league games against them and recorded a 2-1 win in this corresponding fixture last term. A home win might be pushing it but Betis can frustrate Zidane’s side, who may have to settle for a second successive draw, which is on offer at
Atleti to Overcome Granada
Of the other games over the weekend, early pacesetters Granada are likely to be brought back down to earth when they travel to Atletico, who are
5/11 to win, while Alaves’ recent poor form looks set to continue when Getafe visit as Jose Bordalas’ men look well equipped to make it two wins from two to maintain their good start.
Expect Sevilla, who took Bayern Munich to extra time in the UEFA Super Cup on Thursday, to have too much for new boys Cadiz, while Sociedad should get a win on the board after two draws when they take on another of the newly-promoted teams, Elche, who are back in La Liga action for the first time in five years.
*All odds correct at time of writing