Spanish League Preview: Week 2
The Spanish League resumes this weekend after the false start caused by the international break. Apart from the debut game in the Camp Nou, the main interest is in Bilbao where Athletic receive Atletico.
The match up in the Basque country is one of the classics of the Spanish League and this
Saturday’s encounter should be a cracker as both teams push to establish themselves in the
top four. Athletic have a good record at home to Atletico but as the Madrid team’s
dismantling of Sporting 4-0 on day one showed, Quique Flores’ men – led by the South
American goal duet of AgŘero and Forlan - will have plenty to say in the coming months. Bilbao
manager Joaquim Caparros looks set to maintain the same starting eleven that secured the away win
Racing hoping to surprise Valencia
There are three other games on Saturday evening, including Barša’s first home match of
the season against Hercules. Racing Santander, who Barša trounced 0-3 on the opening day of the
season two weeks ago, travel down to Valencia. Valencia started the season well, winning 1-3 away
to Malaga and despite losing some of their big names over the summer should be far too strong for
Racing. However, Racing have a surprisingly good record in Valencia, with two draws and threes wins
in the last five seasons!
Vital home debut for Mourinho
However, the real tension will be in Madrid where Real play host to Osasuna. Last
year’s runners up could only manage a disappointing goalless draw away to a savagely depleted
Mallorca on day one and the two-point gap with the front runners can’t be allowed to get any
wider. Real manager Jose Mourinho has included star forward Cristiano Ronaldo in his squad after
the Portuguese international made a surprisingly fast recovery from the ankle injury he picked up
against Mallorca. Fellow countryman Pepe is also named in the squad for the first time after a long
injury layoff but Kaka, Fernando Gago, Raul Albiol and Ezequiel Garay are all out due to injury
problems. Osasuna manager Camacho, a Real Madrid legend in his own right, has a good record against
his former club but it will be a real shock if he goes back to Pamplona with anything to add to the
point he won against Almeria.
De la Pe˝a could return for Espanyol
On Sunday, Sevilla will be looking to build on their opening day defeat of Levante when they
receive Deportivo in the Sanchez Pizjuan. Meanwhile, Espanyol make the short trip down the
Mediterranean coast to Villarreal and could be boosted by the return of former Barša star Ivan de
la Pe˝a. In the remaining two games, Zaragoza could leave Malaga without a point after two matches
while Madrid-based club Getafe should be too strong at home for Levante.
Finally, on Monday evening Almeria take on Real Sociedad. Both teams have the modest aim of
First Division survival uppermost in their minds and will probably be content to add a point to the
one they secured in their opening games.