‘Clasico’ serves as main course in La Liga weekend

Madrid, Nov 19 (IANS) The “Clasico” football rivalry between Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in La Liga will capture headlines not only in Spain but all around the world this weekend.

This season’s first “Clasico” match will go ahead surrounded by high levels of security in the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks, but that will not stop 78,000 supporters filling Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium for what promises to be a tense affair, reports Xinhua.

Real Madrid go into the game after a defeat to Sevilla for which coach Rafael Benitez was criticised for his defensive tactics. Another setback against Barcelona could see Benitez come under increased pressure. With forwards 1James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale both fully fit, he would be advised to take the game to their opponents.

Barcelona will know a win would lift them six points clear of their traditional rivals at the top of the table. Coach Luis Enrique should have attacking spearhead Lionel Messi fit again, but with strikers Luis Suarez and Neymar in fine form, he may be tempted to rest Messi to try and ensure no relapse of his knee injury which has sidelined him for eight weeks.

Fascinating although the “Clasico” is, there is plenty more football to entertain fans in Spain with the weekend kicking off with Real Sociedad hosting Sevilla.

Sevilla travel in the wake of their fine win over Real Madrid, while Real Sociedad coach Eusebio Sacristan makes his debut following the sacking of David Moyes. The Basque side also has Markel Bergara likely to play after extending his contract until 2019 during the week.

Saturday also sees Espanyol at home to a Malaga side, which is flirting with the relegation zone as a consequence of their inability to score goals, while Valencia want to follow up their 5-1 win away to Celta Vigo with what looks like a comfortable home match against struggling Las Palmas.

The day ends with the return of the Galicia derby between Deportivo la Coruna and Celta — a game which should generate as much tension as the “Clasico”, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Both sides have enjoyed positive starts to the season, but Celta travel looking to recover from their surprise defeat at home to Valencia.

Sporting Gijon have been solid since returning to the top flight and will look for three more vital points on Sunday, which sees them entertain bottom of the table Levante, who have only seven points from 11 games.

Villarreal take on an Eibar side, which is knocking at the doors of the top six, also on Sunday before Granada play at home to Athletic Club Bilbao.

Bilbao will be hoping to continue a run of form which has seen them take 13 points from a maximum 15 in the last five matches.

Real Betis will hope their home form improves against Atletico Madrid in Sunday’s late game, while the round of matches ends on Monday as Rayo Vallecano play Getafe.

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