City rivals Real and Atletico Madrid clash for the third time in less than a month in the pick of this weekend’s La Liga fixtures.
As the Liga season resumes following an international break, the Madrid derby and Barcelona’s tricky home clash against Athletic Bilbao stand out.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico were surprise Liga title winners last term before their season was soured somewhat by defeat to Real after extra time in the UEFA Champions League final.
And while it may be stretching the truth to suggest that Atletico’s Supercopa de Espana win over Real – 2-1 over two legs last month – was a form of revenge, they will hope to get one over their rivals again at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
Atletico defender Cristian Ansaldi has revealed his side have spent the last fortnight planning to face Real, telling the club’s official website: “This is a game that has been in the works for some time.
“Since we finished our last match, the team has been thinking about Real Madrid.”
Real could hand striker Javier Hernandez a debut after he arrived on loan from Manchester United before the transfer window closed.
Carlo Ancelotti has added James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Hernandez to a squad already brimming with world-class talent, but he has already been criticised for letting winger Angel di Maria and midfielder Xabi Alonso leave the club.
Real sit 10th in the embryonic Liga table after losing 4-2 at Real Sociedad last time out, while Atletico are sixth.
Cristiano Ronaldo missed the Sociedad defeat due to a lack of fitness and he also sat out Portugal’s shock loss to Albania on Sunday, but is expected to return after training this week.
Barcelona top the division after wins against Elche and Villarreal in a bright start to Luis Enrique’s tenure.
And while the visit of Bilbao is sure to test them, Barca will take confidence from the fact they have won their last 10 home Liga clashes against the side.
Bilbao did beat them last year – Iker Muniain’s second-half strike proving enough at San Mames.
“We know what we are capable of and if we play at 100 per cent then we can beat anyone,” Bilbao midfielder Benat Etxebarria is quoted as saying in AS.
Sociedad will hope to build on their big win over Real Madrid when they visit unbeaten Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Other undefeated sides – Valencia, Granada and Sevilla – host Espanyol, Villarreal and Getafe respectively, all on Sunday.
Two teams promoted from the second tier last term, Eibar and Deportivo La Coruna, do battle on Monday.
Elsewhere, Almeria face Cordoba on Friday, while Malaga take on Levante and Rayo Vallecano tackle Elche.
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