This is one of the rare occasions during the La Liga season, where football fans are treated to midweek games, and there will surely be some great football in display. The blockbuster is obviously the Valencia vs Barcelona match, with the current league leaders hosting the three-time defending champions, who’ve annihilated Osasuna 8-0 on the weekend.

After their shocking defeat against the team with the lowest budget in La Liga (whose highest paid player earns less in a year than Cristiano Ronaldo in a week), Real Madrid will seek redemption at Racing Santander. Joint league leaders Betis will try to keep their winning streak going against Zaragoza.A�TheHardTackle briefly analyses each match-up.

Osasuna v Sevilla

Osasuna come from a thumping 8-0 defeat at Camp Nou, which won’t do wonders for their confidence. A�On the other hand, Sevilla have got seven points from three games and have beaten Real Sociedad on the weekend, without allowing the Basques to have a single shot on target. With Negredo finally showing his true potential, Sevilla have been showing great improvement under Marcelino and they’ll be looking to record yet another victory at the Reino de Navarra.

Osasuna might have lost 8-0 at Camp Nou, but otherwise it has been a good start of the season for them. This match-up will bring them great memories, A�since they beat Sevilla 3-2 at home in the last day of 2010-2011 to avoid relegation. They’ll try to get a positive result once more against one of the league’s top teams, thus overcoming what happened at Camp Nou.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Osasuna 1-1 Sevilla

Sevilla might be the better team, but Osasuna are a very tough team to beat at home, where they got 36 of their 47 points last season. A�Sevilla will dominate the game, but Osasuna will make the most of their home advantage as always and grind out a draw.

Real Sociedad v Granada

After drawing with Barcelona at home, Real Sociedad couldn’t avoid an away defeat at Sevilla. Meanwhile, Granada got their first three points of the season with a shocking 1-0 home win over Villarreal. That said, Granada remain arguably the weakest squad in the league and they’ll need a miracle to avoid relegation. Real Sociedad on the other hand are a team full of quality talent and they should have a very good campaign. Their striker Agirretxe has been very inspired lately, having already scored three league goals.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Real Sociedad 2-0 Granada

It’s hard to see past a Real Sociedad win; they’re the better side and they play at home. Granada are very unlikely to cause an upset here, their team is mostly made of loanees and other club’s cast-offs and don’t look solid enough to stay up. The effort of their weekend win over Villarreal might be paid dearly in this match.

Villarreal v Mallorca

This is a match of two teams who didn’t start the season well at all. Mallorca have one win and two losses, the last one at home to Malaga. Villarreal, one of the most entertaining teams last season, have got off to a dreadful start and have only got one point so far. They lost 5-0 at Camp Nou and 1-0 to lowly Granada, not to mention that they started their Champions League campaign with a 2-0 home defeat against Bayern Munich.

Mallorca are a club in great financial disarray and they’ll be in a dogfight to avoid relegation this season. In fact, they were forced to sell De Guzman to Villarreal. The Yellow Submarines are not the same team without Santi Cazorla, but if they get their act together, they can still qualifyA�for Europe next season.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

VillarrealA�3-1 Mallorca

It’s time for Villarreal to record their first league win of the season. They play at home against an opponent in crisis, who haveA�recently sold them their best player, it’s a golden opportunity to start winning. Nilmar and Giuseppe Rossi will be on target for the Yellow Submarines.

Rayo Vallecano v Levante

A duel between arguably the two most overachieving teams in the league. Levante are so poor that they haven’t signed a single player for five years (they did sign Caicedo this season, but only to sell him immediately and make a profit) and have a team made of loanees and players who couldn’t sign a contract for any other team. A�Rayo Vallencano managed to be promoted despite the fact that their players weren’t paid for more than a year. A�This will be a battle between two clubs with great financial difficulties, but two clubs who show tremendous dignity and fighting spirit. In fact, both are unbeaten so far in La Liga, with Levante having beaten Real Madrid this weekend, in a true match of David vs Goliath.

Both teams will be determined to continue their good form and add some very valuable points in their quest to stay in Spain’s top flight.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Rayo VallecanoA�0-0 Levante

Both squads are very thin and will be tired after their weekend heroics (Rayo managed an improbable 1-0 away win at Getafe) and they will both settle for a point here. A�Both sides are undefeated so far and A�they will remain that way for one more match.

AtlA�tico Madrid v Sporting Gijon

After a very solid campaign last season, Sporting Gijon are now the only team withA�no pointA�so far in the league. All their defeats have been close, but their attacking woes have cost them. Manager Manolo Preciado has been making miracles with Sporting over the past few seasons, but it looks like he will have his work cut out this time.

Radamel Falcao has hit the ground running!

Meanwhile, after a shaky start, AtlA�tico seem to have found their groove, with an emphatic 4-0 win over Racing Santander at the weekend. New signing Radamel Falcao scored a fabulous hat trick; Falcao, Arda Turan and Diego have shown glimpses of what can be a fantastic attacking trio, and they’ll be looking to continue their winning form against Gijon.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Atletico Madrid 3-0 Sporting Gijon

This match promises to be the most one-sided of the week. AtlA�tico are looking great with their new signings finally gelling, while Gijon are going through a terrible patch at the moment. Anything other than an AtlA�tico win would be a huge surprise here.

Malaga CF v Athletic Bilbao

Malaga have had a good start to the season and to their new and very ambitious project. So far, they’ve managed six points out of nine and they’ve won their last two matches in convincing fashion, with Santi Cazorla producing very inspired displays. A�Malaga have shown that they’re ready to compete for a European spot this season already.

Meanwhile, Athletic have had a nightmare start to the league, and only have one point so far. A�The team has shown some glimpses of great quality, but it’s clear that Marcelo Bielsa’s ideas haven’t been successfully implemented yet. A�Another defeat might make life very hard for the Bilbao manager and the injury to Ander Herrera will seriously affect Bilbao’s hopes in this match.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Malaga CFA�1-1 Athletic Bilbao

All the early season signs seem to indicate a Malaga win, but Athletic might just manage to get a point here. A�Malaga are still gelling as a team and their defense has been a bit susceptible at times, which Athletic can take advantage of.

Espanyol v Getafe

So far, Espanyol have done pretty much what they did last season: winning their home games, losing away from home. Their usually amazing home form should be enough for them to avoid any relegation trouble, but their poor away form won’t allow them to compete for European spots either.

Meanwhile, Getafe had a promising start to the season under Luis Garcia, with a 1-1 draw against Levante (in a game Getafe dominated) and a very good performance at the Bernabeu, where the referee played a key role in their loss. But their home defeat to Rayo Vallencano this weekend kind of spoiled their relatively good start. They now face a very difficult away match and they’ll struggle to get points here.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

EspanyolA�2-1 Getafe

Getafe will put up a decent fight, but Espanyol always seem to find an extra gear at the CornellA� El Prat (unless they’re facing Barcelona or Real Madrid) and they should end up prevailing.

Real Betis v Zaragoza

What a start of the season for Betis! The newly promoted side have won all their three matches so far, two of them away from home, one of them at San MamA�s. They’ve done so by playing some genuinely good football, with their midfield of Matilla, Iriney and Sevilla looking particularly brilliant.

Zaragoza have also had a relatively good start to their campaign. Other than an almost inevitable opening day defeat against Real Madrid, they’ve got four points and played some good football. A�Uche has been their best player so far.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Real Betis 1-0 Zaragoza

Betis will continue their fairy tale return to Spain’s first division. Betis fans are some of the loudest and most enthusiastic in the league, making the Ruiz de Lopera one of the toughest grounds in the league. Playing at home and coming from such good results, Betis have a distinct advantage over Zaragoza in this match.

Racing Santander v Real Madrid

Real Madrid come from a shocking away defeat to Levante. With Barcelona dropping so few points during the season, Real have virtually no margin for error. They need to win this game at all costs; it’s very unlikely that JosA� Mourinho decides to rest the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mezut Ozil again. He knows that only a win is good enough for Real Madrid in this match.

Mourinho has spoken, again.

Hector Cuper hasn’t had an easy start to his tenure as Racing’s manager. He has only got one point so far, at home against Levante. He has lost at Valencia 4-3 (after being 3-1 up) and at AtlA�tico Madrid 4-0. The visit of Real Madrid isn’t exactly the ideal match to lift the team’s morale and only a miracle can save them from defeat, given how weak their defense has been so far.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Racing SantanderA�0-4 Real Madrid

After losing to Levante, Real Madrid will be looking to get a convincing win at Racing to restore their confidence levels and send a warning to Barcelona. With Cristiano Ronaldo and Mezut Ozil back in the starting lineup, they should have little problem taking advantage of Racing’s very suspect backline, which has leaked eight goals so far.

Valencia CF v FC Barcelona

The must-see match of the week in Spain. The defending champions FC Barcelona travel to Mestalla to face the current leaders Valencia, who have won all their league matches so far. A�Last season, ValenciaA�travelled to Camp Nou as league leaders but they were beaten 2-1 and lost their spot. They’ll surely try to hold on to it this time and they have home advantage going for them.

Valencia have been playing very well, with their defense very solid (Victor Ruiz is proving to be a great signing) after the opening match and Soldado on fire. Ever Banega, Pablo Piatti and Sergio Canales have also been playing very well, making Valencia a very good side at the moment, better than last year and arguably among the best in Europe.

Cesc Fabregas – key component for Barcelona, already!

But FC Barcelona seem to be on a mission right now to correct those two consecutive draws against Sociedad and Milan. Barcelona seem to be back to their best after their 8-0 win over Osasuna and even this excellent Valencia side will struggle to contain them. The absence of AndrA�s Iniesta might make Barcelona a little less dangerous than usual, but Thiago and Fabregas are excellent back-ups. The return of Carles Puyol will make the defense a lot stronger.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Valencia CFA�1-2 FC Barcelona

Valencia will be a tough obstacle for Barcelona as always, but the superior quality of Barcelona’s players will shine through in the end, with Lionel Messi and David Villa scoring the deciding goals. It will be an exciting match, with Valencia proving that they can’t be taken lightly this season.

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2 Responses to “La Liga Preview – Round 5: Barcelona Face Valencia, Real Madrid Seek Redemption Against Racing”

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  1. emmaz says:

    Wao! Dude we’re in the same boat. I became a big fan of Barca durin the era of Rivaldo. Since then i hv bin supportin Barca. AWLZ BARCA!!