La Liga preview (October 19 – 22)

The top-of-the-table battle between Barcelona and Sevilla is the headline clash of this coming weekend’s ninth round of matches in the 2018/19 La Liga season, with the continuing struggles...
epa07047123 Atletico Madrid's Thomas Partey (R) shoots to score the second goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Atletico Madrid and SD Huesca at Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, Spain, 25 September 2018. EPA/J.P.GANDUL

The top-of-the-table battle between Barcelona and Sevilla is the headline clash of this coming weekend’s ninth round of matches in the 2018/19 La Liga season, with the continuing struggles of Real Madrid and coach Julen Lopetegui also coming under further scrutiny.

Sevilla, led by the scoring power of former Tunisia national team target Wissam Ben Yedder, have risen to the top of the log with four successive wins, but quite whether they will be able to continue their momentum after the international break will be put to the test at Camp Nou on Saturday night.

Barca, however, have failed to win any of their last four Liga matches. Lionel Messi, who scored in a 1-1 draw at Valencia in their last outing, continues to produce outstanding performances, but his teammates are not rising to his level, leaving the Catalan giants and coach Ernesto Valverde with some question marks heading into what promises to be a thrilling match.

The round opens on Friday night with Sofiane Boufal’s Celta de Vigo looking to end a five-game winless streak when they host Mubarak Wakaso’s Deportivo Alaves at Abanca-Balaidos, before the early Saturday fixture sees Real Madrid at home to Moses Simon’s Levante.

Los Blancos are winless in four games across all competitions and coach Lopetegui is coming under increasing pressure, with rumours swirling that Zinedine Zidane could return just six months after leaving his post at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Saturday’s late afternoon and early-evening games see Valencia host Nabil El Zhar and Youssef En-Nesyri’s Leganes at Estadio de Mestalla, before Karl Toko Ekambi looks to score for a third game in a row for Villarreal, as they play host to Thomas Partey’s Atletico Madrid at Estadio de la Ceramica.

Sunday opens with Rayo Vallecano – who are likely to field Gael Kakuta, Gilbert Imbula and Abdoulaye Ba – at home to Amath Ndiaye’s Getafe, Papakouli Diop’s Eibar will host Athletic Bilbao at Estadio Municipal de Ipurua, and Carlos Akapo’s Huesca will look to end a seven-game winless streak when they host an Espanyol side which has picked up seven points from the last nine up for grabs.

The weekend action continues on Sunday night when Aissa Mandi’s Real Betis welcome Anuar Tuhami’s Real Valladolid (who are on a hot streak of three straight wins) to Estadio Benito Villamarin, and the round will be completed on Monday night with Real Sociedad at home to Yassine Bounou’s Girona.

 

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