La Liga Big Three in Action Wednesday
It’s a crowded week for European soccer fixtures and Spain’s “big three” will be in action this Wednesday in a tight La Liga race. Barcelona, currently sitting in second, will face fourth-placed Atletico Madrid in the first big La Liga contest of the season. Real Madrid meanwhile, will look to hold onto their narrow lead at the top of the table as they face Villarreal.
Here’s what to watch:
Real Madrid vs. Villarreal
Real Madrid have a perfect record so far this season under Zinedine Zidane and will be confident they can maintain that when they welcome Villarreal to the Santiago Bernabeu Wednesday. Real have scored 12 goals in La Liga this season while letting in just four. Apart from the duo of Casemiro and Keylor Navas, Zidane has few injuries to contend with and may give another chance to James Rodriguez.
The Colombian came in from the cold in the 2-0 win over Espanyol on the weekend and scored an important go-ahead goal before being subbed off in the second half. Cristiano Ronaldo too is likely to feature, having been rested against Espanyol after working his way back to fitness.
Despite dropping points against Granada and Sevilla, Villarreal remain undefeated in the league so far this season. But it will be difficult going for manager Fran Escriba’s men in the intimidating atmosphere of the Bernabeu against a Real Madrid side that could stake a claim to best team in Europe over the latter half of last season and the early stages of this one. Impressively, Villarreal have only conceded two goals in the league this season but their impressive defense will be tested by the likes of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Rodriguez.
Meanwhile, Villarreal’s somewhat limited production in front of goal could also be a hindrance especially if they were to concede first and be forced to take the game to the hosts.
Watch Real Madrid taking on Villarreal Wednesday, September 21 at 2:00pm ET on beIN SPORTS.
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid
Barcelona bounced back from their shock loss at the hands of Alaves to deal out a 7-0 hammering of Celtic in the Champions League and a 5-1 thrashing of Leganes in the league Saturday. Luis Enrique’s man are only three points off first place but face their first real test of the season in welcoming Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid to the Camp Nou.
After a tough start, Atleti have begun to hit form, overcoming the publicity surrounding Simeone’s contract negotiations to paste Sporting Gijon 5-0 on the weekend.
While Atleti have never had Barça’s number in quite the same way they’ve had Real’s in the past few seasons, matches between these two are always particularly engaging in that they pit a team with the most expansive attack in world football, Barcelona, against one with the most sturdy defense, Atletico.
Simeone’s game plan will almost certainly be to maintain defensive shape and hit on the counterattack. It’s a risky strategy but one that’s proved effective. But Atleti’s defense will need to be at its best as it attempts to contain the likes of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi.
While Barcelona are solid favorites playing at home, Atletico have shown time and again they are a match for anyone and with strikers Kevin Gameiro and Antoine Griezmann expected to start, Simeone may fancy his chances of coming away with a result.
Catch Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid Wednesday, September 21 at 4:00pm ET on beIN SPORTS.