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La Liga Preview: Round One - A second week of strikes is avoided as Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla begin their campaigns

After an agreement was reached to end the strike on Thursday, La Liga is back; Valencia, Atletico & Sevilla face tricky home ties whilst newly-promoted Granada and Betis face off

Saturday

Sporting Gijon - Real Sociedad (18:00 CET)

Valencia - Racing Santander (20:00 CET)

Granada - Real Betis (22:00 CET)

Sunday


Atletico Madrid - Osasuna (12:00 CET)

Athletic Bilbao - Rayo Vallecano (16:00 CET)

Getafe - Levante (18:00 CET)

Mallorca - Espanyol (18:00 CET)

Sevilla - Malaga (22:00 CET)

Saturday August 27

Sporting Gijon – Real Sociedad
(1800 CET)
   

  • Sporting Gijon flirted with the idea of relegation for much of last season, occupying the last three positions in the league on numerous occasions before a host of late-season wins saw them climb to 10th in the table.
  • Sporting's home record was admirable, with only four losses at the El Molinon, six draws and nine wins.
  • Real Sociedad finished in 15th place last season, and despite ending up near the drop zone were the only team to finish in the bottom half of the table not to occupy 18th, 19th or 20th at any point during the entire campaign.
  • Sociedad triumphed just three times on the road last season, one of which was a 3-1 victory against Sporting.
Team News

Sporting Gijon have a full squad to choose from, including latest signing Andre Castro who could make his debut for the Rojiblancos.

Philippe Montanier’s Real Sociedad travel to Gijon with just Ifrane Diego missing after he failed to recover from a leg injury in time.


Valencia – Racing Santander
(2000 CET)

  • Valencia finished third in last season’s Primera Division behind Barcelona and Real Madrid.
  • Los Che were the third-best team in every sense last season, apart from goals. Unai Emery’s side had the third-most wins, draws, third-least losses and third-best goal difference.
  • Racing Santander finished a respectable 12th place last season, without ever threatening the European places they never looked a side that could face the drop either; this season they could be in trouble after their Indian businessmen – Syed Ali – has led the club into administration.
  • Taking only away games into consideration, Racing would have finished ninth overall, three places higher than their final league position.
Team News

Valencia will have to cope with loss of winger Juan Mata, who completed his move to Chelsea earlier this week. Unai Emery has near to a full squad choose from, with Paco Alcacer continuing to recover following the death of his father, and Aritz Aduriz out injured. New loan signing Sergio Canales could start for his new club following a successful medical confirming his move from Real Madrid.

Hector Cuper has a near-full squad to choose from ahead of Racing’s opening fixture against Valencia with long-term absentee Oscar Serrano continuing his recovery from knee ligament damage in an otherwise healthy group.


Granada – Real Betis
(2000 CET)

  • Granada secured promotion to Spain’s top division following a successful Segunda campaign; El Graná finished fifth before coming through the play-offs, and back-to-back promotions, to return to the top flight after 35 years away.
  • In last year’s fixtures between these two in Segunda B, the home team were victorious on both occasions.
  • Real Betis finished as champions of the Segunda Division last season, returning to the top flight after two years away.
  • Betis failed to score on four occasions away from home last season, once when they travelled to the Los Cármenes.
Team News

Alex Geijo and goalkeeper Juan Jose are both set to miss Granada’s first Liga match in 35 years, through shoulder and back injuries respectively. New signing Julio Ceasar, who completed his signing from Benfica earlier this week, could deputise for the injured Jose, while fellow summer signing Hassan Yebda could make his debut for Granda too.

Jonathan Pereira is doubtful for Betis after picking up a groin injury in pre-season, while Sergio Rodriquez picked up a knock in training this week. Meanwhile, Nelson has returned to training after a brief spell on the sidelines but is still short of full fitness.



Sunday 28th August

Atletico Madrid - Osasuna
(1200 CET)

  • Atletico Madrid topped the table after their first game of last season, a 4-0 win over Sporting Gijon.
  • Los Rojiblancos failed to score on three occasions at home last season.
  • Osasuna managed 11 clean sheets at home last term, including one against eventual Liga runners-up, Real Madrid.
  • Osasuna failed to score in 58% of their away games last season.
Team News

Gregorio Manzano has no injury worries ahead of Atletico Madrid’s match against Osasuna but with Diego Forlan’s pending departure, if not already finalised, the Madrid coach will have to decide whether to play the Uruguayan before he is transferred, possibly to Inter Milan. It is unlikely that Wolfsburg’s Diego will complete his move to Spain before Sunday’s tie.

Raul Garcia picked up an injury to his ankle in training which will push back his second debut for Osasuna after returning to the Reyno de Navarra on loan from Athletico Madrid during the summer. Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar has a full squad at his disposal and will hope the loss of star full-back Nacho Monreal won’t hinder his team’s standing this season.


Athletic Bilbao vs. Rayo

(1600 CET)

  • Athletic Bilbao register very few draws last season (4), with only Real Sociedad (3) tying less games.
  • Athletic scored the least goals at home (32) out of the ‘Top 8’ teams in La Liga last season.
  • Rayo Vallecano have returned to la Liga for the first time following their relegation in 2002-03. Rayo were then relegated to the Segunda B in the 2003/04 before regaining their place in Spain’s second tier in 2007-08 after winning the Segunda B.
  • Rayo last played at San Mames in La Liga back in 2002-03. On that occasion Bilbao were the winners by a two goals to one scoreline.
Team News

There are no injury worries in the Athletic Bilbao camp after Andoni Iraola completed his recovery this week.

Jose Ramon Sandoval has a full squad at his disposal before Rayo Vallecano travel to Bilbao on Sunday, with further arrivals suggested by the media. Manchester City’s Roque Santa Cruz and Sevilla’s Arouna Kone have been linked with the club, whilst Rayo have confirmed the signing of Dani Pacheco from Liverpool to add to their striking options.


Getafe vs. Levante
(1800)


  • Although Getafe finished 16th, just two places above the drop zone, the Azulones only found themselves 18th or lower once throughout the entire season; although their fate was in the balance until Matchday 38 results were confirmed.
  • Last season Getafe were convincing winners in this match with a 4-1 result.
  • Levante last beat Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez back in 2001-02 when both clubs were in the Segunda Division.
  • Levante finished a respectable 14th in la Liga last season; their first season back in the top flight after being relegated to the Segunda in the 2009-10 season.
Team News

Getafe have no injury worries ahead of their trip to El Sardinero, and they will hope to give Dani Guiza his debut following his move back to Spain from Turkish side Fenerbahce.

Levante face the prospect of including just one striker in their squad to face Getafe, Carlos Aranda. Injuries to Rafa Jorda (ankle) and Javier Farinos (foot) leave them both unavailable for the trip to Madrid.  New signing Asier del Horno pulled out early of a midweek training session, whilst Marc Mateu and Pedro Lopez are certain to miss the game through injury, with Juanlu remaining a doubt.


Mallorca vs. Espanyol
(1800)

  • Despite narrowly avoiding relegation last season, Mallorca found themselves in the drop zone just once all season; on Matchday 2.
  • Mallorca finished 12th in the home league table last term, after nine wins and four draws at the Iberostar Stadium.
  • Espanyol scored in all but two home games last season, both 1-0 losses against Real Madrid and Villarreal.
  • Espanyol finished in 8th place last term, challenging for a Europa League spot until the closing stages of the season when they lost ground on the teams above them.
Team News

Mallorca are without long-term absentee French winger Michael Pereira who picked up a knee injury in pre-season. Los Bermellones will also be without captain Nunes for the first two months of the season following a knee injury. Meanwhile, Jonathan de Guzman is expected to complete to his move to Villarreal so is unlikely to feature on Sunday.

Espanyol have no injuries to hinder their Starting XI but they may struggle throughout the season ahead following the loss of striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo to Italy.  


Sevilla vs. Malaga
(2200)

  • Sevilla finished the season in fifth place last year, conceding 61 goals throughout the season; the most out of any of the top 10 side in La Liga, and the fourth-most in the entire league.
  • Sevilla failed to score in all but two home games last season, one of which was 0-0 against Malaga.
  • Malaga won more away games last season than Villarreal, who finished 4th in La Liga.
  • Malaga haven’t registered a win over Sevilla in their last seven meetings.
Team News

Sevilla’s Ivan Ratikic is expected to recover from a metatarsal injury ahead of Malaga’s visit to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Sevilla will still be able to boast the presence of Frederic Kanoute in their strikeforce despite the summer-long speculation regarding the forward's future.

Weligton is the sole absentee from Malaga’s squad to face Sevilla. The Brazilian defender is being treated for a knee injury and is expected to be out for around two more weeks. Weligton aside, Manuel Pellegrini has a full squad at his disposal.

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