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La Liga: Challenging games this weekend for Barca, Atletico

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Madrid, Oct. Oct 29 (IANS) Sergi Barjuan’s debut as FC Barcelona coach, a tough game between Sevilla and Osasuna, Valencia against Villarreal, and the Basque derby between La Liga leaders Real Sociedad and local rivals Athletic Bilbao are some of the matches to look up to in Spain this weekend.

With the top clubs set for European action next week, Barcelona, Atletico, and Real Madrid will hope for morale-boosting results in the domestic league.

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Real start the weekend when they visit Elche, who have slipped to 15th in the table after taking just one point from the last three games, while Carlo Ancelotti’s men look to be happier playing away from home where they can best make use of their counter-attacking game.

Wednesday saw Valencia being thrashed 4-1 away to Real Betis to extend their run of games without a win to seven, and Jose Bordalas’ men face a tough local derby at home to Villarreal.

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The visitors are not in their best form after losing in Bilbao and drawing 3-3 at home to Cadiz, but even without the injured Juan Foyth and Gerard Moreno, coach Unai Emery expects a happy return to the Mestalla to further deepen the problems at his former club.

Osasuna’s 0-0 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu in midweek showed they have to be taken very seriously indeed as they visit third-placed Sevilla, reports Xinhua.

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Only VAR ruling out Lucas Ocampos’ late goal stopped Sevilla from going top of the table for 24 hours on Wednesday, and this looks set to be a bone-crunching game between two teams that don’t hold back.

Osasuna may be confident of taking something from the Sanchez Pizjuan against a rival that sometimes doesn’t score enough goals, and the side from Pamplona will again use a five-man defense.

FC Barcelona B-team coach Sergi Barjuan was put in temporary charge of the first team on Thursday after Ronald Koeman was sacked in the wake of their defeat to Rayo Vallecano, and all eyes will be on Barca’s performance at home to Alaves.

Sergi has to try and lift the morale of a team that lacks cohesion in attack and defense, and Barca’s display under a new man in the dugout will show if their problems are structural or down to Koeman.

Sunday kicks off with Cadiz at home to Real Mallorca, with the home side needing points to climb out of the bottom three, but without midweek hat-trick hero ‘Choco’ Lozano.

Real Betis travel to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium after a run of three straight wins that have lifted them to fourth in the table. They face an Atletico Madrid side whose recent form has failed to convince, as they uncharacteristically twice surrendered a lead away to Levante on Thursday night.

Bottom side Getafe continues to look for their first win of the season in a home game against Espanyol that sees coach Quique Sanchez Flores face one of his former clubs. Espanyol are without striker Raul de Tomas who is suspended after his red card against Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.

Athletic make the short trip to San Sebastian to face league leaders Real Sociedad in a Basque derby. Real Sociedad won 2-0 away to Celta Vigo on Thursday with Alexander Isak in fine form, and they will hope Mikel Oyarzabal can play some part in the game.

Athletic have lost just one game this season and will bring former Real Sociedad defender Inigo Martinez back for the injured Dani Vivian for a game that will be played at a packed Anoeta Stadium, where they will hope to take advantage of fresher legs after 48 hours’ more recovery time than their rivals.

There are two games on Monday with in-form Rayo Vallecano at home to Celta Vigo, while there is a relegation battle as Levante look for their first win of the season at home to fourth from bottom Granada.

–IANS

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