Red-faced Barca seek response to Celta embarrassment
Barca’s 100 percent start to the league campaign was brought to a spectacular end on Wednesday as high-flying Celta inflicted upon them their heaviest league defeat since 2008.
Luis Enrique’s men slipped down to fifth in the process, yet they have an immediate opportunity to move back to the top of the table for a few hours at least on Saturday with Real Madrid, Celta, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid all in action later in the day.
“Any position that isn’t first is not what we want,” Luis Enrique said on Friday.
“In the dressing room we hope that the defeat in Vigo will serve as a stimulant to get back to winning ways and makes us realise how hard it is to win in this league.”
Worryingly Barca were almost back to full-strength in Vigo, as Gerard Pique made his first league appearance of the season after serving a four-match ban.
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who is set to be sidelined for at least the rest of the month, remains a real headache however.
With Bravo in goal Barca have conceded just once in three games this season. Yet, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen as the last line of defence they have conceded 15 times in six matches, and conceded four three times.
“It is clear that we need to need to improve defensively, but that doesn’t just mean the defence and the goalkeeper, it means all 11 players on the field must defend better,” added the coach.
– Ronaldo eyes record –
Cristiano Ronaldo will aim for Real Madrid’s all-time goalscoring record once more at home to Malaga later on Saturday.
The World Player of the Year has been held scoreless in his last two outings as he stands just two goals short of Raul Gonzalez Blanco’s 323-goal record.
Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Danilo and Sergio Ramos will again be missing for Real, while Pepe is also a doubt.
The game of the weekend sees third take on fourth when Villarreal host Atletico Madrid.
Atletico boss Diego Simeone rotated his squad for Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Eibar ahead of a challenging week that will see Los Rojiblancos entertain Benfica and Real Madrid after their visit to El Madrigal.
However, Simeone insisted it is the task of inflicting Villarreal’s first defeat of the league season that is most preoccupying him.
“We are not thinking about Real Madrid, only Villarreal,” said the Argentine.
“Villarreal are a hard-working team with a lot of different qualities and a very defined style. Small details will decide the game like it did last season.”
Simeone is expected to recall Filipe Luis, Jose Maria Gimenez and Tiago, while Fernando Torres and Jackson Martinez will battle to partner Antoine Griezmann up front.
Celta will be expected to keep their dream start to the season going when they travel to Basque minnows Eibar.
Meanwhile, Sevilla and Valencia are in desperate need of a boost ahead of their return to Champions League action next week when they host Rayo Vallecano and Granada respectively.
Sevilla sit bottom after taking just two points from their first five games.
And Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo has had to withstand calls for his resignation after a 1-0 defeat to Espanyol in midweek left them already six points off the top four.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Valencia v Granada (1830)
Barcelona v Las Palmas (1400), Real Madrid v Malaga (1615), Sevilla v Rayo Vallecano (1830), Villarreal v Atletico Madrid (1830), Eibar v Celta Vigo (2005)
Sporting Gijon v Real Betis (1000), Deportivo la Coruna v Espanyol (1400), Getafe v Levante (1615), Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao (2030)