La Liga Talking Points – Time for Big Two to Step Up is Now


Welcome to La Liga Talking Points, a weekly column running throughout the season in which we take a look at the key stories and talking points from Spanish football’s top flight. With an inevitable focus on the biggest teams, such as Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona, there will also be a worthwhile nod toward the rest, we take a look at how the league is shaping up each week and what to look out for going forward.

Barcelona vs. Rayo Vallecano

Barcelona welcome Rayo Vallecano to the Camp Nou on Saturday night as Luis Enrique’s men look to bounce back from their latest defeat, a disappointing 2-1 loss away to Sevilla.

It is of little shock that Barcelona’s form has begun to stutter, amidst the loss of several key players throughout the campaign, no less Lionel Messi.

Furthermore, the transfer ban on the Catalonian giants has further exacerbated the constraints on a stretched squad. The latest loss to Sevilla was their 2nd of the season and left them in 4th place in the table.

However, losses for leaders Villareal and a draw for Celta Vigo, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid mean La Blaugrana have not lost too much ground on the clubs at the top, and could quickly regain control at the summit.

Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi are still sidelined for the hosts, who are a little thin on the ground, meanwhile Luis Suarez has a knock, meaning that both Sandro and Munir are in contention for a start.

Rayo Vallecano meanwhile be downbeat following their latest match prior to the international break – a 2-0 loss at home to Real Betis.

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The loss left Rayo sitting in 15th place in the table, having accrued just six from a possible 18 points available.

Antonio Amaya is serving the second of a three-game suspension, while Patrick Ebert is available after a ban, with Adrian Embarba’s position under threat as a result.

Nacho and Tito could start at full-back, but Razvan Rat is also in contention.

Notably, Rayo have lost their last two league matches, falling to defeats against both Real Betis and Sevilla.

Barcelona’s erratic form may have not seriously dented their title hopes yet, but Luis Enrique will know the time to step up is now, and their against their visitors suggests they will win the match: Barcelona have won their last nine matches against Rayo Vallecano in all competitions.

Real Madrid vs. Levante

Real Madrid will host Levante at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday as they look to regain momentum in La Liga following their latest draw against their city rivals Atletico Madrid.

The undercurrent of pressure on manager Rafa Benitez has already reared it’s impatient head as Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at the Vicente Calderon.

A late goal by Jackson Martinez crushed hopes of a win for the new boss; yet, he may take some solace from the fact it was the first goal by Real Madrid away at Atleti in over 600 minutes of football.

Real Madrid now sit in 2nd in La Liga, one point behind Villareal after seven games in a considerably tight top of the table at this early juncture in the season.

James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal and Luka Modric are definite absentees, while Danilo will deputise at right-back, with Casemiro likely to be asked to slot into midfield alongside Toni Kroos.

Jese should lead the line, with Isco continuing to get a run in the side on the right.

Levante meanwhile will be buoyed by their last match – 1-0 at home to Villareal – which was their first league win of the season.

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However, the poor form of Levante has been damning this season, resulting in the Valencia based club wallowing in 18th place in the division, with relegation already proving a legitimate threat, should their form not improve.

Angel Trujillo is still out, with Simao set to continue in his place, while Lerma, Camarasa and Jose Mari should maintain their places in midfield, with Verza a doubt.

Nabil Ghilas and Deyverson are expected to start up top, but Morales is a definite starter on the right flank.

Following the draw against Atletico the stakes are high, and although performance is always a prerequisite for fans of Los Blancos, a win if any kind will do for Benitez. Real Madrid have won their last seven home matches against Levante in all competitions.