La Liga: Celta in Top of table clash, Rayo hope to bounce back


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.

Celta Vigo vs. Real Madrid

Celta Vigo will host Real Madrid at Balaidos on Saturday in what has proved to be a surprising top of the table clash in La Liga.

Celta manager Eduardo Berizzo may not have envisioned to sit joint top of the table after eight matches, but coming from the school of Marcelo Bielsa he surely knew his football has the propensity to excite to the level it has so far.

Indeed, while the result of beating Barcelona 4-1 at home will probably be the stand out result for Celta this season, their recent 2-1 victory over Villareal reasserted their serious ambitions of remaining in the upper echelons of the table for as long as possible this season.

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    Real Madrid find themselves in another self-fulfilling prophesy under manager Rafa Benitez, wherein despite being joint-top of the table, the fans are not happy with what they gauge as ‘defensive football’ under the former Liverpool manager.

    Madrid were held to a commendable 0-0 away to PSG in the Champions League on Wednesday night, but the result only served to accentuate the negatives of Benitez for fans, whose team have scored considerably less than Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid at this juncture in the previous two seasons.

    Meanwhile Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane should start in the absence of the injured Pepe. Isco and Casemiro should continue to hold their places in midfield, due to a whole host of injury absentees.

    Karim Benzema is a doubt due to a muscle problem, with Jese or Cristiano Ronaldo able to deputise up top.

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    Celta have the pedigree to beat the best in the division, that much is clear. Furthermore, a spate of injuries for Los Blancos will increase the pressure on Benitez’s men.

    However, it is under such pressure which Benitez performs best, with his side likely to achieve the win this weekend against Celta.

    Rayo Vallecano vs. Espanyol

    Rayo Vallecano welcome Espanyol to the Vallecas on Friday night, as they look to put a stop to a run of three consecutive losses in La Liga.

    Rayo Vallecano will hope to arrest a run of three defeats on the bounce, which has saw them plummet toward the bottom reaches of La Liga.

    Rayo, who now sit one point above the relegation zone in 15th place, last time out battled valiantly against Barcelona, and while the scored twice against La Blaugrana, it counted for little as they conceded five as Neymar ran riot.

    Having finished just four points clear of relegation last season however, such circumstances will be of no great worry to manager Paco Jemez, who this week was once again touted as the Luis Enrique’s successor as Barcelona manager.

    In terms of injury news Pablo Hernandez, David Cobeno and Cristian Alvarez are all in contention to feature while Tono, Patrick Ebert and Antonio Amaya are all out with suspension.

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    Espanyol meanwhile sit 9th in La Liga and can be happy with their efforts so far in the current campaign.

    The Barcelona based side have accrued nine from a possible 18 points available and are on course for a mid-table finish this season, should their current form continue.

    Manager Sergi Gonzalez will be confident of a win on Friday, with key squad players Abraham Gonzalez and Victor Sanchez Mata having returned to training this week.

    However, Ruben Duarte is likely to miss out through injury, while Pepe Kouli Diop is suspended and won’t be allowed to feature.

    Friday poses on paper a run-of-the-mill mid-table clash, but given the style of Rayo and the impressive form of Espanyol the likelihood of an exciting match is undoubtedly increased.

    However, with both sides matching up so well, a draw seems the likely result here.