SKY SPORTS' La Liga expert Terry Gibson previews this weekend's action in Spain and he's predicting comfortable wins for Real Madrid and Barcelona but Atletico may struggle at Valencia.
Real Madrid v Levante (12pm)
With seven games in the next 22 days, assume that Zidane will rotate the squad. That will definitely be the case in this game.
It's a situation that Zidane embraces. It gives him the perfect opportunity to give those outside the so called strongest XI some playing time. It worked well last season but the casualties were the likes of Morata, Pepe, Danilo and James Rodriguez who have all departed.
The big decisions this season will be if Zidane picks Asensio and Isco in his strongest team, and if so, who will be left out from last season's double winning team? For now, that will be on the back burner.
Ronaldo is still suspended for this one but Ramos returns from a ban. Bale is searching desperately for some form and I expect him to start on Saturday.
Levante have had a decent start for a newly promoted team, helped by the fact that they have had two home games. They defeated Villarreal 1-0 and then came back from 2-0 down to draw with Deportivo la Coruńa.
They have shown good spirit but on Saturday face a totally different level of opposition. Therefore, it's hard to see any other result than a Real Madrid win.
Enis Bardhi scored an unbelievable goal last time out against Deportivo from a long range free kick, so Real Madrid will have to be careful about giving away cheap fouls in dangerous areas, set pieces will be Levante’s best hope of troubling Real.
I'm going to go for the very obvious home win, especially after they dropped points against Valencia just before the International break at the Bernabeu.
It's quite difficult picking the first scorer though, as we are having to guess who will be in the starting line up!
I'm going to go for man of the moment, Asensio, who played no part in the Spain game against Liechtenstein and at the age of 21 is a player who won't need a rest just yet.
So it's Asensio as the first scorer and Real Madrid to win 3-0 in the early kick off on Saturday.
- Correct Score: Real Madrid 3, Levante 0 (7-1, Unibet)
- First scorer: Asensio (5-1, Unibet)
- Safe bet: Madrid to score over 2.5 goals (3-10, Unibet)
Valencia v Atletico Madrid (3.15pm)
It's the third away game out of three so far for Simeone's Atletico, as they await the opening of their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium. It’s not an ideal situation of course and Valencia are looking forward to the challenge after an impressive draw at the Bernabeu last time out.
Simeone has just signed another new contract extension and I firmly believe that this is due to the quality and the age of the squad at his disposal. He must feel good times are ahead.
He went with the youngsters in the last game at Las Palmas and was rewarded with a high energy emphatic 5-1 victory. Will he stick with that policy in this match?
Juanfran, Torres and Gabi were left out and the selection worked, with the likes of Correa, Vrsaljko and Thomas Partey taking their places. Koke was the second oldest player in the team at 25 behind Diego Godin!
Valencia have had a vibrant start to the season, with a home win against Las Palmas backed up with the away draw at Real Madrid and hopes are high once again at the Mestalla under coach Marcelino. Incidentally, he is now the 11th coach of Valencia to face Simeone since he took over at Atletico!
Ruben Vezo will probably be the only change to the team that played against Real Madrid, as he is injured and I expect former Arsenal player Gabriel Paulista to make his debut as the replacement.
This is a tough fixture for both teams and a tough fixture to call regarding the outcome.
If the suspended Griezmann was available, I probably would have gone for Atletico to just shade it but with him missing I'm going to go for a 1-1 draw. I'm also going to go for Valencia to open the scoring with a goal from Simone Zaza. Atletico have conceded three goals this season and all have been headers!
- Correct score: Valencia 1, Atletico Madrid 1 (53-10, Unibet)
- First scorer: Zaza (7-1, Unibet)
- Safe bet: Draw (23-10, Unibet)
Barcelona v Espanyol (7.45pm)
“Troubled” Barcelona have maximum points so far. A difficult start for the blaugrana has been overcome with wins against Betis and Alavés, thanks largely to Lionel Messi, who scored both in the 2-0 win at Alavés in their last game.
In the opening two games it was just Messi playing from last season's MSN, after Neymar departed for PSG and Luis Suarez being unavailable through injury.
This week we see the return of Suarez and I would imagine the very costly Ousmane Dembele will make his debut.
Dembele wasn't called up for International duty due to his lack of playing time for Borussia Dortmund and has been training fully under Valverde since signing.
In the last game it was Messi as the “false no 9” and he was playing in a front three alongside Deulofeu and Sergi Roberto! So we can expect a bit of an upgrade this week in the striking department for Barcelona.
Espanyol opened the season with a credible draw at Sevilla but then lost at home to Leganés, but they will be up for the fight in this game.
That fighting spirit hasn't proved to be quiet enough in recent and not so recent times.
Espanyol's last win in any fixture between the two was back in 09 and in the last 15 fixtures it is Barcelona with 13 wins and two games drawn.
I'm going to stick with that run of results, combined with the new attacking trident of Barcelona to see them win again comprehensively in this match up.
The last three games at the Nou Camp see Barcelona lead on aggregate 14-2!
Pick any of the LSD, as they are now being called, as the first goalscorer! Will it be Lionel (probably) Suarez or Dembele?
I'm going to go with Messi opening the scoring in a convincing 4-0 home win.
- Correct score: Barcelona 4, Espanyol 0 (17-2, Unibet)
- First scorer: Messi (23-10, Unibet)
- Safe bet: Barcelona to win to nil (evens, Unibet)
Celta Vigo v Alaves (5.30pm, Sunday)
Both teams go into this game without any points. Therefore, such is the nature of football that after a disappointing start and with the transfer window still open their was a flurry of activity from both of these clubs.
Celta splashed all of their cash on one player bringing in 20-year-old winger Emre Mor from Borussia Dortmund for a whopping €13m!
Alavés were a little bit more frugal but they were able to bring in, on loan, Alvaro Medran from Valencia and then added Bojan from Stoke and Munir from Barcelona into their squad. Exciting stuff indeed from Alavés.
Those three transform the starting XI and I would hope Luis Zubeldia starts all three in this game.
Juan Carlos Unzue, Luis Enrique's former assistant at Barcelona, certainly hasn't got off to a flyer in his first La Liga role as head coach, with Celta losing at home to Real Sociedad and away at Betis, but will have been boosted by the fact that new signing Maxi Gomez has scored all three of their goals so far this season. Aspas scored midweek for Spain on International duty and it is imperative that he begins to chip in pretty quickly.
I know it's very early in the season but I see a “softness” in Celta Vigo this season that I hadn't witnessed under previous coach Eduardo Berizzo and I wouldn't be surprised to see the more competitive Alavés take all three points in this encounter.
I'm going to go for an Alavés victory with Ruben Sobrino opening the scoring for the visitors. If Alavés get the opening goal the pressure will be firmly on the Celta team, and in particular the Celta coach.
Alavés weren't particularly bad in their last game, losing at home 2-0 to Barcelona, they were competitive, aggressive but just lacked a bit in terms of attacking in numbers with any real belief. Medran, Munir and Bojan might just be the answer.
I'm predicting a 2-1 away win for Alavés based on the impact the three new signings will make.
- Correct Score: Celta 1, Alaves 2 (14-1, Unibet)
- First scorer Ruben Sobrino (21-2, Unibet)
- Safe bet: Both teams to score (9-10, Unibet)
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