Real Madrid v Real Betis
It’s a top-of-the-table clash as the only two LaLiga teams with nine points from a possible nine come head-to-head at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday afternoon. This will be Real Madrid’s first home outing of the season, and they’ll be looking to replicate the success of last season when half of their home fixtures in LaLiga were won by more than a one-goal margin.
Carlo Ancelotti is expected to treat the fixture as a big game, repeating almost the same XI that started the Champions League final in May and the Super Cup game against Eintracht Frankfurt in August. Aurelién Tchouaméni replaced Casemiro in the only change, with Fede Valverde favoured on the right of attack alongside Vinícius and Karim Benzema.
There’s good reason to believe that this may be an easier fixture than it looks on paper for Real Madrid. Real Betis took just four points from a possible 16 against last season’s top four in 2021/22, with one of those points coming in a dead rubber 0-0 draw in the final game of last season as Real Madrid took on the Verdiblancos with the title already secured.
Betis will also have changes to their line-up with Germán Pezzella serving a suspension after being sent off against Osasuna, while William Carvalho and Aitor Ruibal also face fitness doubts if they are to keep their places in the starting line-up.
Another worry for Betis could be Borja Iglesias. Betis’ star striker has four goals from three games to date this season, but has never scored against Real Madrid in six meetings. Betis’ magnificent front four of Iglesias, Juanmi, Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales have a record of just two goals in 40 games against Real Madrid between them.
Real Sociedad v Atlético Madrid
Straight after the game at the Bernabéu we have Real Sociedad vs Atlético Madrid and this is also a heavyweight clash, although it might be a much slower affair. Don’t expect knockout punches here, as these are two teams that are quite conservative, even at the same time as being stylistically very different.
Real Sociedad like to monopolise possession and little by little craft their openings. Although they were thrashed 4-1 by a rampant Barcelona in their last home game, they were able to play their usual style on the way to 1-0 wins away at Cádiz and Elche. This style of play doesn’t usually produce many goals, neither for them nor for their opponents, which is why they were second-bottom last season for total goals of their matches, with their games producing just 2.03 goals on average per game.
Meanwhile, Atleti have a different style, but they also take part in many low-scoring games. In their 5-3-2 system, and especially in their away matches, they’ll tend to sit back and wait to spring forward when the opportunity is right. That’s exactly the formula through which they defeated Valencia 1-0 on the road on Monday night despite being dominated for large stretches.
In this clash of styles, we should expect a low-scoring affair in which Real Sociedad have a lot of the ball without creating many chances and in which Atlético will look to strike and be clinical with one of what will surely be few chances.
It has been that way in this fixture since Imanol took over as Real Sociedad coach, as the five previous Real Sociedad vs Atlético Madrid matches produced just 11 goals for an average of 2.2 goals per game.
Sevilla v Barcelona
Sevilla vs Barcelona caps off the Super Saturday in LaLiga as last season’s fourth-placed team host the runners-up. But, the two sides come into this meeting in very different moods.
Sevilla have had a woeful start to 2022/23 and have taken just one point from a possible nine, even though they’ve had three very winnable fixtures. Barcelona, meanwhile, bounced back from their opening weekend goalless draw with Rayo Vallecano by sinking a quartet of goals past Real Sociedad and then Real Valladolid for 4-1 and 4-0 wins respectively.
Half of those goals were scored by Robert Lewandowski, who has settled into life in LaLiga immediately. He’ll be licking his lips coming into this Saturday’s game, given that Sevilla failed to properly address their central defensive weaknesses before the close of the transfer market.
After losing Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé, with the latter actually signing for none other than Barça, Sevilla replaced them with Marcão and Tanguy Nianzou. Never mind the dropoff in quality, Marcão is also injured for this game and Nianzou had a really difficult time as he made his debut last weekend. Sevilla only have one other senior centre-back in the squad, in Karim Rekik, but he too is an injury doubt. The odds of Lewandowski scoring at any time are 4.00 and tempting.
Even if it’s not Lewandowski who scores, Barcelona have so many options in attack. Ousmane Dembélé and Raphinha are really starting to find their feet on the wings, while Ansu Fati always looks dangerous when he comes on and Pedri is getting increasingly involved in attack too. The young midfielder scored last weekend and also netted Barcelona’s goal of the season for 2021/22 the last time these teams met, in a 1-0 Barcelona win.
Of their past 13 LaLiga meetings, it’s nine Barcelona wins and four draws. It’s true that most of those draws came when Sevilla were at home, but it has been a long time since the Andalusian side were as weak as they are now. Barcelona should be heavy favourites here.
Athletic Club v Espanyol
Ernesto Valverde has got Athletic Club off to a fine start in the 2022/23 campaign, with two wins and a draw putting them into the top four heading into matchday four. A win against Espanyol this weekend would give them their best start to a LaLiga season since three points for a win were introduced in 1995/96.
Los Leones are also one of only two teams who are yet to concede a goal this season, having scored five without reply as they have faced Cádiz, Valencia and Mallorca. That could suggest that goals may not come in abundance this weekend against Espanyol.
Even more so as Athletic will almost certainly be without forward Iñaki Williams for the first time in over six years, as his run of 236 consecutive league appearances is set to come to an end due to an ankle injury. That is a blow to an Athletic team who have relied heavily on his pace and movement to cause disruption in the final third.
Espanyol are yet to taste victory and that comes in part thanks to their struggles in front of goal, as three goals in three games include a penalty as one of Joselu’s two strikes. Even though they have a suspension in goals at the other end this weekend, following Benjamin Lecomte’s sending off against Real Madrid, new signing Álvaro Fernández can start between the sticks and may become the new starter anyway.
66% of matches at San Mamés ended with under 2.5 goals last season, and that was also true for Athletic’s opening fixture this campaign, a 0-0 draw with Mallorca. We can expect that trend to continue given Athletic’s loss of a key attacking player and Espanyol’s tough start to 2022/23.
Valencia v Getafe
Valencia have faced a difficult away trip to Athletic Club and welcomed Atlético Madrid since their opening day victory over Girona, and, having lost each of those past two games, they’ll be keen to taste victory again to push their hopes of a top-half finish this season.
Gennaro Gattuso’s biggest concern will be that they are yet to score from open play this season. Edinson Cavani put pen to paper but is not yet fit to feature, so expectations are that Gattuso will mix things up by giving a first start of the season to Brazilian forward Marcos André alongside creative wizards Samuel Lino and Samu Castillejo.
Getafe started last season with seven consecutive defeats, and this season hasn’t started much better either. Two defeats and one draw have left Quique Sánchez Flores’ team in the relegation zone after three games. They will also be concerned by their away record, following a 3-1 thrashing at Montilivi against newly promoted Girona, having only won away from home once in all of 2021/22 and having only four league victories on the road since lockdown in March 2020.
Only Espanyol are underperforming by more than Getafe in terms of goals conceded compared to xG conceded, with six goals conceded from 4.14 xG, and they have created the second-lowest amount of xG in the league at 2.11. Signings like Juanmi Latasa and Munir El Haddadi do add quality in attack, but the creation of chances is a problem for a Getafe side still waiting to recover injured signing Luis Milla as their playmaker in midfield.
The push of Mestalla will be crucial for what has been a heated fixture in recent years, with 30 yellow cards and six red cards in the last four meetings alone.
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