Reigning champions Barcelona face Real Sociedad at Anoeta before Julen Lopetegui’s Real take on Athletic Bilbao, with the eternal rivals the only teams in Spain to begin the season with three wins.
Historically Barca tend to have a difficult time at Anoeta, with just one win there in their last eight league fixtures, but at least they won’t have to worry about the pitch. In the second game of the season Barcelona travelled to Valladolid, who had relaid the grass four days before the game, and it tore up as the match progressed, creating difficult playing conditions.
Real Sociedad have revamped their playing surface too, but the San Sebastian side are confident Anoeta will be in perfect condition for the visit of the Catalans. It will be the club’s first home game of the season after arranging for their first three fixtures to be played away while work was done on the stadium.
This week marked 25 years since the first La Liga game at Anoeta and the perfect way to celebrate would be by upsetting the visitors tomorrow.
“At last we can debut at home,” La Real president Jokin Aperribay said. “We had to play three games away, it’s nearly been a month since the start of the season. The fans haven’t been able to have direct contact with the team. (Playing Barca) will be a special day.”
The hosts will however have to reckon with a fresh Lionel Messi, after the Argentine star did not travel to take part in Argentina’s friendlies. By contrast, Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio did appear for his country, scoring one, forcing an own goal and setting up three others in Spain’s 6-0 demolition of World Cup runners-up Croatia.
Although the winger hasn’t netted yet in La Liga, Asensio has earned three penalties in three games and is poised to start again on the left of Madrid’s attack in Bilbao.
Lopetegui was the coach that brought him into the Spain fold and, with Cristiano Ronaldo gone, Asensio is earning a more prominent role with Madrid under the same manager.
“This is my third season, in this one I think I’ll have consistent appearances and more prominence, and I’m seeing the performances I’m putting in [show that],” said Asensio.
Alongside Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale he has gone a long way to ensuring Portugal star Ronaldo, Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer, has not been missed so far.
“We’re playing very well now, players who didn’t score as many goals last year are now filling their boots,” said playmaker Isco, who also scored for Spain.
“We don’t miss (Ronaldo) at the moment.” Even defender Sergio Ramos, who headed in La Roja’s fifth goal against Croatia, has stepped up to replace Ronaldo by converting two penalties. Madrid will need all the help they can get at the San Mames, one of the most atmospheric stadiums in the country, which also takes on a political tinge when Real are in town.
The weekend’s other fixtures are Huesca v Rayo Vallecano, Atletico Madrid v Eibar, Valencia v Real Betis, Leganes v Villarreal, Espanyol v Levante, Valladolid v Alaves, Sevilla v Getafe and Girona v Celta Vigo.
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