La Liga previews | World Soccer

Valencia v Celta Vigo
League leaders Valencia face their first serious test when they welcome second-placed Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Valencia have carried on from where they left off last season, looking a formidable force both at home and away and serious challengers for the title again. Their unbeaten run stretches back to January and th only blemish on their record this season was a dropped point to Malaga.

Rafael Benitez’s side warmed up for the visit of Celta with a 6-2 thrashing of Basle, to maintain their 100 per cent record in the Champions League. It is fair to say that along with Arsenal and possibly Milan, Valencia are the form team in Europe at the moment.

In contrast, Celta Vigo’s Europeann adventure alnost came to an abrupt halt this week. Defeat in the UEFA Cup to unherallded Dannish side OB, wa hardly the confidence booster they would have wanted when preparing to face Valencia. Celta went through to the next round 2-1 on aggregate but a reepat of their performance on Thursday and they could be in trouble.

Anticipating a tough game, coach Miguel Angel Lotina rested Jesuli, and Catanha out of his starting line-up in that game and all both are expected to return on Sunday. Argentine striker Gustavo Lopez also misse dthe European tie but he has been ruled out for about a month with a leg injury, while, defender Sergio Fernandez has also been ruled out for a month with appendicitis.

Promises to be a tight, low-scoring encounter and Celta look capable of grabbing a point from this match.

Real Madrid v Alaves
Will he or won’t he? That is the question on the lips of Real Madrid supporters, with the player in question being Ronaldo and whether or not he will make his long-awaited debut this weekend.

Vicennte dell Bosque has remained tight-lipped about the debut of his sumemr arrival but anticpation in the capital is high and healthy pre-matches ticket sales, testify to the apppeal of the Brazilian. Incidentally, Real have confirmed that they have already sold 120,000 Ronaldo shirts. So, while they are not gettingvalue for money on the pitch, they certainly are, off it.

Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque will be pleased to see the return of Fernando Hierro after the side conceded three goals to AEK Athens in the Champions League game in midweek. Meanwhile, full-back Michel Salgado is suspended, meaning Oscar Minambres will probably start.

Imperious in Europe but strangely inconsistent at home, whether this is a reflection on the strength of the Spanish League or merely an inidcation of Real’s priorities this season, is unclear. Nonetheless, they surely have too much in their attacking armoury to be troubled by an Alaves side, who, after just four matches, have the look of a mid-table side about them.

Full fixtures:
Deportivo v Racing
Rayo v Villarreal
Sevilla v Betis
Malaga v Atletico
Real Madrid v Alaves


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