Sun, 03 Dec 2023

Four things to look out for in Spain's Matchday 8

29 Sep 2023, 18:44 GMT+10

MADRID, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- There is no time to rest between the seventh and eighth round of matches in La Liga, with the top two in Spain going head-to-head, along with a Basque derby between two in-form teams. Here are some things to look out for this weekend.

1. Girona looking to shock Real Madrid

There is no doubt that Girona are the surprise package of the season, with Michel's team sitting top of La Liga with six wins from seven games - the last of which was an impressive 2-1 triumph away to Villarreal on Wednesday.

Girona have several attacking options, with Brazilian winger Savio and powerful forward Artem Dovbyk big threats who could exploit Real Madrid's weakness on crosses.

Meanwhile, players such as Yangel Herrera and the experienced David Lopez have a habit of scoring key goals, meaning Real Madrid will have to improve at the back.

Madrid beat Las Palmas 2-0 at home on Wednesday, but have struggled in Girona's Montilivi stadium and may suffer again this weekend.

2. Barca need to improve defence against Sevilla

FC Barcelona dropped two points away to Mallorca on Tuesday night, just four days after a miracle comeback to win 3-2 at home to Celta Vigo after trailing 2-0 after 80 minutes in a game where Celta could have had more goals with better finishing.

In both games Barca looked exposed in defense, with Inigo Martinez especially suffering against Mallorca.

With Frenkie de Jong out injured, Oriol Romeu has struggled to provide midfield cover and Barca's rivals have exploited that. Expect Sevilla to try to open up the wings and get behind Barca's attacking full-backs Joao Cancelo and Alejandro Balde to swing crosses into the area and test the central defenders.

3. Basque derby promises with Williams and Kubo in form

Real Sociedad entertain local rivals Athletic Bilbao in Saturday's Basque derby with both sides in a positive vein of form.

Real Sociedad go into the game after consecutive wins, while Athletic won their two games prior to Wednesday's 2-2 draw with Getafe, where they played the entire second half with one player less after Oihan Sancet was sent off.

Sancet will miss out on Saturday for Athletic, along with the injured Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta, although Nico Williams could be back after three weeks out with a groin injury.

Nico's brother Inaki has been outstanding for Athletic in recent weeks and has hit four goals this season, while Japanese forward Takefusa Kubo has been excellent for the home side and will be fresh after being rested in Wednesday's 1-0 win in Valencia.

4. Celta need to improve

Although they drew 1-1 at home to Alaves on Thursday night, Celta managed the minor miracle of scoring without having a single shot on target all game, with their goal coming from a misplaced backpass from Alaves defender Rafa Marin.

The defeat leaves Celta 17th in the table with just five points from seven games - not what was expected when the club named the experienced Rafa Benitez as head coach in the summer.

Celta's next game is away to Las Palmas, who currently sit one place below them, so a defeat would see them drop into the bottom three. Although Benitez is unlikely to lose his job in the near future, he should remember Celta signed him to push for Europe, not battle to avoid relegation.

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