Madrid: The last round of matches in La Liga before the international break is starting to look vital for three top-flight coaches, while the Madrid Derby is the highlight of the weekend.
Real Madrid visit Atletico Madrid with a 100 percent record in both La Liga and the Champions League after their hard-fought victory against RB Leipzig on Wednesday.
The big questions ahead of the match are whether Karim Benzema will have recovered from the muscle injury which saw him sit out the Leipzig game and last weekend’s win at home to Mallorca, while Atletico fans are wondering if it is time to change the policy towards Antoine Griezmann.
Atletico’s loan agreement with Barcelona for the French striker means they have to pay 40 million euros at the end of the season if Griezmann plays more than 45 minutes in a certain percentage of matches.
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Atletico’s way around this is to use the French striker as a substitute for the last 30 minutes, but that is clearly starting to irritate coach Diego Simeone, who is basically hamstrung in how much he can use a key player by a policy that limits his starting options, reports Xinhua.
The three coaches under threat are Cadiz manager Sergio Gonzalez Soriano, Elche’s Francisco Rodriguez and Julen Lopetegui at Sevilla.
Cadiz travel to recently-promoted Valladolid (one of Gonzalez’s former clubs) with five defeats from five games, no goals scored and 14 conceded, and it’s hard to see the coach surviving six consecutive defeats, especially as the international break would allow a new boss time to bed in.
Elche are only slightly better off after last weekend’s 4-1 thrashing at home to Athletic Bilbao left them with one point from five games and 13 goals against.
The bad news for Francisco is that his side visit FC Barcelona, who will be looking to bounce back after suffering their first defeat of the season in Munich on Tuesday.
Barca youngster Gavi agreed to a new contract on Wednesday and with the break ahead, there is no reason for Barca coach Xavi Hernandez not to field his strongest side.
Sevilla’s 3-2 win away to Espanyol last weekend saved Lopetegui’s job, but their 0-0 draw away to Copenhagen in the Champions League again put him in the spotlight, and he will be in trouble if they lose away to Villarreal.
Villarreal were unlucky to see their unbeaten start to the season end in a 1-0 defeat at Real Betis last weekend and Gerard Moreno is sidelined through injury, but Arnaut Danjuma could be back for Sunday.
Valencia play Celta Vigo on Saturday in what promises to be an even match between two sides that look to play attacking football, while Mallorca play at home to Almeria.
Athletic Bilbao need to improve their home form if they want to go into the break on a high when they entertain an always difficult Rayo Vallecano.
Athletic have scored eight goals in two away games, but only one goal in three home matches, although Rayo (who are coached by former Athletic legend Andoni Iraola) won’t look to sit back and defend as Espanyol and Mallorca did.
Osasuna also have the chance to confirm their positive start to the campaign at home to Getafe, who travel boosted by their first win of the season against Real Sociedad last weekend.
Real Sociedad lost new striker Umar Sadiq with a season-ending knee injury in Getafe and Alexander Sorloth and Mohamed-Ali Cho will lead their attack when the side from San Sebastian entertain an inconsistent Espanyol.
Finally, Betis can cement their top-four place with a win at home to Girona. Betis also lost a key player to injury last week with striker Juanmi suffering ankle ligament trouble that will keep him out until the New Year.