KAMPALA: Sevilla sporting director Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo aka Monchi’s peerless reputation as one of the smoothest operators in the transfer market comes under close scrutiny when giants Barcelona visit the Ramon Picquan Sanchez Stadium, Saturday night. Monchi has over the years kept the club competitive by mercurial scouting. But with the club winless after three rounds, the spotlight is on his principal signings Tanguy Niazou, Marcao, Isco and Alex Telles.
The departure of Jules Kounde to Barcelona, plus Diego Carlos and Ludwig Augustinsson to Aston Villa has left Julen Lopetegui’s side short of experienced central defenders. It’s a weakness Barcelona’s fabulous front quintet of Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele, Raphinha, Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres should expose with relative ease. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is out with a broken jaw following a robbery at his home.
Celta Vigo set the Liga Santander ball rolling on Friday night by hosting basement club Cadiz, before a top of the table clash featuring Real Madrid and Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu sets the juices flowing on Saturday afternoon. The confrontation between Carlo Ancelotti’s reigning champions and Manuel Pellegrini’s visitors should spark fireworks as Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior demonstrate to visiting strikers Borja Iglesias, Juanmi Jimenez and Nabil Fekir that form is temporary, class is permanent.
An equally engrossing encounter takes place in the Basque country when Real Sociedad host Atletico Madrid the same evening. Wanda Metropolitano supremo Diego Simeone has an embarassment of striking options to choose from as he juggles his squad in readiness for Wednesday’s Champions League tie at home to FC Porto but Sociedad counterpart Imanol Alguacil will struggle to replace the goals of Alexander Isak, who has left for Newcastle United.
Athletic Bilbao versus Espanyol headlines the Sunday fixtures that also witness Unai Emery’s high flying Villarreal at home to Elche, Osasuna welcoming Rayo Vallecano and Valencia clashing with Getafe. Newly promoted clubs Real Valladolid and Almeria will square off on Monday night in contrasting form. Valladolid are yet to win whereas Almeria are in the upper echelons of the standings following a memorable 2-1 victory over Sevilla.
Celta Vigo v Cadiz
Mallorca v Girona,
Real Madrid v Real Betis,
Real Sociedad v Atletico Madrid,
Sevilla v Barcelona,
Osasuna v Rayo Vallecano,
Athletic Bilbao v Espanyol,
Villarreal v Elche,
Valencia v Getafe
Real Valladolid v Almeria