La Liga Matchday 7 Preview: Champions Kick-Off Big Weekend

Luis Suarez

Getty Luis Suarez celebrates scoring for Atletico Madrid

Defending champions Atletico Madrid kick off another intriguing weekend of La Liga action on Saturday at home to bottom side Alaves and will be firm favorites to take all three points. Alaves have opened the season with five straight defeats, while Diego Simeone’s side remain unbeaten after six games.

Yet Atletico haven’t been completely convincing so far and have typically done things the hard way. The Rojiblancos needed a 91st minute strike, this time from Luis Suarez, to secure a comeback win over 10-man Getafe last time out.

The champions are making a habit of leaving it late in La Liga this season. A stoppage-time strike secured Atleti a valuable point at Villarreal (2-2) and another saw Simeone’s men eventually see off Espanyol (2-1).

As Opta highlight, going behind does not seem to be a problem for the defending champions:

Suarez was the hero against Getafe with his double and will fancy his chances of netting against Alaves. The 34-year-old scored the winner when the teams last met in La Liga back in March at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium and also bagged a, yes you’ve guessed it, 90th minute winner in a 2-1 victory in January.

Anyone in the US can watch the upcoming action and all La Liga matches live on ESPN+:

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Atletico will once again be without Joao Felix who is suspended after picking up a two-man ban for his red card against Athletic Club, while Simeone will also want more from Antoine Griezmann. The World Cup winner is yet to find the back of the net for Atletico in his four games since returning from Barcelona over the summer.


Vinicius & Benzema To Sink Yellow Submarine?

Goals have not been a problem for Atletico’s city rivals Real Madrid who have Karim Benzema (8) and Vinicius Junior (5) in fine form and topping the early Pichichi standings. Benzema also has 7 assists and will take some stopping on current form.

Madrid hit Real Mallorca for six last time out, with Marco Asensio netting a hat-trick, to move top of the table heading into Matchday 7. Up next for Los Blancos are Villarreal who are La Liga’s draw specialists, having kicked off 2021-22 with four straight stalemates.

Last season’s Europa League winners should still provide a tough test at the Santiago Bernabeu as they hope to inflict a first defeat on Los Blancos since Carlo Ancelotti returned as coach to replace Zinedine Zidane.

Real Madrid, like rivals Atletico, haven’t managed to be consistently impressive yet and have also been grateful for late goals. Los Blancos secured late winners against Inter in the Champions League and Valencia in La Liga, which led their Italian coach to praise his team’s courage.

“We can improve in the consistency of our play, and the defensive aspect,” he said, as reported by ESPN. “We’ve played six games, five of them away… We’ve played away in places like Seville, Valencia, Milan. This team has balls.”

Summer signing Eduardo Camavinga is already proving a hit in Madrid, with a goal and an assist in his first three matches for his new club, and the 18-year-old will be hoping to keep his place in the starting XI for Madrid this weekend.

Meanwhile, Ancelotti’s opposite number Unai Emery has also spoken out regarding his team and knows results must improve. He told reporters at a news conference, “We’re seeing that every team is finding it hard to win, but if you haven’t won for a while, draws aren’t enough.”


Barcelona Hoping For Ansu Fati Boost

While both Madrid clubs have already shown their title credentials this season it’s been a different story over at Barcelona. The continuing chaos at the Camp Nou shows no sign of abating with Ronald Koeman refusing to take questions at a press conference in midweek and with speculation mounting he will be sacked.

Barcelona welcome Levante to the Camp Nou on Sunday and will need to improve on their last home game, a disappointing 1-1 draw against Granada that required a stoppage-time equalizer from center-back Ronald Araujo to snatch a point.

The Catalans should have enough to overcome Paco Lopez’s side but did drop points against Levante last season. A 3-3 draw in May was one of a series of results that wrecked Barca’s title challenge and saw Koeman’s men finish down in third place in the table.

There is one big ray of hope for Barca ahead of the clash. Teenage forward Ansu Fati is expected to be named in the matchday squad for the first time since suffering a knee injury that has kept him out of action since November 2020.

Fati is one of the club’s brightest young talents and his return should provide the Catalans with a real shot in the arm. Barca are still reeling from the summer exits of attackers Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, but the exciting Fati has the talent to inject some real bite into the Catalan giants’ attack.


Ones to Watch

There’s plenty of other intriguing games to watch out for elsewhere in the Spanish top flight this weekend. High-flying Rayo Vallecano are enjoying life back in La Liga after promotion with an impressive 10 points from their opening 6 games.

Colombian triker Radamel Falcao is proving an instant hit in Madrid with two goals in two substitute appearances since signing at the start of September. El Tigre may have turned 35 in February but is showing he can still be a very potent threat.

Up next for Rayo are Cadiz who are unbeaten away from home in 2021-22 and will fancy their chances of taking something away from the Estadio de Vallecas on Sunday.

Valencia are another team to look out for under new manager Jose Bordalas. The club had started the season strongly but consecutive defeats to Real Madrid and Sevilla have checked their progress.

Bordalas and his men now face another difficult challenge with the visit of Basque side Athletic to Mestalla on Saturday. Marcelino’s men never give opponents a moment’s peace and arrive in need of a response after suffering their first defeat of the new campaign against Rayo Vallecano.

Elsewhere, unbeaten Sevilla will be expected to pick up victory over newly-promoted Espanyol at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, while Real Mallorca host Osasuna, and Real Sociedad take on Elche at Anoeta. Wrapping up the weekend’s action are Real Betis and Getafe who face off on Sunday before Granada visit Balaidos on Monday to take on Celta Vigo.

La Liga Matchday 7 Fixtures

Saturday, September 24

Alaves vs Atletico Madrid

Valencia vs Athletic Bilbao

Sevilla vs Espanyol

Real Madrid vs Villarreal

Sunday, September 25

Real Mallorca vs Osasuna

Barcelona vs Levante

Rayo Vallecano vs Cadiz

Real Sociedad vs Elche

Real Betis vs Getafe

Monday, September 26

Celta Vigo vs Granada


Anyone in the US can watch the upcoming action and all La Liga matches live on ESPN+:

Get ESPN+


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