La Liga preview: Barcelona look to bounce back
By Football News
The Catalan giants have begun the season like a runaway freight train, winning nine of their first 10 league matches – their only blemish a draw with fellow Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid.
Since that stalemate a month ago, it has been business as usual for Tito Vilanova's men with three consecutive wins that have seen them amass a whopping 13 goals.
But the red-and-blue juggernaut experienced an uncharacteristic glitch on Wednesday when they suffered a shock 2-1 loss to Celtic in the Champions League.
The result served as Barca's second loss in 17 outings in all competitions so far this term, and if there is anything worse than facing Barcelona it is probably facing them when on the rebound, which does not bode well for 13th-placed Mallorca.
After starting the season in promising fashion with three wins and two draws from their first five league matches, Mallorca have fallen in a heap – losing their past five matches including a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Real Madrid a fortnight ago.
And it is hard to see them avoiding their sixth defeat on the trot when they host a stung Barcelona at Estadio Son Moix on Sunday.
Second-placed Atletico Madrid will be aiming to keep the pressure on Barca when they host mid-table Getafe on the same day.
Diego Simeone's men have been just about as impressive as Barcelona so far this season with their eight-match winning streak only coming to an end last weekend when Valencia beat them 2-0.
But before that match Atletico Madrid were simply on fire and strung together a stunning 13 victories in a row in all competitions.
And much like Mallorca against Barcelona, Getafe could be in for a torrid time against one of the best-performed teams of 2012/13 on the back of a rare loss – especially at the Vicente Calderon.
Real Madrid will be desperate to keep in touch with the top two when they travel to Levante on Sunday.
After beginning their title defence with two losses and a draw in their opening four clashes, Real have emphatically clicked back into gear with five wins and a draw in their past six league matches.
But Jose Mourinho's men are still being made to pay for their sluggish start and find themselves five points adrift of red-hot Atletico and eight back from pacesetters, and arch rivals, Barcelona.
However, sixth-placed Levante have also begun the season well and will want to ensure they do not leave the European spots any time soon so, at home, they will be sure to give Real Madrid a stern test.
In other matches, Real Betis host Granada, Rayo Vallecano take on Celta Vigo, Espanyol tackle Osasuna and Deportivo La Coruna travel to Real Zaragoza.
Elsewhere, Malaga lock horns with Real Sociedad, Valladolid welcome Valencia and Athletic Bilbao face off with Sevilla.