La Liga awaits Gareth Bale's debut

Madrid, Sep 12 (IANS): Spanish La Liga football returns this weekend with all big clubs in action Saturday night and ending with the emotive opening of a new ground Monday.

The start of the group stage of the Champions League next week means that the sides that finished in the top four last season play Saturday with one game likely to capture all the attention as Real Madrid visit Villarreal, reports Xinhua.

Villarreal have been one of the revelations at the start of the season with three straight wins, but all of the focus is likely to be on one man in the El Madrigal Stadium as the world's most expensive player, Gareth Bale, set to make his Real Madrid debut.

Injuries to Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao mean Bale could start at left back, which is how he began his career, but the most likely thing is for Nacho Gonzalez to fill in on the left and Bale to appear as a second half substitute.

Asier Illaramendi could also make his Madrid debut after suffering a pre-season injury, but Xabi Alonso is still out injured.

Barcelona are at home to a Sevilla side that has kicked off the campaign with two draws from three games, while Barca have a 100 percent record. The fans in the Camp Nou will be rubbing their hands in anticipation of seeing Lionel Messi and Neymar together again, although coach Tata Martino may make changes after the international games and with a view to next week's Champions League debut.

Atletico Madrid are another side with a 100 percent record and Diego Simeone's side will expect to extend that when they kick off the weekend at home to recently promoted Almeria, another side without a win so far this season.

Saturday also sees Real Sociedad, who should have recovered central defender Inigo Martinez from injury, travel to Valencia to play Levante, who look to have recovered from the 7-0 drubbing their received from Barca on the first day of the new season.

Sunday kicks off with a tough looking Granada entertaining an unbeaten Espanyol in a game in which the home side may be slight favourites. The day then continues with a bottom of the table clash as Getafe take on Osasuna.

Osasuna became the first team this season to sack their coach when Jose Luis Mendilibar lost his job after just three games and Javier Gracia makes his debut in the dugout looking for his side's first point of the season. With Getafe only having taken one point to date and looking out of sorts, this has taken on the aspect of an early season 6-pointer with the looser destined to struggle through a long and difficult season.

Malaga will look to turn solid displays into points against a much changed Rayo Vallecano, while Betis also need to kick-start their season, although that will not be easy against Valencia.

Betis have only one point from three games, while two defeats in their opening three matches mean Miroslav Djukic will be under pressure at Valencia if his side return home empty handed.

There are two matches Monday: Elche entertain Valladolid before Athletic Club Bilbao play the first ever game in the new San Mames Barria Stadium. Celta are the side honored with helping Athletic inaugurate the ground, which will be packed despite the 10pm kick off time, which has caused anger among supporters in Bilbao, who consider that such an event should have been celebrated at a more accessible time.

Athletic have six points from two games and Celta are unbeaten this season and it promises to be a pulsating affair to end the round of matches.


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