Big sides bouncing back, dominant Dembelé, and Keylor against Courtois – here are four things to watch this weekend in La Liga
Dembelé wants to soar to new heights
Five goals scored in his six games played so far for Barcelona has turned Ousmane Dembelé into one of the Top 10 players in Europe right now. He’s dazzlingly quick, skilled, takes on defenders with ease and, finally, the Frenchman has found a way of recovering that same scoring ability which impressed everyone at Borussia Dortmund.
After a complicated rookie year in Barcelona, Ousmane is now taking names left and right in his sophomore season, proving that the high price-tag Barça paid in 2017 ($123 million + $47 million bonus) was really worth it. His goal against PSV perfectly distilled all of his current qualities and tip-top form. This weekend, against Girona, the young French attacker will try to keep his season on a roll.
Keylor v Courtois: place your bets!
Julen Lopetegui has found himself in a tricky place with his goalkeepers. Both Keylor Navas and Thibaut Courtois are amazing keepers: the Costa Rican has won three Champions League titles in a row, whereas Courtois is one of president Florentino Pérez’s personal gambles. We could say that, nowadays, they both deserve to be starting.
And, yet, Lopetegui will have to choose. Against Espanyol on Saturday, another tough pick between the pair. Keylor has played four official games this season and Thibaut only two, but the stats are terribly close between both. Insiders explain that Lopetegui is planning on a steady rotation between both, depending on how well they perform during the training sessions and the games played. At least, that’s his plan until 2019 comes around, then, he hopes to have made up his mind.
Two sides of the same coin in the Derbi Madrileño
A very strong, disciplined team, who punish every little mistake the opposition make and are a defensive powerhouse. This description fits Atlético de Madrid perfectly, but it can also be applied to Getafe. Quique Bordalás has crafted one of the most annoying teams in LaLiga, a blue wave of minions pestering and making life hard for anyone who dares face them.
In fact, Getafe are above Atlético right now in the standings after Los Colchoneros have been lacking in previous games. Cholo Simeone, a master in the press room, warned on Friday that “Getafe should be careful, as the Video Assisted Referee (VAR) can see everything they do”. This sly shot fired at their rivals this weekend found an answer in Bordalás’ presser: “We are tough and want to compete at the top of our game…just as they do”.
Anyone attending the game should wear a helmet, just in case…
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) September 21, 2018
Valencia need to win at last
Criticism is coming Marcelino’s way. Valencia haven’t won a single game this season and, on Wednesday, disappointed their crowd after being unable to make a 10-man Juventus even flinch. Problems keep piling up as Dani Parejo isn’t even close to his former self from last year, Rodrigo Moreno seems tired from playing every single minute, Geoffrey Kondogbia is injured, the defense doesn’t feel like a reliable quartet…
— Valencia CF English ?? (@valenciacf_en) September 21, 2018
However, not everything is bad for them while gearing up towards their game at Estadio de la Cerámica. For starters, Villarreal are almost in as bad a shape as they are. The Yellow Submarine scored an agonizing win last weekend against Leganés, seizing their first win this year. In their Europe League debut, they disappointed versus Glasgow Rangers (2-2).
Both teams need desperately to win to climb closer to their ‘natural’ place in the standings, but the outlook is more desperate for the Bats. Should they stumble once again, the reasons to worry would multiply times tenfold…and the incoming schedule for Valencia (Celta, Real Sociedad, Manchester United, FC Barcelona…) isn’t exactly the easiest.