La Liga is set for a sizzling Sunday with a purist Betis being put to the test against Barcelona and a final trial by fire for Real Madrid’s Santiago Solari 

‘Jogo bonito’ showdown at Camp Nou

Betis manager Quique Setién has turned controversial of late due to his insistency on branding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ football in a number of press conferences. He has even stated, in some of the defeats inflicted on Betis this season, that he wouldn’t be proud of winning in that way (‘that way’ being defending tightly and taking advantage of one of two single chances to score).

Well, against Barça he will have the chance to prove that the Verdiblanco path to success (ball control, high percentage of possession, lots of flair and style in front) is effective against a side that has traditionally also sported those traits since the Cruyff era.

However, something tells us that Ernest Valverde isn’t as keen as playing ‘jogo bonito’ on the Culé bench. After a very demanding two weeks with no Leo Messi, games against Real Madrid, Inter (twice), his Barça is ready to win in any way possible.

Solari can earn his shot at the coaching position

The Argentinean came in as a placeholder for the new manager and now it seems he might have a shot of proving his worth. Reports this week confirmed that Santiago Solari will continue on Real’s bench for a few weeks more, at least until the FIFA Club World Cup in December. His balance to date? After taking over, Madrid have played three, won three, with no goals allowed and 11 scored. Not bad, right?

Yes, the three games haven’t been that tough (especially the ‘goleadas’ against Viktoria Plzen and Melilla), but the fact is that the 15-day temporary contract will expire. On Monday, Real will have to decide if they keep him or bring someone else. And, as the Conte deal fell apart and the team is not doing badly, they might keep him. Nevertheless, a harsh defeat against Real Celta on Sunday might change everything. Life can be tough (and unpredictable) at a club already immersed in such craziness.

Sevilla v Espanyol, the ‘big game’ to watch

Between Saturday and Sunday we have a ‘Super Weekend’ in Europe and South America with showdowns between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munchen, Manchester City v Manchester United, Boca Juniors v River Plate and AC Milan taking on Juventus.

What about Spain? Seriously, this is the real deal this weekend: Sevilla facing Espanyol on Sunday at the Sánchez Pizjuán.

Two of the most in-form teams in La Liga, third and second spots currently, are facing off with a shot of getting close to the top of the league. Several big breakout names (‘Panda Bear’ Borja Iglesias, Muriel, Promes, Sarabia, Marc Roca, Darder…) are delivering a hell of a season and two coaches, Pablo Machín and Rubí, are amongst the most hard-working and meticulous in the league. Definitely expecting the best from this fixture.

Alavés have another chance of climbing the ladder

Last week’s sudden defeat was a big blow for little Alavés, who had the chance of claiming a top spot very close to FC Barcelona and blew it. However, given the rest of the fixtures this weekend, they could redeem themselves only seven days later.

Abelardo’s men host Huesca on Sunday morning, and could even end the weekend on the second place in the Sevilla v Espanyol final score is a draw and Atlético doesn’t win against Athletic Club. The opposition seems quite weak at this point: SD Huesca might have replaced manager Leo Franco, but newcomer Francisco hasn’t been able to turn things around and they remain bottom of the league with only six points from 33.

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