LaLiga Matchday 2: Spain's big boys bid to maintain winning starts
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LaLiga returned last weekend and it was like nothing had changed as last season’s top four all shot out of the gates with a win.
Matchday 2 sees Barcelona continue their new era against another Basque side in Athletic Club, after seeing off Real Sociedad in their LaLiga opener.
Elsewhere, Real Madrid will look to build on a thumping opening-weekend victory against Alaves.
We have previewed all the big matches ahead of the upcoming gameweek, to provide the ultimate guide to this weekend’s LaLiga action.
Real Betis vs Cadiz (8pm)
Granada vs Valencia (Saturday, 6.30pm)
After falling away to miss out on European football last season, Granada began the new campaign as they ended the last – with a goalless draw.
An expected goals score of just 0.3 was reflective of a single on-target effort at El Madrigal. El Grana will hope to get their season up and running on Saturday.
Valencia, meanwhile, started their 2021-22 campaign by eking out a 1-0 win over Getafe, despite playing 87 minutes with 10 men after Hugo Guillamon’s early red card.
Now under the management of Jose Bordalas, Valencia attempted the fewest passes — just 199 — of any side on the opening weekend.
Espanyol vs Villarreal (Saturday, 6.30pm)
Promoted as Segunda Division champions at the first time of asking, Espanyol began life back in LaLiga with a goalless draw at Osasuna.
The Catalans will rely heavily on the goals of Raul de Tomas again this season after the former Real Madrid youngster hit 23 en-route to promotion.
Europa League winners Villarreal will be without Juan Foyth after the Argentine was dismissed in their opening-day stalemate with Granada.
Unai Emery’s side are already missing a number of players including Samuel Chukwueze and Dani Parejo.
Athletic Club vs Barcelona (Saturday, 9pm)
A run of just two LaLiga wins since March 7 must be improved upon soon for Athletic Club, who were held to a goalless draw by Elche on Matchday 1.
Furthermore, it is now six hours since they last scored in LaLiga after seeing out the 2020-21 campaign by firing blanks in three straight defeats.
There are no such worries at Barcelona — for now at least — after the Blaugrana kicked off the post-Lionel Messi era with a 4-2 win over Real Sociedad.
Only Sevilla (3.5) recorded a higher expected goals figure than Barcelona (2.7), who saw Martin Braithwaite bag a welcome double.
The Dane scored his last LaLiga goal in a 3-0 win over Real Valladolid on December 22 — one of only two in the league last term.
Saturday’s other game
Deportivo Alaves vs Mallorca (4pm)
Atletico Madrid vs Elche (Sunday, 6.30pm)
Holders Atletico Madrid got their title defence underway with a 2-1 win at Celta Vigo thanks to a pair of Angel Correa goals – though both sides finished with 10 men.
Interestingly though, the side which finished with LaLiga’s best defence last term have the third-highest expected goals against figure after Matchday 1 (2.1).
Elche got underway with a 0-0 against Athletic Club but had the better chances at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.
Last season’s seven-goal top scorer Lucas Boye has rejoined on a permanent basis from Torino and if Fran Escriba’s side hope to better a 17th-place finish, he will need to hit the goal trail.
Levante vs Real Madrid (Sunday, 9pm)
Levante were dramatically denied an opening-day win at Cadiz by Alfonso Espino’s goal in the seventh minute of added time, securing a 1-1 draw with the minnows.
Head coach Paco Lopez kept his job despite a run of eight defeats in 13 to end last season and will want to put their nine-game winless streak to bed sooner rather than later.
Early leaders Real Madrid put on arguably the most convincing display on Matchday 1 — winning 4-1 at Alaves despite a somewhat threadbare-looking squad.
There was even a start for the returning Gareth Bale, back with Los Blancos after a season away on loan at Tottenham.
Karim Benzema struck twice to build on last season’s 23-goal haul and having finished with over 20 strikes in each of the last three seasons, he will be as important as ever this term.
Sunday’s other game
Real Sociedad vs Rayo Vallecano (4pm)
Getafe vs Sevilla (7pm)
Osasuna vs Celta Vigo (9pm)