1. Barcelona gets early challenge for Spanish league lead

Barcelona gets early challenge for Spanish league lead

Barcelona's perfect start will be challenged this week when it travels to play Celta Vigo, one of the early surprises of the Spanish league.

By: | Published: September 22, 2015 11:42 AM

Barcelona’s perfect start will be challenged this week when it travels to play Celta Vigo, one of the early surprises of the Spanish league.

Still unbeaten after four rounds, Celta Vigo has a chance to take the lead from the defending champion with a victory at its Balaidos Stadium on Wednesday. It trails Barcelona by two points, along with Real Madrid and Villarreal.

”Celta is one of the most entertaining teams to watch,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said after his team’s 4-1 win over Levante on Sunday at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona has won its first four matches for the fourth consecutive year, and another victory in Vigo will secure Lionel Messi’s team a place atop the standings.

Celta, which entered the season with the goal of remaining in the first division, earned a difficult 2-1 win at Sevilla on Sunday for its third victory of the campaign. It could have been savoring its own perfect start to the season if it hadn’t relinquished a two-goal lead at home against 10-man Las Palmas two rounds ago.

”I think we can play a type of football that allows us to beat any team in this league,” Celta’s Argentine coach Eduardo Berizzo said. ”When we play our best, we are capable of beating the best teams in this league.

”It will be a very difficult game against Barcelona, obviously, but we think we can play up to their level and get the victory,” he said.

Here are other things to look for in the Spanish league this week:

GIVE IT A REST

Even Barcelona’s top stars will have to get used to sitting out matches from time to time.

After a 1-1 draw at Roma in the Champions League last week, coach Luis Enrique decided to rest Andres Iniesta and Luiz Suarez against Levante, and said he was satisfied with how the team performed without the regular starters.

”The players need to rest and to share playing time,” Enrique said. ”It’s something we need to do to make sure that they are in the best physical shape.”

Suarez had been the only player who had started in all of Barcelona’s seven matches of the season going into the weekend.

Barcelona will play two league games in the next six days, and seven matches in all competitions in the next 22 days.

BENZEMA’S RUN

Real Madrid is coming off four straight victories, including against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, and is also playing away this week. It travels to Bilbao to face Athletic, which has lost three matches already.

Cristiano Ronaldo was held scoreless in the 1-0 home win over Granada after netting eight goals in his two previous matches entering the weekend, but Karim Benzema got on the board for the fourth game in a row, setting his best scoring run to start a season.

The 27-year-old Frenchman, who scored in five consecutive games for Real Madrid in 2011, also scored twice in four straight matches last year.

INJURY WOES

Villarreal, third in the standings, also has a chance to take over the league’s lead this week. But coach Marcelino Garcia Toral may be without his top strikers when the team plays at Malaga on Wednesday.

Cedric Bakambu sustained a right ankle injury just 15 minutes into the team’s 3-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, and Roberto Soldado is nursing a left leg injury. Both had to be substituted during the Bilbao match and are listed as doubtful to play against Malaga.

”We have injuries to two very important forwards,” Toral said. ”We will have to wait for the tests to see what will happen.”

STAYING CLOSE

Atletico Madrid will open the fifth round by hosting Getafe at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on Tuesday looking for a victory to stay close to the leaders.

Atletico is in fifth place with nine points, three behind Barcelona.

Uruguay defender Jose Maria Gimenez said the current goal is to stay near the top of the table to be able to secure a Champions League spot at the end of the year.

”We opt for the third place,” he said. ”If later, during the season we can compete, we won’t lie to ourselves, we will have to compete like the year we became league champions, but right now we opt to qualify for the Champions League and get ahead of Valencia and Sevilla, who are always fighting with us for the third place.”

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