Barcelona target Clasico bounceback on Luis Suarez`s home debut
Luis Suarez will make his competitive home debut as La Liga leaders Barcelona look to put the disappointment of their defeat to Real Madrid last weekend behind them against Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Madrid: Luis Suarez will make his competitive home debut as La Liga leaders Barcelona look to put the disappointment of their defeat to Real Madrid last weekend behind them against Celta Vigo on Saturday.
The Catalans` defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu was their first in the league since coach Luis Enrique left Celta in May to take charge at the Camp Nou and brought Barca back into a five-strong pack at the top of the table separated by just two points.
Suarez returned from a four-month ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup to make his Barca bow against Madrid and had a positive immediate impact as he set up Neymar`s early opener.
The Uruguayan also produced a sublime assist for Gerard Pique as Barca lifted the Catalan Supercup with victory on penalties over Espanyol in midweek and Luis Enrique has been impressed with Suarez`s contribution so far.
"He played very well, he made the right decisions most of the time and was always involved our play," said Luis Enrique.
"His movement was good and he was desperate to play, as were the rest of the squad."
Lionel Messi and Neymar were given a rare night off on Wednesday, but will return to form their deadly partnership with 20 goals and 12 assists between them in 12 games so far this season.
Jordi Alba and Ivan Rakitic are also expected to return after being surprisingly dropped against Madrid, while Andres Iniesta is sidelined with a calf injury.
Real Madrid have the chance to knock Barca off the top for at least a few hours when they look for an 11th consecutive win in all competitions at Granada earlier on Saturday.
And captain Iker Casillas wants the European champions to have that position locked down by the time La Liga shuts down for Christmas in seven weeks` time.
"We need to try and get first place in La Liga before Christmas, after beating Barcelona we have taken a huge step forward."
Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos will all return having been rested for Wednesday`s 4-1 win over UD Cornella in the Copa del Rey.
However, Gareth Bale remains a major doubt with the muscle injury that has forced him to miss the last four games.
Champions Atletico Madrid can also temporarily leapfrog Barcelona when they host struggling Cordoba at the Vicente Calderon.
A run of four wins in five games has brought Diego Simeone`s side back to within two points of the top and they will be extra motivated this weekend after players and fans alike reacted with fury at the lack of recognition they received at the La Liga awards ceremony for last season earlier in the week.
"Atletico Madrid were the best in La Liga last season. The La Liga awards don`t diminish that. Last season we were the best," said Simeone, who won Atletico`s only individual award as coach of the season.
"Maybe if we win the league again we will win some award next year."
Joint leaders Sevilla face a stern examination of their title credentials on Sunday when they travel to Athletic Bilbao.
The Basques have improved in recent weeks after a horrible start to the campaign left them lying in the relegation zone, but Sevilla are full of confidence having won seven of their last eight in La Liga.
On-loan Liverpool striker Iago Aspas also made his case for a place in Unai Emery`s starting line-up as he fired a hat-trick in Sevilla`s 6-1 Copa del Rey victory over Sabadell in midweek.
Meanwhile, fourth-placed Valencia have the toughest task of all the top five on paper when they make the short trip to take on Villarreal later on Sunday.
Friday (all times GMT)
Deportivo la Coruna v Getafe (1945)
Granada v Real Madrid (1500), Atletico Madrid v Cordoba (1700), Barcelona v Celta Vigo (1900), Real Sociedad v Malaga (2100)
Athletic Bilbao v Sevilla (1100), Villarreal v Valencia (1600), Levante v Almeria (1800), Elche v Espanyol (2000)
Rayo Vallecano v Eibar (1945)