Disputes put aside as action returns to Spanish La Liga

Madrid: After a week marred by more off-field disputes surrounding the financial state of football in Spain, the big two resume their battle for domestic supremacy on Saturday.

With La Liga taking a break for the internationals last weekend, attention turned to a meeting in Seville of 12 top-flight clubs desperate for a new television deal to be agreed that will reduce the gaping financial chasm between Real Madrid and Barcelona and the rest.

Meanwhile, radio stations have been at odds with the Spanish league after being told for the first time that they must pay for the rights to broadcast games, making it a difficult few days following hot on the heels of the players` union strike that put paid to the opening weekend last month.

Real Madrid and Barcelona underlined just how uneven the playing field is in Spain now with huge wins when the action did finally kick off a fortnight ago with the capital club trouncing hapless Zaragoza 6-0 away before Pep Guardiola`s side thumped Champions League hopefuls Villarreal 5-0.

With the Champions League group stage getting underway next midweek, the giants of the Spanish game are both in action this Saturday, Barcelona visiting Real Sociedad before Real Madrid host neighbours Getafe.

Madrid`s Cristiano Ronaldo picked up where he left off last season by scoring a hat-trick at La Romareda and the Portuguese winger admits that Jose Mourinho`s side have to aim Barcelona`s dominance both at home and abroad this time around.

"We have to win one of the major titles this year, the Spanish league or the Champions League, this is how success is measured in football." he said.

Referring to last season Ronaldo said, "On a personal level I was very happy, the club helped me a lot and the team is the best there is, but collectively we lacked a little at the very end."

Coach Mourinho also insists that last season must go down as a success, even if the Copa del Rey was all Madrid had to show for it.

"Those who say I didn`t win the league in my debut season with Madrid are right, but it was still my best-ever campaign," he said.

"It was the season I won most points, most games and scored the most goals... it was a very, very, very good season."

Barcelona have arguably the tougher task as they travel to San Sebastian to face a Real Sociedad side who enjoyed an impressive 2-1 victory away to Sporting Gijon on the opening day.

Meetings between the Basque club and Barca are often thrilling affairs and it was at Anoeta that the Catalans` saw a 31-match unbeaten league run end last season.

Guardiola has an embarrassment of riches and everybody except Gerard Pique fit, but with a Champions League meeting with Milan to come on Tuesday, he may well choose to rotate his squad.

There are two other potential crackers in store on Saturday with Sevilla going to Villarreal before Valencia entertain Atletico Madrid.

Atletico could give debuts to Brazilian playmaker Diego, signed on loan from Wolfsburg, and forward Radamel Falcao, who is finally eligible to play after completing his 40 million euro ($55.9m) move from Porto.

Both players trained with their new team mates for the first time this week and former Atletico captain Diego Simeone believes Falcao will become a favourite at the Vicente Calderon.

"Atletico fans will fall in love with him," he said. "He is a player who needs service to fully reach his potential as he thrives in space but he will be fit in really well."

The clash at El Madrigal brings together the two most outspoken clubs in the current TV revenue dispute.

Betis against Mallorca is the early kick off on a Sunday in which the stand-out game sees Espanyol entertain Athletic Bilbao.

The final game takes place on Monday evening when newly-promoted Granada go to big-spending Malaga, who will be looking to bounce back from a first day defeat at Sevilla.



R. Sociedad vs Barcelona, Villarreal vs Sevilla (both 1600 GMT), Real Madrid vs Getafe (1800 GMT), Valencia vs Atletico Madrid (2000 GMT).


Real Betis vs Mallorca (1000 GMT), Racing Santander vs Levante (1400 GMT), Osasuna vs Sporting Gijon, Rayo Vallecano vs Zaragoza (both 1600 GMT), Espanyol vs Athletic Bilbao (2000 GMT).


Malaga vs Granada (1900 GMT).

Bureau Report