Showdown in Spain: Real Madrid and Betis try to stay perfect

·3 min read

MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid finally appears at home where it can reaffirm it's the team to beat in the Spanish league.

After three straight road games to start the season, defending champion Madrid returns to Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Saturday for a showdown against Real Betis, the only other team with a perfect record.

The winner will take sole possession of the lead and could make a statement; Madrid showing nothing has changed from last season or Betis showing that its great run last season wasn't a fluke.

Madrid asked to play its first three matches on the road so renovation work at the Bernabéu could continue. Playing away was no problem for the team coached by Carlo Ancelotti as it won at Almería, Celta Vigo and Espanyol.

Betis won the Copa del Rey last season and finished fifth in La Liga after staying near the top for most of the competition. The team coached by Manuel Pellegrini began this season by defeating Elche and Osasuna at home, and Mallorca on the road.

Madrid also won the Champions League and the Spanish Super Cup. It has already begun this campaign by winning the UEFA Super Cup.

BARCELONA'S MOMENTUM

Another big matchup on Saturday will pit a Barcelona carrying momentum against a Sevilla that is yet to win, surprisingly.

Barcelona's new signings such as Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Koundé appear to be settling in after starting off with a home draw against Rayo Vallecano. They have since won at Real Sociedad 4-1 and against Valladolid 4-0 at the Camp Nou.

Lewandowski already has four goals.

Sevilla's home game against Barcelona comes after a disappointing start that included away losses against Osasuna and Almería, and a home draw against Valladolid. Julen Lopetegui's side entered the new campaign amid high expectations after a fourth-place finish last season.

It will be Barcelona’s first match since forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was attacked by robbers in his house following the game against Valladolid last weekend. He was hit and had his jaw injured.

ATLÉTICO’S ADDITION

Atlético Madrid, after two wins and a loss, visits Real Sociedad on Saturday with new signing Sergio Reguilón.

The former Real Madrid left back joined from Tottenham to help Atlético compensate for the departure of Renan Lodi to Nottingham Forest.

“I can bring a lot of energy,” Reguilón boasted. “I’m a very competitive person, a great team player and, above all, I can bring the experience.”

OTHER MATCHES

Athletic Bilbao will look to maintain momentum when it hosts Espanyol on Sunday. Athletic is going for a third straight match after opening with a draw.

Also on Sunday, unbeaten Villarreal hosts Elche hoping to rebound from a draw at Getafe that ended its perfect record. Valencia hosts Getafe looking for its first win since the opener against Girona at home. Gennaro Gattuso’s Valencia has lost two in a row.

Cádiz, the only team to start with three consecutive losses, will try to win its first point when it visits Celta Vigo on Friday.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press