Spanish league: Madrid tries to keep road momentum going

·3 min read

MADRID (AP) — It’s been a fun road trip for Real Madrid at the start of the Spanish league season.

Madrid is playing its first three matches away from home because of construction work at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. But so far so good for the defending champions after two wins.

Madrid will try to keep its momentum on the road when it visits Espanyol on Sunday looking to stay near the top of the standings.

Madrid asked to play away matches in the first three rounds so it could expedite the work at the Bernabéu, which has been undergoing a major renovation project.

It was the same last year, when it also played its first three matches on the road — victories against Alavés and Real Betis and a draw at Levante.

This season, Madrid defeated promoted Almería 2-1 and then Celta Vigo 4-1.

Playing on the road hasn't been a problem for Madrid recently. It is unbeaten in its last six away matches in the league dating to last season, with a draw at Villarreal and then five straight victories.

The timetable for the renovation at the Bernabéu was moved up after the team played at the smaller Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium — in the club’s training center — during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, when fans were not allowed in matches.

Madrid was back at the Bernabéu last season while the renovation work continued. The seating capacity at the venue has been reduced during the construction.

The team’s first match at the venue this season will be against Real Betis on Sept. 3.

It will be the second home game in a row for Espanyol, which remains winless after opening with a 2-2 draw at Celta and a 2-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano.

“We know of Madrid's potential, but we are not going to be afraid,” newly signed Espanyol forward Dani Gómez told Marca. “We will give everything we have. It wouldn’t be the first time Espanyol defeats Madrid, so we will try it again.”

Espanyol has lost five of its last five games against Madrid, but its last victory over the powerhouse was in its home league game last season.

BARCELONA’S MOMENTUM

Barcelona will go for its second straight win when it hosts Valladolid on Sunday.

It’s still unclear if the Catalan club will be able to register newly signed defender Jules Koundé in time for the match at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona needs to clear more salary space to abide to the league’s strict financial fair play rules.

Valladolid opened with a 3-0 home loss against Villarreal but drew 1-1 at Sevilla last weekend. The club owned by former Brazil great Ronaldo is back in the first division after a year in the second tier.

Barcelona's first home match was a disappointing scoreless draw with Rayo.

ATLÉTICO’S STRUGGLES

Atlético Madrid will look to rebound from a home loss to Villarreal when it visits Gennaro Gattuso’s Valencia on Monday.

Álvaro Morata and João Félix connected well in Atlético's opening 3-0 win at Getafe, but the forwards struggled on Sunday and Diego Simeone’s attack was largely ineffective.

Some fans were upset and insulted a few players after this weekend's match, prompting defender Mario Hermoso to confront them in the stands.

OTHER MATCHES

Villarreal will try to win its third straight when it visits Getafe on Sunday.

The two other teams with consecutive victories — Real Betis and Osasuna — face off on Friday in Seville.

Winless Sevilla is at Almería on Saturday, while Real Sociedad is at Elche.

Cádiz, the other team yet to win points along with Getafe, hosts Athletic Bilbao on Monday.

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

Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press