La Liga Preview: Elche set for Real test, Barca head to Levante

22 September 2014 20:03

Elche could be forgiven for fearing the worst from Tuesday’s La Liga trip to the Santiago Bernabeu to take on a rampant Real Madrid side.

Back-to-back league losses clearly riled Carlo Ancelotti’s charges and the response was emphatic.

First Basel were handed a 5-1 UEFA Champions League thrashing, before Deportivo La Coruna were hammered 8-2 on home soil, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick.

The fact that Elche lost at home to Eibar on Friday underlines the scale of the task facing them in the capital.

But while Real appear to have found form, Barca never lost theirs and a superb display against Levante yielded a 5-0 triumph that extended Luis Enrique’s record as coach to five wins from as many competitive fixtures, during which they have yet to concede a goal.

The 44-year-old duly saluted Lionel Messi, scorer of the fifth goal against Levante and the man who heads La Liga’s assists chart.

“He’s special,” said Enrique. “His team-mates know he can make spectacular assists. I love these combinations.”

Next up for the Catalan giants is a tip to Malaga, against whom they have won 12 successive matches. And given that they lead second-placed Sevilla by two points and fierce rivals Real by six, Ivan Rakitic has insisted they are focusing on taking care of their own business.

“The results that the other teams get don’t matter much to us,” the Croatian, who along with Neymar is a doubt for the Malaga test, told his club’s official website. “We just have to keep fighting hard. We’re right on track, although there is still a lot of work to do.”

Defending champions Atletico Madrid, four points off the pace, will attempt to win away to Almeria for the first time in what will be their sixth attempt.

Atletico lost at Olympiacos last week before a disappointing draw at home to Celta Vigo on Saturday.

“Some important players have left the club, and it is normal that when the software on the computer has changed, it takes time for the computer to react,” said Atletico defender Miranda.

Sevilla, for whom Colombian striker Carlos Bacca has scored four times in his last three league matches, host mid-table Real Sociedad.

Granada, in fourth, are at home to rock-bottom Levante, while Valencia, on seven points from their three outings, entertain lowly Cordoba.

Eibar and Villarreal, both in the top half, collide as Celta put their unbeaten record on the line at home to Deportivo.

Finally, in battles at the bottom, Rayo Vallecano and Espanyol host Athletic Bilbao and Getafe respectively.