What to know about Spanish league this weekend
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo is on a goal-scoring streak, Lionel Messi has become Barcelona’s best playmaker, and Valencia is leading the Spanish league for the first time in three years.
Not to mention that Sevilla hasn’t lost yet, and Atletico Madrid has come close to perfecting the corner kick.
La Liga is only five weeks old but it has started with a bang.
Here are things you should know about the sixth round of the Spanish league:
RAMPANT RONALDO: After losing consecutive games, Real Madrid has responded in fierce fashion, and Ronaldo is largely responsible for its rebound.
Ronaldo scored three times last Saturday in an 8-2 demolition of Deportivo La Coruna, and three days later back in the Spanish capital he bettered that mark by finding the net on four occasions in a 5-1 win over Elche.
That gives the Ballon d’Or holder 12 goals in all competitions this season and a competition-leading eight in the league.
Madrid will face a tougher test when it visits Villarreal on Saturday. Villarreal has lost only once, 1-0 to Barcelona, this season.
The European champions then will travel to Bulgaria to play Ludogorets in the Champions League on Wednesday.
MASTERFUL MESSI: Famous for his goals, Messi is becoming Barcelona’s leading playmaker with veteran midfielder Xavi Hernandez reduced to a substitute role under coach Luis Enrique.
Messi not only floats back to receive the ball before ducking his head and dribbling by defenders. Now he picks out his teammates’ runs with well-placed passes.
Messi scored three goals and set up six more in Barcelona’s five wins across all competitions before the Catalan club stumbled to a 0-0 draw at Malaga on Wednesday.
Barcelona will be back at Camp Nou on Saturday to receive a Granada side that has been one of the quiet surprises with only one loss so far under new coach Joaquin Caparros.
Barcelona visits Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday.
THE BOSS IS BACK: Diego Simeone will be back barking orders and urging both Atletico Madrid’s players and fans to victory on Saturday when the defending champions face Sevilla in the highlight match of the round.
Simeone has finished the four-match ban from league play for his vehement protest during the Spanish Super Cup.
Atletico has had mixed results without its coach, and will need to be in top form to face an undefeated Sevilla side that enters the round in third place behind Valencia and Barcelona on goal difference.
The week doesn’t get easier for Atletico with Italian champion Juventus arriving on Wednesday in the Champions League.
SET-PIECES: Atletico Madrid had two main weapons that powered it to the league title last season.
With striker Diego Costa gone to Chelsea, its reliance on set plays has increased, and so far it is working.
Six of Atletico’s seven goals in the league have come from set-pieces. Center back Miranda leads the team with three goals, all from set-pieces, while midfielders Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion and Gabi Fernandez continue to excel with their well-placed services.
“I would be delighted to win all our matches from set-pieces,” midfielder Tiago Cardoso said. “We work on them a lot. The numbers are there for anyone to see.”
OTHERS TO WATCH: Valencia visits Real Sociedad on Sunday, three days after returning to the top of the table for the first time since early in the 2011-12 season.
Manager Nuno Espirito Santo has clicked well with his new team, which has been in decline in recent years.
On Saturday, Athletic Bilbao welcomes neighbor Eibar, which will make its first visit to San Mames in league play.
Bilbao is struggling with four losses to go with a sole victory. The promoted Eibar, meanwhile, has an impressive record of two wins, a draw and two losses for the topflight newcomer.