5 teams jostle at top of tight Spanish league
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Luis Suarez will make his Camp Nou debut in official competition on Saturday.
The Barcelona striker played in a home friendly to start the season while serving out a four-month biting ban. That ended in time for Suarez to set up Neymar’s goal in Barcelona’s loss at Real Madrid last weekend.
Suarez set up another goal for Gerard Pique to help Barcelona win the Catalan Super Cup over Espanyol on Wednesday.
“Suarez is participating in the correct manner in most cases,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “He leaves his mark on the game and shows his effort.”
On Saturday, Barcelona will host Celta Vigo, the former club of Luis Enrique.
Celta is flourishing under Luis Enrique’s successor, Eduardo Berizzo. Celta is in sixth place, four points behind Atletico Madrid, with only one loss this season.
After being denied a goal in Barcelona’s 3-1 loss at Madrid, Lionel Messi will have another chance to get the one goal he needs to equal Telmo Zarra as the league’s all-time scorer with 251 goals.
Also, Real Madrid will be looking for an 11th straight victory on Saturday at Granada. Cristiano Ronaldo leads the league with 16 goals, almost twice as many as second-place Neymar with nine.
Barcelona and Sevilla lead Madrid by one point with Valencia and Atletico Madrid another point adrift. The last time two points separated the top five teams after nine games was 2005-06.
Here are some more things to know about this weekend’s games:
RESTED AND READY
Ronaldo will be well rested for Saturday’s visit to Granada.
The Portugal forward did not travel with the team to Barcelona for Wednesday’s 4-1 win at third-division club Cornella in the Copa del Rey.
Ronaldo has scored in 11 straight appearances and has 21 goals in all competitions this season, putting him in good position to repeat as the Ballon d’Or winner. He was included in FIFA’s 23-man short list announced this week for the award that will be given on Jan. 12.
Granada has gone winless in its last five games, including four losses.
SEVILLA IN SECOND
Sevilla’s 2-1 comeback win with two late goals against Villarreal established its best start in club history.
The team added a 6-1 rout of second-division side Sabadell on Wednesday to start the Copa del Rey in winning fashion.
On Sunday, Sevilla faces a trip to Athletic Bilbao, which had gone nine games overall without a win until a 1-0 victory at Almeria last week.
VALENCIA AT VILLARREAL
Valencia has surpassed expectations under new coach Nuno Espirito Santo with only one loss so far, but it has only managed one win in four away matches.
Next up is a tough match at Villarreal on Sunday.
“Villarreal likes to keep possession and go at you from the start,” Valencia defender Jose Gaya said. “If we go out there asleep ... they will come for us. We have to have a good start.”
Atletico will host Cordoba on Saturday with something to prove.
The defending champions are angry that their players left the Spanish league’s awards ceremony this week empty handed. Instead, players from rival Real Madrid swept up most of the individual player awards, despite finishing third last season.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who did win the best coach award for last season, has joined his players in criticizing the gala.
“We choose names over capacity, and Atletico was the best last year, at least in the league,” Simeone said. “It’s a system that makes us choose what we consume every day, (and) we consume names.”