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5 things to know about the Spanish league

September 19, 2013

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Here are five things to know about the Spanish league for this weekend’s matches:

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MESSI AND RONALDO

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo appear primed to add to their goal-scoring hauls this weekend as Barcelona visits Rayo Vallecano on Saturday followed by Real Madrid hosting Getafe on Sunday.

The star forwards are coming off hat tricks in the Champions League — Messi helped Barcelona beat Ajax 4-0 while Ronaldo fueled Madrid’s 6-1 rout of Galatasaray in Turkey — and they both have had lots of success against their upcoming Spanish league opponents.

Messi has scored two goals in each of Barcelona’s last two visits to the Vallecas Stadium, while Ronaldo has scored seven goals in Madrid’s last three home wins over Getafe.

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CASH FOR BALE

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez told club members that the club did not finance its world record 100 million euro ($132 million) payout to acquire Gareth Bale with a bank loan, according to Spanish media reports.

Perez’s assurance that Madrid paid cash for the Wales winger came a day after Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said that Madrid’s spending spree, which also included about 76 million euros ($103 million) in other players, could only be done with the help of Bankia, a bank the Spanish state has had to bail out.

Bale scored a goal in his debut last weekend in a 2-2 draw at Villarreal. Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti used him as a second-half substitute for Tuesday’s win at Galatasaray, so it remains to be seen if he will start against Getafe.

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SEVILLA VISITS VALENCIA

Sevilla travels to Valencia on Sunday with both sides desperate for a win.

Although Sevilla is winless and in second-to-last place, the team has been competitive in each game and came very close to drawing or even snatching a win at Barcelona last weekend.

Valencia, however, has gotten worse week after week and has lost three straight after squeaking out a 1-0 victory over Malaga to open the season.

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FLYING HIGH

For the first time in recent memory, neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid are playing the best football in Spain. Instead, it’s Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

Atletico and Barcelona lead the Spanish league with a perfect four wins and an identical goal difference of 14 scored and four conceded. But while Barcelona has needed defensive stands and a last-second goal to stay perfect, three of Atletico’s wins have come by more than one goal.

Atletico visits Valladolid on Saturday after it marked a perfect return to the Champions League on Wednesday with a 3-1 win over Zenit St. Petersburg.

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ESPANYOL GETS JOB DONE

Of the five undefeated teams in Spain, Espanyol may not be the first that comes to mind. But Barcelona’s second team probably doesn’t care.

Unable to keep playmaker Joan Verdu from leaving for a better offer at Real Betis this offseason, Espanyol changed its strategy for signing players and picked up several unknown players from the second division.

And so far it has worked. Two new players, David Lopez and Manuel Lanzarote, have already scored as Espanyol ekes out good results with its disciplined defense and set pieces ahead of Monday’s match against Athletic Bilbao.

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