Real Madrid in early action, Barca visit Villarreal

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Real Madrid is set to kick off early in La Liga's third round of games, facing Celta Vigo on Saturday night.

Kepa is expected to make his debut as a goalkeeper for Carlo Ancelotti's team, potentially replacing Andriy Lunin. This change comes as Madrid starts the new season with two consecutive wins, with Jude Bellingham netting three goals.

Atletico de Madrid's Pablo Barrios (R) vies with Granada's Oscar Melendo during the Spanish La Liga football match between Atletico de Madrid and Granada CF in Madrid, Spain, Aug. 14, 2023. (Photo by Gustavo Valiente/Xinhua)

Madrid is on their third consecutive away game, owing to the ongoing renovations at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. While this could pose challenges, it also implies more home games for Ancelotti's team during the season's latter half.

Celta's lineup will miss young star Gabri Veiga, who's now with Al Ahli in Saudi Arabia. However, he was absent from their 1-1 tie with Real Sociedad last weekend.

Real Sociedad, having started with two home draws, will face Las Palmas on Friday night. While striker Andre Silva awaits his debut for Real Sociedad, Mikel Merino is expected to enhance the team's midfield against a recently-promoted opponent that began the season with mixed results.

Saturday's Andalusian derby features Cadiz versus Almeria, with the latter team looking to rebound after home losses to both Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid, increasing scrutiny on coach Victor Moreno.

Granada hopes to reverse their consecutive defeats when they host Mallorca, though they'll be playing without Antonio Puertas, who received a red card against Rayo Vallecano.

In southern Spain, Saturday's matches include Sevilla hosting Girona. Pressure mounts on Sevilla's coach, Jose Luis Mendilibar, especially after starting the season with two losses, the latest being a 4-3 setback against Alaves. Post-defeat, Mendilibar's sharp critique of his players' selectivity in performance will likely resonate in the upcoming games.

Sunday's highlight is Villarreal vs. Barcelona, a pivotal match for Barca. They are still integrating new members, like Marcos Alonso. Injuries and roster changes, like Ronald Araujo's muscle issue, suggest a reliance on B-team substitutes under Xavi Hernandez's management.

Valencia looks to secure their third win as they host Osasuna, who's coming off a Conference League preliminary against Bruges. Marco Canus, newly signed from Racing Santander, might debut for Valencia.

Athletic Club Bilbao, after rebounding from a loss to Madrid with a win over Osasuna, aims to keep the momentum against Betis. The stakes are high for Bilbao, given their previous season's home record against top-tier rivals. They'll play without the suspended Oihan Sancet.

Monday's games spotlight Rayo Vallecano, fresh off two away victories, against Atletico Madrid. Rayo's loyal fans had queued for hours for season tickets. Conversely, Atletico struggled in their recent away game against Betis.

Lastly, Getafe, known for their defensive style under Jose Bordalas, will "entertain" Alaves. Whether "entertain" is apt remains debatable.

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