With the national team having secured their qualification for next summer's World Cup, attention in Spain returns to La Liga this weekend. Real Madrid are desperate to make up lost ground on leaders Barcelona and city rivals Atletico Madrid, with Los Blancos are already five points behind when they host Malaga on Saturday. Barcelona, who should have both Lionel Messi and Neymar starting, travel to Osasuna.
Real Madrid 1.20, a draw 7.00, Málaga 14.00
A report by Marca that Gareth Bale has suffered a spinal disc hernia was quickly refuted by the club and the player's agent this week. Real Madrid admitted that the winger has a "small chronic disc protrusion" in his back, but insisted it's common amongst footballers. Bale's agent, Jonathan Barnett, said he had a "slight tear in his thigh." Either way, the Welshman is expected to play some part in this match having improved his health and fitness over the international break.
Bernd Schuster’s team saw their five-game unbeaten run brought to an end with a shock 1-0 home defeat to Osasuna, midfielder Pedro Morales believes they can do better: "we had a good start to the season and only small details have seen some points escape us that could have been ours."
Morales will come face-to-face with the player he replaced at Dinamo Zagreb, Luka Modrić, when the Croatian left for Tottenham. Why not have a bet on the playmakers for first goalscorer? Morales is 16.00 and Modrić at 10.00.
In the last three visits to the Bernabéu, Málaga has scored at least two goals. Those meetings have produced nine goals from both teams combined in the final 45 minutes. Over 2.5 goals in the second half can be found at 2.55.
Score Prediction: Real Madrid 3 Málaga 1 (10.00)
Osasuna 14.00, a draw 6.25, Barcelona 1.22
"Last year they struggled, whilst two years ago we won 3-2. We are going to rely on that. We believe we can get something good." Those are the thoughts of winger Sisi who reminded Barcelona of their previous troubles in Pamplona.
Osasuna think the extra time they have had together to prepare for this match will be crucial, whilst Barça's superstars have been busy representing their individual nations. The players confidence has been evident in press briefings throughout the last two weeks, despite the club's contrasting positions in the league table. With this in mind, pluck for Osasuna to get a result; they are a decent 4.30 on a double chance to win or draw.
Lionel Messi should be ready to return, with partner in crime Neymar paying homage to the Argentine and the start to his Camp Nou career: "It is the realisation of a dream, an inexplicable pride, and Messi is a spectacular player, a genius both on and off the field."
After seven months out and a whole succession of injuries, Carles Puyol is almost fit to make his return. The central defender has been sorely missed and becomes even more important with matches against Milan and Real Madrid coming up next.
In three visits to El Sadar stadium, Barcelona has witnessed the home team striking the first blow on each occasion. Oriol Riera is Osasuna's leading scorer on three goals, it's 14.00 for Riera to score the opener.
Score Prediction: Osasuna 2 Barcelona 2 (18.00)
Almería 1.85, a draw 3.65, Rayo Vallecano 4.20
The battle of La Liga's bottom two clubs will make for an interesting game. In other leagues you would probably expect a low-quality affair between two sides scared of losing, but that won't be the case here. Both teams play an entertaining style of football; Almería are an effective attacking unit, whilst Rayo Vallecano's possession based style has gained numerous plaudits.
Rayo midfielder Raúl Baena confirms their ambitions: "we will continue with the idea of being protagonists from the first minute and we will go for the game."
It's at the other end of the pitch where they face problems. They have jointly conceded an incredible 40 goals, giving them comfortably the worst defensive records. Both teams to score in both halves will give you 11.00.
Score Prediction: Almería 2 Rayo Vallecano 3 (33.00)