LA LIGA WEEKEND PREVIEW: Villarreal Look To End Alaves Hoodoo

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This was the weekend the world was supposed to have its eyes fixated on the grandest and most significant game in [/news/spain/index.html Spain].
But because of a political decision made by football people, that is now not the case.
Instead, we will have to wait until December 18 to watch El Clasico between [/sport/teampages/barcelona.html Barcelona] and [/sport/teampages/real-madrid.html Real Madrid].

Barcelona will welcome Real Madrid in El Clasico in December now after it was postponed
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The motive for postponing Spanish football's biggest fixture was the serious street protests and clashes with police which began in Barcelona last week after nine Catalan separatist leaders were jailed for their role in a failed 2017 independence referendum.
Another huge demonstration was planned for Saturday - originally, the scheduled day of the game - which prompted unprecedented action from football authorities.
La Liga first proposed to switch location from the Nou Camp to the Bernabeu, but that fell on deaf ears with neither Barcelona or Real Madrid overly struck by the idea.
The Spanish government then got involved, publicly admitting they saw no reason why the game needed to be put back for security reasons.
El Clasico was due to be played at Nou Camp on Saturday but is off due to planned protests
EuroLeague has not allowed Barcelona to cancel the club's basketball match on Friday and there are other sporting events going ahead this weekend. 
However, fears that the match would be used as a platform for protests in the presence of an estimated global TV audience of 650 million proved too ominous for Spanish Football Federation chiefs not to postpone the derby.
Since then, the row over the rescheduled date has descended into farce with La Liga threatening to take legal action against the SFF - and they have this week appealed their decision to play the game on December 18.
Not only will there be financial implications from this unnecessary decision, but La Liga's global reputation is bound to suffer as a result.
  Villarreal vs Alaves - Friday, 8pmThere was a reoccurring topic that Javier Calleja just couldn't escape this week: Villarreal's recent record against Deportivo Alaves. 
If he wasn't aware of it, he most certainly is now. In the previous three times Villarreal have hosted Alaves, they haven't managed to earn a single point, losing on each occasion.
Alaves haven't walked away from the Estadio de la Ceramica empty handed since 2006 and also did the double over Villarreal last term.
Deportivo Alaves have won on their last three visits to Villarreal's Estadio de la Ceramica
Who knows what that could do to Villarreal's players mentally. Calleja, https://rituales2020.com/index.php?action=profile;u=198526 though, insists there is no significance. 'We cannot trust these numbers or statistics,' he said this week. 
'We know every time they have come to this stadium they have put us in a lot of difficulties, so we know they are going to complicate us a lot again. We just have to focus on us and try and impose our game.'
Recent records aside, this is expected to be a battle of attack vs defence - Villarreal are currently the second highest scorers in the league and Alaves have the third best defence. It's the recipe for a classic.
Santi Cazorla (left) and Co will be keen to put an end to their recent hoodoo against Alaves
  Leganes vs Mallorca - Saturday, 3pm    As if things couldn't get any worse, Leganes' woes were compounded last week when they lost 2-0 against bitter rivals Getafe.
A derby win would have been just the trick to kick them back into gear after an atrocious start, but alas, they remain bottom of the league, winless and managerless. 
It's a sorry sight. And things aren't getting any easier for them.
En-Nesyri shows his frustration after missing a chance to score for Leganes this season
Mallorca are in red-hot form with two wins on the bounce, beating Real Madrid last time out
On Saturday, they will welcome a rejuvenated Mallorca side who have won two games on the bounce, most recently against Real Madrid.
They are operating on a budget smaller than most sides in the Segunda division and were playing in the Spanish third tier only two years ago.
Boss Vicente Moreno has been the mastermind behind their meteoric rise. If you're wondering what his secret is though, you're wasting your time.
Moreno is very protective of his methods and even made his team train behind closed doors for much of this week. So there could be an element of surprise come Saturday.
  Atletico Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao - Saturday, 8pm These two clubs have history. 
They were once 'brothers' that shared players during the pre La Liga era, but on Saturday Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao will very much be out for themselves.
Both Atletico and Bilbao are currently dealing with the backlash that comes with just one win in their last five league games.  
Atletico Madrid spent big money on new signings in the summer but have started slowly
In Madrid, Atletico fans have been revolting over their side's underwhelming start to the campaign - which has been heightened by their £200m summer splurge on new players - while boss Gaizka Garitano has been made the scapegoat for Bilbao's recent rut.
Players from both sides stood defiant this week amid difficult periods. Koke insisted that there is no division with the fans, saying: 'I saw them singing and supporting us in our last game. That is important. They have a big role to play in helping us win the home games.'   
While Inigo Martinez gave a timely reminder of the wonders Garitano worked last season in an impassioned defence of his boss following the intense criticism. 
This fixture is always a momentous occasion, and this weekend has the added spice of two teams desperate for three points.
Athletic Bilbao boss Gaizka Garitano is under pressure, having won one of last five games
  Granada vs Real Betis - Sunday, 1pmGranada are third and Real Betis are 18th. Before the start of the season most would have assumed after nine games it would have been vice versa.
But no, newly-promoted Granada, who spent just £6.5m this summer, are third with five wins from nine, and can actually go top with victory this weekend.
Is this just a case of them riding some early-season luck, or do they actually have the legs to maintain this form?
Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas certainly doesn't think their start to the season is a flash in the pan and this week warned the rest of the league about their title credentials.
'Look at Leicester a couple of years ago,' he said earlier this week in reference to their unlikely Premier League triumph back in 2016. 
Granada have been this season's surprise package and can go top with victory on Sunday 
Summer signing Nabil Fekir pictured in action for Real Betis during a La Liga game last month
Real Betis, on the other hand, find themselves in a middle of a crisis. They lost some key players in the summer but appeared to do an adequate job of replacing them. 
Nabil Fekir's signing from Lyon outlined their ambitions for the season, but for one reason or another, things have not gone according to plan. 

CEO's Angel Haro and Jose Miguel Lopez Catalan attended their training sessions this week and held meetings with the players in a bid to inspire them ahead of Sunday's clash after Betis slipped into the relegation zone for the first time since they took over the club.
They may be in poor form, but 18th, you'd think, is a false position for Betis and they will provide the perfect acid test to see if there is some substance in Casillas' claims.
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PSReal Sociedad can be the main beneficiaries of Real Madrid not playing this weekend and will move up to second if they beat lowly Celta Vigo.
Valencia will also hope to catapult themselves into the top-six conversation when they travel to Osasuna while Sevilla face a tricky game against in-form Getafe.
Valladolid are also in action hosting Eibar in a relegation six-pointer this weekend while Levante face off against Espanyol.
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