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La Liga Week Three Preview

The city of Seville takes centre-stage for the third week of La Liga action as local rivals Real Betis and Sevilla clash at the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera. Sevilla did the double over their neighbours last season, winning 3-0 at home and 2-0 away, but Betis have splashed out big money this summer and will be desperate to put one over their old enemies.

To do that though, Betis will need to improve on a disappointing run of results that has left them without a win since mid-April and with just one point from their opening two games against Recreativo Huelva and Getafe this season.

It is not going to get any easier for Paco Chaparro’s side either with their next four fixtures coming against Sevilla, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Villarreal, but Betis striker Jose Mari is in confident mood.

“We have a better team than last year and we could become a good team,” said the former Spain, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and AC Milan forward. With regards to Sevilla, Jose Mari does not believe Manolo Jimenez’s side will be much affected either by having to play in the UEFA Cup on Thursday, or by the summer departures of Dani Alves, Seydou Keita and Christian Poulsen – although he is glad Alves will be missing.

“Sevilla, at an individual level, were stronger last year, but the team continues being good,” he said. “It (the UEFA Cup) could affect them, but I think that they have the squad to compete in three competitions. “Sevilla’s strength over the last two years has been having two very strong forwards and two very fast wingers. I’m sure they will have an Achilles heel but they can’t have many after spending four years at the top.”

Sevilla winger Diego Capel admits his team are thinking about the derby, but insists they are still totally focused on their European match against Salzburg.

“It’s a very important game (against Betis) which we always have in our minds but this squad is very professional and we are only concentrating on the UEFA Cup game,” said the Spain international.

Surprisingly, Espanyol – after winning just three and losing 14 of their final 20 games last season – are the only team boasting a 100 per cent record after two rounds of the new campaign.

They host Getafe this weekend while, in contrast, their city rivals Barcelona travel to bottom club Sporting Gijon looking to overcome their worst start to a season in 35 years after taking just one point from two games.

Champions Real Madrid are away to Racing Santander while free-scoring Atletico Madrid, fresh from their impressive 3-0 Champions League win at PSV Eindhoven, welcome Recreativo Huelva to the Vicente Calderon.

Second-placed Valencia must again do without David Silva as they meet Osasuna, with the Spain international this week undergoing an ankle operation that will sideline him for around three months.

Numancia’s testing start to the season continues as they welcome Villarreal, having already caused big problems for La Liga aristocrats Barca and Madrid in their opening two fixtures since winning promotion.

In this weekend’s other matches, Almeria play host to Malaga, Real Mallorca travel to Deportivo La Coruna and Athletic Bilbao take on Real Valladolid.