Tough away games for Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga
Madrid, Jan 3 (IANS) Both Real Madrid and Barcelona kick off the new year with difficult away games Sunday as the La Liga returns to action. Real Madrid travel to face fourth-placed Valencia and there is a mood of optimism in Valencia's Mestalla Stadium which will be packed to the rafters with fans hoping to see their side put an end to Real Madrid's impressive 22-game winning run, reports Xinhua.
Valencia will be able to include new signing Enzo Perez in their starting 11 after the Argentine was presented to the fans on Friday. But the Nuno Espiritu Santo-coached side will play its usual game, looking to keep things tight at the back and use its pace on the break to hurt their rivals.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has said there are no limits to his side's ambitions for the new year after seeing them lift five titles last year. He travels to Valencia with a doubt over the fitness of central defender Sergio Ramos but with Marcelo available after the muscle injury he suffered in the final of the World Club Championship.
Meanwhile, it should be business as usual for Real Madrid in attack where Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will all lead the attack with the fit again Jese Rodriguez waiting his turn as substitute.
Barcelona meanwhile travel to San Sebastian to face Real Sociedad knowing that both Real and Atletico Madrid have fallen in the Anoeta Stadium this season. The Catalans are at full strength with Lionel Messi, the last player to return to the squad after the Christmas holidays.
He will almost certainly play in attack alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez, although there are doubts over the rest of the side with Luis Enrique debating over the position of Javier Mascherano, who could start in either defence or attack, and also whether or not Xavi Hernandez should start ahead of Ivan Rakitic in the midfield.
The game will be a test of nerve for Sociedad boss David Moyes and the former Manchester United boss knows a win over Barcelona will see his credit shoot upwards, not just in Spain, but all around the world.
"You have already seen we can beat Barca and I am hoping for a good response from my players," said Moyes, who has a slight doubt over the fitness of striker Carlos Vela.