This Football Sunday

The Basque Derby, Serie A’s fight for third and an understated, yet exciting clash in La Liga are the games to watch on Sunday.

Athletic Bilbao vs Real Sociedad

The Basques have never had it so good. Five teams from the region now play in Spain’s top division. Yet when it comes to Basque derbies, nothing comes close to the Euskal Derbia between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad. San Mamés is host to the first derby this year, with Athletic sitting pretty in sixth, two points ahead of the visiting Sociedad. Goals have been hard to come by in this fixture the past two seasons, but both teams have found the net consistently in this campaign. Athletic haven’t won against their bitter rivals in eight attempts. They’ll be looking to right that record in the battle for bragging rights in Basque Country.

Chievo Verona vs AC Milan

Not many would have picked either of these teams to make a run for the top three at the beginning of the season, but nonetheless Chievo and Milan find themselves in a position to go third in the table with a win in this encounter. The Bentegodi is a fortress for Chievo and it’s never easy for any visiting team against Rolando Maran’s men. Valter Birsa continues to assist and score for the Flying Donkeys and they will rely on his guile and trickery to catch Milan’s vulnerable defence off guard. Milan have already conceded 10 goals, but thanks to the poaching instincts of Carlos Bacca, the Rossoneri continue to pick up wins and points even they have not played well. It will also be interesting to watch whether 18-year old Manuel Locatelli can dictate Milan’s rhythm from the base of midfield now that Riccardo Montolivo is out until at least March. There’s lots of intrigue around this match and the result will give us some idea as to which team can make a sustained push for a European place this season.

Villarreal vs Celta Vigo

One of three unbeaten teams in La Liga alongside Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, Villarreal have started the season in a typically understated manner. Fran Escribá has overcome a contentious pre-season by adhering to the footballing principles of the Yellow Submarines. Playing with their trademark tidiness in possession, Escribá has also got the team defending in a compact manner. El Madrigal is not the easiest of places to score, but if any team can rip up the copybook it is Eduardo Berizzo’s enterprising Celta Vigo. After a shaky start, the Galicians come into this game with three wins on the trot, including an exhilarating 4-3 win over Barcelona last time out. While Villarreal will always be favourites at home, don’t count against Celta’s ability to tear up the script.

Celta Vigo 1 Sevilla 1

The second game in this week’s triple-header between Celta Vigo and Sevilla finished in a thrilling 1-1 draw. How Sevilla managed to escape with a draw is anyone’s guess. The home side battered their opponents especially since Federico Fazio’s sending off in the 25th minute, but their poor finishing combined with some heroic last-ditch defending from the visitors meant only one point in stead of three.

In the grand scheme of things, a point didn’t do much for either team. Sevilla stretched their unbeaten streak in the league to five games, however they are yet to have an away win this season. Such poor returns on the road make it unlikely for Unai Emery’s men to make up the eight-point deficit to Villarreal in the last Champions League spot.

Meanwhile, Celta are outside the European spots on the basis of goal difference and their limited squad makes it difficult to see them overtaking either Sevilla or Athletic Bilbao. However, a season of promise can still finish well. If Claudio Beauvue’s finish was anything to go by, the Galician team might just have one of the most exciting attacking trios in the league once Nolito returns to the playing eleven. Nolito, Beauvue and the underrated Iago Aspas can be a handful against most defences in the league.

Attention now turns to the final instalment of this trilogy on Thursday. Sevilla should easily navigate the Copa Del Rey semifinal after their 4-0 win at home in the first leg. Nevertheless, with the non-stop attacking football we have seen in the two matches between these teams so far and with a Celta Vigo side with nothing to lose, hopes are we’ll see another crazy end-to-end game in the second leg.

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