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The best of the rest.

That was the title given to Valencia over the last few seasons, with the club from Mestalla monopolising the third spot in La Liga for each of the previous three campaigns. But perhaps not this time.

As Valencia toil under new coach Mauricio Pellegrino and lie down in 11th place with just 11 points, there is now a new power in Spanish football – Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone's side have won eight of their nine Primera Division fixtures so far this term and victory at Mestalla – where Radamel Falcao made his Rojiblancos debut early last season – on Saturday will give the capital club their finest-ever start to a Liga season. Superior even to the title-winning year of 1995-96, when they also claimed the Copa del Rey under Radomir Antic.

Atletico have fought toe to toe with Barcelona so far in La Liga but title talk remains premature at the moment, with the Catalan club and Real Madrid remaining the top two teams in Spain, and probably Europe as well.

Simeone, however, is a fiercely competitive Coach, and another win on Saturday will raise expectations yet another notch as Atletico seek to achieve what Valencia were never quite able to – compete with the very best in the land.

Elsewhere, Barca coach Tito Vilanova can lead the Catalans to their best-ever start to a Liga campaign, by avoiding an unlikely defeat at home to his former club, Celta Vigo.

Vilanova played for Celta some 20 years ago and now lines up against the Galicians at Camp Nou, with the chance of bettering Louis van Gaal's record run from the beginning of the 1997-98 campaign.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, must stay in touch with their two fiercest rivals, so only a win at home to Zaragoza will do for Jose Mourinho's men – also on Saturday.

Madrid are currently in fourth, eight points behind Barca and Atletico, and one adrift of Malaga, who are in action at home against Rayo Vallecano.

Malaga have exceeded expectations at home and on the continent so far this season, rising to third in the table and winning their first three Champions League matches without conceding a goal. All the doom and gloom from the summer – when they sold their finest player Santi Cazorla to Arsenal in order to pay off debts – has been replaced by cheer and optimism under the brilliant Manuel Pellegrini.

And after facing Rayo, the dream continues with a glamour trip to San Siro to meet Milan in the Champions League next Tuesday. It's quite a story so far.

La Liga - Club News