La Liga, Week 3 preview and fixtures: Real Sociedad faces Atletico Madrid in a big early season encounter

Denis Doyle

We get a big match as Real Sociedad hosts Atletico Madrid in Spain this week. Near the bottom of the table, though, there could be the first signs of building pressure if certain teams can't get some positive results soon.

I'll be offering my thoughts on which of the week's action into the "must watch", "if you have time" and "you can probably skip" matches for the neutral fan. To help with breaking things down, I'll be picking a band each week and three of their songs -- a great song, a good song and a "meh" song -- and matching them up with the corresponding category. It probably sounds way more complicated than it is and describing it ends up be way harder than just doing.

Remember this isn't an exact science. There will probably be weeks where all the "must watch" matches are duds and all the "you can probably skip" matches are instant classics. I'm just going to do my best to guide you towards the games that should be entertaining and important in the league table.

This week I'll be helped by the legendary Johnny Cash, using music from the end of his career from the American Recordings albums.

*Please note that some of these songs may contain explicit language so please be aware of that before hitting play without your headphones on.

There is no more defining song of Johnny Cash's resurgence late in his life than his hauntingly beautiful cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt". Even if you're not a fan of Cash, you've probably heard this song and chances are you enjoy it. Like these three matches are the must watch of the week, this song is the must listen of Cash's final works.

Real Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao | Sunday - 6:00 am ET, 12:00 pm CEST

This match features two of the still-unbeaten teams in the league meeting for the first time this season. It's going to be a "yardstick" match for Athletic as their first two wins have come again teams currently sitting in the bottom three of the table. We should get a much better idea of where Ernesto Valverde's team is in their progress so far this season.

As for Madrid, this could be their last match before the arrival of Gareth Bale from Spurs ... if that transfer ever actually finishes up.

Real Sociedad vs. Atletico Madrid | Sunday - 1:00 pm ET, 7:00 pm CEST

This is a brutal time to have this game for Real Sociedad as they come off a midweek Champions League match against Lyon (which they won). The positive is that Atletico played as well -- in the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona -- so both teams will be tired and a little weary.

La Real slipped up against Elche last week. With their place in the UCL group stages locked up, however, they're going to have to prove they can balance the European and league schedule this fall. Atletico will be looking to keep pace with Barcelona and Real Madrid as they know they can ill afford to drop points if they want to challenge for higher than third place.

Valencia vs. Barcelona | Sunday - 3:00 pm ET, 9:00 pm CEST

Barcelona enter this match against Valencia as the new holders of the Spanish Super Cup. They also enter as a team that played in the midweek and will have several players covered in bruises from the 90 minutes of kickings they took from Atletico. If there was ever a time for Valencia to pull off an upset and rebound from their poor performance last week against Espanyol, this could be it.

There's not really many bad songs from late in Cash's career, but for the sake of following the pattern I've established, I have to pick something. If anything, I've had to pick three songs that I absolutely love and just rank them on personal enjoyment factor. For this week's middle ground matches, I offer up "The Man Comes Around" as Cash sings about facing death and coming to terms with his life.

Osasuna vs. Villarreal | Saturday - 5:00 pm ET, 11:00 pm CEST

Villarreal's return to the top flight has been wild with two comeback victories in their first two matches. They continue their friendly -- in scheduling terms -- start to the season with a trip to face last-placed Osasuna. Los Rojillos have only managed a single goal from their first two games and desperately need a positive result to start turning things around.

Espanyol vs. Real Betis | Sunday - 11:00 am ET, 5:00 pm CEST

Last season Real Betis started hot and spent most of the season near the top of the table while Espanyol languished at the bottom. This season it's the opposite, however, as Espanyol have started strong and Betis are on the cusp of the drop zone. It's early, of course, but this is definitely not where Betis wants to be.

Sevilla vs. Malaga | Sunday - 3:00 pm ET, 9:00 pm CEST

Sevilla have started slow and have yet to get their first win of the season, something they should be able to do against Malaga. With so many players gone and Manuel Pelligrini departed, Malaga have sunk near the bottom of the league. They haven't played bad in losses against Valencia and Barcelona, but they could certainly use some confidence.

Unai Emery spent money to reshape Sevilla in the summer so the pressure will start to build on him if he can't get his team playing at a higher level.

Celta Vigo vs. Granada | Saturday - 1:00 pm ET, 7:00 pm CEST

Both Celta Vigo and Granada have had solid starts to the season and both teams will be looking to keep building their momentum. As long as they don't decide to show up and play for a dull draw, it should be a fun match.

As I said before, there's really not any "meh" songs from Johnny Cash's collection.

Almeria vs. Elche | Friday - 5:00 pm ET, 11:00 pm CEST

Two of the promoted sides meet and surprisingly, neither side is in the bottom three. Both teams have had an unlucky loss, though, in which they blew a late lead. This match is in the bottom list really because of lack of curb appeal, but chances are it could be entertaining.

Rayo Vallecano vs. Levante | Friday - 5:00 pm ET, 11:00 pm CEST

Mid-table teams and a whole lot of meh.

Real Valladolid vs. Getafe | Saturday - 3:00 pm ET, 9:00 pm CEST

Valladolid are in the bottom three and Getafe aren't too far away from there. Not sure this match will have much appeal to the neutral viewer.

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