A sideways look at Spanish football
Hot off the keyboard from our man in Madrid Tim Stannard, the preview of the four-day weekend's action in la Liga...
Real Sociedad (9th) v Osasuna (19th) - 21.30 (all Spanish local time)And so the new-look four day La Liga marathon begins, with those running the show realising that the only way to have every single match as a stand-alone event is to stick games on a Friday night as well as a Monday. The LFP and TV companies have stuck Real Sociedad on the roster to go first, ensuring that some 20,000 or so folk will be absent from San Sebastian bars on Friday in these tough financial times.
The decision is further indication that la Real must have upset someone, somewhere: they were in action on the Monday night just gone in a 4-0 win over Rayo Vallecano and now face Osasuna, who have had 50% longer to rest, having played last Saturday. Good going! LLL Prediction - Home win
Rayo Vallecano (11th) v Mallorca (15th) - 16.00Joaquín Caparrós is a cunning old goat. The Mallorca manager reduced the size of the club's Son Bibiloni training pitch this week in preparation for this clash at Rayo’s teeny-tiny home, even if the official pitch dimensions don't seem that different with Mallorca’s ground just five metres longer and 2.5 metres wider than Rayo's. “The boss was right to shorten the pitch,” affirmed defender Pedro Bigas. “Now we should know how to play in these types of grounds. What’s more the the three points against Rayo are obligatory.”
The big news in the Rayo world is the club’s new stadium security upgrade, which involves something called ‘cameras’. Still no word at all on who cut the cables ahead of the Real Madrid visit, though. “The police still haven’t told us anything,” said Rayo president Raúl Martín.LLL Prediction - Draw
ARCHIVE, Mon 26 Sep: Hopeless and brilliant: Rayo v Real, the best worst game of the year
Valladolid (12th) v Granada (17th) - 18.00Not to rest on their laurels - although LLL isn't sure Valladolid have any - one of the coldest clubs in Spain during the country’s chillier months have ensured that their new signing will be able to cope when he arrives during the winter window. Daniel Larsson is a full-blooded Swede, from the country where there’s no such thing as bad weather, but bad clothes.
The 25-year-old international striker is joining from Malmö on a free transfer and knows what to expect, having chatted to countryman and former Valladolid man Henok Goitum, who only had “good things” to say about the club and city.LLL Prediction - Home win
Málaga (5th) v Valencia (8th) - 20.00Ahem. Now LLL isn’t suggesting that there’s a pattern here, except it probably is, but since the news came through of no payment for the Málaga players, the league form has been two losses at a home and a draw at Osasuna. However, Málaga have continued to go great guns in the Champions League, remaining unbeaten in five after a 2-2 draw with Zenit on Tuesday.
It’s almost as if they're trying to make a point to the owner in la Liga while giving it their all in Europe, what with the sexy shop-window nature of the tournament. Just sayin’. If Málaga fail to beat Valencia, who are quiet hopeless on their travels, then the blog will be fully ready to run the idea up a formal flag-pole and let it flap about to anyone who wants to salute it. LLL Prediction - Draw
Real Betis (6th) v Real Madrid (3rd) - 22.00Yes, Betis were somewhat poor in the 5-1 defeat to Sevilla, but the green-and-white brigade are still ahead of their city rivals in the table and have done rather well for much of the campaign. Nevertheless, that’s not enough for some fickle football fans, like those who attended a training session on Tuesday.
The behaviour from 100 or so was feisty enough that club president Miguel Guillén decided a police presence was needed to prevent any potential problems. “They won’t forgive us even if we beat Real Madrid,” admitted the gloomy Betis manager to AS. LLL Prediction - Away win
Espanyol (20th) v Getafe (10th) - 12.00 For pessimistic Pericos, Monday brought a new president but zero change. A shareholder election put former No.2 Joan Collet in charge of the club with a 61% majority (although a loser in the popular vote) after the resignation of the previous head, Ramon Condal, at the beginning of October.
But considering Condal and his presidential predecessor Daniel Sánchez Llibre own most of the shares, there's a plus-ça-change feeling at a club who are bottom of the table with debts reported in El País to be at €144m. Such are the bad vibes at Espanyol that Collet was barracked and booed during the whole election process and complained that “what happened today was lamentable but I knew what would go on.” Heavy sigh. LLL Prediction - Home win
Athletic Bilbao (14th) v Deportivo (18th) - 17.00More same-old, same-old: off-the-field nonsense with Athletic Bilbao. And at the centre of another kerfuffle, the familiar figure of Fernando Llorente. On Monday, the club communicated that the player had declined the chance to attend a press conference; Llorente countered that he had been told too late and was due to spent some time on local TV, forced to defend himself over a tweeted photo featuring him and Iker Casillas.
“I don’t think I was doing anything wrong, I try to do things the best way I can,” sighed Llorente, who is yet to start in la Liga this season for Athletic. “This year, there’s been a lot of these non-sporting topics. It would be better for us if we could return to normality,” lamented Óscar de Marcos, wishing for the moon with cream on top. LLL Prediction - Home win
Atlético Madrid (2nd) v Sevilla (7th) - 19.00Sevilla president José María del Nido loves a good old boast. After all, this was the gentleman who claimed to be second only to the Pope to the city. Del Nido got a few days to brag after Sevilla's 5-1 demolition of Betis, but quite rightfully, his thoughts then turned to why his players were able to pull out the stops in that particular game or when the world is watching other matches, but barely break into a sweat against the minnows of la Primera.
"I don't know why we can't go out and play all our games like we did against Betis or against Real Madrid and Barcelona. We cannot fail again. We've got to do it," yelled the Sevilla bigwig ahead of the trip to Atlético Madrid. LLL Prediction - Home win
Levante (4th) v Barcelona (1st) - 21.00Swoon, swoon, swoon. Another triumph in Europe for the greatest club in the world. Yes, Levante were 3-1 winners at Helsingborg, a result that puts the Spanish side into the next round of the Europa League, with a chance to top the group if they beat Hannover on the final matchday. Oh, and they're in the Champions League places domestically, too. “We are going to fight to be leaders in what is going to be a day of fiesta,” announced a proud Juan Ignacio Martínez.
Atlético Madrid also qualified with a 1-0 win against Hapoel Tel Aviv in front of just 8,000 at the Vicente Calderón, while Athletic Bilbao were eliminated. Although the Basque side’s clash with Hapoel Kiryat was postponed because of the slight issues in Israel at the moment, a draw between Sparta and Lyon bids bye-bye to Marcelo Bielsa’s men in the competition.LLL Prediction - Away win
Zaragoza (13th) v Celta Vigo (16th)Celta Vigo are a bit of a strange team this season. They always seem to play OK, but have only won three matches from 12 and are now fifth from bottom, one point above the drop zone. At the helm is former Liverpool trainer Paco Herrera – apparently la Liga's Littlest Hobo, loathe to settle down too long at any club.
Herrera’s contract at Celta runs out at the end of the current campaign and the manager still isn’t sure of what will happen next. “It’s true that I alway get a bit itchy in a seat. Nearly everywhere I’ve been they’ve been wanting me to renew, but I’ve left nearly all of them. I don’t know why,” admitted the Celta boss.LLL Prediction - Home win
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