A sideways look at Spanish football
FourFourTwo's Spanish expert Tim Stannard looks ahead to the weekend's La Liga action...
Celta Vigo (17th) v Real Sociedad (9th) - 16.00 La Liga Loca caught Nihat Kahveci and Darko Kovacevic speaking on radio station Cadena Ser this week, chatting wistfully about the days of yore when the pair lead the line for Real Sociedad and came within a cat’s fur ball of winning La Liga ten years ago. Those kind of crazy days when either Barcelona or Real Madrid had actual, breathing challengers for the title have been harder to come by of late. In fact, the league has become as uncompetitive as the Daily Mail’s idea of a leftie school’s sports day, so much so that a visit to the town hall to wave at the gathered adoring masses below are afforded to teams who beat one of the Primera pair in a single game. For this reason, the Real Sociedad squad were invited the festivities for San Sebastian Day on Monday, and by the goats of Zeus, it actually looked like good fun. Especially if you like drums. LLL Prediction - Draw
Levante (8th) v Real Valladolid (10th) - 18.00Valladolid, like Rayo and every other club that gets saddled with the kick-off time in question, don’t like Mondays. Or Fridays. Although the side’s upcoming clash falls on a Saturday, the following week’s fixture against Athletic Bilbao has been scheduled for a Friday, causing a serious impact to the club’s finances according to Valladolid president, Carlos Suárez. The Valladolid head cites the example of a round nine game against Real Sociedad, which took place on Monday October 29th. “We estimated between 2,500 and 3,000 coming down from San Sebastian and it the end 200 came,” said Suárez blaming the scheduling of the fixture on a work day. “We expected €75,000 income, it was €5,500 and we lost €69,500. Bilbao is even nearer, so it’s even more money.”LLL Prediction - Home win
Zaragoza (13th) v Espanyol (15th) - 20.00Mauricio Pochettino was back in Barcelona this week, but on what Perico noses would describe as the stinky side of town, with the former Espanyol boss taking his new Southampton charges to train at Barça’s facilities. Some of his players even took time out to visit the Camp Nou museum for a nosey about, too. Meanwhile, current boss, Javier Aguirre, continues to make great strides at the club which is now moving towards mid-table. However, the journey is not a picturesque one, even according the team’s own players. Here’s Joan Capdevila admitting that “our football isn’t pretty but it works. “At the end you don’t remember if you’ve had a great match or not, simply whether we picked up more points,” continued the fullback. LLL Prediction - Away win
Deportivo (20th) v Valencia (7th) - 22.00 You’d have thought when the restaurant tab had crept up to €10,000 and remained unpaid that the owners might have thought something was amiss at Deportivo. That bill eventually hit €106,000, leaving short-changed eaterie El Manjar as just one of many creditors that form part of the group owed a total of €93m by the football club that has just gone into administration. Others probably waiting in vain for what’s theirs include Alberto Luque - who is still €2m out of pocket despite leaving in 2005. Indeed, a total of €9.7m is owed to current or former players. Then there’s the €40m due to the tax department, €34m to banks....LLL Prediction - Draw
Real Madrid (3rd) v Getafe (11th) - 12.00 When families fight, it’s always a bit nasty - but it's still thoroughly entertaining when it takes place somewhere public, like a pizza house. Real Madrid did the big club equivalent of that, in what is now fundamentally a squabble between two parties calling each other big fibbers. And long may it continue. While Friday’s Marca responds to Florentino Pérez's rebuttal of their story suggesting players had threatened to leave the club over the summer if José Mourinho remains, by sniffing that they are not lying, AS have kept their eye on the real ball by reminding everyone that Iker Casillas is set to be out for the next two months. Which potentially means Antonio Adán in goal for matches against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey and la Liga and the small matter of a double header against Manchester United. Oh dear. LLL Prediction - Home win
Rayo Vallecano v Betis - 17.00A decent cup run for Betis ended on Thursday with a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Atlético Madrid, but seeing as the club are genuine contenders for the Champions League places, the knock-out may not necessarily be a bad thing. Rayo have also got Europe on their minds, or at least bagging 42 points as soon as possible so the side can knock off early for the season. Leo Baptistao may return after missing last week’s defeat at Granada, and there’s still talk in the town that a move to Atlético Madrid is imminent for the striker, especially after the Brazilian was spotted at the Calderón for a recent clash between the Rojiblancos and Zaragoza. “I prefer that he’s out seeing a match than stuck somewhere else or at home playing on his console,” said Rayo Sporting Director, Felipe Miñambres, claiming that the footballer was only at the stadium at the invitation of friend and Atlético player, Diego Costa, with no other motive involved. “What is certain is that Leo will keep playing with us until the end of the campaign.” LLL Prediction - Away win
Spot the difference. Okay, don't bother...
Barcelona (1st) v Osasuna (18th) - 19.00Yes, Barcelona went through to the semi-finals of the cup in a 6-4 aggregate thriller against Málaga, but the big story is that LLL finally worked out who stand-in Barça boss Jordi Roura (above) resembles, thanks to the blog's wonderful Twitter followers. The highlights of the responses are - an extra playing a French peasant in a film, an Ent from Lord of the Rings, Fred Flintstone, Bergerac, Gerard Depardieu, Alfred Molina, Jay Leno and Griff Rhys Jones. Good work. LLL Prediction - Home win
Athletic Bilbao (14th) v Atlético Madrid (2nd) - 21.00 Just as one soap opera ends at Athletic, with this week's announcement that Fernando Llorente will be joining Juventus next summer, others are only just beginning, the best being that Iker Muniain will be joining Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich in the summer. However, for that to happen, the forward is going to have to buck his football ideas up a little bit with the wee nipper admitting that “for the past few months, I’ve not felt good physically or mentally, but I’m beginning to feel better and I hope to keep going.”With stories over little Iker, Llorente and the renovation of the contract of Fernando Amorebieta’s there’s not been too much talk about footie in Bilbao of late, although that’s not a bad thing really considering how pants the team has been. “It would be much nicer to talk about football and Sunday’s match,” admitted Ibai Gómez.LLL Prediction - Home win
Mallorca (19th) v Málaga (5th) - 21.00Mallorca manager Joaquín Caparrós is still hanging on in there, despite his team’s defeat at Espanyol last weekend plonking them right in the relegation zone. It’s no wonder defender Emilio Nsue has hit the ‘final’ button by declaring that Sunday’s game against visiting Málaga is all or nothing for the Balearic bottom-strugglers. At least until the next fixture comes along, anyway. “We need to be strong at home in the second half of the season and win nearly all our games here,” opined Nsue, revealing that “the game against Málaga is a final for us.”LLL Prediction - Home win
Sevilla (12th) v Granada (16th) - 21.00Granada are renowned wheeler-dealers, so a bit of transfer window movement is expected from the Andalusian club to shake up what has been a bit of a lifeless market in a largely destitute la Liga. The club’s president, Quique Pina, revealed that he has been trying to bring in former Barça forward man, Nolito, from Benfica but that the Portuguese team wanted a footballer in return, thought to be Guiherme Siqueira. Pina also mentioned that a €4.5m bid from Besiktas had been turned down for mega-flop forward Youssef El-Arabi, who cost €5m over the summer but has scored just four league goals. What do you mean you stopped reading at the word ‘Granada’?LLL Prediction - Home win
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