A sideways look at Spanish football
Sevilla (11th) v Deportivo (20th) – 21.30 (all times local Spanish)After defeat by Granada last Saturday, the soon-to-be-former Deportivo manager Domingos Paciencia offered his resignation in front of the press. The offer was accepted a day later by Augusto César Lendoiro after a lunch or two to mull things over. (Since then, the now-former Depor gaffer has dropped a pretty big hint that he wanted out after just six matches.)
Fernando Vázquez was then phoned in the early hours of Monday morning and asked if he fancied being the club’s third coach of the season. The 58-year-old Harry Potter lookalike was last seen being fired by Celta Vigo in 2007, so he was more than ready to take on by far the worst gig in la Primera. “I want to show that Fernando Vázquez is still alive,” announced the manager on his first main challenge at Depor. “Some thought I’d retired, but I’ve been watching matches and studying a lot. And no-one, NO-ONE, can touch me on Call of Duty.” LLL Prediction – Home win
Getafe (12th) v Celta Vigo (18th) – 16.00Whilst troubled near-neighbours Deportivo have been all with the fan protests, angry letters from supporters groups and firing coaches, Celta have been steadfast and solid with around a hundred supporters turning up for training this week to give the players their backing.
Celta’s president Carlos Mouriño was another member of the Vigo massive to chuck in his support by soothing that the future of the manager is as safe as houses. “We keep on having faith in Paco and in this group of footballers to get us out of the relegation zone,” announced Mouriño. “You either have credit or you don’t; Herrera has it with us.” Which makes him pretty much the only person in cash-strapped Spain to have credit of any kind.LLL Prediction – Draw
Málaga (4th) v Athletic Bilbao (15th) – 18.00This week in the blustery Basque Country there's been more navel-gazing than an admiral on an inspection tour, after Athletic's 4-0 home defeat to Espanyol. Right-back Andoni Iraola found it hard to explain away a loss that didn't go down at all well in San Mamés – “If you lose 4-0 you aren't going to be applauded” – while striker Ariz Aduriz admitted that “we’ve had some bad games, but not to this degree. We are are own worst enemies.”
The forward did have some words of support for under-fire keeper Gorka Iraizoz, who hasn't exactly been at his best this season, like much of the Athletic squad. “He’s got plenty of personality, he’s tough, strong and will come out of this even stronger.” LLL Prediction – Away win
Granada (14th) v Barcelona (1st) – 20.00If only Pedro had as much tolerance for discomfort as his forward partner David Villa. The pint-sized siesta-lover dislikes the next league Clásico being brought forward to 4pm (Spanish time) a fortnight on Saturday, to give Real Madrid as much preparation as possible ahead of the Champions League return against Manchester United. “I don’t know how we’ll adapt. It’s bad as it disrupts our rest,” moaned Pedro on the inhuman kick-off time.
Meanwhile, poor David Villa has spent the week in, out and then back in hospital with renal colic. A quick search on Wikipedia explained cheerfully that it is known as being “one of the strongest pain sensations felt by humans (being worse than childbirth, broken bones, gunshot wounds, burns, or surgery)". Pedro probably needs a bit of perspective. LLL Prediction – Away win
Osasuna (17th) v Zaragoza (16th) – 22.00Finishing with 11 men has become a big ask for Zaragoza this season, with the club picking up an admirable 70 yellow cards and seven reds in the current campaign (although this lags behind Espanyol’s 96 yellows and Sevilla’s 10 reds).
Manolo Jiménez has had quite enough of it, what with his team finding it hard enough to win matches with a full complement of players. The Zaragoza coach suggests that “from now on we have to be more mature and not generate so many cards – although in no ground in Spain are so many cards shown to Zaragoza than in la Romareda.” You can't argue with that – although they do play there at least 19 times a season. LLL Prediction – Home win
Real Sociedad (7th) v Levante (9th) – 12.00Everyone else in the Real Sociedad camp has been having a fun recently, so it was surprising that Antoine Griezmann was a little late to the party, considering that’s one of the Frenchman’s favourite pursuits. The winger’s goal in the 2-1 win at Real Zaragoza was his first since October 29th, but the 21-year-old denies that his iffy form was due to a ban from the French international set-up after breaking a curfew for a much-needed spot of disco-dancing in Paris. “I like it here, because apart from a couple of months when I wasn't at my best I’ve been playing pretty well.”LLL Prediction – Home win
Valencia (5th) v Mallorca (19th) – 17.00LLL loves reading the verbal gymnastics footballers have to go through when an old manager has gone and a new one is in town. It’s a cross between having to admit that the previous coach wasn't entirely to blame that the team sucked so much, but at the same time, he was. Attempting this most entertaining of tasks is Mallorca’s Tomás Pina who says on the sacking of Joaquín Caparrós that “I’m not saying it was necessary because Caparrós made me feel very important and gave a lot to me, so I couldn’t say anything bad about him and will always be grateful, buuuuuuuuuuut it’s true that the dynamic was bad.” LLL Prediction – Home win
Valladolid (10th) v Atlético Madrid (2nd) – 19.00Good effort. It seems that Diego Simeone is finally following LLL’s advice by getting knocked out of the Europa League at the earliest opportunity to concentrate on coming second or third in la Liga. On Thursday, Atlético broke a 20-match winning streak in a very empty Vicente Calderón with a 2-0 defeat to Rubin Kazan. However, it might only have been 1-0 if the Atlético coach hadn't made the decision to send goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo up for an injury-time corner, with hilarious counter-attacking consequences.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Europa League, Míchel The Manager popped back to Spain to show how he is already working wonders at Olympiacos, with his new club contriving to lose 3-0 to the mighty Levante, with the Valencians even having the luxury of missing a penalty. “The result can’t give us anything to complain about,” admitted the former Sevilla boss. LLL Prediction – Away win
Espanyol (13th) v Betis (8th) – 21.00A previously out-of-sorts Beñat put in a bit of a shift in last Monday’s goalless draw with Valladolid. Showing his commitment to the Betis cause, the midfielder even wore a big Terry Butcher bandage after a head injury. With just 18 months left on his contract, the much-desired Beñat has many a suitor lining up for his signature, which has caused some Betis fans to accuse him of taking his eye off the ball, figuratively speaking.
“I note the complaints of the crowd, although I try to stay focused,” insists Beñat, who also claims that “I’d like to stay. The club made an offer and we made one. We’ll keep talking in February and in March. But I’d like to either sign my renewal or go in June. It’s not nice to be in a situation like [Fernando] Llorente.”LLL Prediction – Home win
Real Madrid (3rd) v Rayo Vallecano (6th) – 21.00Rather than concern themselves with yet more set-piece dithering that may have cost Real Madrid another Champions League campaign, AS are gushing over Cristiano Ronaldo's admittedly impressive leap for his goal, which the paper estimates to be 2.93m high [That's 9ft 7in for non-continentals – Imperial Ed.]. “Europe is talking about him today and Old Trafford fears him. With good reason,” spooks AS editor Alfredo Relaño.
Marca are predicting that over the next three weeks the groin-griped Xabi Alonso will only be used in games that actually matter, namely the Champions League and Copa del Rey. His bench-warming may well begin on Sunday with the visit of the all-or-nothing salty sea-dogs Rayo Vallecano, with 1000 of their fans set to make the trip up to the Bernabéu on their own special metro train. Toot, toot!LLL Prediction – Home win
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