A sideways look at Spanish football
Our man in Madrid, Tim Stannard previews the weekend's action in Spain...
Getafe (9th) v Zaragoza (17th) – 21.00 (all kick-offs Spanish local time)Scheduling a Getafe game at nine on a Friday night is just plain mean. It’s hard enough to persuade fans into the stadium when there’s no other competition for attention, never mind the option of being in a nice warm bar with buddies after a tough week of work (and coffee breaks) instead of standing in a freezing cold Coliseum watching a side destined to finish 11th play a team who will end up 15th.
Still, Getafe are on a reasonable run of form at the moment and still chirpy after 3-1 win at Mallorca, a victory inspired by a Panenka penalty from Diego Castro – his 14th successive successful spot-kick. This week, the former Sporting striker revealed the sensational secrets behind his penalty perfection.
“Aside from precision and choosing the right place to put it, there’s a bit of luck,” admitted the Getafe man, who also spoke about choosing the Panenka on that particular occasion. “It’s the third time I’ve done it. Goalkeepers watch videos, and it’s an alternative to putting down the middle, right or left.”LLL Prediction – Draw
Real Madrid (3rd) v Barcelona (1st) – 16.00So here comes Clásico VI of the current campaign, with two more to come should the pair meet in the Champions League. The latest edition has nothing to do with the title race, which is fairly done and dusted, so much as how both teams are going to react after Tuesday’s result. Will Madrid bite back and will risk a few key players ahead of the Manchester United match, just to chance to turn up the pain on the league leaders?
Either way, LLL isn't entirely sure how many people in the UK and Europe will be able to watch it, considering it’s in the football hot-zone at four on a Saturday afternoon, which in Spain is normally the preserve of Celta Vigo matches. It has been brought forward to give Real Madrid as much rest as possible before heading to Old Trafford; indeed, the Bernabeu boys wanted the match to be played on Friday night. That idea was a non-starter, so you'll just have to have Getafe v Zaragoza instead. LLL Prediction – Draw
Deportivo (20th) v Rayo Vallecano (8th) – 18.00Domingos Paciencia has spoken out over why he only managed six games in charge of the Galician club at the beginning of 2013 before legging it back to Portugal. The former Braga boss revealed what everyone pretty much knew about the footballers at Deportivo in the first place – that they have the hump about not being paid, and rightly so.
“There were players owed five months' wages,” wide-eyed the Portuguese, “and we had to ask them to go out and give everything. I wasn’t able to motivate footballers if they had to think about how to pay for their house or kid’s school.”
Over in Vallekas, Jordi Amat is unusually the talk of the town after his 180-yard barnbuster against Valladolid cancelled out the own goal he'd scored milliseconds earlier. “I noticed that the keeper was usually high up the field, so I thought next time I'd surprise him from long distance when I had the ball.” Amat's next fiendish plan could be how to get booked against Deportivo so he serves out a suspension cycle against Espanyol, a clash he can’t play in anyway due to the terms of the loan agreement from the Catalan club. LLL Prediction – Draw
Osasuna (14th) v Athletic Bilbao (16th) – 20.00It’s quite fun to watch the Athletic Bilbao players still claiming to love life under Marcelo Bielsa, despite having a miserable time lately with three successive defeats leaving them three points off the relegation zone. “I see the boss stronger and with more energy than ever,” claimed Ander Iturraspe, interpreting intense pacing, squatting and yelling as desire.
LLL was actually quite surprised to discover Osasuna are above Athletic going into this game, but in recent weeks they have become specialists at out-muscling relegation rivals in Pamplona – their last three home games have been narrow wins against Deportivo (then 20th), Celta (then 18th) and Zaragoza (then 16th).
A fourth successive crunch home win would go down particularly well with the Osasuna massive, who dislike Athletic for their habit of pinching young local talent such as Fernando Llorente and Javi Martínez with the promise of subsequent acrimonious departures to foreign leagues in their mid-twenties. LLL Prediction – Home win
Valencia (5th) v Levante (10th) – 22.00Valencia may not know who the manager is going to be next season with no movement in regards to Ernesto Valverde’s contract extension, but there are whispers aplenty over who will be replacing the likes of Adil Rami and Sofiane Feghouli when they are sold over the summer to help pay for some bags of concrete in the never-ending construction of new Mestalla.
Rumours over the winter transfer window had Celta striker Iago Aspas signing up. More recently, stories have done the rounds about signing Levante midfielder Vicente Iborra and Real Madrid’s Raúl Albiol, who left in 2009, as the club strives to make itself a little more Valencian. Perfect timing for Saturday night's city derby: Valencia haven’t taken three points from Levante at the Mestalla in six years. LLL Prediction – Home win
Granada (15th) v Mallorca (19th) – 12.00If only the same passion and brilliance from the Mallorca players in declaring week-in, week-out that the next game is a must-win final and that everyone is ready for a fight could be repeated in the team’s performances, Mallorca would surely be challenging for second.
“We are giving reasons, in our play, to keep believing in ourselves,” said Tomás Pina despite the club’s current record of one league victory in 20. “What we are lacking is this victory that can help us. If we manage a run of three wins then we’ll be out of the bottom,” promised the midfielder. LLL Prediction – Home win
Espanyol (13th) v Valladolid (11th) – 17.00It’s time for a peep through the cat-flap at Valladolid – a rarity, which is a shame as LLL has got a bit of a soft spot for the violet-themed gritsters. Last weekend’s win at Rayo put the club on 33 points and no club has been relegated from a 20-team la Primera, three points for a win and all that, having reached that mark at this stage of the season. So hooray for them.
Speaking at the club this week has been recent Swedish import Daniel Larsson, a striker being asked to play on the wing while the very handy Patrick Ebert is injured. “La Liga is much better than the Swedish one and it’s been a bit difficult for me, but I always work hard. I want to score a goal against Espanyol,” parped the serene Swede.LLL Prediction – Home win
Málaga (4th) v Atlético Madrid (2nd) – 19.00Once again, the annual Copa del Rey final balls-up is upon us and it’s going to be Atlético Madrid against Real Madrid in a whopping dust-up whose date and location have yet to be confirmed. The original planned day of Saturday May 18 coincides with the Eurovision Song Contest, an event that the national broadcaster is obliged to show despite Spain’s dismal showing in it every year. Quite how this clash wasn’t spotted until recently is anyone’s guess. The game may well now take place on the Friday or Sunday afterwards.
The location is also up for debate with the assumption that the Spanish FA are not wacky enough to send both sets of fans to Valencia or Barcelona for the final. However, there’s a tradition between both Capital City clubs to alternate the games between their stadiums. Seeing as the last final between the pair in 1992 took place at the Santiago Bernabéu, the Vicente Calderón is set to be the location. Unless Atlético want more seats for their fans and more gate receipts, that is. Or everyone heads to the Camp Nou for Barcelona’s police to deal with. This could take a while.LLL Prediction – Draw
Real Sociedad (6th) v Betis (7th) – 21.00It’s difficult to know whether la Real striker Carlos Vela's current hot streak is a help or a hindrance to a possible return to Arsenal, the club from whence he came last summer. On loan in San Sebastian last season, the Mexican knocked in 12 goals; he's well on the way to beating that this season with 11 strikes, and is one of the principal reasons why la Real are a sneaky outside bet for a Champions League spot.
Chatting to the press this week, Vela revealed that a return to the Emirates is a possibility. “Arsenal can buy me through paying €1m more than la Real paid [€4m]. We will see what happens.” That coquettishly said, Vela claimed he would prefer to stay at a club that will probably finish sixth in Spain, as opposed to one that will do roughly the same in England: “It’s a project I’d like to be a part of and time will tell if I can do it.”LLL Prediction – Home win
Sevilla (12th) v Celta Vigo (18th) – 21.30 Quiet night for Gary ‘Pitbull’ Medel on Wednesday night in Sevilla’s Copa del Rey draw (and aggregate defeat) to Atlético Madrid. The midfield loon-bag was sent off for two yellows – the second being a huge whack into Diego Costa – and had to be manhandled into the tunnel, but not before talking a huge swipe at a chair which hit a police officer, who kindly didn’t bang Medel to rights. The Sevilla footballer also managed to boot Tiago out of the game in the 24th minute and for the next two months by breaking the Atlético’s man’s arm. LLL Prediction – Home win
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