10 big questions in La Liga: Are Real Madrid to blame for this Neymar nonsense?

Tim Stannard brings you the big talking points in Spain...

Can Valladolid survive without Ebert?

Getafe vs Valladolid - Saturday 20.00 CET Live on Stats Zone
 
One of the few positives in Valladolid's world was Patrick Ebert - a better-than handy winger on his day. The one giant negative was that the player has never been that keen on playing for the Pucela side. 
 
Last season he was caught meeting with Atlético Madrid types at a restaurant. That wantaway stance grew stronger when the midfielder said he didn't fancy the game against Villarreal last weekend, and then pulled out of the squad. It was an impertinent posture that produced an immediate exile, and a probable transfer.

Will it be more masochism for Paco Jémez at Rayo?

Levante vs Rayo Vallecano - Saturday 18.00 CET Live on Stats Zone
 
Despite defenders and midfielders passing to opposition rather than team-mates - as demonstrated beautifully in the defeat to Atlético Madrid last weekend - Rayo coach Paco Jémez maintains that his team will continue to play football “the right way”. This is despite the fact that their current style will take them straight down to La Segunda. “I don’t want the boos (from the crowd) to chance the way we are playing,” said the team’s defiant boss. 
 
Rayo are facing a club of a similar stature, but with a playing style and manager in Joaquín Caparrós that will do anything to get a result and survive another year in La Primera. This is why one outfit is staring relegation up the nostrils in 19th and the other is in eighth, two points ahead of Valencia. 

Jemez is still clinging onto hope of a Godfather: Part IV

Jemez is still clinging onto hope of a Godfather: Part IV

Can life get even worse (again) for Betis?

Betis vs Espanyol - Sunday 17.00 CET Live on Stats Zone
 
Every week LLL poses this conundrum, and every week the answer is ‘yes’. For a quick update, the club is currently on its third manager of the season, with 11 points at the bottom of the table and without a win in La Liga since September 29. Those are not promising statistics ahead of the weekend’s home clash against dogged spoilers, Espanyol. 

Are Sevilla becoming public enemy No.1 in Spain (behind Barça, Madrid and veggies)?

Málaga vs Sevilla - Saturday 22.00 CET Live on Stats Zone
 
Quite rightly, the common folk of Spain have a dim view on corruption. Certainly dimmer than many of those in authority. Former Sevilla president José María del Nido fits that bracket, having recently been sent to prison for seven years thanks to dodgy dealings as a lawyer in the murky world of Marbella. 
 
Del Nido has one last chance to avoid the chokey with an official pardon. It’s a long shot, but apparently supported by the Spanish FA, which gathered signatures from fellow club heads at a recent meeting, causing quite a kerfuffle. “Who are they? Superior Señores? A caste apart?” fumed Roberto Palomar in Marca
 
It's caused quite the uproar, with angry fans demanding to know if their club head has asked for a pardon. Del Nido claims he deserves it because “I can do more for society free than from in prison.” Mmm.

Will England’s nemesis continue hot streak?

Levante vs Rayo Vallecano - Saturday 18.00 CET Live on Stats Zone
 
Here’s a little flash forward to the future. It's the final group game of the World Cup and England need three points from Costa Rica. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. That’s because the match will end in a goalless draw thanks to England's typically lifeless attack, and a remarkable goalkeeping performance from Levante No.1, Keylor Navas. The keeper has enjoyed a remarkable month of performances for the Valencia club, good enough for coach Joaquín Caparrós to brand him “one of the best three goalkeepers in La Liga”.  

Levante goalkeeper Navas will face England in Brazil

Levante goalkeeper Navas will face England in Brazil

Will Villarreal find themselves in time?

Villarreal vs Osasuna - Monday 22.00 CET Live on Stats Zone
 
One of last weekend's freak results was Villarreal's rather limp defeat at the hands of Valladolid, which had manager Marcelino claiming that “it didn’t seem like my team”. “We weren’t comfortable from the off,” moaned goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo.
 
Meanwhile, visiting Osasuna have their own bad memories to wipe out, having been thrashed 5-1 by Athletic. It was a loss down to “anxiety” rather than “effort” claimed defender Damía Abella in midweek.

Are Valencia LLL’s next club in crisis?

Barcelona vs Valencia - Saturday 16.00 CET Live on Stats Zone
 
Who'd have thunk it? Valencia getting themselves into another fine mess, that is. At the time of writing, the stakeholders running the club have yet to agree on who gets to make the decision about selling the club, never mind who to. 
 
The team is still flimsy on the pitch and without a win in four. Despite Eduardo Vargas coming in from Napoli on loan, most talk around the club centres on who'll be leaving. Helder Postiga and Andrés Guardado have joined Lazio and Bayer Leverkusen on loan respectively, while Ever Banega and Sergio Canales could both be poked out the door yet.
 
At least things can only get better on Saturday with a trip to the Camp Nou, where Valencia have not won in La Liga for over a decade. That was sarcasm, by the way. 

Postiga is part of a January overhaul at Valencia

Postiga is part of a January overhaul at Valencia

Can San Mamés hold firm against Real Madrid?

Athletic Club vs Real Madrid - Sunday 21:00 CET Live on Stats Zone
 
It is one of the myths of Spanish football that the old San Mamés was a tough place for visiting teams. For some, the Basque stands were all mouth and no trousers in terms of results. Real Madrid certainly haven’t found any problems up north, having won eight of their last nine visits to Bilbao, and the last three by 3-0 scorelines.
 
Until Wednesday night the new San Mamés was set to reverse that trend, with Athletic undefeated there in both league and the cup. But then results machine Atlético Madrid came along to ruin that sense of superiority with a 2-1 victory, setting up a semi-final clash against Real Madrid for a repeat of last year’s final. 
 
That, and the fact Atlético won eight from eight in January without conceding a single goal, suggests that some traditions will remain at Athletic, despite the change in ground.

Can Atlético Madrid tame immense Griezmann?

Atlético Madrid vs Real Sociedad - Sunday 19.00 CET Live on Stats Zone
 
Mon dieu! If the Frenchies don’t bring Real Sociedad’s flying winger to the World Cup party - and the player definitely loves one of them - then they're madder than LLL was thinking. Griezmann is in blistering form with 14 league goals - pretty darn nifty for a winger playing up in San Sebastian. 
 
A big, old test is coming up on Sunday, though, with a trip to Atlético Madrid. Nevertheless, the Rojiblancos haven't won in three at the Vicente Calderón, with Barcelona and then Sevilla holding Diego Simeone’s men to draws. With Atleti thought to be one of those teams chasing Griezmann’s hot-as-pancakes signature, Sunday’s capital city clash could be a spicy one. 

Griezmann has hit red-hot form for Sociedad this season

Griezmann has hit red-hot form for Sociedad this season

Will this Neymar business ever go away?

Barcelona vs Valencia - Saturday 16.00 CET Live on Stats Zone
 
Well, that’s one way to get out of a tight spot - blame Real Madrid. It's the approach of new Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who happily blamed the Neymar transfer hullabaloo (follow the whole mess right here) on their noisy neighbours. “There is a certain belligerence towards Barcelona, from Madrid,” Bartomeu claimed to Catalan media, suggesting jealousy about them having the bestest players in the world.
 
When Marca responded by taunting that Bartomeu had “Madriditis”, the new Camp Nou chief played along and claimed he suffered from “Barcelonismo” instead. Yep. That’s what passes for top, sporting debate in Spain, these days. 

"See, it's fine!" Barca president Bartomeu shows Neymar's contract details

"See, it's fine!" Barca president Bartomeu shows Neymar's contract details


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