Betis boss Pepe Mel aims to keep middle fingers under control during Bernabeu clash

Pepe Mel - bird flipper

Friday

Mallorca (19th) v Rayo Vallecano (9th) - 21.00 While La Liga Loca is not suggesting Mallorca prove they are ‘4 Real’ in their battle for survival in the style of Manic Street Preacher Richie Edwards (a method involving a craft knife and some stitches), the Balearic club are going to have to up their game a little from Monday. Tis true that Mallorca came away 1-0 winners against Celta Vigo, but there were some hairy moments along the way before an injury time pounce from Giovani dos Santos gave Mallorca the points. “Winning costs the world and sometimes, a miracle,” gasped coach, Gregorio Manzano, after the clash. Rayo Vallecano are the visitors on Friday night and are another team with a point to prove. LLL suspects the Madrid outfit may not be all that keen on a tilt at European qualification, quite reasonably given regular midweek matches would be a huge strain on resources. Friday night will help decide which team is all talk and no trouser on their season’s true desires. LLL Prediction - Home win

Saturday

Granada (19th) v Valladolid (13th) - 16.00Andalusian bottom-dwellars Granada decided to try and save their season by setting off for a three-day retreat in Marbella. Normally that would be a disastrous ideas with footballers, but in Granada’s case it’s a Hail Mary approach that might stop the lamentable run of results which has left the side with just two points from the past 24 available. “The idea is to try news things to lift our spirits, generate self confidence and prepare the best way possible for the Valladolid match,” revealed Granada boss Lucas Alcaraz. Club captain, Manuel Lucena, announced that “the base of the success of the past few years has been the unity between all parts of the club and I’m convinced that salvation will come through this union.” Funny, LLL always thought that the base of Granada’s success of the past few years has been having the same owners as Udinese and being able to borrow all the Serie A club’s players... LLL Prediction - Home win

Real Madrid (2nd) v Real Betis (7th) - 18.00It's been a busy week for Betis manager Pepe Mel, who has had a Seville city derby and the visit to the Santiago Bernabéu to contend with in the space of a few days. So no time to put the finishing touches to a follow-up to his book ‘The Liar’, a mystery novel that was a complete work of fiction and nothing to do with any former club owners he's worked under. Mel has been busy enough just dealing with the fall-out following the middle finger he flipped - supposedly at an unnamed third party and not opposition fans - towards the end of last Friday’s 3-3 draw with Sevilla. “I’m very, very disappointed and angry at myself for what I did. People who know me know it’s nothing to do with who I am as a person or my way of understanding this game,” he told Marca.LLL Prediction - Home win

Barcelona (1st) v Levante (12th) - 20.00Things seem to be a little odd at Levante. The side has been struggling for goals since the departure of Obafemi Martins to MLS, and the 4-0 home defeat to Deportivo last weekend seemed worryingly easily for their Galician visitors. There’s still no word on the renewal of the contract of manager Juan Ignacio Martínez, who has a frosty relationship with the big cheeses of Levante. This sees Marca speculating that the Valencia club may be scouting for a replacement for JIM and are quite keen on current Elche boss, Fran Escribá.  Any offer that might come through could see a tough decision for the Valencia-born coach, as Elche are currently top of la Segunda with a 13 point lead over third. However Elche is an institutional basket case, as with 93% of all clubs in la Liga, so a more established side might be a nice change of scene for the former Getafe and Valencia number two. LLL Prediction - Home win

Valencia (6th) v Málaga (5th) - 22.00 So, a bit of a big game then between two Champions League-chasing sides, who are also both currently something of a shambles off the pitch. Last week, LLL explained that Federico Varona, President of the Valencia Foundation - who sort of own the club - was temporarily stepping in after the resignation of Manuel Llorente as president of Valencia. Scrap that. Varona stepped down after 13 days in charge citing in a written communication the pressure of the role due to “personal insults and abuse.” Who’s in charge now in Mestalla is any one’s guess. Roberto Soldado certainly doesn’t know, but that's no surprise, as it’s unlikely the forward knew who was in charge before. “We don’t know what the future is, it’s all in the air and it’s tough to isolate yourself from all the talk,” complained the Valencia striker. LLL Prediction - Home win

Sunday

Getafe (8th) v Espanyol (11th) - 12.00Bad Alexis. Bad. Bad. Bad! The Getafe man got himself sent off in the defeat to Valladolid last week, and although his initial offence was a tad soft, he made things much worse. As he ambled off towards the tunnel, the defender spat into the crowd, who were giving the former Valencia man a bit of stick. Alexis released an apology on Getafe’s website - “it’s not the attitude a sportsperson should have” wrote the stopper, but the FA’s Competition Committee have suspended the defender for four games for insulting the referee and for his saliva-escape. LLL Prediction - Draw

Deportivo (16th) v Athletic Bilbao (14th) - 17.00Now, if there’s one team in la Primera who are supposed to be all with the stiff upper lip and not panicking and blathering on about ‘finals’, it’s Athletic Bilbao. But the Basque side seem to have completely lost their nerve and are genuinely spooked about starting life in the new San Mamés down in la Segunda. “If the Granada match was the game of the year,” shirked Ander Herrera referring to comments made two weeks ago, “in La Coruña we have a match of the century.”There’s at least one member of the Bilbao who has a backbone, and that’s defender, Jonás Ramalho. The 20-year-old enjoyed himself immensely booting Cristiano Ronaldo around the pitch last Sunday, before losing the Portuguese at a free kick to produce the Real Madrid man’s second goal. “I’m tough on the ball no matter who the player is,” claimed Ramalho. LLL Prediction - Draw

Osasuna (15th) v Real Sociedad (4th) - 19.00This match presents a tough Kramer vs Kramer moment for LLL, with the blog rooting both for Osasuna to stay up and also for Real Sociedad to finish forth. Hopefully Valencia and Málaga can drag out a stalemate to allow Osasuna to sneak three points in Pamplona. There certainly won’t be a shortage of fans at the game, with the final 2,000 tickets made available for Sunday’s match selling out in three hours, as supporters queued from as early as five in the morning. The Osasuna president, Miguel Archanco, has been lamenting how his club have ended up in this sticky position towards the end of the season, commenting that “we had a really nice advantage and we lost it.” Nevertheless, twas ever the case for the club says Archanco. “The fans know the Champions League for Osasuna is staying up.” LLL Prediction - Away win

Sevilla (10th) v Atlético Madrid (3rd) - 19.00 LLL was a little surprised to see unsettling stories about Sevilla players moving to Real Madrid suddenly in the papers, given the Santiago Bernabéu club have already played the Andalusians twice this season. But the name of Geoffrey Kondogbia has appeared in both Marca and AS as being a Real Madrid target as a long term replacement for Xabi Alonso, despite the 20-year-old Frenchman being nothing like the former Liverpool midfielder. But hey ho, due to the player being part owned by a third party in a deal LLL is too thick to understand, the Sevilla player could be bought for €8m. Sevilla may also lose Kondogbia’s midfield partner Gary Medel, with the club reportedly having grown tired of the player’s somewhat spotty disciplinary record. “He finds it hard to stay calm,” noted teammate Albert Botía on Medel’s sending off in the Seville derby last Friday. LLL Prediction - Home win

Monday

Celta Vigo (20th) v Zaragoza (18th) - 22.00 Celta, who have been cursed with two Monday night games in a row, have been grumbling all week about a couple of penalties they feel should have been awarded to them in the defeat to Mallorca. And that’s all because Celta don’t complain about refereeing decisions, says Roberto Iago. “It seems like we are idiots because we always stay quiet, don’t say anything and that’s it.” Iago’s theory that referees enjoy picking on teams who don’t fight back was backed up by club captain, Borja Oubiña.“It wasn’t just two penalties, but fouls and a lot of another stuff,” complained the midfielder who also attempted some rousing Braveheart talk for the team at the bottom of the table. “A lot of people have us for going down, but there are still games left.”LLL Prediction - Home win 

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