The Big Weekend Preview – Round 21

Saturday

Sevilla (9th) v Osasuna (14th)

Ten defeats this season - the third worst record in the league - means that excitable Sevilla coach, Manuel Jiménez, is almost certainly going to be thrown into the managerial dumpster over the summer, with a proper, less bouncy trainer being brought in. The two candidates for this prestigious post, according to AS, are Espanyol's Ernesto Valverde (the dream choice, apparently) and the miraculous Marcelino of Recreativo and Racing fame.

But Freddie Kanouté, speaking from the African Cup of Nations, says that it is the players who are to blame for their current malaise. "We have a serious problem," he observed with rapier like insight.

José Maria del Nido, busy hanging on to Luis Fabiano's ankle in a tug of war with Man City's Svennis, is pointing the finger of blame in Juande Ramos' direction. "He betrayed us for money!" declared the honest as they come, charity loving, former lawyer of Jesus Gil. Home win.

Sunday

Racing Santander (6th) Zaragoza (11th)

Zaragoza begin the fortnight's second bright new dawn for the club, with grizzled old war horse Javo Irureta at the helm. The former Betis coach has the second highest number of league matches under his belt as a coach - after Luis Aragones - so he looks like being the right man to set Zaragoza back on the straight and narrow.

As long as he is allowed to kick Andres d'Alessandro from the side, that is - something that his two predecessors have been unable to do. One can only imagine that the Argentinean has pictures of a board member in bed with a donkey and a walnut whip. Draw.

Murcia (18th) v Levante (20th)

If Levante actually paid salaries, then the club's wage bill would be lighter by one head, this week. The latest man to leave lowly Levante is the fitness trainer, Pablo Artico. Even the rats are packing their tiny rodent suitcases and legging it. Home win.

Mallorca (13th) v Atletico (4th)

What might have been an emotional return to Getafe, on Wednesday night, by Mallorca striker Dani Guiza, turned out to have been a little on the sour side. On Monday, deadly Dani claimed that Getafe still owed him his bonus for the Copa del Rey final appearance. And this complaint was the straw that broke the back of Angel Torre's footballing camel.

"I was so tired of being his nanny," ranted the Getafe president, as he recalled the forward's spell at the club. "I once had to get up at four in the morning as he was out and didn't know how to get home...I had to go to a judge to pay his salary in...he drove without a license...he used to collect..." Home win.

Valencia (8th) v Almeria (10th)

After having been 7th or 8th in the league for what seems like decades, despite having failed to win a game in that time, Valencia have finally been caught by the stampeding pack of sides looking to avoid relegation. If Ronald Koeman's men fail to cut the mustard at Mestalla, on Sunday, then they will joining them.

The big news at the club, this week, was the ongoing war of words between David Albeda, his lawyers and Koeman. The maverick midfielder, along with Santiago Cañizares, broke cover this week with a series of radio and newspaper interviews where the goalkeeper revealed that he was having psychological help to get him through the current crisis.

Ronald Koeman was less than impressed by this claiming that the players cynically chose their recent defeat at Villarreal to put the boot in to best effect. On the team news, Ruben Baraja has been ruled out for a month, which means the midfield duo of Ever Banega and Hedwiges Maduro - "Albeda with less baggage" according to Marca - are set to start on Sunday. Home win.

Deportivo (19th) v Valladolid (7th)

Another club whose footballing existence resembles a dodgy Venezuelan soap opera is Deportivo. This week, Gustavo Munúa fought the law over his thuggish assault on Dudu Aouate - and the law won, with the goalkeeper being handed a six month suspended prison sentence and a fine.

But instead of firing the fist-flinging scumbag, Miguel Angel Lotina - at the request of the dressing room - has allowed both Munúa and Aoaute to return to full training. Which must make for a delightful atmosphere.

The club's bean counters were handed bad news with Albert Luque threatening to take Deportivo to court for 2.2 million euros, which he claims is an unpaid bonus from his 14 million euro move to Newcastle. Expect topless models with collection buckets at Riazor on Sunday. Home win.

Espanyol (5th) v Real Betis (16th)

Ernesto Valverde must have spent his Christmas walking under ladders, smashing mirrors and kicking cats of all description around the streets of Barcelona. Since their return to action, Espanyol have lost twice in the league, been booted out of the Copa del Rey have now lost Raul Tamudo for two months with a broken arm.

But to give their remaining players a much needed shot in the arm for the rest of the season, the club have struck a deal with the local Ecuadorian community leaders - a deal which will see 8,000 fans turning up to Montjuic to help fill the frequently empty stands. Home win.

Recreativo (17th) v Getafe (12th)

La Liga Loca was either having a funny turn whilst watching the sports news on Friday, or Getafe have replaced Michael Laudrup with David Boreanaz. Draw.

Athletic Bilbao (15th) v Barcelona (2nd)

When former Athletic Bilbao manager, Javier Clemente - a man not blessed with an enormous amount of cultural sensitivity - took over Serbia, a few gasps of astonishment were uttered in Spain. But luckily Clemente failed to restart the Balkan conflict as predicted by many. He also failed to qualify them for the European Championships.

And this is why Clemente is going to continue on his odyssey through the Axis of Evil by managing Iran - move that raised La Liga Loca's eyebrows to such an extent that they are still be talked down, a day later. "The war is in Iraq, not Iran" pointed out the country's new footballing Ayatollah with a thin grasp of geopolitical understanding.

Real Madrid (1st) v Villarreal (3rd)

La Liga Loca is feeling particularly triumphant today, as it has successfully located the LCD Soundsystem cd in FNAC. After a month long search. For those unfamiliar with FNAC, it is a DVD, book and cd store that has the thoroughly irritating habit of categorising every band on the planet into Rock Pop, International, Rock, New Tendencies, Alternative and so on.

The same process is happening for Real Madrid at the moment, with the team being branded as lucky, good, good but lucky, good compared to everyone else and so on. Draw.

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