Big Weekend Preview: Brave Rayo to take another Barça beating, Piqué tries to pee

FFT's Spanish expert Tim Stannard looks ahead to a jam-packed weekend of La Liga fun and frolics...

Just when things were beginning to sizzle nicely in Spain, everyone prepares to shut up shop once again to depart for yet another stupid, stupid international break. Just so the likes of Lionel Messi can (perhaps) rack up money for his national federation by playing Hong Kong. Then again, LLL never grows tired of watching Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal flump everything up again.


Although the seventh round of action doesn't exactly start on a tub-thumbing platform, with Getafe against Córdoba on Friday night in the Coliseum, there are a few stonkers in La Liga, with the prized match taking place in Mestalla.

How brave are Rayo going to be against Barça?

It’s LLL’s favourite time of the year. Rayo coach Paco Jémez keeps faith with his all-out, knobs-turned-to-11 attacking approach to football, regardless of the opposition. And Barcelona take full advantage, thank you very much. 
The past three seasons in this fixture have seen Rayo concede 16 goals in three games without a single effort in return.
To be fair, though, the thrashings have reduced in intensity each time with just the four strikes conceded in the Republic of Vallekas last year. Unfortunately the omens do not look good for the Madrid side on Saturday, with Rayo captain Roberto Trashorras promising cheerfully: “We will try to play our football, keep our style, be brave and what will happen, will happen.” Oh dear. 
Rayo Vallecano 0-9 Barcelona: Saturday 18.00 CEST

"He wears what he wants..."

Will Piqué have a better night out than Paris?

Poor Gerard Piqué. Well, aside from winning the World Cup, being shacked up with Shakira, having studly good looks and a fine beard. The former jewel of Barcelona’s defensive eye is now a confirmed bench-sitter, replaced by Jérémy Mathieu of all people. A ginger. And French. Quelle horreur for a Spaniard! 
The stopper had a lousy midweek to go along with a lousy campaign so far. He was benched against PSG and then unable to pee in time for a doping test to leave Paris on the Big Plane, thus forced to travel back with the youth team the following morning.  
Rayo Vallecano 0-9 Barcelona: Saturday 18.00 CEST

Do Athletic have any straws left to grasp?

Things are certainly looking less than hot for the Basque side who visit the Bernabéu on Sunday. Heads are in drooping mode, what with Athletic managing just four points from six matches in La Liga and one in the Champions League, a competition which produced a spirit-spanning midweek defeat to BATE. 
The Spanish capital awaits at a venue where Ernesto Valverde’s outfit have had a rotten time of it of late, with 20 goals conceded in their past five league matches in Madrid’s home. A terrible month for poor Athletic could be about to get an awful lot worse. 
Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao: Sunday 21.00 CEST

Valverde (right) is feeling the strain

Can Valencia take advantage of sluggish Atléti?

Sometimes watching Atlético Madrid can feel like not much is going on as they poke the ball about the pitch, as was in the midweek clash against Juventus. However, like a particularly spiky swan there’s tons of activity going on under the surface, with the Rojiblancos' webbed feet flapping furiously. 
Valencia are in prime position to take advantage of this, having not had a great deal to do over the past six days or so, aside from train and tackle the pile of ironing that's been gradually building up. Atlético drew against a dynamic Celta Vigo side 2-2 after the team’s first Champions League outing this season. Diego Simeone’s side face another zesty outfit this weekend in the form of a fast-moving and very rangy Valencia side still trying to get Alvaro Negredo fit enough to start. 
Valencia vs Atlético Madrid: Saturday 10.00 CEST 

Will Depor's boss fall foul of a confidence vote?

Beggars cannot really be choosers in La Coruña, with managers who can keep the club up fairly thin on the ground. Victor Fernández has endured a slow start at Deportivo, with the Galicians bragging just one win from six to show for the current campaign. 
Not a problem, though, says club president Tino Fernández, who has “total confidence” in his coach despite a 1-0 home defeat to Almería last weekend which topped off three successive losses. The big boss also has an interesting take on reality, saying: “With a little bit more, we could have had two or four more points and be eighth drawing with the seventh-placed side Villarreal.” If ifs and buts were pots and pans...
Sevilla vs Deportivo: Sunday 12.00 CEST

Will Sevilla’s forgotten men turn up?

There appears to be some kind of mad Twilight Zone vibe this season involving Sevilla and LLL. There are a bunch of players there that the blog had completely forgotten about until the Europa League popped up, probably because LLL had not been paying enough attention to the joyful Andalusian side in La Primera.
Gerard Deulofeu was hiding out until scoring a couple of weeks ago in Europe. The same happened on Thursday with Iago Aspas, who popped up with an effort against Rijeka in a 2-2 draw. Heck, even José Antonio Reyes made an appearance. The former Arsenal man is very much a blast from the past, and set to return against Deportivo. 
Sevilla vs Deportivo: Sunday 12.00 CEST

Aspas and Reyes are still alive and kicking a football

Will Levante's leader head home with the fans?

It is rather fortunate that Levante are set to be hiring buses free of charge for their travelling supporters to Eibar, as it might be the best way home for the team’s under-pressure manager. José Luis Mendilibar has led – if that's the right word – Levante to the wrong end of the table with just four points and a single goal scored in six matches, and is understandably under some pressure. 
Unfortunately, the Valencia outfit are facing plucky Eibar, a club where José Luis Morales played last season on loan and knows what tough cookies Saturday’s opponents have become. “About 90 per cent of the team... have been friends for two or three years. You can tell that they know each other really well and the manager sets them up with an intensity you can feel on the pitch,” revealed the inside-man midfielder.
Eibar vs Levante: Saturday 20.00 CEST