The Big Weekend Preview - Round 25

Saturday Valencia (9th) v Recreativo (15th) It's a bracing Friday morning in Valencia. The trainers will be laying out the cones. The manager will be running through the tactics ahead of the visit of a resurgent Recreativo. The frisky footballers will be joshing and japing as they arrive at the training ground. Not really. And that's not because most of the Valencia players don't speak to each other - and if they did, it would probably be about Miguel's traditional Thursday drinkie-night. This Friday, a large chunk of Valencia's playing and coaching staff are in court to face accusations from David Albeda's lawyers that the club wronged him back in December by dropping him from the squad, forever. Amongst those in the dock as witnesses are David Silva, Joaquín (good luck with that, David), Vicente, Juan Soler, Ronald Koeman and assorted members of the back room staff. Draw. Sevilla (6th) v Zaragoza (10th) If there are two things that Sevilla president, José Maria del Nido, doesn't like, it's taxes and being made to look like the big goon that he undoubtedly is. And that's what happened when his side came away from Turkey as big old losers against Fenerbahce. Before the Champions League clash, del Nido was in full boasting, bragging form, but a late winner from the Turkish tykes put paid to his presidential predictions. "We came to win and we didn't", he whined, using 'we' in the sense that he contributed to the night by sitting on his backside eating canapés. "I feel angry with the result", he continued whilst not really understanding the concept of the away goal rule. Home win. Sunday Osasuna (17th) v Atletico Madrid (4th) La Liga Loca has only prayed once in its life. And that involved Chris Kiwomya. And it didn't work. But at the Calderón, on Thursday night, it was back on its knees as the clock edged towards the ninety-minute mark. La Liga Loca was praying that Atlético Madrid wouldn't score against Bolton. And that's nothing against Atlético. Instead it was because of the thought of extra-time and another half an hour of Jurado and co blasting the ball over Gary Megson's parked bus. It was match that made three of the rojiblanco starters very happy that they weren't playing on English shores, anymore. Although they can expect more bootings and barrackings on Sunday, in a must win match for Osasuna. Home win. Athletic Bilbao (12th) v Villarreal (3rd) This week's 'News from Sweden' concerns an interesting fact about the local wildlife, given to us by the tourist board's web site. "Sweden does have wolves but not at all in the numbers foreigners usually expect. The total population is about 100. The wolf is protected and is slowly beginning to renumber. A fully grown male can be very impressive, weighing up to 70 kilograms. To spot one in Sweden is very difficult but there are areas where known groups can be heard, particularly in Värmlamd along the Norwegian border." Draw. Racing Santander (8th) v Almería (7th) It's time for La Liga Loca to come over all patronisingly paternal, give a wink, ruffle some hair and pull a shiny dollar from the behind the ears of both these plucky go-getting clubs. Although that sounds a bit dodgy, written down. The two teams' combined budgets would probably buy only one of Guti's earrings, but despite this, they are both sitting pretty in the Primera in the top eight. You wouldn't want to watch either of them, though, given the choice. Goalless draw. Murcia (19th) v Valladolid (16th) The first instinctive reaction in Spain to any kind of problem or hiccup is to ensure that everyone knows that it's not your fault. Step two is to point the finger at everyone else. And that's exactly why the newly-opened high speed train-line between Madrid and Barcelona took 127 years to build and had Stephenson's Rocket pictured on the first promotional material. Murcia are currently in deep do-do, second from bottom with five defeats in six, but, in a break with tradition, the players are taking a long hard look at themselves, instead of everyone else. "We're a group, it's not just the's our fault", admitted César Arzo. And these are sentiments echoed by Baiano who claims that manager, Lucas Alcaraz, is "doing everything to help us, the blame is not his. It's us who are most guilty. The players". Home win. And a big one. Mallorca (11th) v Betis (14th) It was fantastic news all round for the Betis players, this week, with club evil overlord, Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, promising that they could all be free to leave, come the summer. To whoops of delight from the dressing room behind de Lopera's podium, the majority shareholder advised - using the third person, never good - that, "Lopera has always talked about getting 43 points and that is our objective", before announcing that none of the squad will have their contracts renewed until this magnificent milestone has been achieved by the betico battlers. Home win. Deportivo (18th) v Espanyol (5th) It's never a good thing to be in a worse off state than Atlético Madrid, but that's exactly how Espanyol find themselves, going into this weekend's game. Five defeats from six has surely blown the perico pretensions for a Champions League spot. Although Albert Riera won't hear of such defeatist talk. "We won't give up on the CL while there are still mathematical possibilities". Bearing in mind that neither the rojiblanco's nor Villarreal are the smartest tools in the footballing box, maybe it there is still hope? Away win. Barcelona (2nd) v Levante (20th) La Liga Loca wants a lot of things. Like the legal authority to smack moped riders off their bikes, Mad Max style, when they bomb along the pavement. But it can't. Instead it must wave a futile fist at them as they speed by, like Walter Matthau in his pomp. Levante's Juanma wants an easy ride at the Camp Nou, on Sunday. "Perhaps they will relax against us because we are bottom", mused the defender. 'Ain't gonna happen' says Andrés Iniesta still on a high from the win over Celtic. "If we don't take this seriously we could mess up. We must leave Glasgow behind us and focus on what is next", opined the midfielder, still continuing to look like both Ant and Dec. Home win. Real Madrid (1st) v Getafe (13th) On Thursday evening, Marca and AS showed that it is they who rule the footballing roost in Spain. And that's because months of 'Raul for Spain' ranting, muckraking and making stuff up lead to a joint, clear the air press conference between Real's sulking striker and the bumbling buffoon, Luis Aragones. "Managers don't have friendships with players. They aren't selected because of friendship but for other reasons", said the Spanish coach, who should probably try chatting to Steve McClaren, one day. After twenty-six minutes of baffling babble, the two agreed to disagree on Aragones' continuing 'Raul, over my dead body' stance and part company. But this was of no interest to Marca's freebie-loving Roberto Gomez who looks like he is up to something in one of Madrid's southern suburbs by praising Estaban Parro, the local mayor of Mostoles, "I repeat, magnificent mayor", in his latest column. And it looks like he is after some free flights by advising his readership that he had to decline an invitation to dinner with Air Europa president, Juan José Hidalgo. "I was invited," he assured everyone, "but was in Rome". Probably because of a cancelled flight on his BFF's stupid airline. Home win. If you are desperately short of things to do this weekend, you can catch Tim Stannard on Real Madrid's La Liga preview show, 'The Match' - free on Sky Digital channel 446 and repeated throughout the weekend.