There's no Real Madrid as they prepare for a Club World Cup final, but Tim Stannard says there's plenty more intrigue in La Liga this weekend...
At least two storylines are going to be missing from this weekend's La Liga shenanigans. Another hat-trick, brace, quadruple or whatever from Cristiano Ronaldo, and another huge disappointment for Sevilla. Still, that leaves a bit of breathing room for everyone else, including a Villarreal team looking for win number five in La Liga against Deportivo, David Moyes overcoming one or two injuries to go into the winter break with a win at claggy Levante, and Granada trying to get out of a big hole against Getafe. Here's everything else to keep a lookout for before La Liga wraps up for a wee break.
What will Barça do next?
The visit of little old Córdoba should be a bit of a slam dunk for Barcelona in the Camp Nou in their winter break send-off. However, nothing is guaranteed with Barça these days in what could comfortably be a 19-0 victory with a triple hat-trick from Luis Suárez, a scrappy 2-0 win, or even a Celta Vigo-style defeat. To be fair, the last is rather unlikely as Celta were rather good at the time, and Córdoba quite clearly aren’t right now.
Whatever happens in the game, it will round off a pretty glum 2014 for the club, with flatness on the pitch and court cases/huge legal bills off it. Barça are desperately hoping that the New Year will get underway with some good news: CAS are due to make a decision on the current transfer ban set to bite hard on a team that has some squad spring cleaning still to be done. “These are hours of tense calm,” frets J.M Artells in Mundo Deportivo.
Barcelona vs Córdoba: Saturday 4pm CET
Can Valencia survive a trial by Eibar?
Were such devices allowed, Eibar would have a giant sprinkler system above the ground to permanently add that gritty, swamped northern feel to life in their Liga abode. Only two teams have won in Ipurúa in La Liga this season – one of them Real Madrid – and Valencia are rather desperate to be a third, having lost a little ground on the top three.
Paco Alcácer for one is getting the heebie-jeebies about the pre-Christmas clash, noting that “Eibar play hard, make life difficult at their home which is small, has the crowd on top of you and are a team with very clear ideas.” The incentive to get something out of the game is pretty high for Eibar too, who could be in the top half at Christmas with just a single point, to leave the team nicely on track to survive what was previously a daunting Primera campaign. “I don’t look at the league table, as there is still an awful lot of battling to come,” was the viewpoint of coach, Gaizka Garitano.
Eibar vs Valencia: Saturday 8pm CET
Can Getafe recover from Cosmin’s move?
The writing was very much on the wall at Getafe when manager Cosmin Contra admitted that an offer had been received from Chinese club Guangzho R&F for his services, and that he would be very much up for it if the club were. And so it was betrothed, with Romanian midfielder Míchel, currently on loan from Valencia, also heading off to the Chinese Super League.
“They offered him 10 times what he could earn here, the priority is always the family,” admitted Getafe president Angel Torres, who will also come out of the deal quite well with €3.9 million handed over for the pair, to help clear down the €7m reportedly owed to players past and present.
Granada vs Getafe: Sunday 5pm CET
Can Muniain get his season/career started?
La Liga Loca has had a look at the calendar and realised it's that time of year again. The time of cheer, silly songs, pavement pizzas and wondering once again if Iker Muniain will ever do anything with his football career. Just one strike in 14 league games for the 22-year-old (22!) is par for the course for wee Iker, who has netted 12 Primera goals in the last four years. That’s a total CR7, by random example, racks up before his morning muesli.
This year, the forward has a bit of an excuse as he has been suffering from a back injury. “I know I can play better, but I am not worried,” said Bartman in the now-annual acknowledgement that football life for the Basque battering ram is still not going as the early predictions proclaimed.
Athletic Bilbao vs Atlético Madrid: Sunday 9pm CET
Can Celta get back their mojo? (But this time, really do it?)
A midweek cup win for Celta Vigo and the visit of lowly and not-that-plucky Almería may have been the perfect footballing eggnog for Celta to not only win a first match in five, but score their first goal too. However, Almería are coming to down with a new manager in tow – Mr JIM (Juan Ignacio Martínez). JIM has already made a winning start with a victory in the Copa del Rey against Real Betis and proclaimed that “We need to keep on working on our self confidence”.
Celta Vigo vs Almería: Friday 8.45pm CET
Is this the last time we'll see Roque rocking for Málaga?
Although Málaga are doing remarkably well under Javi Gracia – the side may well fall into the bracket of ‘surprise package’ – the team is still being asset-stripped by the owner, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani. The next player to go could well be Roque Santa Cruz, with the team’s sporting director, Mario Husillos, admitting that offers have come in for the hunk. Roque potentially signed off with two goals in a midweek win over Deportivo, and should have the chance for more net-busting action against a flagging Elche.
Elche vs Málaga: Sunday 7pm CET