Can an Atlético Madrid miracle bring Barça the title?

FRIDAY

Rayo Vallecano (8th) v Osasuna (15th) - 21.00It’s going to be a fine evening indeed for those Vallecas urchins who linger in the street, behind the gap where a football stand should be, to catch errant balls during Rayo home games. Osasuna are in town, and they love a bit of wayward shooting combined with long-ball hoofs.

Nevertheless, la Primera's lowest-scoring side (26 strikes in 32 games) may fancy their chances of grinding out a horrendous sixth goalless draw against a Rayo Vallecano team who are looking more at the future than the present.

There’s still no word on the destiny of Rayo coach Paco Jémez, which may be having a knock-on effect with the players, many of whom are out of contract this summer – including top scorer Piti, who has been linked with a move to Saudi Arabia but says that a decision won’t be made until the end of the season.  LLL Prediction - Draw

SATURDAY

Levante (12th) v Celta Vigo (19th) - 16.00Celta may be second-bottom, but nothing can possibly go wrong with the inspired tactical plan set out by president Carlos Mouriño. “We can’t stop until we get out of the drop zone,” announced the Galician big-wig. A lot of whether that is going to be possible or not depends on if the returning Iago Aspas is ready to bang in some goals after suspension.

However, when the head-butting forward talked to the press this week, the hottest topic was a possible move to Valencia. “I have no pre-contract signed with Valencia,” sighed a weary Aspas. “Celta have always made it clear that if a club wants me they have to pay the €10m clause and that’s it.”

Meanwhile, there has been movement in the contract extension of Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martínez, despite him saying that he would be delighted to stay on should his bosses want him. LLL Prediction - Away win

Athletic Bilbao (14th) v Barcelona (1st) - 18.00 If Barça beat Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid lose to Atlético for the first time in 187 years then the Catalan club will be league champions with five games to spare. Hooray! (If you are a Barça fan).

Standing in their way, though, it’s the mighty Athletic who are running out of time in their search for one decent result in a washed-up season. The Bilbao club have been paying attention to the week’s football news though – specifically the treatment dished out by a certain German club to the Catalans, and they’ll be looking to do the same on Saturday. “I hope we can copy a bit of what Bayern Munich did in the Champions League,” said Carlos Gurpegui. "We’ll play an intense game and be close to the Barça players, and win the ball off them.a” LLL Prediction - Away win

Atlético Madrid (3rd) v Real Madrid (2nd) - 20.00Here we go again: Atlético Madrid’s best, best chance of beating Real Madrid in a derby since the last best, best chance. This could go one of two ways. A wounded Real Madrid looking for a restoration of pride go out and grab all three points against Atlético Madrid, as per tradition around these parts. Or a resting-everyone, reserving-resources-for-Tuesday Real Madrid go out and grab all three points against Atlético Madrid, as per tradition around these parts.

Diego Simeone is hinting that a crazy third option may be on the cards - a victory to Atlético Madrid in the Vicente Calderón for the first time since 1999, when Abba dominated the charts and there was just the one car between a whole town. “We have an opportunity,” on Saturday confirmed the Atlético boss. “I repeat, an opportunity.” An opportunity to do what will remain a mystery until nearly 10pm on Saturday night. LLL Prediction - Away win

Real Zaragoza (20th) v Mallorca (18th) - 22.00Zaragoza may have lost again on Monday, which makes it 15 games without a victory, but Manolo Jiménez is still in charge. This doesn’t signal a change of approach from trigger-happy club president Agapito Iglesias, but the simple economic fact that Jiménez would be a little pricey to fire having signed a three-season deal last summer. Goalkeeper Roberto Jiménez has noticed that the team are in all sorts of trouble and that “we are not doing well, the things that the boss tells us to do. The change needs to be radical and immediate. It’s all in the head.”

Talking nonsense on behalf of Mallorca is Javier Arizmendi, a former Zaragoza player, who claimed that Saturday’s relegation sizzler is “one more final but losing it is not definitive because mathematically we’ll still be alive.”LLL Prediction - Home win

SUNDAY

Espanyol (10th) v Granada (17th) - 12.00Well, there really is no stopping the mighty Espanyol, a team who were bottom at the end of November when Javier Aguirre took over but have now picked up 43 points. But the Pericos want more. They want Europe, which is currently five points away if Málaga remain excluded from next season's continental jamborees. “We have refocused our objective,” announced Diego Colotto.

Granada just want three points in the bag, something they haven't managed in the nine matches. However, a sparkling performance in a 1-1 draw with Valladolid last week, which was preceded by a retreat in Marbella, has seen a repeat of the same training trick. And after a few hours spent in a Costa del Sol classroom, defender Guilherme Siqueira has grasped the dynamics of football: “The conclusion from the camp was that the team is the 11 who play and the three who take part in the second halves.” LLL Prediction - Home win

Málaga (6th) v Getafe (9th) - 17.00 Marca reports that the Málaga footballers are going unpaid again, but that hasn’t stopped the club’s owner raging against the machines of UEFA and the Spanish FA, rather than hitting a ‘send’ button on a bank transfer. The paper says that the club’s captains had a tough-talking meeting with some institution bigwigs to find out what was going on in terms of “money, bonuses, salaries and delays.”

But enough of such trivialities and onto the thoughts of Sheikh Al-Thani. “My question to the Spanish Football Federation. Where is the justice and equality between the clubs? We were wronged by the UEFA. Where are you about this injustice to Malaga and the moral and psychological damage and the physical?” Hopefully, there will be more comedy stylings next week. LLL Prediction - Home win

Real Valladolid (13th) v Sevilla (11th) - 19.00Need three points to reach the magic 42 mark? Then simply call for Sevilla, who have just the one away win from 16 in la Liga this season. However, this somewhat lackadaisical record has nothing to do with the Andalusians being consistently hopeless, but dastardly referees. That’s the opinion of Sevilla coach Unai Emery, who feels that his side are being punished for not complaining about referees enough.

Feeling hard done by due to the diving antics of Diego Costa in last week’s defeat to Atlético Madrid and a handball in the lead-up to the goal, Emery wrote that “We feel powerless, because we can say what we want, but the points will never be returned to us." He's right.LLL Prediction - Draw

Real Sociedad (4th) v Valencia (5th) - 21.00In a new tradition, the blog will let you all know who is charge of Valencia on a week to week basis, as things are fairly fluid in the Mestalla boardroom these days. Technically Vicente Andreu is supposed to be in charge, due to the resignation of the previous temporary president, who was only president due to the resignation of the previous previous president Manuel Llorente.

However, Llorente was seen on Thursday at Valencia’s training ground visiting the players and chatting away with manager Ernesto Valverde, perhaps forgetting that he had quit his post a few weeks ago. Valverde must be quite confused this week, as he has also had a visit from Amadeo Salvo, the vice-president of the foundation which sort of owns the club, to discuss the contract situation with the coach. LLL Prediction - Home win

MONDAY

Betis (7th) v Deportivo (16th) - 22.00Another Monday match stuck away late at night, but it’s a belter that sees Deportivo continuing their incredible journey to escape relegation. Four wins and a draw have put Depor onto 30 points – two above the drop zone – and next up they face a tasty Betis side. “It’s a big peloton to escape,” noted Deportivo boss Fernando Vázquez, who rather admirably is training to complete a triathlon. “Let’s see who’s the best sprinter.”

History is on Depor’s side on Monday, with just the single defeat in the last 10 visits to Betis, something else to buoy Galician spirits. “Depending on ourselves is something we’ve dreamed about for some time,” revealed Deportivo midfielder Álex Bergantiños. “Taking into account where we’ve come from, we are in a very good situation.”LLL Prediction - Home win

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