The Casillas-dropping, Güiza-welcoming weekend predictions

Saturday

Sporting v Real Sociedad

After an epic late night session of Sergio Ramos proportions, the Spanish League (LFP) and Players’ Union (AFE) finally came to an agreement and gave each other a hearty back slap in the early hours of Thursday morning. After a couple of weeks of bickering, the LFP agreed to increase the size of payments into a slush fund to cover the debts owed to Spain’s footballers by clubs (Betis and Zaragoza for the most part) and thus peace was made.

The postponed first round of football from last weekend will now take place over the weekend of January 21st/22nd with the newly displaced round 20 now being moved into May just ahead of round 36.

This sees Sporting kicking off the ‘new’ new season in round two, while celebrating one of their players being called up to the Spanish squad for the first time in 13 years, with defender Alberto Botía one of six European U-21 champions joining Vicente Del Bosque’s senior squad for the upcoming games against Chile and Liechtenstein.

LLL Prediction - Home win

 Valencia v Racing Santander

“Juan Mata and Ariz Aduriz are not for sale” declared Valencia president Manuel Llorente at the beginning of July - a good six weeks before the whopping wonga of Chelsea was waved in front of the men from Mestalla to break one half of that promise.

But as Marca declare on Friday, it’s “goodbye Mata, hello Mata” for Valencia, with the Spanish club facing Chelsea in their Champions League group, along with Bayer Leverkusen and Genk. “It’s an attractive group because of the presence of the London team, but it’s also tough,” mused Unai Emery. “Of course, it’s going to be special for Valencia fans to see Juan in Mestalla in a shirt that isn’t Valencia’s.”

“I wish him all the luck in the world,” added the Valencia coach, “less so when he faces Valencia.”

LLL Prediction - Home win

Granada v Betis

It won’t just be rival Primera fans flicking through their pre-season guides wondering who the heck the newbies for Granada are, but also the locals ahead of Saturday’s clash between a couple of freshly-promoted sides.

Granada have been busy transfer bees over the summer, with the incorporation of 16 new players. All 16 were expected to have come from Granada’s partner club, Udinese, but to date just two have joined from the Serie A outfit.

Betis have also been reasonably busy in the market, and have managed to attract nine new players despite holding the shameful position of the club that owes most money to its present and past players, the princely sum of €18m - a total that includes €2m to Caffa and €1.6 to Sergio García. Indeed, it could be argued that the Seville side are single-handedly responsible for last weekend’s AFE strike.

LLL Prediction - Draw

Sunday

Atlético Madrid v Osasuna

Three eye-opening events occurred in the life of Atlético Madrid over the past week. The first was the €40 million paid to Porto for Falcao - players from that particular Portuguese side tend to cost a little bit more than everyone else for some reason. Secondly, the decision of the Colombian to miss out on Champions League football (and the glamour of facing Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit and APOEL...) with Porto in favour of another year of Europa League action and an eighth-place finish in la Primera for Atlético.

Still, it could have been worse for Falcao, as the third curious event of the Rojiblanco week took place on Thursday, when Atlético sensationally managed not to balls up their campaign by winning 4-0 away at Guimaraes to progress to the Europa League group stages with a 6-0 aggregate victory.

Falcao is going to have to make sure he gets a nice early night on Saturday ahead of the forward’s league debut, as Sunday’s kick-off time is at the blog-happy time of midday, as Atlético and la Liga try to tickle the fancies of the Asian market.

LLL Prediction - Home win

Athletic Bilbao v Rayo Vallecano

Athletic should have been facing Trabzonpsor in Turkey on Thursday in their Europa League qualifier, but caught a break when their opponents were promoted to the Champions League due to the alleged match-fixing naughtiness of Fenerbahce, who were kicked out of the competition, to leave the Basque side a nice, free passage, as it were.

Rayo had their first piece of good news in about three months with the announcement that free agent Raúl Tamudo, and his 136 Primera goals, would be joining the People’s Republic of Vallecas for the season.

LLL Prediction - Home win

Mallorca v Espanyol

Having travelled without permission to Italy for “personal reasons” last week, it was no real surprise to discover that Perico striker Osvaldo had signed for Roma for a whopping €18.5m - €10m for the player, €2m for the tattoos, and €6.5 for reasons that the blog cannot fathom, with the Argentine / Italian being fantastically overrated.

LLL Prediction - Draw

Getafe v Levante

A joyous occasion at the Coliseum on Sunday with Dani “the night confuses me” Güiza making a triumphant return to a club where he once rang president Angel Torres in the early hours of the morning looking for directions home, and was put onto a liquid diet to calm a booze-tossed tummy. Sunday’s game is also a special one for Getafe boss Luis García who faces the club he left over the summer.

That side, Levante, have also pulled off a bit of a coup by signing up Sevilla striker Koné on loan for a year to fill the space left by the departing Felipe Caicedo in what LLL suspects may be one of the handiest transfers of the season.

LLL Prediction - Home win

Zaragoza v Real Madrid

A particularly gossip-ridden week in the Madridista world despite the club only having its annual Santiago Bernabeu trophy game to occupy themselves. It began with the rumours and denials that José Mourinho would be leaving Mordor and ended with the theory that captain Iker Casillas had been dropped for Wednesday’s friendly game against Galatasaray.

This punishment is thought to be the result of phone calls reportedly made by the Madrid man to Xavi and Carles Puyol in an attempt to patch up relations between his side and Barcelona - a concept Mourinho isn’t really a fan of, although The Eye-Poking One denied Casillas was benched. “He can call whoever he likes,” said Mourinho.

Oh, and just when everyone things were back to normal in la Liga after the strike, Sunday’s clash between Zaragoza and Madrid may not be televised due to a dispute between the home team and a TV company over an unpaid debt. So, in a sense, everything is back to normal in la Liga.

LLL Prediction - Away win

Sevilla v Málaga

La Liga Loca’s pre-season prediction of a glorious fourth place finish come May for Sevilla took another step of coming true with the Andalusians managing to knock themselves out of Europe after a loss over two legs to Hannover, leaving their midweeks largely free for rest and relaxation for the next 12 months. Sevilla’s bigwigs seem less pleased with the result, though.

“It’s a strong blow,” admitted coach, Marcelino, after a defeat that forced his president, José María del Nido, to issue a statement of confidence to the Sevilla supporters. “Our objective is still Champions League qualification. In our first year under Juande Ramos, we were knocked out by Cadiz in the cup but we still went on to win the UEFA cup.”

LLL Prediction - Draw

Monday

Barcelona v Villarreal

Barça find themselves in the Monday night dead zone spot normally reserved for the dearly-departed Deportivo due to their European Super Cup clash against Porto on Friday night.

Their opponents are Villarreal, a team whose celebrations at successfully fighting their way through to the Champions League were cut short when they ended up in the group of doom alongside Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Napoli. “There was an Englishman, a German and an Italian,” began a defeatist Javi Mata writing in Friday’s AS in response to the draw. “Although it seems like a joke, it’s a joke in bad taste.”

“We’re undoubtedly in the hardest group, it’s tough but we’ll fight to the end,” promised Villarreal president, Fernando Roig.

LLL Prediction - Home win

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