Cold, late, expensive, pointless - it's the Copa del Rey!
With all the aimless staring out the window that La Liga Loca likes to indulge in, the blog must admit that it is finding it quite hard to keep up with this football lark. Ooh! A green birdie just flew past! Round 15 of la Liga started last Friday at 21:30 and ended around eleven on Monday night with Zaragoza beating Rayo 2-0. Then again, it's entirely possible that this was actually round 16 kicking off, as the league's time-tables are utterly insane this season.
Tuesday night saw Valencia trudging back to Pamplona, a city they had last visited as recently as Saturday, in order to take on Osasuna for a second time in four days, this time in the first leg of their last-sixteen Copa del Rey clash. Ernesto Valverde's side managed to do twice as well as they had done at the weekend, winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Dani Parejo (that honestly wasn't a typo) and Roberto Soldado. Pesky things, Osasuna boss JosÃÂ© Luis Mendilibar moaned after the match - "they won with just two details," was the grumble from the 51-year-old.
Valencia's two-goal lead plonks the Mestalla men in the favourites' high-chair to progress and take on either Celta Vigo or Real Madrid in the next round, with Osasuna needing a big turnaround in the second leg in a month's time. Yes, that's right, a month's time. The tie was originally supposed to be next week to add some vague form of continuity and tension to the affair, but an error was spotted a couple of weeks back when the Spanish FA realised that their games were going to collide with the final round of la Liga before the Christmas break.
Returning to the scene of the 1-0 win: Valencia were back at Osasuna in no time
Real Madrid, who have been lousy on the road in Spain this season, bar decent performances against BarÃÂ§a and Mallorca, are at Celta Vigo for the first time in five years, and the home side are expecting the rarest of occasions these days in Spain - a sell-out crowd - and that's despite the fact the game won't finish until about midnight.
"This match is for enjoying and our (league game) on Monday is the time to suffer," beamed Celta manager, Paco Herrera, safe in the knowledge that however impressive a result his side achieve in BalaÃÂdos, it will probably be overturned in seconds at the Bernabeu sometime in 2014 when the second leg takes place.
Over in the Real Madrid camp, Aitor Karanka said that...actually, nobody cared what the second-in-command had to say, and that's the whole point. JosÃÂ© Mourinho is the star attraction, and has been hiding off screen now for a week in order to get the punters salivating as they wonder what gibberish he's going to come up with next.
Kicking off at the same time will be AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid against Getafe in a Vicente CalderÃÂ³n that will be utterly freezing, with a cloudless Madrid night sky turning anyone not moving around the pitch in a particularly vigorous fashion into ice within seconds. Miguel Torres better watch himself, then. "The Copa is as important as la Liga which is as important as the Europa League," barked the ever cheerful Diego Simeone.
Two hours before that, Barcelona are heading down south to second division side CÃÂ³rdoba. The Andalusian outfit are currently safely nestled somewhere near the middle of their own league, and are therefore able to look forward to seeing Leo Messi knocking six past them without too much stress. They could even witness something rather rare - David Villa playing for Barcelona.
"This is like a Champions League final for CÃÂ³rdoba," warned a cheery Tito Vilanova, who is traveling with an impressively strong squad for the clash with just the one cantera 'youngster'. "It's how I see the game and it's why I'm sorry. I would have preferred to play against a Primera side. It's been 40 years since CÃÂ³rdoba have been in the top flight and played against BarÃÂ§a. We know the atmosphere we will be facing and that it will be tough."
CÃÂ³rdoba manager, Rafael Berges - Intertoto Cup winner as a player with Celta in 2000 - admitted that the Messi factor was going to be an issue. "I don't know if BarÃÂ§a can be stopped, even if you had a catapult in your bag," an idea Pepe is probably now noting down with the next ClÃÂ¡sico clash in mind.
For reasons LLL doesn't quite have the energy to explain, Athletic are lagging behind and are only now playing the second leg of the previous round's clash against Eibar. Meanwhie, Mallorca face Sevilla in a game their boss JoaquÃÂn CaparrÃÂ³s really, really needs to win. Luckily for him, the flimsy, floppy Sevilla are the perfect opponents in this situation.
Just to really stretch out the tournament, on Thursday night Betis travel to Las Palmas and Levante host Zaragoza, with the visitors having played on Monday and due to play their next league match on Sunday. Phew!