Tim Stannard looks ahead to an action-packed weekend in Spain, as the title race and relegation battle heat up...
The disadvantage of La Liga running seven days in a row is that Primera SpaceTime tends to fold in on itself and reality becomes both distorted and ever-changing.
But on the flip side, the sudden burst of activity does tend to separate the good 'uns from the scuzzy bits in terms of matches, like a footballing centrifuge. So here is the juicy Primera pulp to look out for with just four games to go...
Atletico’s glacier ready to crush monolithic Málaga
Wednesday’s win for Atletico Madrid up in San Mamés was another reminder for LLL to never doubt the relentless power of the Rojiblancos. The blog had a feeling in its waters that the Athletic Bilbao match might be a bridge too far even for Diego Simeone’s side, but that was like betting against a glacier reaching a boulder in its path and suddenly giving up the ghost, after 87,000 years of steady progress.
Saturday’s task should be a little less challenging for a team that is currently fuelled on the goals of Fernando Torres – and few thought those words would ever be written again – with Malaga, one of La Liga’s zombie clubs, coming to the Vicente Calderón.
It’s a team that reached the survival safety barrier, downed tools, spread out a blanket and are enjoying a footballing picnic for the rest of the season, having picked up just three points from the last 12.
Atlético Madrid vs Málaga - Saturday 6.15PM CEST
Rayo to fight Real Madrid fire with socialism
It seems that doing all those tippy-toes during pre-match team photographs has finally taken its toll on Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Real Madrid star set to miss Saturday’s visit to the People’s Republik of Vallecas to take on Rayo.
CR7 limped from the pitch rather tenderly at the end of the 3-0 Villarreal win to leave any watching Manchester City supporters leaning forward in their armchairs with interest. However, some two days later, the same fans can sit back in disappointment as it appears that the player will be back for Tuesday’s clash.
If ever Ronaldo was going to miss an away day without too much of an impact, it was the Rayo game. The Vallecas outfit are set to play the usual attack-at-all-costs tactics that always go so badly, especially in December when they conceded 10 in the Santiago Bernabéu.
The hosts are still licking some wounds after conceding an injury-time goal to Málaga on Wednesday that saw three vital points shrunk to just the one in a relegation scrap. And that’s rather unfortunate considering Rayo’s next clash is against Atlético.
Still, Rayo forward Miku has a clear plan for victory – socialism. “The team needs to demonstrate who is playing for their lives and which is the working-class and humble neighbourhood."
Rayo Vallecano vs Real Madrid - Saturday 4.00PM CEST
Sporting look to avoid another Barça blow-out in Camp Nou
There was relief aplenty on Wednesday with players piled on top of each other, and the hero of the hour squished under a mass of humanity. While that may have been the scenes in the Deportivo dressing room after the battling players managed not to ship 10 against Barcelona in La Coruña, it was also the finale to Sporting's vital 2-1 win over Sevilla, which produced an injury-time winner for the relegation rumblers.
But Sporting are still in the relegation zone – and that’s probably where the team are going to stay with the Camp Nou next on the Primera agenda. They'll face a Barcelona side that certainly managed to get a few blockages out of their footballing plumbing up in Galicia, to say the least.
“We needed this win,” admitted Luis Suárez on Thursday, “we suffered through a string of games and as we are just human, the defeats really hurt.”
Barcelona vs Sporting - Saturday 8.30PM CEST
Levante all but say ta-ta to top-flight football
It would be fair to say that Levante’s away clash at fellow relegation battlers Granada did not go to plan, considering the match ended up in a 5-1 defeat and left the club probably needing three wins from four to guarantee staying up.
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Still, coach Rubi was giving it a good go to sound optimistic that this could be achieved: “I don’t see us in the second division just yet, we are going to keep on fighting.”
That battle continues at home to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
The loss was worsened by a very-improbable win for Getafe up against Real Sociedad, another one of La Liga’s zombie clubs. The mighty Coliseum side may have woken up just in time to save their suburban skins and are hosting Valencia, who have also remembered how to play again after a 4-0 midweek win against Eibar.
Levante vs Athletic Bilbao - Sunday 12.00PM CEST
Getafe vs Valencia - Sunday 6.15PM CEST
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