FourFourTwo's Spanish expert Tim Stannard looks ahead to the weekend's La Liga action...
Celta Vigo (17th) v Real Sociedad (9th) - 16.00 La Liga Loca caught Nihat Kahveci and Darko Kovacevic speaking on radio station Cadena Ser this week, chatting wistfully about the days of yore when the pair lead the line for Real Sociedad and came within a catÃ¢ÂÂs fur ball of winning La Liga ten years ago. Those kind of crazy days when either Barcelona or Real Madrid had actual, breathing challengers for the title have been harder to come by of late. In fact, the league has become as uncompetitive as the Daily MailÃ¢ÂÂs idea of a leftie schoolÃ¢ÂÂs sports day, so much so that a visit to the town hall to wave at the gathered adoring masses below are afforded to teams who beat one of the Primera pair in a single game. For this reason, the Real Sociedad squad were invited the festivities for San Sebastian Day on Monday, and by the goats of Zeus, it actually looked like good fun. Especially if you like drums. LLL Prediction - Draw
Levante (8th) v Real Valladolid (10th) - 18.00Valladolid, like Rayo and every other club that gets saddled with the kick-off time in question, donÃ¢ÂÂt like Mondays. Or Fridays. Although the sideÃ¢ÂÂs upcoming clash falls on a Saturday, the following weekÃ¢ÂÂs fixture against Athletic Bilbao has been scheduled for a Friday, causing a serious impact to the clubÃ¢ÂÂs finances according to Valladolid president, Carlos SuÃÂ¡rez. The Valladolid head cites the example of a round nine game against Real Sociedad, which took place on Monday October 29th. Ã¢ÂÂWe estimated between 2,500 and 3,000 coming down from San Sebastian and it the end 200 came,Ã¢ÂÂ said SuÃÂ¡rez blaming the scheduling of the fixture on a work day. Ã¢ÂÂWe expected Ã¢ÂÂ¬75,000 income, it was Ã¢ÂÂ¬5,500 and we lost Ã¢ÂÂ¬69,500. Bilbao is even nearer, so itÃ¢ÂÂs even more money.Ã¢ÂÂLLL Prediction - Home win
Zaragoza (13th) v Espanyol (15th) - 20.00Mauricio Pochettino was back in Barcelona this week, but on what Perico noses would describe as the stinky side of town, with the former Espanyol boss taking his new Southampton charges to train at BarÃÂ§aÃ¢ÂÂs facilities. Some of his players even took time out to visit the Camp Nou museum for a nosey about, too. Meanwhile, current boss, Javier Aguirre, continues to make great strides at the club which is now moving towards mid-table. However, the journey is not a picturesque one, even according the teamÃ¢ÂÂs own players. HereÃ¢ÂÂs Joan Capdevila admitting that Ã¢ÂÂour football isnÃ¢ÂÂt pretty but it works. Ã¢ÂÂAt the end you donÃ¢ÂÂt remember if youÃ¢ÂÂve had a great match or not, simply whether we picked up more points,Ã¢ÂÂ continued the fullback. LLL Prediction - Away win
Deportivo (20th) v Valencia (7th) - 22.00 YouÃ¢ÂÂd have thought when the restaurant tab had crept up to Ã¢ÂÂ¬10,000 and remained unpaid that the owners might have thought something was amiss at Deportivo. That bill eventually hit Ã¢ÂÂ¬106,000, leaving short-changed eaterie El Manjar as just one of many creditors that form part of the group owed a total of Ã¢ÂÂ¬93m by the football club that has just gone into administration. Others probably waiting in vain for whatÃ¢ÂÂs theirs include Alberto Luque - who is still Ã¢ÂÂ¬2m out of pocket despite leaving in 2005. Indeed, a total of Ã¢ÂÂ¬9.7m is owed to current or former players. Then thereÃ¢ÂÂs the Ã¢ÂÂ¬40m due to the tax department, Ã¢ÂÂ¬34m to banks....LLL Prediction - Draw
Real Madrid (3rd) v Getafe (11th) - 12.00 When families fight, itÃ¢ÂÂs always a bit nasty - but it's still thoroughly entertaining when it takes place somewhere public, like a pizza house. Real Madrid did the big club equivalent of that, in what is now fundamentally a squabble between two parties calling each other big fibbers. And long may it continue. While FridayÃ¢ÂÂs Marca responds to Florentino PÃÂ©rez's rebuttal of their story suggesting players had threatened to leave the club over the summer if JosÃÂ© Mourinho remains, by sniffing that they are not lying, AS have kept their eye on the real ball by reminding everyone that Iker Casillas is set to be out for the next two months. Which potentially means Antonio AdÃÂ¡n in goal for matches against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey and la Liga and the small matter of a double header against Manchester United. Oh dear. LLL Prediction - Home win
Rayo Vallecano v Betis - 17.00A decent cup run for Betis ended on Thursday with a 3-1 aggregate defeat to AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid, but seeing as the club are genuine contenders for the Champions League places, the knock-out may not necessarily be a bad thing. Rayo have also got Europe on their minds, or at least bagging 42 points as soon as possible so the side can knock off early for the season. Leo Baptistao may return after missing last weekÃ¢ÂÂs defeat at Granada, and thereÃ¢ÂÂs still talk in the town that a move to AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid is imminent for the striker, especially after the Brazilian was spotted at the CalderÃÂ³n for a recent clash between the Rojiblancos and Zaragoza. Ã¢ÂÂI prefer that heÃ¢ÂÂs out seeing a match than stuck somewhere else or at home playing on his console,Ã¢ÂÂ said Rayo Sporting Director, Felipe MiÃÂ±ambres, claiming that the footballer was only at the stadium at the invitation of friend and AtlÃÂ©tico player, Diego Costa, with no other motive involved. Ã¢ÂÂWhat is certain is that Leo will keep playing with us until the end of the campaign.Ã¢ÂÂ LLL Prediction - Away win
Spot the difference. Okay, don't bother...
Barcelona (1st) v Osasuna (18th) - 19.00Yes, Barcelona went through to the semi-finals of the cup in a 6-4 aggregate thriller against MÃÂ¡laga, but the big story is that LLL finally worked out who stand-in BarÃÂ§a boss Jordi Roura (above) resembles, thanks to the blog's wonderful Twitter followers. The highlights of the responses are - an extra playing a French peasant in a film, an Ent from Lord of the Rings, Fred Flintstone, Bergerac, Gerard Depardieu, Alfred Molina, Jay Leno and Griff Rhys Jones. Good work. LLL Prediction - Home win
Athletic Bilbao (14th) v AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid (2nd) - 21.00 Just as one soap opera ends at Athletic, with this week's announcement that Fernando Llorente will be joining Juventus next summer, others are only just beginning, the best being that Iker Muniain will be joining Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich in the summer. However, for that to happen, the forward is going to have to buck his football ideas up a little bit with the wee nipper admitting that Ã¢ÂÂfor the past few months, IÃ¢ÂÂve not felt good physically or mentally, but IÃ¢ÂÂm beginning to feel better and I hope to keep going.Ã¢ÂÂWith stories over little Iker, Llorente and the renovation of the contract of Fernando AmorebietaÃ¢ÂÂs thereÃ¢ÂÂs not been too much talk about footie in Bilbao of late, although thatÃ¢ÂÂs not a bad thing really considering how pants the team has been. Ã¢ÂÂIt would be much nicer to talk about football and SundayÃ¢ÂÂs match,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted Ibai GÃÂ³mez.LLL Prediction - Home win
Mallorca (19th) v MÃÂ¡laga (5th) - 21.00Mallorca manager JoaquÃÂn CaparrÃÂ³s is still hanging on in there, despite his teamÃ¢ÂÂs defeat at Espanyol last weekend plonking them right in the relegation zone. ItÃ¢ÂÂs no wonder defender Emilio Nsue has hit the Ã¢ÂÂfinalÃ¢ÂÂ button by declaring that SundayÃ¢ÂÂs game against visiting MÃÂ¡laga is all or nothing for the Balearic bottom-strugglers. At least until the next fixture comes along, anyway. Ã¢ÂÂWe need to be strong at home in the second half of the season and win nearly all our games here,Ã¢ÂÂ opined Nsue, revealing that Ã¢ÂÂthe game against MÃÂ¡laga is a final for us.Ã¢ÂÂLLL Prediction - Home win
Sevilla (12th) v Granada (16th) - 21.00Granada are renowned wheeler-dealers, so a bit of transfer window movement is expected from the Andalusian club to shake up what has been a bit of a lifeless market in a largely destitute la Liga. The clubÃ¢ÂÂs president, Quique Pina, revealed that he has been trying to bring in former BarÃÂ§a forward man, Nolito, from Benfica but that the Portuguese team wanted a footballer in return, thought to be Guiherme Siqueira. Pina also mentioned that a Ã¢ÂÂ¬4.5m bid from Besiktas had been turned down for mega-flop forward Youssef El-Arabi, who cost Ã¢ÂÂ¬5m over the summer but has scored just four league goals. What do you mean you stopped reading at the word Ã¢ÂÂGranadaÃ¢ÂÂ?LLL Prediction - Home win