Doing the can-can, Madrid’s party poopers & Athletic’s disadvantage


Racing (18th) v Granada (17th) – 18.00 local timeA match between relegation rivals is almost certainly going to see the dreaded ‘final’ tag being used one or two times this weekend. But this clash and a fight for survival is something that Granada are more than ready for, according to owner, president and hair-gel king Quique Pina: “We’ve spent two years constantly playing big games. The city knows how to do this as it was so hard to get into the Primera – and now we have to fight to make sure we don’t lose what we have.”LLL Prediction – Draw

Sporting (19th) v Zaragoza (20th) – 18.00 When Manolo Jiménez took over Zaragoza in December, he who is reportedly in possession of large... er... courage parts confidently predicted that his team would stay up this season – but said that only one pundit in 10 would agree with him. A few wins down the road, 25 points in the bag and six more victories to go until what should be a safe points total sees Jiménez in even more confident form. “I reckon that five out of 10 think we will save ourselves,” claimed the Zaragoza boss to Marca, this week.

Jiménez was asked what forfeit he would perform if Zaragoza did stay up. After some pondering, he decided that “I see myself dressed up in local costume, cycling around the Plaza del Pilar or trying to dance a jota [an odd, can-can-style dance].” Worth cheering on the Aragonese outfit until the end of the season, just to witness all that. LLL Prediction – Home win

Osasuna (6th) v Real Madrid (1st) – 20.00 X-Men superjet flight to Pamplona? Check. Comfy bus to move the players about town? Check. Luxury hotel to make sure the Madrid squad is ready for Saturday’s tough-tackling, long-ball dominated clash against Osasuna? Check. Ten thousand students having an 18-hour boozy street party kicking off on Friday morning 400 metres from the Real Madrid hotel? Probably not ‘check’, but that’s what José Mourinho’s men are facing this weekend in what could be a very sleepless spell up in beautiful Navarre. LLL Prediction – Away win

Barcelona (2nd) v Athletic Bilbao (11th) – 22.00If Barcelona think they are being treated harshly by the slings and arrows of referees and evil conspiracies from various national and supranational federations then pity poor Athletic Bilbao, who are having to play their Camp Nou clash 47 hours after the end of Thursday’s magnificent 4-2 over Schalke.

And the reason why? They don’t have a whole army of newspapers, radio and TV stations to do their moaning on the club’s behalf and to make sure poor bunnies Barcelona have enough rest time for their Champions League game against Milan. LLL Prediction – Home win

Málaga (4th) v Betis (15th) – 22.00Although Betis are seven points clear of the relegation zone, which is not that bad really, there has been some murmurings over the future of manager Pepe Mel – as indeed there have been all season.However, level-headed club president Miguel Guillén – far too sensible to have a future in the game in Spain, and especially in Andalusia – came together with Mel to take part in a local radio station interview as a show of unity.

“The biggest impact is always to sack the coach,” admitted the knowing Betis manager, whose team are currently without a victory in six. “Now’s not the time to go mad,” soothed his boss. “The confidence in the coach is total.” Beautiful really. LLL Prediction – Home win


Atlético Madrid (8th) v Getafe (10th) – 12.00Another victory in the Europa League – a 2-1 win over Hannover e– wasn’t the big news ahead of Sunday’s clash. Instead it’s the remarkable boast / promise / lunatic episode in AS that claims that nearly a thousand Getafe fans will be making the trip to the Vicente Calderón for the midday clash. Crazy talk. Sheer crazy talk. LLL Prediction – Draw

Valencia (3rd) v Levante (5th) – 18.00Two league defeats in a row and a now a 2-1 loss at AZ Alkmaar means these are golden days for those Valencia fans who love a moan during a game. Sunday's Mestalla match-up against local rivals Levante gives plenty of opportunity for some apple-squeezing boo-age, especially if their little brothers win and go level on points. Should Valencia ruin the fun by winning, the hankie-waving may have to wait for next Thursday if Valencia can't turn it round against their Dutch visitors. LLL Prediction – Home win

Real Sociedad (14th) v Rayo Vallecano (12th) – 21.30Apparently, there was some criticism around San Sebastian that some Real Sociedad players went out after last Saturday’s loss to Real Madrid and dared to try and enjoy themselves, a mere seven days before their next clash. The footballers should, of course, have been sitting in a corner thinking very hard about their performances against a couple of strikers who cost about €120m.

Real Sociedad manager Philippe Montanier also thinks that such criticism is tosh and tish – and told the media so when asked to share his thoughts on the Saturday night outing. “It was good to disconnect,” opined the Frenchman. “If you go home and go to bed you constantly think about what happened and it’s much worse. Better to have a beer together, try and work through the defeat, disconnect and recover mentally.”LLL Prediction – Home win

Villarreal (16th) v Espanyol (7th) – 21.30When Lord of Doom Miguel Angel Lotina was appointed as the boss of Villarreal last week, Bernd Schuster compared the forlorn, brooding figure to Alatriste, a rather maudlin Spanish literary figure. Lotina hasn’t taken to this at all well, although he claims that “it didn’t bother me: he says I’m sad but he doesn’t know me.”

However, the Villarreal boss did admit that “what my friends or family think worries me. The idea that people have when they see things on TV often isn’t real. I don’t know Schuster but he doesn’t seem very nice.”LLL Prediction – Home win


Sevilla (9th) v Mallorca (13th) – 21.00Despite a few sticky patches here and there – but that’s the manager’s own business – Míchel is beginning to have some success at Sevilla. Well, a couple of victories against relegation battlers anyway, but that ’s what constitutes success for Sevilla in these somewhat barren times for the Andalusian club.

Míchel was chatting this week about his immediate future and said that it would be better for all perhaps if the uncertainty persists over whether he will be on the bench next season. “It wouldn't be good for me if the president said ‘Hey Míchel, next year you’ll be here whatever happens’. The team needs to keep up this tension – and the other one who needs to keep this is the coach.”LLL Prediction – Home win