The Great Weekend Preview - Round 34

SATURDAY APRIL 26

Deportivo (8th) vs Barcelona (3rd)

And so another rip-roaring weekend of Iberian soccerball kicks off with the most exciting, in-form, team-shredding club in Spain taking on Barcelona.

Oh yes. Deportivo are currently hotter than La Liga Loca's dangerously defective television, having won seven of their last nine games and the last four in a row. Which is a depressing state of affairs, for the game in Spain.

Despite the fact that a failure to defeat deadly Depor would help hand the title to Real Madrid, it looks like Frank Rijkaard's men have their eyes on a very different prize this weekend, with Messi set to be rested, Deco newly crocked and Eto'o missing Thursday morning training to take care of 'personal affairs'. Churchill is spinning in his grave.

Draw.

Murcia (19th) vs Sevilla (6th)

When the current Spanish government appointed an actual walking talking woman, Carme Chacón, to head the Defence Ministry - with her emotional, cushion-loving, kitten-cuddling ways - there were a few quills being sharpened by writers across Spain, especially those in the sports world who often tend to be a bit of a conservative bunch.

So when it was announced by her Ministry that a number of websites were to be blocked because of fears of overloading their systems, a mighty Al Pacino-sized hoo-haa kicked off. That's because one of those websites was Marca.

On Friday, the paper complained that they were being discriminated against - whilst cite the site of AS, which was also blocked - and cried conspiracy over the whole affair.

Marca are grumbling that Barcelona papers Sport and El Mundo Deportivo remain unblocked, although they again refuse to name them. "These two Catalan and culé papers are edited in the home city of the culé minister, Carme Chacón."

Away win.

Carme Chacón: "Don't point that thing at me"SUNDAY APRIL 27

Valladolid (16th) vs Almería (7th)

If the Levante players decide to lay down their footballing picks and go on strike against Recreativo, then it will be very bad news indeed for Valladolid. That's because one theory suggests that all of Levante's results for the second round of the league will be removed - leaving Valladolid in a relegation spot, having lost the three points from their recent 3-0 victory.

It's a situation that is "lamentable," complains Valladolid manager José Luis Mendilibar. "But although this could be bad for us, I want to make clear that I support the Levante players." And as for the suggestion that La Liga is the best in the world? "That's bullsh*t," confirmed Mendilibar.

Home win.

Getafe (13th) vs Atlético Madrid (10th)

As Jazzy B once wrote, it's back to life and back to reality for poor old Getafe. After the mayhem and misery of their double cup disappointments, the Coliseum cavaliers need to get their footballing focus back on the league, where they still need another win to ensure survival.

Throughout the week there has been paper talk of a rift between Michael Laudrup and his plucky players, but this has been poo-pooed by David Belenguer, a man possibly still smarting from being benched for the Copa del Rey final. But not so, says the avuncular old-timer.

"If there are no angry players in a dressing room then a team goes to the second division," said the centre-back, expressing a theory that falls apart somewhat if you mention Valencia.

Away win.

Jazzy B: Now with added Fash Ultra

Recreativo (18th) vs Levante (20th)

Two days to go and there's still no deal on the table to satisfy the Levate squad that they are going to be paid their financial dues. The club bigwigs have until 3.30 on Sunday to guarantee 6.5 million Euros will be paid to the squad - just one third of what is owed. If no money, then no... er... playee.

"We are talking with a club that is practically ruined," pointed out club captain Luis Rubiales, suggesting that this season's Primera could be coming to a very sticky end.

Home win.

Valencia (15th) vs Osasuna (14th)

Can Valencia's fourth manager of the season, Voro, bring peace and tranquility to the madcap mayhem normally found in Mestalla? Probably not.

"I am the coach and I have to take decisions that some of you are not going to like," were the words to the players as reported by Marca, breaking what had been a good seven minutes of cordiality in the Valencia dressing room.

Away win.

Espanyol (9th) vs Zaragoza (17th)

Oh no! Rising food prices and the credit crunch have taken their toll on the good-tempered souls of Sweden. So says English-language Swedish news source The Local:

A 25-year-old man from Lund has been reported to the police for shooting his neighbour's parrot, Sydsvenskan reports. The parrot, described by the 25-year-old as "cocky," was put down by a veterinarian on Tuesday after it had begun coughing blood.

Despite claims from the attacker that the three shots he fired on Saturday had whizzed past the bird, the vet was able to reveal that one of the bullets had in fact lodged itself in the parrot's body.

The 25-year-old, who never took a liking to chatty creature, said he opened fire on the bird after it had nipped him with its beak.

Home win.

"It's very nice mate, but I'd prefer a flak jacket"Mallorca (12th) vs Racing Santander (5th)

Racing coach Marcelino couldn't be more popular in Spain if he were made of ham and could p*ss beer. Last weekend, the new chosen one responded to the constant stories that he had signed pre-contract agreements with pretty much every club in the land.

"I'll be going before a judge for the amount of contracts I have," joshed Marcelino. "I have had a pre-contract with Sevilla for a few months now, an agreement with Zaragoza and yesterday I signed up for two seasons with Valencia."

However, Marcelino has since confessed that his agent has been approached by Valencia that but nothing had been agreed.

Racing club president Francisco Pernia is less than impressed, complaining that rivals - and Valencia - were trying to disrupt his team.

"Each time that someone asks me about this situation I say the same thing. We will wait until the 20th May before we have a press conference," pronounced Pernia.

Home win.

Betis (11th) vs Villarreal (2nd)

Marca got themselves a bit of a scoop this week when they tracked down the bottler of Betis, Carmelo Peña, the gentleman who caused their clash with Athletic to be suspended having injured Armando with a bottle thrown from the stands.

"Not for one moment did I think of harming anyone," explained the self-confessed teetotal, non-drugtaking Peña - a man who still can't offer up an explanation for his outrageous actions. "Neighbours and people look at me in a different way," revealed Peña, who is now jobless.

Armando, for one, is uninterested in his aggressor's utterances. "I don't want to know anything about him," growled the Basque goalie.

Draw.

Real Madrid (1st) vs Athletic Bilbao (10th)

On Sunday, there will be one footballer who has not had a decent game of football in over two years out on the pitch. No, not Mahamadou Diarra, but instead Carlos Gurpegui. The Athletic midfielder has now completed his two match suspension, handed out for failing a doping test back in 2002 and is set to start. And he - along with the rest of the Basque battlers - is looking forward to pooping Real Madrid's title party.

"Some of the people in the stands will be indifferent to me. Others not so," said Gurpegui on the possible less-than-warm hand on his entrance that he can expect from the Bernabeu faithful.

Home win.

You can catch yet another poor punditry performance from Tim Stannard on Real Madrid TV's Extra Time - 22.05 UK time on Friday and repeated over the weekend on Sky Channel 446.

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