La Preview: BAU for Barça, Málaga’s extra incentive and Simeone's festive dash

Thursday

Rayo Vallecano (10th) v Levante (6th) - 20.00 (all kick-offs are local time)Once again, Rayo find themselves playing a game at the most inconvenient possible time for the club’s supporters, who just so happen to be the most vociferously against the rubbishy scheduling which often sees the Vallecas side’s matches plonked in the graveyard zone of la Liga. “We’re fed up with playing on Friday or Monday night and have kick-off times that no-one else gets. We want to play on a Saturday at 20.00 or Sunday at 17.00. It’s not fair,” sulked Rayo's Piti ahead of Thursday evening's match. The good news is that it does at least see him and his teammates get more holiday than those playing on Saturday night in the final matches before the Christmas break. LLL Prediction - Away win

Real Sociedad (9th) v Sevilla (13th) - 22.00It's heart-warming stuff in San Sebastian, where Real Sociedad players are set to wear shirts with names of club members on the front for the visit of Sevilla - a way of thanking the side’s fans for their constant support (leaving aside the frequent booing of coach, Philippe Montanier). The names of those lucky supporters were picked out in a draw with Real Sociedad president, Jokin Aperribay, speechifying that “the soul of a club, its reason for being, are its fans and, together with them, the most important thing a club has is its shirt and that’s why we thought that the best way to unite the two was to put the names of the supporters on the shirt.” But that’s not all. Oh no. The club president also noted that “What’s more, (the names) will be close to the hearts of the players.”LLL Prediction - Home win

Espanyol (19th) v Deportivo (20th) - 22.00It’s not going to be the happiest of Yuletides at Deportivo, with the club so broke that LLL imagines Riki all with the ‘please sir, can I have some more’ at the players’ Christmas dinner, with the blog getting its Charles Dickens stories mixed up. Deportivo could be going into administration before the end of 2012 if there’s no resolution with the tax-man over repayment of outstanding debts, a government agency which has placed an embargo on income to the club. “It doesn’t matter if we go into administration,” said club president Augusto Lendoiro, “the viability of the club is totally assured.”LLL Prediction - Home win

Friday

Valencia (11th) v Getafe (7th) - 20.00Ever-irate Valencia fans were once again calling for the resignation of club president Manuel Llorente after last weekend’s home defeat to Rayo Vallecano left the team mid-table, seven points off the top four. Apparently, such a move was considered by the Mestalla big wig soon after, with a board meeting on Tuesday, but such drastic and free-lunch-ruining action was swiftly ruled out. “Personally, it would give me a lot of peace if I went, but we have duties and a path of responsibility. This doesn’t mean I’ll be staying in the role from June, because I only think of tomorrow.” To be fair, not considering anything more than 24 hours ahead is what got the club into the financial mess in which they find themselves today. LLL Prediction - Home win

Atlético Madrid (2nd) v Celta Vigo (15th) - 22.00It was a bit of a disappointing morning for LLL, with the discovery that the lack of a Christmas card from Diego Simeone wasn’t down to the Atlético Madrid boss being too busy to send one, but rather the fact the blog hadn’t made it onto the Argentinean’s list in the first place. Never mind. Had it done so, it would have got a lovely card with the legend, “dreams are extremely important, nothing can be done without imagining it first” on the cover. According to Marca, Simeone is set to be absent from the press conference after the Celta match due to the fact the manager has a plane leaving for Argentina and his Christmas hols at 00.35. The problem is that the game will finish around 23.50. TV companies should televise his rush to the airport as well as the game. Really wouldn’t want to get in Simeone’s way in that particular dash...LLL Prediction - Home win 

Saturday

Betis (5th) v Mallorca (18th) - 16.00Oh dear. Whilst everything appears to be going brilliantly for Betis, with Pepe Mel admitting with glee that the team are in some kind of dream land at the moment, it’s pretty awful for Mallorca, who have now gone thirteen games in the league and cup without a victory. There are tiny signs of improvement though, and Joaquín Caparrós is still doing the usual fighting talk about getting up nine times after being knocked down on eight occasions. It’s the same vibe from the players too, with midfielder Javi Márquez, heaving that “we need to keep on working in the same way and think that we can play well because we are strong group.”LLL Prediction - Away win

Valladolid (8th) v Barcelona (1st) - 18.00What a horrible Wednesday for Barcelona. The same day Eric Abidal was supposed to have been welcomed back into training with champagne, the news was broken to the players that Tito Vilanova had suffered a cancer relapse. The message from a brilliantly cool, calm and composed Sporting Director, Andoni Zubizaretta during the press conference that same evening, though, was to keep calm, carry on, wish nothing but a speedy recovery to Tito and have faith in the coaching structure in place at the club. “We’ll have Tito watching (the Valladolid match) on TV and I’m sure there’ll be corrections made,” joked the former goalkeeper. LLL Prediction - Away win

Osasuna (16th) v Granada (17th) - 20.00LLL imagines that Granada would be a lovely place to reside, so it’s only fair that its residents have to suffer some kind of pay-back in life. Those who are fans of the local football team are doing so in spades at the moment, with Granada having failed to score now in five league games, and unlikely to do against an Osasuna team who can be adroit at shutting up shop in Pamplona. “It can happen at any moment,” promised Granada defender, Brayan Angulo, when discussing the chances of a goal some time soon. LLL Prediction - Home win

Málaga (4th) v Real Madrid (3rd) - 20.00There’s nothing that gives incentive to a footballer quite like some extra time off - aside from free cash and shiny stuff - and this is the prize being dangled in front of the Málaga players, who were promised an extra two days Christmas holidays should they reach the winter break with 30 points or more. The southern side currently have 28 and have a Real Madrid team who are wobbly to say the least on the road as the visitors, and a team who will probably every minute of their own time off cancelled by José Mourinho, should the capital city club trip up again on their travels.LLL Prediction - Away win

Athletic Bilbao v Zaragoza - 22.00LLL doesn’t really get it, but there you go. Athletic Bilbao had a Fernando Llorente last summer who wanted to leave and clubs willing to pay €20m for the striker. These offers were turned down and the forward was then sent into a near exile with just the one start in la Liga, rather than having every goal squeezed out of him. However, there’s still time to cash in on the Spanish international with suitors such as Juventus still interested in January. But nope. No sale is going to be made according to Athletic president, Josu Urrutia, who spoke on Tuesday to announce that “the decision is taken, the team is more competitive with him.”LLL Prediction - Home win

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