Hot off the keyboard from our man in Madrid Tim Stannard, the preview of the four-day weekend's action in la Liga...
Real Sociedad (9th) v Osasuna (19th) - 21.30 (all Spanish local time)And so the new-look four day La Liga marathon begins, with those running the show realising that the only way to have every single match as a stand-alone event is to stick games on a Friday night as well as a Monday. The LFP and TV companies have stuck Real Sociedad on the roster to go first, ensuring that some 20,000 or so folk will be absent from San Sebastian bars on Friday in these tough financial times.
The decision is further indication that la Real must have upset someone, somewhere: they were in action on the Monday night just gone in a 4-0 win over Rayo Vallecano and now face Osasuna, who have had 50% longer to rest, having played last Saturday. Good going! LLL Prediction - Home win
Rayo Vallecano (11th) v Mallorca (15th) - 16.00JoaquÃÂn CaparrÃÂ³s is a cunning old goat. The Mallorca manager reduced the size of the club's Son Bibiloni training pitch this week in preparation for this clash at RayoÃ¢ÂÂs teeny-tiny home, even if the official pitch dimensions don't seem that different with MallorcaÃ¢ÂÂs ground just five metres longer and 2.5 metres wider than Rayo's. Ã¢ÂÂThe boss was right to shorten the pitch,Ã¢ÂÂ affirmed defender Pedro Bigas. Ã¢ÂÂNow we should know how to play in these types of grounds. WhatÃ¢ÂÂs more the the three points against Rayo are obligatory.Ã¢ÂÂ
The big news in the Rayo world is the clubÃ¢ÂÂs new stadium security upgrade, which involves something called Ã¢ÂÂcamerasÃ¢ÂÂ. Still no word at all on who cut the cables ahead of the Real Madrid visit, though. Ã¢ÂÂThe police still havenÃ¢ÂÂt told us anything,Ã¢ÂÂ said Rayo president RaÃÂºl MartÃÂn.LLL Prediction - Draw
ARCHIVE, Mon 26 Sep: Hopeless and brilliant: Rayo v Real, the best worst game of the year
Valladolid (12th) v Granada (17th) - 18.00Not to rest on their laurels - although LLL isn't sure Valladolid have any - one of the coldest clubs in Spain during the countryÃ¢ÂÂs chillier months have ensured that their new signing will be able to cope when he arrives during the winter window. Daniel Larsson is a full-blooded Swede, from the country where thereÃ¢ÂÂs no such thing as bad weather, but bad clothes.
The 25-year-old international striker is joining from MalmÃÂ¶ on a free transfer and knows what to expect, having chatted to countryman and former Valladolid man Henok Goitum, who only had Ã¢ÂÂgood thingsÃ¢ÂÂ to say about the club and city.LLL Prediction - Home win
MÃÂ¡laga (5th) v Valencia (8th) - 20.00Ahem. Now LLL isnÃ¢ÂÂt suggesting that thereÃ¢ÂÂs a pattern here, except it probably is, but since the news came through of no payment for the MÃÂ¡laga players, the league form has been two losses at a home and a draw at Osasuna. However, MÃÂ¡laga have continued to go great guns in the Champions League, remaining unbeaten in five after a 2-2 draw with Zenit on Tuesday.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs almost as if they're trying to make a point to the owner in la Liga while giving it their all in Europe, what with the sexy shop-window nature of the tournament. Just sayinÃ¢ÂÂ. If MÃÂ¡laga fail to beat Valencia, who are quiet hopeless on their travels, then the blog will be fully ready to run the idea up a formal flag-pole and let it flap about to anyone who wants to salute it. LLL Prediction - Draw
Real Betis (6th) v Real Madrid (3rd) - 22.00Yes, Betis were somewhat poor in the 5-1 defeat to Sevilla, but the green-and-white brigade are still ahead of their city rivals in the table and have done rather well for much of the campaign. Nevertheless, thatÃ¢ÂÂs not enough for some fickle football fans, like those who attended a training session on Tuesday.
The behaviour from 100 or so was feisty enough that club president Miguel GuillÃÂ©n decided a police presence was needed to prevent any potential problems. Ã¢ÂÂThey wonÃ¢ÂÂt forgive us even if we beat Real Madrid,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted the gloomy Betis manager to AS. LLL Prediction - Away win
Espanyol (20th) v Getafe (10th) - 12.00 For pessimistic Pericos, Monday brought a new president but zero change. A shareholder election put former No.2 Joan Collet in charge of the club with a 61% majority (although a loser in the popular vote) after the resignation of the previous head, Ramon Condal, at the beginning of October.
But considering Condal and his presidential predecessor Daniel SÃÂ¡nchez Llibre own most of the shares, there's a plus-ÃÂ§a-change feeling at a club who are bottom of the table with debts reported in El PaÃÂs to be at Ã¢ÂÂ¬144m. Such are the bad vibes at Espanyol that Collet was barracked and booed during the whole election process and complained that Ã¢ÂÂwhat happened today was lamentable but I knew what would go on.Ã¢ÂÂ Heavy sigh. LLL Prediction - Home win
Athletic Bilbao (14th) v Deportivo (18th) - 17.00More same-old, same-old: off-the-field nonsense with Athletic Bilbao. And at the centre of another kerfuffle, the familiar figure of Fernando Llorente. On Monday, the club communicated that the player had declined the chance to attend a press conference; Llorente countered that he had been told too late and was due to spent some time on local TV, forced to defend himself over a tweeted photo featuring him and Iker Casillas.
Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt think I was doing anything wrong, I try to do things the best way I can,Ã¢ÂÂ sighed Llorente, who is yet to start in la Liga this season for Athletic. Ã¢ÂÂThis year, thereÃ¢ÂÂs been a lot of these non-sporting topics. It would be better for us if we could return to normality,Ã¢ÂÂ lamented ÃÂscar de Marcos, wishing for the moon with cream on top. LLL Prediction - Home win
AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid (2nd) v Sevilla (7th) - 19.00Sevilla president JosÃÂ© MarÃÂa del Nido loves a good old boast. After all, this was the gentleman who claimed to be second only to the Pope to the city. Del Nido got a few days to brag after Sevilla's 5-1 demolition of Betis, but quite rightfully, his thoughts then turned to why his players were able to pull out the stops in that particular game or when the world is watching other matches, but barely break into a sweat against the minnows of la Primera.
"I don't know why we can't go out and play all our games like we did against Betis or against Real Madrid and Barcelona. We cannot fail again. We've got to do it," yelled the Sevilla bigwig ahead of the trip to AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid. LLL Prediction - Home win
Levante (4th) v Barcelona (1st) - 21.00Swoon, swoon, swoon. Another triumph in Europe for the greatest club in the world. Yes, Levante were 3-1 winners at Helsingborg, a result that puts the Spanish side into the next round of the Europa League, with a chance to top the group if they beat Hannover on the final matchday. Oh, and they're in the Champions League places domestically, too. Ã¢ÂÂWe are going to fight to be leaders in what is going to be a day of fiesta,Ã¢ÂÂ announced a proud Juan Ignacio MartÃÂnez.
AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid also qualified with a 1-0 win against Hapoel Tel Aviv in front of just 8,000 at the Vicente CalderÃÂ³n, while Athletic Bilbao were eliminated. Although the Basque sideÃ¢ÂÂs clash with Hapoel Kiryat was postponed because of the slight issues in Israel at the moment, a draw between Sparta and Lyon bids bye-bye to Marcelo BielsaÃ¢ÂÂs men in the competition.LLL Prediction - Away win
Zaragoza (13th) v Celta Vigo (16th)Celta Vigo are a bit of a strange team this season. They always seem to play OK, but have only won three matches from 12 and are now fifth from bottom, one point above the drop zone. At the helm is former Liverpool trainer Paco Herrera Ã¢ÂÂ apparently la Liga's Littlest Hobo, loathe to settle down too long at any club.
HerreraÃ¢ÂÂs contract at Celta runs out at the end of the current campaign and the manager still isnÃ¢ÂÂt sure of what will happen next. Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs true that I alway get a bit itchy in a seat. Nearly everywhere IÃ¢ÂÂve been theyÃ¢ÂÂve been wanting me to renew, but IÃ¢ÂÂve left nearly all of them. I donÃ¢ÂÂt know why,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted the Celta boss.LLL Prediction - Home win