Tim Stannard sizes up this weekend's Spanish shenanigans...
LLL doesn’t know where to turn its simple head. The Champions League battle between the two Madrid clubs, a title race with just one point in it or even a fun chase for the third and fourth Champions League places.
Or maybe even a look at how Córdoba are now kicking off their pre-season plans in the Segunda while playing in La Primera.
Here’s a few matters to ponder this weekend, and an indication as to why the blog is getting some sleepless nights from excitement. And excess wind.
Can Valencia follow Sevilla?
While Barcelona were off doing their nutmegging, France-dominating thing in Paris and causing the internet to explode with David Luiz memes, Valencia seemed to spend a large amount of time in meetings.
There has been plenty of kerfuffle about the contract of full-back José Gayá – not going so well apparently – with owner Peter Lim, the club president, coach and agent-in-chief Jorge Mendes all getting together and working out how they can afford to keep the hot prospect that has piqued the interest of Real Madrid.
But now Barca are back in town and the worry frowns may be returning about the fact that more points could be lost in the Camp Nou against a Valencia side who will offer just as much of a challenge as Sevilla.
As Alvaro Negredo pointed out, Valencia have had some luck of late in getting something out of the Camp Nou. “My team-mates managed to beat them there last year, so why can’t they do it again?” pondered the sulking striker who seemed to have quite the hump in last Monday’s win against Levante.
Barcelona vs Valencia - Saturday 16.00 CET
Can Real focus on mundane Málaga visit?
The most that you may ever read about the Málaga game for Real Madrid on Saturday is right here. And that’s unfortunate, as gleaning useful nibbles of info and insight are not LLL’s strength.
In Spain, it’s all about the rematch with Atlético Madrid next Wednesday, and how things are going to work out between the two teams.
One of Real Madrid's concerns is how to deal with the absence of Marcelo, and it doesn’t make nice reading for poor Fabio Coentrao or even Alvaro Arbeloa – a readers' poll in Marca gave Gareth Bale a 50% rating as the best player to fill in at left-back. Of course, it's a position the player is familiar with, but LLL suspects that it might be a ploy to stop the former Spurs man from wasting more chances in front of goal.
Another spook emerged on Friday with Karim Benzema leaving training early with an iffy right knee, an injury that puts the Frenchman out of action for the Málaga clash and maybe even the Atlético dust-up.
Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping that Chicharito doesn't do himself some harm while performing hand-stands and somersaults around the Valdebebas pitches at the sight of a crocked K-Benz.
Real Madrid vs Málaga - 20.00 CET
Is Euro Espanyol another myth?
It must be April. Espanyol have racked up enough points to not have to worry about relegation, which means plenty of articles from the Catalan capital about “Euro Espanyol!”
It’s an annual tradition in Spain that’s up there with bickering about where the Copa del Rey is going to be played, as well as the assigned number of crises that are allotted to Barcelona and Real Madrid each year. Normally, it’s about five between the two.
The Pericos are now on 41 points and could haul themselves up to seventh, which is five points away. However, in doing so, an awful lot of effort would need to be put in across lots of dowdy clashes on the road. The first of those arrives on Rubbish Bin Night in La Liga – normally Friday – with the least appetising game of the round being played out silently in TVs stuck in the corner of bars across the country.
Levante vs Espanyol - Friday 20.45 CET
Will Rayo be up for Almería clash?
Paco Jémez must have been an enormous grumpy chops this week after his charges contrived to lose 6-1 to Celta Vigo, in a match that Rayo competed in for the opening 30 seconds before shutting up shop.
His team are very much in the Espanyol zone: not going down, but certainly not going to threaten Europe without moving up a gear late into a tough season.
This malaise may have been at the root of a training ground rant on Tuesday when his footballers were sent home after just half an hour, with the coach feeling that the players weren’t exactly giving it their all.
“It was done to make sure no one relaxes and keeps on competing until the end,” theorised full-back Tito on the team’s 12th-placed predicament. All was well on Wednesday, though, after the Rayo posse returned in more positive fashion for a session that lasted over two hours.
Rayo Vallecano v Almería - Sunday 12.00 CET
Will Granada win back hearts and souls of fans?
Apologising for misdemeanours, indiscretions and unexpected Dutch ovens is the easy part of life. It’s the vowing-not-to-do-it-again aspect that LLL always seems to have some trouble with.
Hopefully Granada will be able to do better than the blog, after publishing a photo of the whole squad sitting together and an open letter to the fans hoping for forgiveness after just one win in 10 Primera games, plus that whole conceding nine to Real Madrid business.
“The only thing we can do is apologise if you have suffered too much in some games or become disillusioned. We are really sorry,” went the communication, filling LLL’s eyes with tears.
Granada will need to make actions speak a lot louder than words on Sunday with the small matter of an Andalusian derby: a desperate need for three points to begin rising out of the drop zone.
Granada vs Sevilla - Sunday 17.00 CET
Can Depor benefit from some proper training?
Always entertaining. The old boss is gone, so it's time to rip up his methods rather than do something about it at the time. Haris Medunjanin has done this at Deportivo, having a pop at the previous manager Víctor Fernández and waving the pom poms at his successor, Víctor Sánchez.
The midfielder's chosen theme was training – or rather the lack of it under the old regime. “It’s the first time we have trained properly all year,” said Medunjanin.
“This is what we missed. After the last training we were all knackered in the dressing room. We were more professional and you could see that in the result against Real Sociedad.” Depor would be happy for a repeat of another draw, as the visitors are a team that aren't lacking in intensity either – Atlético Madrid.
Deportivo vs Atlético - Saturday 18.00 CET