La Preview: A call for calm in Madrid, Espanyol against the clock & Messi’s big match ban

Friday

Osasuna (19th) v Rayo Vallecano (8th) - 21.00 (all kick-offs local time)There’s been Spanish football in either league or cup form from last Friday through to Thursday, so why not continue this Spanish saturation of soccer by kicking round 14 off on Friday night at nine in Pamplona, where LLL’s weather research suggests it will be around -2?Differing Copa del Rey fortunes during the week for the two clubs going into the teeth-chattering clash. Osasuna ended a thrilling run of back-to-back draws by beating second division Sporting 2-0 to set up a double-headed tie with Valencia, while Rayo failed to score against Las Palmas in two legs to see the Madrid side knocked out of the cup, which will probably do their small squad some good in the long run. LLL Prediction - Home win

Saturday

Getafe (7th) v Málaga (4th) - 16.00IOC delegates should have been handing out medals for the hardy, or very bored Getafe fans who turned up for their Wednesday cup clash against Ponferradina, a match where the Coliseum club held a 4-0 lead from the first leg. A total of 3,000 medals would have been needed for the plucky souls who witnessed a goalless draw, with Getafe’s strikers failing to find the net once again, making it one goal in 15 matches from anyone who has forward as their job title in their passport (if they still do that kind of thing). “We’re sorry for not having won the game for the people who turned up in the cold,” was the apology from Luis García. Meanwhile, Málaga are taking advantage of the road trip to the outskirts of the Spanish capital to change the club’s atrocious pitch. LLL is not sure if they have the cash themselves to make the change or if they will be seeking seed funding. LLL Prediction - Away win

Valencia (11th) v Real Sociedad (12th) - 18.00One league defeat in five...comfortable mid-table spot...three points from the European places. Of course la Real fans booed manager Philippe Montanier after the side’s cup exit to Córdoba - one which spared them being thrashed twice by Barcelona in the next round - because that what the supporters have been doing since the arrival of the Frenchman for no good reason other than their aesthetic snootiness. Valencia shouldn’t have any problems in Saturday’s game, as it is being played at the Mestalla, where only two points have been dropped in six league matches, a slightly improved record to the home one which reads just two points won in seven. LLL Prediction - Home win

Barcelona (1st) v Athletic Bilbao (14th) - 20.00Wednesday saw Athletic playing perhaps their most pointless match in their history, with the visit to Israel to face Hapoel Kiryat Shmona in the team’s rearranged fifth round Europa League clash. The Basque side had already been eliminated from the group irrespective of the result of the game, which happened to be a 2-0 win for Athletic, with Fernando Llorente both starting and scoring. Only seven first-teamers made the trip which is probably why Athletic came out on top. Barça were in action on the same night, seeing off Alavés in their Copa del Rey tie infront of some 57,000. This sizable attendance was thanks to the admirable initiative to give away over 40,000 tickets to local organisations, such as schools, hospitals and senior citizen centres. Don’t you just hate Barça sometimes for making themselves so easy to love?  LLL Prediction - Home win 

Real Madrid (3rd) v Atlético Madrid (2nd) - 22.00Without too much to talk about on the pitch during Real Madrid’s perfunctory 3-0 win over Alcoyano, most chatter in the Madridista world was over the state of José Mourinho’s popularity at the Santiago Bernabeu stands, after last weekend’s defeat to Betis left the club 11 points behind Barça. Much was made of some of those at the game jeering the Ultras for singing Mourinho’s name - that happens at pretty much every match - as well as the Ultras themselves chanting that “only you defend the club,” in a barb towards Florentino Pérez. It was all a bit to much for poor Tomás Roncero of AS, who wants to see one big, happy family for Saturday’s derby. “The fans should unite and forget this civil war that’s doing so much,” was the plea from the columnist.LLL Prediction - Home win

Sunday

Granada (18th) v Espanyol (20th) - 12.00New Espanyol coach, Javier Aguirre, got an early taste of the stale food on his football plate on Wednesday, when he watched his players lose 3-0 at home to Sevilla in Cornella, a result which sent the side crashing out of the cup in the first round. The Mexican manager, now at the helm of his fourth la Liga side, spoke the afternoon after the night before - this is Spain of course, nothing happens in the morning - and announced the necessity of 'picking up points over the next 25 matches'.“We are against the clock here and have to do what we can with the time that’s left,” said Aguirre cheerfully setting the club’s supporters up for relegation by the sounds of it. LLL Prediction - Draw

Deportivo (17th) v Betis (5th) - 17.00It’s time for another heart-warming story. And LLL certainly won’t be getting it at Deportivo at the moment. Instead, it’s over to Betis who continued a fine week with a 3-0 win in the Copa del Rey against Valladolid. However, the best part of the night was the return to action of Alvaro Vadillo, the 18-year-old great hope for the future of the club who has been out of action for just over a year after tearing his cruciate ligament. The young attacker came on with half an hour left and set up two goals, to show that he was back in business for Betis. “You don’t know which side he’s going to take or how to approach him,” said admiring Betis defender, Antonio Amaya. “At the moment there are few players in la Primera that can stop him.”LLL Prediction - Draw

Celta Vigo (15th) v Levante (6th) - 19.00 Back on the Monday night doom-zone, when la Liga’s cursed are forced to play their matches, Celta Vigo picked up their first away points of the season with a 1-0 win at Zaragoza. It was another match where local hero, Iago Aspas, came up trumps scoring his sixth goal of the league campaign to begin talk of a move in the winter window, quite possibly to Swansea, write Marca. However, the forward has a contract to 2017, a year so far in the future we’ll all have jet packs, and is in possession of a clause of €10m. “At the moment, I imagine that Iago will be on the list for a lot of sporting directors because he’s doing very well,” said Celta’s very own Sporting Director, Miguel Torrecilla. “If his performance keeps on developing as it is now, the speculation will increase but we don’t know how far this kid will go.”LLL Prediction - Home win

Mallorca (16th) v Zaragoza (13th) - 21.00 ‘The fixture lists are insane’ complaint number 29,449 comes from Zaragoza boss, Manolo Jiménez, who is unhappy about playing on Monday night, then on Thursday in the cup and then on Sunday again, although to be fair Sunday’s opponents were also on Thursday night action too in the cup and squeezed through to the next round, as did Zaragoza. “Whoever sets the timetable hasn’t even played Parchís,” fumed Jiménez. LLL Prediction - Home win

Monday

Sevilla (10th) v Valladolid (9th) - 21.30It’s on bended knee and tugged forelock that LLL thanks AS for the best story of the week that a Valladolid fan who bought a ticket for the visit of Barcelona just before Christmas, also tried to buy one for his dog called ‘Messi’. Sadly, Messi was turned away back into the cold and will miss the big match against Barça. LLL Prediction - Home win

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