La Preview: Florentino flirts with Falcao as Betis boss gets a battering

SATURDAY

Getafe (7th) v Osasuna (16th) – 16.00 (all kick-offs local Spanish time)Another tough gig for Getafe’s marketing bod will be trying to get the crowds packed into the Coliseum at the beginning of 2013 for the side’s last 16, second-leg Copa del Rey clash against Atlético Madrid. Getafe contrived to lose 3-0 at the Vicente Calderón on Wednesday, with forlorn midfielder Juan Rodríguez admitting that “everyone is angry at the result.” Still, the job of tempting fans into the ground was made a tad easier this week with news that the club’s season ticket holder numbers had grown by 800 to 6,500, with passes to the second half of the campaign costing just €80 for existing members. Which sounds an excellent deal, quite frankly. LLL Prediction – Home win

Mallorca (17th) v Athletic Bilbao (14th) – 18.00With Athletic out in the previous round of the Copa del Rey and Mallorca pretty much out in the current one after Wednesday’s awful 5-0 home defeat to Sevilla, it'll be a fairly sombre affair on Saturday in the Balearics for what could become the final match for Joaquín Caparrós – against the last Spanish team ‘Jokin’ managed. The coaches' reaction to their respective mid-week setbacks ranged from the predictable with Marcelo Bielsa admitting that the knock-out to lower league Eibar was “unjustifiable” to the wonderfully barking mad with Caparrós insisting that, “if you knock me down seven times, I’ll get up eight times, and if you knock me down eight times, I’ll get up nine times, you’re going to have to kill me.”LLL Prediction – Home win

Granada (18th) v Real Sociedad (9th) – 20.00It’s been 377 minutes since Granada scored a league goal, but that hasn’t prevented the club from pleading with fans to come to the stadium for Saturday’s game to watch their players spending 90 minutes shooting high and wide. A video on the club’s website implores locals to the game, perhaps to watch the sacking of Granada boss Juan Antonio Anquela if the result isn’t a good one. LLL Prediction – Away win

Sevilla (11th) v Málaga (4th) – 22.00Michel the Manager bought himself a little bit more credit after a torrid time in la Liga with the 5-0 thrashing of Mallorca on Wednesday night, revealing the “hidden face” of the team “that sometimes appears.” Nevertheless, Michel had been backed quite forcibly even before the game by José María del Nido: “We question the results but absolutely not the coach. He has the absolute confidence of the board and the sporting leadership,” parped the president. Málaga’s own first round last 16 clash will take place next Tuesday against Eibar.LLL Prediction – Home win

SUNDAY

Zaragoza (12th) v Levante (6th) – 12.00Hello again! These two teams are having some kind of footballing “come dine with me” experience this week. On Thursday, Zaragoza travelled to Levante’s house in the Copa del Rey and had a fine time all round with a 1-0 win. “We’ve done half the job against a great team,” said happy Zaragoza gaffer Manolo Jiménez. It’s Zaragoza’s turn to host Levante on Sunday and come up with something tasty for their visitors, who will be returning in January for the second leg of the cup game.LLL Prediction – Draw

Valencia (10th) v Rayo Vallecano (13th) – 17.00Empty stands are not a rare sight in la Liga these days, with Marca reporting that only two matches – the Madrid derby and El Clásico – have sold out this season. An empty end at Rayo was a tad unusual on Monday though, as it was the home of the Bukaneros, the club’s wonderfully fanatical Ultras.However, the supporters had decided to leave that end vacant during the Zaragoza clash as a protest at the kick-off time, the fifth that Rayo had suffered on that day this season. “People who do this are harming us. They think we are idiots,” fumed Rayo manager Paco Jémez. “These Monday nights are killing us, we need people behind us.”LLL Prediction – Home win

Real Madrid (3rd) v Espanyol (19th) – 19.00José Mourinho reappeared on Wednesday night after seven days of Karanka-world and the grumble after the defeat at Celta Vigo focused on one particular player. Discussing the decision to leave Alvaro Morata out of the matchday squad, the Portuguese pointed out that the young forward “had more ambition than one player who didn’t want to play this match, in the cold and rain.”Normally, Karim Benzema is the footballer who feels Mourinho’s wrath when effort is lacking – but this time the focus is on Angel di María who was hauled off at half-time, a move that has Friday’s AS fretting about the footballer’s form.LLL Prediction – Home win

Barcelona (1st) v Atlético Madrid (2nd) – 21.00It was fun and japes at the 2012 AS awards this week, with Florentino Pérez in attendance and enthusiastically greeting Falcao after the striker's five-goal performance against Deportivo. The Madrid president joked during din-dins that he needed a serviette, referring to the secretive method that saw Zidane signed. Cheerless Diego Simeone killed all the fun though when asked about the incident by stating simply that “I didn’t see it.” Boo. LLL Prediction – Home win

MONDAY

Deportivo (20th) v Valladolid (8th) – 20.00In many ways, it makes perfect sense. Pretty much everyone in Spain is complaining about Monday night football on the grounds that fans would prefer to watch their matches during times when they are not rushing from work, looking after children or supposedly going to sleep. The response from the TV companies and Spanish League has been to take heed of such moans, and punish them by sticking two matches on Monday night. Anyway, this game could see the end of the reign of José Luis Oltra if bottom-of-the-table Deportivo don’t dispose of Valladolid. “It’s a final,” admits Depor keeper Daniel Aranzubia.LLL Prediction – Home win

Celta Vigo (15th) v Betis (5th) – 21.30Ouch. Jonathan Pereira wasn’t very pleasant to Betis boss Pepe Mel after being loaned out to Villarreal this week, in what the player feels is a scapegoating after the 5-0 defeat to Sevilla. “He decided to sell me as the bad guy to win applause, as from that moment, everything was difficult for him. I wasn’t expecting nor looking for a way out but as I said he’s the manager, he’s the one who wants to be the big boss rather than support his players.”LLL Prediction – Draw

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