La Preview: Getafe’s big Bale plan and Villarreal’s secret

Our man in Madrid Tim Stannard on a fascinating weekend ahead in Spain...

Friday

Osasuna (20th) vs Elche (15th) - 21.00 CET

Osasuna tend to leave things a little late each season in terms of the club’s annual survival battle, so there's no need for Pamplona supporters to lose too much sleep yet. However, should the team lose Friday’s match against Elche - newly promoted and yet to win a game - then panic buttons need to be pressed. Repeatedly.
 
“We have no points and we are letting in a lot of goals,” noted goalkeeper Andrés Fernández, “but now we have to show that we are better.” Over in Elche, their own goalkeeper Manu Herrera is all with the amateur psychologist and noodles that “the fact that they are bottom and need the points can help us, because this situation can tie up your muscles and stop you giving your best.”
 
LLL Prediction - Home win 

Saturday

Real Sociedad (7th) vs Málaga (10th) - 16.00 CET

Those who thought that Real Sociedad were the new Málaga in the Champions League were proved wrong on Tuesday night. Whilst last season the southern club were institutional novices in the continental competition, their squad was stuffed with experienced footballers such as Martín Demichelis and Javier Saviola. On the contrary, La Real’s players are fairly raw to this whole European business. 
 
This, claimed striker Carlos Vela, is the chief reason why Shakhtar could beat the Basques in a 2-0 smash-and-grab. “We have a lot to learn, and we have to do it against teams like Shakhtar with a lot of experience,” said the Mexican. 
 
On an all-round awful evening for Real Sociedad, Esteban Granero may have played his last game for the club, having only just joined on loan from QPR. The former Real Madrid midfielder suffered a cruciate ligament tear which will rule him out for six months. 
 
LLL Prediction - Away win 
 

La Real left exposed by Shakhtar

Almería (18th) vs Levante (9th) - 18.00 CET

Almería are fun, fun, fun this season. The new Real Betis perhaps. The southerners have scored eight and conceded 11 and are quite incapable of hanging on to a lead. And that's not going to change any time soon, claimed a stroppy Hernán Pellerano. “The team is programmed to play this way,” stormed the Almería defender. “If we change then it will go badly. 
“I have the feeling that whatever we do, people are going to find a ‘but’,” continued Pellerano in quite the midweek rant. “People are never happy.” Obviously not, Chuckles. 
 
LLL Prediction - Home win 

Rayo Vallecano (17th) vs Barcelona (2nd) - 20.00 CET

Oh dear. This doesn't look good. On the last two occasions Rayo Vallecano have hosted Barcelona, they have shipped a total of 12 goals without reply; they have also lost two of their last three games this season 5-0. 
 
Nevertheless, this hasn't prevented a fine dose of fighting talk from Rayo striker Jonathan Viera, who suggests pluckily that “we're playing at home, in front of our own fans, and anything could happen.
 
“Anyone can beat anyone in a game,” continued the forward, who is technically correct but specifically oh so wrong, "and what we need to do is make sure that we go out convinced of getting a good result. If we don’t, then it won’t be worth going out there.” Well, that sounds easy enough, then.
 
LLL Prediction - Away win
 

Last time out: Guess who was among the goals

Real Valladolid (12th) vs Atlético Madrid (1st) - 22.00 CET

It's not just in Spain where Atlético are all-conquering demons, but in Europe too. The Rojiblancos had been away from the Champions League for four seasons, but returned in style with a 3-1 win over Zenit to get a blistering start to the group. But life got even better for the (alphabetical) league leaders with the club announcing on Thursday that the immense Arda Turan was renewing his current deal until 2017. 
 
“Arda brings imagination, creativity... he’s a different player,” was the effusive praise from Atlético sporting director José Luis Pérez Caminero. “After these past two years, I feel part of the great family that is this club,” said the midfielder on playing for a side seeking a fifth league win from five. 
 
LLL Prediction - Home win 

Sunday

Betis (11th) vs Granada (13th) -  12.00 CET

After such an impressive victory over Valencia last weekend, Betis supporters were hoping for a little bit more in Europe. However, the Seville side’s group opener was a bit of a toughie with visitors Lyon holding them to a goalless draw. 
 
“We wanted to win,” said manager Pepe Mel after the game, “we did enough to win and the match was set up to be won. If a team could have done more to win then it would have have been us.” 
 
LLL Prediction - Home win 
 
Celta Vigo (8th) vs Villarreal (3rd) - 17.00 CET
 
One of the thoughts Gareth Bale may have thought against Villarreal was that La Primera was not as slow and ponderous as is often portrayed. To be fair, the Welshman was facing what appears to be one of the fittest teams in the division. 
 
Manager Marcelino is apparently quite the slave-driver, but there are results out on the pitch, where Villarreal finish games with as much verve as they start. “They train very hard here,” pants Tomás Pina, newly arrived from Mallorca. “There isn’t one day when you can relax or be a little less focussed. The coach wants to train until we are dead on our feet, every session.”
 
LLL Prediction - Away win 
 

Contractual Obligation Bale Image

Real Madrid (4th) vs Getafe (14th) - 19.00 CET

Back in the day when Getafe had a bit of fighting spirit about them, this used to be quite the fixture. Indeed, the clash in 2009 saw the mother of all controversies when Pepe lost the plot with the infamous attack on Javier Casquero. However, Getafe haven't put up much of a fight of late with 12 goals conceded in the past three years. 
 
That record is unlikely to improve here, with the visitors not much cop at the start of the season and Real Madrid having upgraded somewhat by partnering Gareth Bale with Cristiano Ronaldo. And that's a bit of problem for Getafe’s back four, says defender Sergio Escudero.  “There's no plan,” revealed the Argentinian, “we’ll have to see what happens during the game.” Yes, we will. 
 
LLL Prediction - Home win 
 

Pepe loses his poop back in 2009

Valencia (16th) vs Sevilla (19th) - 21.00 CET

The Mestalla club was already down in the doldrums before the awful 3-1 defeat at Betis last week, followed by the Swansea debacle. Newly-arrived Valencia president Amadeo Salvo had been lamenting at the sorry state of the institution’s books and stated that “we cannot ask for success unless we make changes.” 
 
Salvo was referring to the fact that over the past nine years, the east-coast club has spent €343m on players, recouping just €134m in sales. “This €209m deficit is almost all the debt,” revealed an unhappy bigwig, who will feel the wrath of the Mestalla if Valencia don't make up for the Betis beating (let alone the Europa humiliation) with a better result against Seville’s other side. 
 
LLL Prediction - Draw 

Monday

Espanyol (6th) vs Athletic Club (5th) - 22.00 CET
 
Two teams with the two newest grounds in La Primera. The one advantage Espanyol had over the Bilbao boys in terms of moving house was that Cornella had all four sides ready when it opened in 2009. Because of the new San Mamés being built partly over where the old San Mamés was, only three sides of the ground are currently complete. 
 
However, the atmosphere created in Athletic’s new domain was praised to the rafters by fans and players - it looks like having a Sunderland’s Stadium of Light vibe - although there were still logistical issues to be ironed out over queueing times, a leaky roof, ease of access within the stadium and an overly loud PA system. All natural teething problems, but nothing to stand in the way of what looking like being a barn-dazzling Basque success story. 
 
LLL Prediction - Draw


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