La Preview: Managers make history, Baptista nears comeback, Betis eye a bright future

Saturday

Osasuna (20th) v Málaga (5th) - 16.00 (all kick-offs local time)Back-to-back home defeats to Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad had Manuel Pellegrini suggesting his team needed a dose of fresh ideas and a pick-me-up. Theoretically, that beast-shaped boost may soon be arriving in the form of Julio ‘I’d forgotten about him’ Baptista, who has been out-of-order for over a year with Achilles tendon problems. “We don’t know the exact date but we are thinking about the end of this month and the start of the next,” explained the Brazilian when asked about his big return. Baptista will then be reunited with former Madrid team-mate Javier Saviola, for a bit of an old school 2007 Bernabeu vibe. Whistle posse in the house. LLL Prediction - Draw 

Valencia (9th) v Espanyol (19th) -18.00 There isn't much to celebrate on the financial side in Spain at the moment, with riots and a General Strike dominating the week’s news. But one positive point is that the now relatively steep cost of sacking managers sees every Primera coach who started the season still present and correct heading into round 12 for the first time in 20 years. But it was almost not the case, with Espanyol's Mauricio Pochettino on the brink after his side's home defeat to Osasuna last Saturday was met with both boos and general disinterest from fans. However, a meeting the manager, sporting director Ramón Planes and what’s left of the board saw the former pair secure their roles for another week at least, although firing the technical team three days before Monday's presidential election would not have been the smartest of moves for the Pericos.LLL Prediction - Home win

Barcelona (1st) v Real Zaragoza (11th) - 20.00 If there’s one person who really doesn’t like José Mourinho and probably has photographs of the Madrid manager in his Catalan bathroom for all the wrong reasons, it’s ‘out-there’ Sport columnist, Lluís Mascaró. The scowling scribe loves dumping the blame for every crime committed under the sun at the Portuguese coach's door.At the start of the week, the crack-pot blamed Mourinho for the tunnel bust-up at Levante, highlighting his apparent love of stirring things up. A few days later, another opportunity arose to take a pot shot at the Special One when Pep Guardiola won the coach of the year trinket at the Spanish League awards - trophies voted for by players and coaches of the top two divisions. “Football humiliates Mourinho,” sneers the headline. And why? “Because the values that this Barcelona exemplify are much more in symphony with what SPORT means with capital letters. And that’s knowing how to win and how to lose,” writes Mascaró before spending the next 1000 words finding ways to show how Mourinho and Ronaldo are bunch of stinky wee-breaths.LLL Prediction - Home win

Real Madrid (3rd) v Athletic Bilbao (12th) - 22.00Sergio Ramos is apparently suffering a bit of back gip, but still soldiering on, even managing to score for Spain in the 5-1 friendly win in Panama. While on duty with the national side, the defender LLL will always have a spot for opened-up about the Levante scrap, suggesting that Sergio Ballesteros should take up boxing. “I’ve always had a good relationship with Ballesteros,” claimed Ramos to Spanish radio station, Cadena Ser. “Before the game, he congratulated me for my success with Madrid and the national team.i” However, things soured after the rain-sodden victory in Valencia. “I saw some things in the tunnel that were out of place.” And as for a thorny relationship with this club manager, “we’ve had our differences from time to time,” admits Ramos. LLL Prediction - Home win

Sunday

Deportivo (18th) v Levante (6th) - 12.00“Move along! Nothing to see here!” That’s certainly the attitude of the Spanish FA after the big hullabaloo surrounding Levante’s most recent match. The Competition Committee decided to avoid punishing David Navarro for his elbow on Cristiano Ronaldo, and also opted not to investigate the tunnel fracas which allegedly saw Pepe and Sergio Ballesteros having (or at least trying to have) a dirty dust-up. However the the Referees’ Technical Committee did report a pair of Levante players for unfortunate post-match suggestions. Juanlu stormed that the game was rigged so as to make sure the league title race wasn’t over whilst Pape Diop yelled to the press in stronger terms than detailed here that the match was a “blooming robbery and you have to report this.”LLL Prediction - Draw

Celta Vigo (17th) v Mallorca (15th) - 16.00Nerves of steel LLL is loath to call crisis too soon, but it may have to on Sunday if Mallorca lose to Celta Vigo, to make it a losing streak of seven in a row for the Balearic side. However, Joaquín Caparrós says there’s no need to panic yet and knows what’s going wrong. Not that the Mallorca boss is going to tell the rest of us, mind, “The analysis is ours. The only reality is that we need to pick up points to break this run and the rest stays in the dressing room.”LLL Prediction - Home win

Getafe (14th) v Valladolid (8th) - 17.50While Getafe president Angel Torres has been in Mexico looking for a buyer for the club - the über rich Carlos Slim is one reported possibility - talk back at the Coliseum concerns something the owner, manager and fans already know: that Getafe are bit...well...wet. Something that the nothing performance in the 2-0 defeat to Atlético Madrid last week displayed in full. “We can lose games, but attitude is something we should demand of ourselves,” admitted a crestfallen Miguel Torres. But the club’s biggest problem still continues to be up front, with Getafe being the second least effective side in la Primera so far this season, with the team needing on average 12 chances to score a goal. LLL Prediction - Home win

Granada (16th) v Atlético Madrid (2nd) - 19.45Yes, Atlético Madrid may be a proper, grown-up club now, with all those entertaining last minute own goals out of their system, but there’s still an enormous amount of fun to be had at the Rojiblanco’s expense. This week’s story concerns the fact that according to Apple and their new global imaging system wotsit, the Vicente Calderón will eternally be without grass. An overhead shot of the neighbourhood was taken on the 20th of May when the grass had been removed to allow a Coldplay concert to take place, before a new pitch was laid for the Copa del Rey final. Instead of a lush green surface and rickety concrete stands, where the pitch should be is light brown sand. For the rest of time. Or at least until an update is made, anyway.LLL Prediction - Away win

Sevilla (10th) v Betis (4th) - 21.30Despite there still being a few financial issues hanging over from the Manuel Ruiz de Lopera days, the present for Real Betis is rather bright as they head into Sunday night’s derby. There could even be a bright future too, with plans unveiled for an Athletic Bilbao style youth development set-up. The Heliópolis project aims to ensure 75% of the first team squad will be players from the youth system in the space of ten years. “Andalusia reflected in Betis,” went the blurb. The club will also borrow ideas from la Masia and have all the teams down the ranks playing in the same manner. Woo hoo!LLL Prediction - Draw

Monday

Real Sociedad (13th) v Rayo Vallecano - 21.30 Wednesday was general strike day in Spain, but only a couple of teams in the Brotherhood Collective joined in by having a slow day, namely Celta and Rayo Vallecano. To be fair to the Madrid club, the players probably didn’t have too much choice in merely working out in the gym a bit and having a technical chat with the manager, as last time there was a big strike, some of the Ultras came down to the training ground and suggested politely that the footballers might want to join in the day of protest. To avoid this occurring on Wednesday, the training facility was shut tighter than a Catalan the day before pay-day in order to avoid any unwanted intrusions and political guidance LLL Prediction - Home win

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