La Preview: Simeone’s last stand, Rayo’s spanking and a derby of dysfunction

Tim Stannard looks ahead to the latest spurt of Spanish fun... 

LLL has a good feeling about this weekend. Probably as it has a House of Cards marathon lined up. But in between catching up with the skullduggery of Kevin Spacey, the blog will be dipping into three intriguing tussles.

That and finding out if Deportivo can score a goal, whether anyone will make it through Córdoba against Getafe alive and if Villarreal vs Celta Vigo will be the best of the weekend, which LLL suspects it will...

Will Real Madrid grow a pair for San Mamés?

Carlo Ancelotti may have a stiff upper lip – and eyebrow – but the same cannot be said for a Real Madrid media that's got its panties in a bunch despite their team being top of the table and on the way to the Champions League quarter-finals.

The defence, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and the lack of squad players used have been the main causes of concern in Marca and AS. Tuesday’s edition of the former warned that Ancelotti was on a yellow card in terms of his performances, and that a bit of whip-cracking was needed for some of the players. Basically, no one has any clue on what to do about Real Madrid motoring along in third gear these days.
Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid - Saturday 18.00 CET

Will Rayo be on the end of another Barça battering?

It’s one of LLL’s favourite fixtures. Paco Jémez takes his full-on, no-holds-barred game plan to Barcelona and gets soundly battered every time. This season’s excursion is likely to be no different, with the Rayo boss promising to play the same style as always.

It’s a mentality shared by Alberto Bueno, scorer of four goals last week, who revealed: “We have all spoken about it, and although we have about a 1% chance, we are going to go for it.” For the record, Rayo have conceded 31 goals against Barça in the last seven games, with just one scored.
Barcelona vs Rayo Vallecano: Sunday 12.00 CET 

Can Athletic overcome home disadvantage?

LLL is going to do a bit of myth-busting. In theory, Real Madrid visiting San Mamés (new or old) should be a tough biscuit to chew. It's a noisy, passionate atmosphere, with physical opponents and supporters who truly hate every part of the visitors' DNA.

However, the reality is very different. Athletic have beaten Madrid just once in 10 years at San Mamés. Three of the last four matches in Bilbao have been 3-0 wins for Madrid, with a 5-2 victory preceding that. It is Athletic that bow to home pressure in this particular clash of the Primera titans.
Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid - Saturday 18.00 CET

Will uncertainty undermine Atlético?

The blog considers Atlético to be wearing the big boy trousers now, so it’s time for some big boy stirring. The Rojiblancos aren't exactly heading into Sunday’s crunch clash against Valencia in the best of shapes.

The visitors are just a point behind in the table, having won only two of their last five games. There is a rumoured spat between Mario Mandzukic and Diego Simeone, while Antoine Griezmann is suspended for the weekend’s whopper.

But perhaps the most spooky of all are more reports that Simeone is stalling on a new contract extension. One story in France suggests the arrival of Edison Cavani is a deal-breaker, while the English have Simeone moving to Manchester City as a summer replacement for Manuel Pellegrini.

This makes Sunday’s visit of Valencia rather a big game. LLL may even use the word ‘final’, as much as it makes the blog feel unclean. Only a big win and a reminder to Valencia of their place can get the good vibes flowing again at the Vicente Calderón.
Atlético Madrid vs Valencia - Sunday 21.00 CET

Is this the most dysfunctional game in the history of La Liga?

Plenty to talk about in the bars around the ground for this one. Elche, the home side, are facing a match-fixing probe, while the league are also looking at whether those running the club are fit and proper people.

The visitors, Almería, are close to being relegated already, having been deducted three points by the Spanish FA for an alleged non-payment of money due to a Danish club. Then again, the southern team might not be after all, as the league table on the LFP website still has the club happily outside the relegation zone. Golden days for LLL!
Elche vs Almería - Saturday 20.00 CET

Will Eibar blooming well sort themselves out?

In the first six games of this season’s Primera, a debut campaign for Eibar, the Basque side racked up eight very creditable points. In the same run of matches in the second round, Eibar have managed absolutely nothing at all, one goal aside. Now LLL is no expert, but this is not a good thing.

This leaves Friday night’s clash against Levante – again, not exactly enticing – as a bit of a big one for Eibar, who are lurching towards the relegation zone like a Star Fleet vessel into a Klingon tractor beam.
Levante vs Eibar - Friday 20.45 CET