Primera Posers: Are Messi and Ronaldo about to start another shoot-out?

FourFourTwo.com's Spanish expert, Tim Stannard, looks ahead to the weekend's Primera Liga action with a puzzled expression...

Will Betis hit rock bottom (again)?

Real Betis vs. Real Madrid - Saturday 16.00 CET
When Real Betis rocked up to the Bernabéu on the first day of the season and gave the hosts an almighty fright (going in front, before eventually losing 2-1), it was hard to conceive of anything aside from yet another fine, vibrant campaign under Pepe Mel.
Just 18 matches later, the coach has gone, as have the sporting director and administrator semi-in-charge of the institution, the latter having been forced to resign over links to the club’s suppliers. To cap it all off, Betis lie bottom of the table with just 11 points from 19 games.
Wednesday night saw Betis knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao, with still-fresh manager Juan Carlos Garrido saying “I’ve had three bosses in the past month and that can’t be positive for the club.” The former Villarreal coach will have to hope that the apparently daunting visit of Real Madrid to the Benito Villamarín can be turned into a positive, lest an already dismal year for such a fine side gets even worse with a hefty thrashing.

Can life for Valladolid get better in Bilbao?

Athletic Bilbao vs. Valladolid - Monday 22.00 CET
This week’s club in crisis is Valladolid. After all, any team that has to resort to epic lock-in meetings to thrash things out, as the Pucela side did this week, are always going to be in a spot of bother. The fact Valladolid are third from bottom with just the single win from nine league matches is also a fairly good indication of the team’s troubles.
However, the club’s sporting director Alberto Marcos knows what is going wrong, although it's unlikely anything will change against Champions League-chasing Athletic on Monday night.
“The training sessions are spectacular but then the game comes along and the tension drops too much,” said Marcos, one of those who had fun lecturing the Valladolid players in the meeting.
“[They told us that] the situation cannot continue, and something needs to be done to change it,” revealed defender Javier Baraja.

Will Getafe end up in a relegation fight?

Getafe vs. Real Sociedad - Sunday 12.00 CET
Eleventh spot in La Liga with 23 points halfway through the campaign appears to be a perfectly respectable tally for Getafe, but the team is in awful form, with four defeats in a row and six losses from seven. Not good really. The Coliseum club better pull the stops out against Real Sociedad on Sunday or the drop zone is going to suddenly seem rather close.

Will Málaga match be the last for an impoverished Valencia?

Málaga vs. Valencia - Friday 21.00 CET
Wednesday saw the closing day for bids to buy Valencia, that is if anyone is mad enough to put together a deal that could cost in the region of €500 million once the purchase of shares, clearance of debt, building of a new stadium and signing of new footballers is taken into account.
Bankia, the financial institution that owns much of the debt, will be poking and probing its way through the offers. Although the bid from Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim is the standout proposal, it is apparently not the only option on the table.
Meanwhile, out on the pitch, new coach Juan Antonio Pizzi will need to make sure that he does not head to the team’s next home game in Mestalla against Espanyol in a week’s time on a run of three defeats. That’s what will happen if Valencia loses at Málaga, having recently been defeated by Celta Vigo in La Liga and Atlético Madrid in the Cup.

Can Levante survive imminent battering by Barcelona?

Barcelona vs. Levante – Sunday 19.00 CET
Levante's reward for squeezing through their cup tie with Rayo Vallecano is a two-legged clash against Barcelona. Because the two sides are due to meet this weekend in La Liga, the Valencia outfit will be facing the Camp Nou club three times in less than two weeks. This all sounds rather fun to giddy Levante boss Joaquín Caparrós.
"It’s a motivation, we visit the dentist three times - I hope that what happened in the first round isn’t repeated,” said Caparrós, referring to his team's unfortunate 7-0 tanking in the first round of La Liga.

Will Villarreal repeat formidable form from season’s start?

Villarreal vs. Almería - Sunday 17.00 CET
The return of the Yellow Submarine to La Primera was a triumphant one, with Villarreal getting off to a flyer by winning their first three top-flight matches of the new campaign. The winter break seems to have done the world of good for the east coast side, as Villarreal would repeat that winning run if they can overcome Almería. Indeed, the home side will be looking to continue a spiffy streak that has seen Villarreal score five in their previous two league games against Rayo and, most surprisingly, Real Sociedad on Monday night.
Almería, visitors to El Madrigal on Sunday, will certainly be on red-alert for a roasting.

Will San Mamés continue to be Athletic’s not-so-secret weapon?

Athletic Bilbao vs. Valladolid - Monday 22.00 CET
The new San Mamés continued to be Athletic’s 12th man on Wednesday's 2-0 cup victory against Betis, a result which overturned a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.
The result leaves Athletic with 10 wins from 12 in their brand spanking new ground, with the other two games drawn. That record will be tested in the next round of the cup though, with a tasty two-headed tie against Atlético Madrid on the horizon. Still, there should be no such problems this weekend, with wobbly Valladolid trundling into town.

Can Sevilla be the side to stop Atlético Madrid?

Atlético Madrid vs. Sevilla - Sunday 21.00 CET
Barcelona failed to beat the Rojiblancos in the Vicente Calderón, and Valencia also failed to achieve that feat. Indeed, the Mestalla side lost 2-0 to the Rojiblancos on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone backing his claim that he was determined to win everything possible - even board games - by fielding a fairly strong side in the midweek clash.
Sevilla, a club with a recent history of animosity against Atlético, are the next team to come to town, but the home side's players will be proud as peacocks with their manager's post-Valencia praise still pinging through their ears. “This is a team of men that have the resources to keep taking us forward,” yelled the inspirational Argentinian.

Can Real Madrid continue clean sheet craze?

Real Betis vs. Real Madrid - Saturday 16.00 CET
One of the most enjoyable aspects of watching Real Madrid, before the winter break ruined everything, was the necessity for Diego López to pick any ball launched into the Madrid box out of the back of the net. Carlo Ancelotti has temporarily put an end to that, though, with Madrid keeping a clean sheet in four league and cup games. The most recent shut-out was against Osasuna in a 2-0 victory that saw an easy passage to the next round against Espanyol. This weekend's fixture looks another easy passage, if ever there was one.

Will Leo Messi resume rumble with Ronaldo?

Barcelona vs. Levante – Sunday 19.00 CET
And so it begins. Again. You score one, I'll score two - the familiar pattern of behaviour between the two La Liga giants who look set to carry on their rivalry now that Messi appears to be back to full fitness and Ronaldo has the whole Ballon d'Or business off his mind. Ronaldo kicked things off in the Copa del Rey with a goal against Osasuna in a 2-0 win, albeit thanks to a goalkeeping howler. Messi, meanwhile, scored two against the ever-reliable Getafe in the Coliseum. Gentlemen, start your engines.


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