Questions asked of Barça stars as Pep prepares for Munich mission

FourFourTwo.com's pain in Spain, Tim Stannard, previews the weekend's La Liga action...

Friday

Espanyol (16th) v Mallorca (18th) - 21.00 (all times local Spanish)It’s reinforcement time at Espanyol, with the club attempting to stuff the playing ranks with veteran Atlético Madrid footballers. First to arrive last summer was Simao. The winger has now been followed by a player whose Wikipedia entry suggests is also known as ‘The Bulgarian Express’, namely Martin Petrov who joins from Bolton to be managed again by Javier Aguirre, after a spell together at the Vicente Calderón. Maniche and Mista must be checking their mobile phones every few seconds, now. “Coming from playing in the English second division back to the Spanish league is marvelous for me,n” beamed the former Manchester City man. “I was in England, so as you can imagine my family is very happy,” joked Petrov, who La Liga Loca feels may have been making fun of the Motherland. The blog is not sure if it is going to let this slight stand... LLL Prediction - Home win

Saturday

Granada (17th) v Rayo Vallecano (6th) - 16.00Another victory for Rayo on Saturday would make it a top hat-throwing five Primera wins in a row for the Madrid side, equalling the club's record run in Spain’s big league. But the chances of that have decreased somewhat with the news that Leo Baptistao is out of action for up to a month with a muscle tear. Then again, the opponents are Granada, who have just won the single game at home from nine, so everything might be alright on the...er...afternoon. All the more reason then, for pugnacious Rayo fullback, José Manuel Casado, to sound excitable and gung-ho about Saturday’s clash. “We have to go out to die for a badge and for a shirt to keep showing people that we’re here and to keep shutting gobs, as nobody gave a damn about us at the beginning of the season,” rallied the defender, as LLL hides its own ‘relegation’ prediction made in August. LLL Prediction - Draw

Real Sociedad (9th) v Barcelona (1st) - 18.00Barely 24 hours separated the announcement of Pep Guardiola’s move to Bayern Munich and the first formal question to a Barcelona player on whether he would also be Germany-bound. That footballer was Thiago, who was rather surprised with the poser put to him. “Me? I’m here at Barça, playing for the best club in the world and I’m not planning on moving.” Quite a few supporters would like to see Alexis taking a hike though, with ire increasing on a bit of a damp squib of a season for the forward, who missed a couple of sitters in Wednesday in a 2-2 cup draw against Málaga. “More evidence that he’s under too much pressure, having an alarming crisis of confidence,” noted Sport’s Josep Maria Casanovas. LLL Prediction - Away win

Getafe (11th) v Sevilla (12th) - 20.00This isn’t just a mid-table clash between two sides who will neither go down, or qualify for Europe; instead, it’s the return to la Liga of Unai Emery after the sacking of Míchel on Monday. And LLL plans to be there if Getafe will let the blog into the ground, and ignore the previous jokes about the Madrid club being a bit dull. LLL loves them really. Big love. Sevilla had a mini-debut with their new manager on Wednesday in the cup, with a goalless draw at Zaragoza starting things off. Meanwhile, club president José María del Nido admitted the hand-waving wizard may not be able to halt the club’s slide in the end. “If I had a magic wand to fix Sevilla’s problems, Emery would not be here,” admitted del Nido. LLL Prediction - Away win

Málaga (5th) v Celta Vigo (15th) - 22.00Quite rightly, Celta Vigo are playing hard-to-get in relation to Valencia’s amorous advances towards striker Iago Aspas, who has reportedly agreed personal terms to go to Mestalla, and spend many a season being called offside incorrectly by dastardly referees who have it for the side, apparently.“I feel very strongly that our president will not let Iago go unless someone pays his buy-out clause. If that happens we have no solution,” admitted coach, Paco Herrera, who said that “no-one, not Superman, can stop a club coming and paying the clause,” thus clearly underestimating the powers that the Krypton-born super-hero has. He could launch Mestalla into the sun, perhaps. Or freeze Valencia’s accounting team. Or...LLL Prediction - Home win

Sunday

Osasuna (20th) v Deportivo (19th) - 12.00 It’s the destitute duo in action on Sunday morning, a fixture probably put in place to save Osasuna’s floodlight electricity bill. Deportivo are the worse off of the Segunda-bound pair, having officially gone into administration this week. The lawyer now in charge of the club, Julio Fernández, reminded Depor fans that, despite being a supporter of the side, he “cannot forget that we are here to safeguard the interests of the creditors. I’m a Depor fan, but the law must be followed.” Meanwhile, Osasuna have let winger Roland Lamah go on loan to Swansea for a year-and-a-half, a bit of a surprise given he's quite a handy player. Then again, if all the footballer did was lump balls into the box for strikers who never got on the end of them, there probably wasn’t much use having the Belgian around. LLL Prediction - Away win

Valladolid (10th) v Zaragoza (13th)A more than decent campaign so far for their German player, Patrick Ebert, has seen speculation of a swift departure for the midfielder; especially after a cracking brace last weekend against Mallorca. “I have my head here at Valladolid and I don’t know what my agent will do,” said Ebert, not really helping the stories going away. Meanwhile, Zaragoza have had a bit of trouble over scary forward, Carlos Aranda - not a figure to be messed with - with the striker refusing to play in the cup game against Sevilla due to not feeling so good over the death of his grandmother and wanting to go and play for Granada instead. “The idea is to not select him anymore and find a replacement now,” admitted Manolo Jiménez, one of the few people in the universe not to be scared of the hot-heated striker. LLL Prediction - Home win

Atlético Madrid (2nd) v Levante (8th) - 19.00Boo to Atlético Madrid, a 2-0 win on Thursday probably ruins the chance of a Sevilla/Betis semi-final in the Copa del Rey. Curse the side’s professionalism and dedication. Speaking of which, Levante have been busy beavers in the transfer market. First off, the club have been chatting with goalkeeper Gustavo Munúa to try and prevent him from leaving Spain for Nacional, in his homeland of Uruguay. An old (in both senses of the words) footballer has returned, though, with Valdo coming back after a short and what appears to be unsuccessful spell across the Atlantic. “I want to make up for lost time. I don’t regret going to Mexico but sometimes you can be wrong,” admitted the 31-year-old winger. LLL Prediction - Home win

Valencia (7th) v Real Madrid (3rd) - 21.00Well, it seems as if pre-crime as been introduced into la Liga, with Thursday’s AS looking at the referees in charge of the next two Valencia vs Real Madrid clashes on Sunday and Wednesday and going through their history to find faults. All this because of complaints from the Valencia camp that the man in the middle had it in for them in the Bernabeu during the side’s 2-0 defeat in the cup on Wednesday, a result that had just as much to do with Jonas being a bit of a plonker up front. “Valencia are complaining, but they are too late. Mourinho got their first,” noted Marca drily. The other scandal being pushed about is an apparent bust-up between Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho after the game that appears to be growing in size and seriousness every time that it is repeated. LLL Prediction - Away win

Monday

Betis (4th) v Athletic Bilbao (14th) - 21.30Apparently, Marcelo Bielsa, has been trying to make his normally tortuous training sessions a little more fun in a bid to stop a slump which has seen them lose three league matches in a row. However, this burst of happiness seems to have been too late for Carlos Gurpegui, who admitted that “we are the most frustrated. Last season was almost covered in glory and now we have to scrap in the dirt.”LLL Prediction - Away win

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