Rayo's Iron Men head to Camp Nou, as Madrid’s stars get pulled over


Deportivo (20th) v Celta Vigo (19th) - 21.45 (all kick-offs local time)Friday night sees the first of seven matches Deportivo coach Fernando Vázquez claims must be won if his side are to stay up. And of course, it’s with delicious irony that the game is against one of the manager’s former sides and local rivals, Celta Vigo, who are also in a spot of bother in the bottom three. The tough talking has already begun, with Celta striker Iago Aspas predicting in a surprisingly assertive manner for a footballer that “if we beat them, then we will leave Deportivo with two feet in the Segunda.”Meanwhile, the Deportivo boss had to explain why Riki, who admittedly has been carrying a knock, didn't make it on the Barcelona trip, last weekend. “Leaving him out was a bit of an economic decision, had I been allowed to travel with 19, then he would have come,” said Vázquez on a club that is now struggling to fund away trips by the sounds of it. La Liga Loca suggests the striker could have slept in his car. After all, Ever Banega does it all the time... LLL Prediction - Home win


Real Sociedad (5th) v Valladolid (11th) - 16.00Still no word on the possible contract renewal of la Real coach Philippe Montanier, who has put his side into proper contention for the Champions League places. The French manager spoke to Marca after last week’s win at Atlético Madrid, and discussed those fans and writers in the local media who have been wanting him out from the off. “There’s a lot of passion around football, so people have an opinion on everything,” noted a nonchalant Montanier. “I’ve very happy though, what’s more I’ve asked the Federation if it’s possible to end the league now but they said they can’t,” chuckled the Real Sociedad boss, making zee joke. LLL Prediction - Home win

Getafe (9th) v Athletic Bilbao (14th) - 18.00It’s still a jolt to see Athletic Bilbao doing so poorly this season, which is why the blog was caught off guard by Ander Herrera's claim that there was still all to play for in la Liga with 11 games left. But instead of looking upwards to a late, late European charge following back-to-back league wins, the Athletic midfielder is looking down between his legs at the tiled bathroom floor of football. “We are confident but not relaxed,” claimed Herrera, with his side on 32 points. “Those who relax find it tough at the end. To avoid a tense end to the league, the first test of the season is on Saturday and Getafe.” By coincidence, Athletic are visiting the most relaxed team in Spain - too many points to go down, but not enough porridge in the tank to make Europe. LLL Prediction - Away win

Real Madrid (2nd) v Mallorca (18th) - 20.00A supremely jealous LLL loves an ‘entitled footballer getting his comeuppance’ story, so has delighted in a string of incidents involving Real Madrid players getting caught by the fuzz in one of the few areas they are mere mortals - on the roads. Marcelo, Mesut Özil and Karim Benzema have all been pulled over in recent times. Marcelo was caught driving without a valid license, Benzema was caught speeding, while Özil was fined €500 after he was spotted performing an illegal turn.This is why the blog loved a delicious story in AS on Thursday which took note of the footballers’ driving skills when leaving the training complex day before. The journalist noted that Coentrao was driving whilst talking on his mobile (€200 fine and three penalty points), while fast-living Frenchman Benzema took a roundabout too quickly, causing another car to break so as not to hit him (€200 and four penalty points). Long may this vigilance from AS continue, perhaps by watching the Reliant Robins speeding away from the Rayo training facilities. LLL Prediction - Home win

Valencia (7th) v Betis (6th) - 22.00 One decent fixture in a round of la Primera is a luxury, but two is a cup-cake stuffed treat. The other top encounter is the Galician derby, however this match-up between two Champions League contenders could be a tasty affair too. Ignoring the fact the result is largely insignificant to the futures of either team with 11 games to play, Valencia's Adil Rami has jumped on board the 'Final' bus by declaring the match-up in Mestalla to be “the final of the season”. The defender adds that his side will play “a lot of finals” from now until the end of the campaign. Aside from all the finals to come, the other topic of conversation in Mestalla continues to be the non-contract renewal of Ernesto Valverde. Rami says that he hopes the manager stays on beyond June because “we have had a (bleeping) good revival, so why are we going to change a winning team?” Because it’s Valencia, my friend, because it’s Valencia. LLL Prediction - Home win


Málaga (4th) v Espanyol (13th) - 12.00The actor may have spent much of the evening agreeing to hundreds of photograph requests from fans, but Antonio Banderas still had a top time in the stands of la Rosaleda on Wednesday. The Málaga born-and-bred star of Spy Kids and other cinematic treats was in town to see his beloved home side (although Banderas also has a leaning towards Real Madrid) triumph against Porto in the Champions League. “The city deserves this,” said the local lad told radio station Cadena Ser. “We are suffering even more from the crisis in Spain. This can’t fix everything but it adds a bit of cream to life.”LLL Prediction - Home win

Sevilla (12th) v Zaragoza (13th) - 17.00The latest scapegoat for Sevilla's slide towards hopelessness over the last few years is Sporting Director, Monchi, who appears to have lost the golden touch that brought in the likes of Luis Fabiano, Dani Alves, Seydou Keita and Freddie Kanouté. However, each of the many managers to depart the Sánchez Pizjuán has been quick to praise Monchi, and current coach Unai Emery has added to the love. “His credit is so big here, that there can’t be any doubt in him,” said Unai. “What’s happening now is that there is tremendous competition in signings between teams and competing markets which gives you less options.”LLL Prediction - Home win 

Osasuna (15th) v Atlético Madrid (3rd) - 17.00A torn soul for LLL on Sunday. The blog has a huge squishy spot for Osasuna, and the Primera needs the pugilistic Pamplona side in its ranks forever. Then again, LLL doesn’t want to see Atlético fade and burn out after an extraordinary campaign so far. The Rojiblancos have picked up just the single point from the past two games, a run which has coincided with a slow spell from Falcao who has just the single strike from open play in four league matches. At least away fan favourite Diego Costa is about to put in a shift of elbow grease and elbow throws. In fact, Osasuna defender Alejandro Arribas believes he is currently more important that his failing forward partner, Falcao. “He’s vital for any team he plays in. I’d want him with me, always, he’s always making jokes, laughing,” recalled the centre-back, who was with the Brazilian last season at Rayo. He’s nothing like he is out on the field. That’s his way of playing and I love it.”LLL Prediction - Away win

Granada (16th) v Levante (10th) - 21.00La Liga Loca is hoping the Levante players were given all the beer and pizza they could manage on the long flight back from Moscow on Thursday night. The Spanish side held out for 120 minutes against the richer, mightier Rubin Kazan, before succumbing to two extra time efforts from the Russians. It was a fine adventure indeed for Levante, in week that has been a touch troubled, first with the departure of Obafemi Martins, potentially to MLS, and now with their fond farewell to Europe. “It’s a shame the dream is over,” admitted Levante coach, Juan Ignacio Martínez. LLL Prediction - Home win

Barcelona (1st) v Rayo Vallecano (8th) - 21.00Rayo are going to have ‘Iron Man 3’ on their shirts for the visit to the Camp Nou, in a continuation of their Marvel films link, which saw mascots dressed as Thor and Hulk to promote last year’s release of Avengers. Now if Robert Downey Junior turned up for the match and even got to play a bit, that would perhaps be the greatest moment in la Liga history. On to more serious topics, and Rayo are currently working on the renewal of the contract of coach Paco Jémez, with his current deal set to expire at the end of the season. Sporting Director Felipe Miñambres says that “it’s difficult to take conclusions from just one meeting.” The matter is complicated perhaps, by the fact that Miñambres himself is also out of contract this summer, but he says that “I want to carry on and the club is happy with me.”LLL Prediction - Home win