10 big questions in La Liga: How will Real Madrid fare without Ronaldo?

FourFourTwo's Spanish expert Tim Stannard as 10 poser ahead of the weekend's top flight action...

Will Getafe bounce back from Atlético Madrid massacre?

Friday 29th November: Getafe vs. Levante - 20.00 CET

Having steamed into Champions League contention a month ago, Getafe have gone a little off the boil of late. Scratch that. Last weekend in the seven goal defeat at the Vicente Calderon, the club were a mere bowl of water sitting at room temperature next to the cooker. However, Getafe are still very much in contention for the European spots and have a chance for an easy win with coach Luis García facing his old club in the Coliseum.

During the week, García admitted that he took the defeat badly and was sleepless in Seattle on the night of the game. Not that the Getafe man was in Seattle, just to be clear. “I didn’t sleep until three, then I woke up really early,” admitted García who pointed out that although everyone was very upset indeed with the result, “we’ve still got 20 points, and that’s not bad at this stage.” Too true.

Can Big Bernd Schuster re-motivate his men?

Friday 29th November: Villarreal vs. Málaga - 20.30 CET

Oh dear. If there is one defining feature of Bernd Schuster, aside from the relentless aura of gloom that surrounds the Málaga coach, it’s that the German is a proper, shoot-from-the-hip honest straight talker. After Monday’s defeat at home to Athletic Bilbao, Bernado admitted with weary pessimism that “this is our squad, so you can see where we are.” And that’s one point above the relegation zone with just the single victory in eight, against bottom-dwelling Betis.

Apparently, the squad in question were not best pleased with that assessment of their footballing abilities which will certainly be tested to the full against the all-dancing Villarreal. One of those, Juanmi, spoke about the mire for Málaga and the calls from fans for Schuster to be sacked. “We understand they are not happy, but the supporters, the coach and the team have to be united to get out of this.”

Do Atlético have more big guns to bring out?

Saturday 30th November: Elche vs. Atlético Madrid - 16.00 CET

It is fair to say that Atlético Madrid have been doing just fine with Diego Costa and David Villa up front. Indeed, the team are going great gooses with either one on the bench or both sidelined, as they pair were on Tuesday in a fine 1-1 draw at Zenit. This is because the Rojiblancos have a better supporting cast than in previous years, especially up front where two big guns have barely been taken out of their holsters.

Adrían has been poor of late and very much out of favour with Diego Simeone, however the former Spain U-21 forward has scored in the past two games the striker has started in. Injuries have largely kept Leo Baptistao out of action this season with the former Rayo man only making the single league start in La Liga. A visit to Elche on Saturday might be a good time to show off the squad’s impressive wares some more.

Will Celta show what they are made off against Almería?

Saturday 30th November: Celta Vigo vs. Almería - 18.00 CET

LLL is still standing by Celta Vigo. Although the Galician side are near the relegation zone and threw away a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 to Real Sociedad last weekend, there are still enough flashes of wonderment in the side’s attack to feel that the future will be just fine. Celta’s Sporting Director, Miguel Torrecilla, agrees with the blog noting that “on a personal level I am happy with a team that has a lot of room for improvement and a technical team that has brings a lot to the club.”

Will Real Madrid reach double figures against Valladolid?

Saturday 30th November: Real Madrid vs. Valladolid - 20.00 CET

If ever there's a match where Real Madrid won’t be needing the special scoring services of Cristiano Ronaldo, it's Valladolid at home. Traditionally, it is a fixture where the Santiago Bernabeu club could play on pogo sticks and still knock in six. Madrid have scored 17 goals in the past four fixtures against Valladolid and the Pucela side look good for conceding another big bunch on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side had a rehearsal against Galatasaray midweek, and it all went rather well with a 4-1 victory that was managed without Ronaldo, Benzema and Xabi Alonso. Indeed, Sergio Ramos saw red after 25 minutes to give Madrid extra chance to show off their poaching prowess this season.

Can Javier Aguirre be a two season sensation?

Saturday 30th November: Espanyol vs. Real Sociedad - 22.00 CET

One of LLL’s favourite people on the planet has now been in charge of Espanyol for a whole year. Aguirre took over from Mauricio Pochettino, who has since gone on to bigger and better things, and managed stabilised the club somewhat after the threat of relegation last year. The challenge now for the madcap Mexican is to wipe out a reputation from the coach’s last two La Liga clubs, Zaragoza and Atlético Madrid, for being a bit of one season wonder. LLL has full faith in the flat-topped genius.

That mission starts on Saturday with the visit of Real Sociedad, a team a little down in the down in the dumps after a midweek Champions League defeat left the Basques without even the chance of Europa League football in the New Year.

Is this the last chance for Pepe Mel as Betis manager?

Sunday 1st December: Betis vs. Rayo Vallecano - 12.00

It’s bottom-of-the-table against second from bottom-of-the-table in match where it is fair to say that Pepe Mel’s men better win if there are not going to be thousands of supporters outside the stadium, waving pitchforks and burning effigies, especially after last week’s derby defeat in the Sánchez Pizjuán.

Can Sevilla keep building from barnstormer against Betis?

Sunday 1st December: Granada vs. Sevilla - 17.00 CET

“Celebrations in football are short...or at least they should be,” - the words from the Prophet Unai Emery midweek when reflecting on the 4-0 battering of Betis over the weekend. Too true. Especially when bearing in mind that until recently, Sevilla’s away record in La Liga was abysmal with the team only just picking up its first win since September 2012. The southern side are now going for back-to-back victories against another Andalusian rival in the form of Granada.

Will heads be rolling in Mestalla?

Sunday 1st December: Valencia vs. Osasuna - 19.00 CET

Of course, just when Valencia need to be pulling together and making sure there is no ‘I’ in team, the club have managed to come up with another institutional crisis to wobble the furniture after last week’s defeat to Elche. The latest refers to the team’s new Sporting Director, Rufete, an appointment that appears to have weakened the position of coach, Miroslav Djukic.

Previously, Valencia president, Amadeo Salvo, had been standing by his Serbian man until the end of the season but has now put the future of the under pressure Djukic in the hands of the former player. “The big decisions are now with Rufete.”

David Albelda, for one, thinks the appointment is a bad plan and will only make matters worse for Valencia, ahead of a massive game in Mestalla against Osasuna. “As a fan, I don’t like it,” admitted the retired midfielder, “The feeling here is that they are pushing into the territory of the coach and trying to force something.” 

Are Barça staring at another defeat in Bilbao?

Sunday 1st December: Athletic Bilbao vs. Barcelona - 21.00 CET

Barcelona actually losing a game against Ajax that it didn’t really need to win with the footballers admitting that there was perhaps a lack of conviction, has caused a bit of a tizz in the Catalan capital. Joan Vehils writing in Sport blames the huge amount of politics around the club with “Cruyfistas and Guardiolistas” at loggerheads and fully against the notion that “there is a South American in the role of coach,” at the club.

None of this matters a jot to Athletic Bilbao though, a team that despite not impressing LLL a huge amount are in fifth spot having made its best start to a league campaign since the 1994-95 season. Fancy that.  


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