Tim Stannard looks ahead to a Sunday night sizzler at the Camp Nou, plus the arrival of a former Manchester United er, legend...
LLL is rubbing its hands in glee. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid in crisis. At the same time! A rare treat indeed. Of course, the crisis for Carlo Ancelotti’s side is not winning every game, so that word is used in its loosest possible sense. However, we will take it.
Of course, the big jewel in La Liga's crown this weekend is Atlético Madrid's visit to the Camp Nou – the blog is expecting something eye-raising there – but it is also intrigued by Celta Vigo facing Valencia, and the battle between Europa League contenders Málaga and Villarreal. Friday night’s affair between Deportivo and Levante is... less enticing. Here are some meanderings on the weekend to come...
Will Barça end miserable week on right note?
The good news for Barça, fresh from a 5-0 tonking of Elche in the Copa del Rey, is that Atlético Madrid are coming to the Camp Nou in between letting Real Madrid smell what is cooking in their kitchen. The bad news is that Fernando Torres is unlikely to be starting in the Catalan capital, with Mario Mandzukic set to take his place up front.
Despite the supposedly imminent Luis Enrique divorce, LLL suspects a freak storm of Barça brilliance on Sunday and one of those moments when Atlético lose the plot for 20 minutes, rather like what happened in Mestalla. 5-1, LLL dares say in a moment of madness that it may well regret.
Barcelona vs Atlético Madrid - Sunday 21.00 CET
Can Real Madrid enjoy time out from more Atlético agony?
Ha! Now Marca and its devilish cohorts are rethinking the Milan friendly held over the Christmas period. For a while there were some hints and prods that the clash in Dubai might be counted in its attempt to break the winning streak record. That has all gone away quietly, lest Carlo Ancelotti be left holding a record of three defeats in a row.
That might definitely be the case against Espanyol on Saturday afternoon, although it is massively unlikely knowing how reliably unreliable the Pericos can be on the road, and especially in the Santiago Bernabeu. On the other hand, the clash might be an enjoyable respite from the beating up they got from Atlético Madrid on Wednesday, and the one to come next Thursday as the Rojiblancos remind Madrid who the real top dawgs are in the capital – despite the ludicrous, Real Madrid-best-team-in-2014 campaign. Phew. That felt better.
Real Madrid vs Espanyol - Saturday 16.00 CET
Can Celta Vigo finally, finally snap out of it?
Now this is getting really ridiculous. In the Copa del Rey, Celta aren’t really having too many problems with goals. They might not exactly lead to victories but six strikes in three games – two in the defeat to Athletic – is somewhat better going than the zero they've netted in the past six league games. Unfortunately the next visitors to a noticeably cranky Balaídos are Valencia, a team on one of its upward trajectories with three league wins on the trot.
Celta Vigo vs Valencia - Saturday 20.00 CET
Can Eibar keep with the miracle marathon?
Eibar president Alex Aranzabal's declarations that the club had the smallest budget in La Primera, or nine squad players still lingering from the third tier of Spanish football, weren't the relevations that blew the blog's hole-ridden socks off. During his talk at a media breakfast (why is it never supper with a chunk of Red Leicester?), it was the note that the club was debt-free – the only one in the top flight said Aranzabal – that really impressed, although Athletic Bilbao might fall into that category.
Any-hoo, LLL is nit-picking. Eibar have now amassed 23 points having won three of their last five league matches. The latest chance to edge towards salvation is the visit of Getafe, freshly painted under the new stewardship of Quique Sánchez Flores. In theory, there should be home advantage in the cloggy surroundings of Ipurua, but Eibar had not been all that in their own manor this year having only won two matches from eight. Another football convention turned on its head by the battling Basque outfit.
Eibar vs Getafe - Saturday 22.00 CET
Will a Man United legend help Córdoba?
Former United superstar Bebé is back on LLL’s radar having disappeared for a bit at Benfica this season, making just four appearances this year and not doing a great deal with them. That’s why the striker has moved on to Córdoba to try to keep the fires of a fight against relegation burning past... let’s say March optimistically.
Rayo Vallecano vs Córdoba - Monday 20.45 CET