FFT's Primera expert, Tim Stannard, looks ahead to the weekend's top flight action in Spain...
Well that was fun. Barely a beep out of Atlético and Barcelona – aside from a nutty Dani Alves banging on about sheep that tell lies – but an awful lot of noise from Real Madrid. First there was the home loss to Schalke, then on Thursday Florentino Pérez gave it the old “infamy, infamy, you’ve all got it infamy”. What might have been a humdrum visit from Levante now has extra spice, with many pondering what mood the supporters will be in. All this and so much more to look forward to this weekend when every game seems to be a zinger.
Florentino’s missed opportunity
LLL thought Florentino Pérez was a little smarter. Perhaps smarter is the wrong word; 'entrepreneurial' works a little better. On Thursday, instead of berating the media for not being obsequious enough, he decried as nonsense Marca’s front page suggesting that the Clásico was do-or-die for Carlo Ancelotti.
The Italian was apparently safe for the next few weeks, no matter what happened. As for next season, the clearly irritated Real Madrid president refused to be drawn.
Now let’s think about this. Had he said that the Clásico would define his coach’s future, a few hundred million could have been added onto the viewing figures and Mr President could perhaps have got a his club a cut of the financial benefits. An opportunity lost.
However, the promise that the big axe has been withdrawn could well be rescinded if Real Madrid slip up in what should be the perfect chance to clamber back onto destiny’s treadmill before the Clásico: in their past four games against Madrid, Levante have shipped 16 goals.
Real Madrid vs Levante – Sunday 21.00 CET
Valencia with chance for giant leap forward
This is a biggie for Valencia – and for Spain’s Friday night football, which has seen some stinkers of late. With Atlético at Espanyol on Saturday (and quite possibly thinking about Tuesday’s Champions League visit of Leverkusen), this here is a chance for the Mestalla men to sneak into third place.
Hosting luckless Deportivo seems a billion percent certainty of a win, but Valencia are wary: at the Riazor in October, they came unstuck in a 3-0 defeat.
It’s not something the super-serious east-coasters should dwell upon, says Prophet Nuno, who is starting to resemble Pep Guardiola when the Barça coach started to crack up with the mad beard and so on. “The spirit of revenge can blind you,” said the Valencia boss, “it can take your focus away from the opponent.”
If Valencia end up in third spot then LLL has a feeling that the team might take some shifting.
Valencia vs Deportivo – Friday 20.45 CET
Atlético need strikers to stop striking-out and start striking
Three winless games for Atlético Madrid; three goalless games for their strikers – although last week Antoine Griezmann was suspended, Mario Mandzukic didn’t start and Fernando Torres was Fernando Torres.
Asked by AS if he needs to do something he hasn’t yet managed in La Liga – score – the former Premier Leaguer said “No, I need to play and win”.
The game at Cornella is be a timely chance to break his duck: there’s a good chance that the Milan loanee will get a run-out, as it’s the out-of-sorts Mario Mandzukic’s turn to be suspended.
This match could be gritty in the extreme – unless Espanyol are slipping into holiday mode with the Copa del Rey adventure over, European qualification too far away and probably just three more wins needed.
Espanyol vs Atlético Madrid – Saturday 16.00 CET
Eibar need minor miracle to end rotten run
It could have been a different match on Saturday. It could have been a moment to be giddy and carefree. But plans like that tend to get stuffed up when you lose seven games in a row.
That’s the unenviable record of Eibar, who will probably get that barren run extended by Barcelona, unless the Catalans wish to join their capital cousins splashing about in the Crisis Pit of Hell.
Aside from guessing the scoreline (LLL conservatively plumps for 3-0), the other one-to-watch will be whether Javier Mascherano will avoid a yellow card, one that would trigger a suspension for the Clásico – not ideal, with Sergio Busquets almost certainly ruled out by the ankle-knock picked up against Villarreal.
Eibar vs Barcelona: Saturday 18.00 CET
Sevilla show bright side in Europe
And that’s why Sevilla are so very confusing. Pressured in La Liga, the side tends to crumble – a feature noted by the great Unai Emery himself. But in the Europa League, the southern side are grizzled, hardy, weatherbeaten veterans. Sevilla showed that again on Thursday with a 3-1 over Villarreal, pretty much putting them into the next round and setting them up nicely for a home match against struggling Elche.
Sevilla vs Elche: Sunday 19.00 CET
Getafe’s destiny revealed
Now, LLL knows that many have been suffering from sleepless nights tossing and turning about the Getafe managerial situation. The club are looking for coach No.3 after Cosmin Contra was sold to China and Quique Sánchez Flores quit before he had barely started.
Former youth team coach Pablo Franco has been in temporary charge, but it seems that this move could be permanent at least until the end of the season, when Míchel the Manager will probably make a return to the Coliseum, as the club recycles its past.
Getafe vs Real Sociedad: Monday 20.45 CET