Big Weekend Preview: Atlético choose life, Real seek Bale-out

Here comes the La Liga weekend, so here comes Tim Stannard to tell you what to look for...

Well, La Liga is going to have shake some footballing booty this weekend if it is to compete with some of the midweek Copa del Rey action. From the lunacy at the Vicente Calderón to the frenetic energy at the Sánchez Pizjuán, it was party city across Spain. With the big three all involved in chin-scratchingly intriguing ties this weekend, the drama looks set to roll on a bit longer.

With Ronaldo resting, will Gareth bale out Madrid?

Exit Cristiano Ronaldo for two matches and enter Gareth Bale, who was let loose on Spanish radio during the week, sounding like the very pleasant fella he is. The forward is likely to be main conduit for Real Madrid’s creative juices against Real Sociedad with his Portuguese team-mate cooling his heels in suspension city.

One player who won’t be part of the clash against Real Sociedad despite training with the first team this week was Martin Odegaard. At least the Norwegian was mixing in the right financial circles: the teenager's reported €80,000-a-week pocket money is rather different to his Castilla team-mates. “I’d quite like to earn what he earns,” noted Castilla captain Sergio Aguza; fun times to come in the reserves dressing room regarding the whip-round for post-match pizza and beer.
Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad - Saturday 16.00 CET

Can Real Madrid rejects cause an upset?

Like a ghost from the past come to haunt young Odegaard, Esteban Granero returns to the Bernabéu for the first time since 2012, when he left for QPR after failing to cement a place in the first-team squad despite many seasons of trying.

Also returning to what was an all too temporary fold is Sergio Canales, who left Racing Santander faaaaar too early after some spectacular goals and whose career never really recovered from an injury-hit spell in Mordor.

Both are going to be needed to pull their fingers out if La Real are to show the cheek that beat Madrid earlier this season, as well as Atlético Madrid and Barcelona, rather than the rather laboured outfit that struggles to get anywhere near the back of the net.
Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad - Saturday 16.00 CET

Will Atlético choose being Atlético again Eibar?

Choose defending. Choose chasing balls down. Choose discipline. Choose being men. Choose playing every minute as if it was the last. Choose defensive organisation, Choose constantly drilled set-plays. Choose doing what the manager says, every single second of the day.

Atlético Madrid chose not to do any of those things against Barcelona. Instead, the Rojiblancos chose life. And trapping policemen’s hands in car doors. Wednesday’s loss to Barça may have not have ended the way that Atleti had intended, but it must have been hugely entertaining to play in.

In the space of 90 minutes the team got to shake off the shackles of Diego Simeone and have a huge bag of fun on the pitch by throwing boots at a linesman, picking fights with Neymar, having a half-time barney with the referee, turning the ball into their own net for kicks and generally larking about. Mostly with violent intent. A disciplined Atlético will be needed against mighty Eibar on Saturday.
Eibar vs Atlético Madrid - Saturday 18.00 CET

"Oops!" Miranda (at right, leg akimbo) bags at the wrong end midweek

"Oops!" Miranda (at right, leg akimbo) bags at the wrong end midweek

Will Villarreal put out feelers in Camp Nou?

Talk about contrasting evenings in the Spanish capital. A day after Barcelona faced the absolute bedlam of the Vicente Calderón, in the quieter confines of Getafe's Coliseum, Villarreal quietly tucked the home side into bed; their 1-0 win earned them a go at Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

The result left two happy camps. The Yellow Submarine are just a Camp Nou club away from a knees-up at a final – while Getafe gaffer Quique Sánchez Flores got the result he wanted, having admitted before the clash that the cup was not exactly a priority this season for his relegation-threatened team.

By merry coincidence, Villarreal get a practice punch at Barça ahead of those double dates with the Madrigal club, taking on Luis Enrique’s side at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
Barcelona vs Villarreal - Sunday 21.00 CET

Is the end of the road for the Celta boss?

If you'd told LLL at the beginning of November after Celta's Camp Nou win that boss Eduardo Berizzo would be out just two months later, the blog would have let you know in the strongest possible terms that you were a nannying nitwit. However, Celta’s Argentinian coach finds himself in the situation of really really really really having to beat Córdoba or face the chop, his side having picked up just two points from 30.

Indeed, so dire is Celta’s predicament that even Berizzo himself suggested that his position should be in doubt. “Ten matches without winning is just too much,” said the Vigo helmsman after Monday’s loss to Getafe.
Celta Vigo vs Córdoba - Saturday 22.00 CET