Tim Stannard looks ahead to the madcap goings on in Spain this weekend...
The weekend sees the final Real Madrid league game of the year before Carlo Ancelotti’s side parp-parps off to Morocco for the Club World Cup and then some holiday time. But the glamour will be turned up to the max on Friday, with the diary-marking trip to Almería - about as glam as Barcelona’s expedition to Getafe’s Coliseum, to be fair.
However, if you only have room in your life for two games this weekend, then Atlético Madrid hosting Villarreal could be a good ‘un, along with a Basque derby, which will potentially be quite tempestuous. Here are some matters to ponder on...
Can rudderless Almería do anything against Real Madrid?
Losing 5-2 to Eibar in Monday's battle of La Liga's low-budget clubs proved a little too much for Almería’s big bosses to take. Coach Francisco Javier Rodríguez ultimately 'paid the penalty', as Brendan Foster enjoyed saying during the 1980s Olympic long distance races.
An old Primera favourite in the form of Juan Ignacio Martínez - otherwise known as JIM - is set to take over, but wisely stalling on the move until after Hurricane Real Madrid blasts through on the way to Morocco.
Almería v Real Madrid (Friday 20.45 CET) on Stats Zone
Can Getafe continue to be bogeymen to Barça?
Getafe are pretty much as close as La Primera has to a 'bogey team' for The Big Two, and in recent times have often caused the big hitters one or two problems. In the Camp Nou last season, the mighty Coliseum club grabbed a 2-2 draw to wrap a chain around Barça’s propellor of ambition, while earlier in the season in the reverse fixture, Getafe went 2-0 up and could have scored a few more before Barcelona woke up (sound familiar?) and strolled to a 5-2 win while still wiping the gunk from their eyes. The Catalans also lost at Getafe in November 2011 and 2007, drawing with them twice in 2008.
During the week, club president Angel Torres was celebrating 10 years of being in La Liga with fans, and beamed that the team’s supporters set a great example. Sorry, that should read “the fans”. Only a small function room was needed.
Getafe v Barcelona (Saturday 16.00 CET) on Stats Zone
Can Atlético continue to hide in plain sight?
La Liga Loca has long droned on about how Atlético are a stealth club this season, with the team flying very much under the radar. So it was rather poetic that the Rojiblancos actually went off the radar on Tuesday while traveling to Italy to face Juventus in the Champions League. A fault in the ground at the receiving airport saw air traffic in the area puff into thin air, causing a bit of a delay to the Atlético party.
The match-up with Villarreal offers a great deal on paper, but LLL will also remember thinking that about three years a go in a game that memory had down as a freezing goalless draw but turned out to be a routine 3-0 win for the Rojiblancos. The blog is betting on something similar on Sunday.
Atlético Madrid v Villarreal (Sunday 19.00 CET) on Stats Zone
Will Valencia get their act together in Mestalla?
In the space of just a few weeks Valencia have gone from being on the shoulders of the leaders to being a little away from the shoulder of Sevilla. Not a great place to be. The Men of Mestalla have yet to win in four league games and are running rather low on confidence. The only bright spark in that darkness was a win against Rayo Vallecano in the Copa del Rey, the team that Valencia are facing on Saturday and then against next week. In this case with Rayo just as flakey, familiarity may well breed content.
Valencia v Rayo Vallecano (Saturday 18.00 CET) on Stats Zone
Is David Moyes going to be very popular, very quickly?
Just one week on from a pasting by Villarreal in El Madrigal, La Real have a chance for a bit of redemption in a Basque derby against visiting Athletic Bilbao - a game that could be up the Scotsman’s street if the home side turn up this time. “It is going to rain apparently,” said midfielder David Zurutuza, “the pitch will be fast, there will be a lot of 50-50 balls”. This could be the corker of the week.
Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao (Sunday 21.00 CET) on Stats Zone
Will Córdoba double historical tally against Levante?
While technically speaking it was correct that Córdoba’s win against Athletic last weekend was the side’s first in La Primera in 15,533 days - how Elche would love a figure as impressive as that - the southern side had been out of the top flight for 43 years. Had they been an ever present, then that drought could have been considered disappointing.
Córdoba have a great chance to double their tally of victories in the last few decades in this weekend's home clash against Levante. If they don’t and the season continues in a similar vein, then the wait for the next top flight win could be just as long as the last. However, the same president could be at the helm in 2057. “I think I am going to live until I am 93,” said Carlos González to Marca, “I’m 52 soon, so I have got another 41 years or so,”
Córdoba v Levante (Saturday 20.00 CET) on Stats Zone
Have the Depor players left the sinking ship?
ELSEWHERE IN España
It’s second-from-bottom against bottom! A barn-storming, 20 men behind the ball slug-fest between Deportivo and Elche. But no matter the desperate situation, the mighty Galicians from La Coruña are going to give it 18,000% and are completely behind their under-fire boss, Victor Fernández. Sort of. “Although we wouldn’t like it if he lost his job, we all understand, even him, that’s football,” shrugged Manuel Pablo on the chances of his manager being unemployed after the weekend.
Deportivo v Elche (Monday 20.45 CET) on Stats Zone