10 big questions in La Liga: Can Real Madrid learn to defend?
Can Osasuna pay back faithful supporters?
Friday: Osasuna vs. Almería - 20.00 CET
It was a touching sight. Osasuna had been tonked 5-0 by their local rivals, yet the visiting fans still applauded the footballers off the field, not something that would ever happen with Valencia, to pluck a random example out of the ether. It was a gesture most appreciated by the Osasuna players, admitted Roberto Torres, a footballer from the club’s youth ranks.
“We are lucky,” said the relieved midfielder, “but on Friday we have to win in front of the same fans. Any other supporters would have booed the team, but they supported us even more.” The chance of the call from Torres coming true is a fairly decent one. Although Almería are coming off the back of two consecutive wins, a third in a row just isn’t something that is going to happen to the southern side. Especially so in a clash against an über-motivated Osasuna with a serious debt to pay.
When will Granada get over their homesickness?
Friday: Granada vs. Málaga - 22.00 CET
If Granada’s tally on the road was matched by their form at home then the team would be in the Champions League places. Of course, if pots and pans were something, something, something then there would be no need for tinkers. Whilst Granada’s 11 points from 18 away from Los Cármenes is the fourth best in La Primera, one victory and five defeats instead sees the Andalusians in 11th.
The remarkable fact about that, though, is that Granada have scored just eight goals in 12 games. Eight! It totally disproves the prediction that the team would be free-scoring demons after picking up Riki and Piti over the summer.
Will Real Madrid’s defence hold it together against La Real?
Saturday: Real Madrid vs. Real Sociedad - 16.00 CET
While Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo are looking like a wonderfully fruity partnership up front, with Karim Benzema also in the mix, the Real Madrid defence remains stubbornly leaky. The two goals conceded in the Champions League draw at Juventus racks up the tally to seven conceded over the past three matches for Madrid.
Although visiting Real Sociedad fired blanks against Manchester United in La Anoeta, there is gold in them, there hills up front. The Basque club stuck five past Osasuna last week with five different scorers, and put three past Madrid in the Santiago Bernabéu last season in what was a wonderful, mad game. This could easily be a nine goal thriller due to the form of the two sides at both ends of the pitch.
Is Getafe v Elche the least glamorous sounding game in the history of Spain's top flight?
Saturday: Getafe vs. Elche - 18.00 CET
If you can think of anything that beats this titanic tussle in terms of a lack of scintillating sauciness then you are doing well. We may be looking at a double figure crowd in the Coliseum.
Can Rayo finally get it together?
Saturday: Celta Vigo vs. Rayo Vallecano - 20.00 CET
The thing about Rayo is that statistically there is good reason to believe in a survival fight. Of course, the points and goals tally have to be ignored. But Rayo have a ton of possession during games and an awful lot of shots at goal.
The supporters are cheering the team to the bitter end and will forever do so, and the coach is still a steely bag of optimism. “If we play like the second half we had against Real Madrid then we have a chance, although the results aren’t going that way,” said Paco Jémez on Thursday ahead of the weekend clash at Celta.
Will this be Sevilla’s big day away?
Sunday: Espanyol vs. Sevilla - 12.00 CET
It’s chance number 23 for Sevilla to pick up that all too elusive La Liga away win. The last time that happened was on the 24th September 2012 against Deportivo and it is fair to say that the pressure is being piled upon Unai Emery, who cannot shrug off this malaise.
The last two excursions in La Primera have not exactly gone so well for Sevilla, with the side conceding seven at the Bernabéu and blowing a two goal lead in the final minutes against Valladolid. Weirdly though, Sevilla do not have this performance anxiety away from home in the Europa League, with three road trips from four producing victories.
Will visiting Valladolid cause another catastrophe for Valencia?
Sunday: Valencia vs. Valladolid - 17.00 CET
A tremendously timely win for Valencia last weekend against Getafe was enough to keep Miroslav Djukic going for a bit longer on the Mestalla bench, however, the result did not save the skin of the Serbian’s boss. Someone had to be sacrificed to the baying mob that is the Valencia supporting posse and it was Sporting Director, Braulio Vásquez, apparently for the crime of working for a club that sells it best players without being able to replace them.
Braulio, who had a contract until 2015, is set for a fight for his compensation, claim Marca, just another off the field distraction for Valencia ahead of the weekend’s visit of Valladolid, a clash that looks very winnable and therefore a huge banana skin for the home side.
Goalkeeper, Vicente Guaita, has called for a fractured squad to pull themselves together for the logical reason that most are going to have to see out the season with the side and should make the best of it.
“We are all on the same team, I don’t think they are going to change 25 players at Christmas,” noted Guaita, on a move that would not have been out of the ordinary at Valencia a couple of years ago.
Who will be the last man standing in El Madrigal?
Sunday: Villarreal vs. Atlético Madrid - 19.00 CET
Villarreal hosting Atlético Madrid could be as exhausting a clash to watch as it will be for the footballers to play in.
The tactics this season for the home team are all about running, running, running, running and running. The tactics this season for the visitors are all about running, running, running, running, running and kicking. This clash of two top four teams on Sunday is going to be a fascinating one.
The Rojiblancos are still bombing down the motorway of joy on their Harley of desire, with 15 victories from 16 league and Champions League games this season. Villarreal are still holding a good account of themselves, having snuck a cheeky last minute away win against Elche on Monday night.
This could be what happens when a metal block and a sledgehammer meet, and go out for drinks with a self-paying bar tab. LLL is very excited indeed about this one.
Can Leo Messi do it on a pleasant November evening in Seville?
Sunday: Betis vs. Barcelona - 21.00 CET
The blog is never one to wave goodbye to a full blown crisis prematurely, so it still has Leo in the completely past-it category. Sure, the Argentinian was back on form against Milan banging in a corker in the process, but can Messi do it in a November evening in Seville? Probably, considering the state of the Betis defence, these days.
However, should little Leo fail to hit the spot against Betis, then that would make it a five match drought in La Liga for Messi, his worst run since the 07/08 campaign when the shooting blank run lasted a worrying nine games. “When you make negative suggestions about Leo, you run risks,” was the warning from Tata Martino after the Milan victory, on those that besmirched his player’s name.
Is even more bad news on the way for Betis?
Talk about bad timing. Just when under-pressure Pepe Mel needs a boost in the league, with the club in a run of three straight defeats and in the relegation zone, a near impregnable Barcelona come along to really stuff things up. Still, things could be an awful lot worse for the Betis boss as at least Pepe can actually physically complain about his lot. That’s a privilege not available to defender Damien Perquis, who was knocked out cold in a clash of heads against Malaga last week.
That injury left the unfortunate Polish stopper with a double fracture to his jaw, which will now be wired shut for the next 50 days. Poor Perquis is only going to be able to take on board food if it is blended and fits through a straw. Not ideal preparation for a professional footballer.
Grumpy LLL is not always in support of those t-shirts teammates wear in support of colleagues with in-growing toe nails, but on this occasion they are quite justified.