The Great Weekend Predictions return! Round One
SaturdayEspanyol vs ValladolidWhere better to kick off a sparkly new season that at the most beautiful, scenic stadium in the whole of southern Europe, if not the planet - the Montjuic. Unfortunately, the bleak, concrete carbuncle nature of the stray-cat infested Espanyol home has been well and truly absorbed into the DNA of the club. Perico boss, Tintin "sacked in September" Marquez is charging into the opening round of matches white with fear that his squad is going to be three players short by the time Saturday rolls around. The footballers who may be fleeing Barcelona are Luis Garcia, Pablo Zabaleta (almost gone) and Albert Riera.Zabaleta, for one, is keen as mustard over a possible move to Juventus. "If they call then I will run to them!" gasped the Argentine defender. The problem is that he is set to sign for the very non-Italian, Manchester City. "Any news at the moment, is bad news" admitted a morose Marquez. LLL Prediction - Draw.Valencia vs MallorcaUntil last Sunday, the men from Mestalla had been suspiciously quiet. No presidents had been hired or fired. No players had claimed asylum in Andorra and no potentially squad-shattering disasters had taken place on the pitch.But all that went down the Swanny last weekend, when Valencia rolled over like kittens and allowed nine men Real Madrid to score three goals past them in the Super Cup. "When we lose, we lose together and you cannot blame someone," confessed RaÃÂºl Albiol after the game, clearly pointing a finger at Timo Hildebrand.On Monday, the club's former sporting director and then technical secretary, Juan Sanchez - a man who had only been in the post since May - decided to quit, with a fall out with the Sporting VP being widely blamed as the root cause. "When you work you have to be 100% convinced but a lot has changed since I came in," admitted Sanchez as he walked the well-trodden path out of the Mestalla gate. LLL Prediction - Home win. SundayAthletic Bilbao vs AlmerÃÂaCurrently doing the rounds on Spanish television is an advert promoting the start of the new league season. And in this special TV spot, many Primera managers are filmed pretending to give it the big old "Vamos!" to their nonplussed players. Some are clearly more comfortable in front of the camera than others. Bernd Schuster looks even odder than normal whereas Athletic's JoaquÃÂn CaparrÃÂ³s really gives it his Andalusian all. CaparrÃÂ³s had to test his acting prowess again this week, when probed thoroughly about the decision to flog the rather handy Aritz Aduriz to Mallorca. "At the moment it looks like a step back but it's a step forward," claimed the Bilbao boss quite unconvincingly. "If we don't want Liverpool or Tottenham to come and take our players of potential, we need to retain them on suitable contracts," reasoned CaparrÃÂ³s who said that the six million euros paid by Mallorca for his striker would be reinvested. Less diplomatic about the transfer was Athletic president, Fernando GarcÃÂa Macua. "With the maximum respect towards Aduriz, who is a good player, he is not indispensable." The fans would disagree and during the week an SMS campaign was launched urging protests against the board. "The president is laughing at us. They must hear us," was the spooky message.LLL Prediction - Home win. AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid vs Malaga Of course it had to be Liverpool. In a match that already has the rojiblanco noses twitching in anticipation - it's either that or the spill-over from the local land works - Fernando Torres is coming home. Unless Rafa Benitez decides that an untimely rotation is called for. Despite Kun AgÃÂ¼eroÃ¢ÂÂs admirable but doomed attempts to suggest otherwise - "it's AtlÃÂ©tico vs Liverpool," whispered the mini-Maradona hopefully - it's all about El NiÃÂ±o. The other news from AtlÃÂ©tico's wacky world is the arrival of Ever Banega on his clause-ridden one-year deal. And his first appearance in the city? Turning up in the early hours of the morning at a restaurant where some of the team happened to be celebrating their sensational Champions League win over Schalke. LLL Prediction - Home win.Betis vs RecreativoWhilst Darth de Lopera is due to have his hernia given a good seeing to - people will do anything to get out of watching Betis - his team take to the field in a game they need to win to avoid all manner of chaos breaking out. Yes, it's that bad already.Summer in Betico-land mainly consisted of de Lopera upsetting Edu by refusing to renew his contract and, manager, Paco Chaparro upsetting Beijing-busy Rafael Sobis by suggesting that the striker wanted a move away from the club. As if anyone would. And it was a slur and a slight on Sobis' good name, claims the Brazilian striker. "I don't have to speak to anyone, I only have to get dressed and train," grumbled Rafael hinting that he is unlikely to add 'stop poncing about score goals' to his list of club duties. LLL Prediction - Home win. Sporting vs GetafeThis week's News from Sweden from thelocal.se concerns an incident that can happen to anyone. Especially if you are Guti. "A 78-year-old woman who was planning to fly to Germany from StockholmÃ¢ÂÂs Arlanda airport found herself taking an unexpected trip on Tuesday.The woman misheard instructions from airport personnel, who directed her to an unmanned baggage conveyor belt after she had checked in.Rather than placing her bags on the conveyor belt, she instead hopped on the belt herself, at which point she was whisked away to the baggage handling area."LLL Prediction - Home win. Racing vs SevillaMarcelino's sudden rush of blood to the head decision to join second division Zaragoza means that it is hard to tell what the future has in store for Racing Santander. New number one and old number two, Juan RamÃÂ³n LÃÂ³pez MuÃÂ±iz is a bit of an unknown quantity whilst the transfer activity has been less than busy. But that's not unsurprising for a club that went 20 million euros over budget last season, according to Marca. LLL Prediction - Away win. Numancia vs BarcelonaThe Catalan press have barely acknowledged the fact that the league season starts on Sunday against Numancia. Instead it's their easy peasy pudding and pie Champions League group that has grabbed their attention."Easy! Easy!" screams Mundo Deportivo's headline on a draw that puts Pep's puppies in with Sporting Lisbon, Basle and Shakhtar Donetsk. "The group is so easy that BarÃÂ§a are obliged to get all 18 points," writes Lluis Mascaro - a man whose photo suggests that he almost certainly runs a mobile disco on his free weekends. Numancia await the Catalan club on Sunday, and it is the first leg in the start of a season that sees the club facing BarÃÂ§a, Real Madrid and Villarreal in their first three matches. But that doesn't put off club stalwart Txomin Nagare. "We have the smallest budget so we have to use other weapons," says the axe-wielding old timer. LLL Prediction - Away win. Osasuna vs VillarrealIf Marca's Roberto GÃÂ³mez is to believed - which he isn't - Villarreal president, Fernando Roig has the hump with his Real Madrid opposite simply because he has always had it in for both him and the club. Fernando Roig would say that he has the hump with his opposite number because of his attempts to nick Santi Cazorla when he was promised that no move would be made for the midfielder."Cazorla did not offer himself and CalderÃÂ³n has not been telling the truth," stormed the Yellow Submarine big wig. Away from the boardroom battles and Villarreal are in a spot of bother injury-wise with Pires, Nihat, Rossi and possibly Ibagaza all out of action this weekend. And the numbers of walking wounded will no doubt increase further after being kicked around the pitch by Osasuna for 90 minutes.LLL Prediction - DrawDeportivo vs Real MadridIf Miguel Angel Lotina's smile-enhancing facial muscles had not moved to a retirement complex in Marbella back in the Nineties, the Deportivo manager would have had a grin the size of Maniche's neck on Thursday night.That's because his gallant Galician side battled through to the proper round of the UEFA Cup where instant relegation is guaranteed due to the 'wafer thin' nature of his squad. But they face another challenge on Sunday night, with the visit of Real Madrid who still cannot get off the front pages of the Spanish press. And that's mainly because their president agreed to give an interview to nine - yes, nine - Marca journalists. Highlights of day one of the piece are CalderÃÂ³n's claims that Milan said Kaka was available for 100 million euros, the club deliberately did not invoke Cazorla's sell-on clause so as not to upset Villarreal, the team are united more than ever before (i.e. Raul is happy), the club's relationship with Manchester United is magnificent and only God knows if Cristiano Ronaldo is coming.LLL Prediction - Away win.