Match Previews

La Preview: Athletic await new home, Tata gets a ticking off

FourFourTwo's Spanish expert, Tim Stannard, looks ahead to another weekend of La Liga action.

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Atletico Madrid (2nd) vs Almería (14th) - 16.00 CET
Clearly the decision not to award Madrid the 2020 Olympics went down badly in the Spanish capital. This was especially the case at the Vicente Calderon, where Atletico's plans for their proposed new home took a hit. Now there's a worry that their still-very-much-under-construction ground will be late, with downgraded infrastructure and transport access. 
Despite the setback, the club’s director general, Miguel Angel Gil Marin, insists the plans are still on track. "The construction is planned for the same date, during the 2015/16 campaign," declared the club big wig, who allowed the press into the current construction site to watch some diggers mill about. 
LLL Prediction - Home win 

Some players took the news worse than others...

Levante (10th) vs Real Sociedad (8th) - 18.00 CET

Levante boss Joaquin Caparros was out and about meeting the masses in a Q&A session with supporters this week. And one of the most effusive people on the planet didn't disappoint while talking about the Valencia club's future. "It’s an amazing human group and we will give everything," promised the former Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla manager. "We’ll fight until the last drop of sweat for a fantastic season." 
As questions on life at Levante are limited to about two, the cost of Gareth Bale popped up into the discussion. "It’s all about supply and demand," Caparros noted. "Anyone who has the money can do what they want. If the Madrid members accept it, then it’s their problem. What I do hope is that the money didn’t come from a bank, now that we are broke and they won’t give us anything."
LLL Prediction - Draw 
Barcelona (1st) vs Sevilla (15th) - 20.00 CET
Tata Martino has learned very quickly that it's best to avoid saying anything to anyone, ever in La Liga. The Barca boss had commented that the Bale fee was rather excessive, an observation that earned a short rebuke from Carlo Ancelotti. Speaking during the week, the Barcelona president, Sandro Rosell, joshed to local television station TV3 that "we had to tell Tata that you can’t just say what you think here." 
The Nou Camp commander also spoke about the club's tendency to find themselves at the centre of some kind of kerfuffle or another. "This is Barca, and the way we do things," he said. "We make life difficult for ourselves here."
Unsurprisingly, Rosell also ruled out a bid for Iker Casillas to replace the departing Victor Valdes. "I would never consider it, not in any case. They are icons. I can’t see it, I can’t see Casillas with the badge of Barca." 
LLL Prediction - Home win 

Tata: Told to keep his mouth shut

Villarreal (3rd) vs Real Madrid (4th) - 22.00 CET

The return of Villarreal has given boss Marcelino another chance at reviving another snoozing giant, after being one of the many managers to fail at turning Sevilla’s slump around. Having only made it a little way through the 2011/12 season at the Sánchez Pizjuán before being fired, Marcelino now knows where he went wrong down south. "The footballers had the correct attitude," the current Madrigal boss told Marca. "I should not have been so ‘light’ as I was. I made mistakes and I blame myself. I should have made other decisions." 
Everything is going very well at his new club though, with Villarreal having won three from three. Now they face a Real Madrid side whose three playmakers from a couple of weeks ago (Isco, Mesut Ozil and Kaka) have disappeared for this game. Isco is nursing an injury, while the latter pair have left for Arsenal and AC Milan respectively. 
LLL Prediction - Draw 


Granada (9th) vs Espanyol (6th) - 12.00 CET
Poor Carlos Aranda is struggling to find the perfect home. The forward left Zaragoza last January - walked out, some would argue - to join his eighth Primera club, Granada. Unfortunately he's has had to move again, joining up with second division club Las Palmas, admitting the move to Andalusia "was the wrong decision". 
"Although I wasn’t playing (at Zaragoza), I was happy because of the dressing room and the atmosphere," he sobbed. Things weren’t so jolly in Granada though, with Aranda admitting that "pre-season was a bit weird as I wanted to leave." Hopefully everything works out a little better at club number 87 (well, 12) for the fierce forward. 
LLL Prediction - Home win 

A happier time for Aranda at Osasuna

Getafe (19th) vs Osasuna (20th) - 17.00 CET

Osasuna's status quo usually sees the team doff their caps to the previous manager, blaming themselves for his firing before praising their new boss. Jose Luis Mendilibar was sacked after the Pamplona club lost its first three league games and Javi Gracia, the former Almería manager who took the southern side back into La Primera, has taken over. 
Unfortunately, though, the whole process has taken its toll on Osasuna veteran Patxi Punal. "It was the most emotional I’ve been in a dressing room. It was almost a sea of tears," recalled the midfielder on Mendilibar's farewell.
Punal also sent out a warning shot to club president, Miguel Archanco, who ranted about his "shame" at the club’s last outing against Villarreal. "It wasn’t a fortunate phrase," Punal noted with eyebrows very arched indeed. 
LLL Prediction - Draw 
Malaga (18th) vs Rayo Vallecano (13th)  - 19.00 CET
After a torrid start to the season which saw Malaga face Valencia, Barcelona and Sevilla and pick up just one point in the process - still one more than Bernd Schuster predicted - it's time for the southern side to buck up their ideas against wildly unpredictable Rayo. "It is fundamental that we pick up our first win on Sunday," intoned German Schuster, who also discussed why he took a job in a region with an awful lot of golf courses. "I did not come for the sun, but to compete," claimed Bernado. "I hope I’m here for the five years I signed for." 
LLL Prediction - Home win 

"What's the green on the 17th like at this time of year?"

Betis (17th) vs Valencia (12th) - 21.00 CET

Valencia are looking for any sign that a crucial victory will be theirs on Sunday in Seville. That omen might be the remarkable fact that midfielder Javi Fuego has won all eight league games played against Betis for his previous three teams Levante, Recreativo and Rayo Vallecano. "The thing is, I remember that I lost twice in La Segunda in two games at Betis," recalled Fuego, ruining the day of the Marca journalist who presented him with this fact. 
A tricky start to the season has seen Valencia pick up just three points from a possible nine, but at least things are returning to normal at the Mestalla - unpredictable midfielder Ever Banega returned late to training from the international break. As you were, then… 
LLL Prediction - Draw 


Elche (16th) vs Valladolid (11th) - 20.00 CET
Nope. LLL has got nothing on this one. 
LLL Prediction - Home win 
Athletic Bilbao (5th) vs Celta Vigo (7th) - 22.00 CET 
And so Athletic kick off a brave new world in their brand new San Mames stadium. Naturally, according to the TV companies that set the schedule, the correct moment for this historical event in the world of La Liga is Monday night at 10pm - the true golden hour of football. "It's not the best time to get fans to the game," grumbled Athletic’s Ibai Gómez. 
While the Basque side have been readying their new ground with some last-minute dusting, Celta welcomed back Iago Aspas as the Liverpool forward took advantage of the international break to catch up on the gossip and chat about life in the Premier League. "I would recommend any player to try this competition," he said. "The Spanish league is a bit more technical while the Premier League is a lot more physical."
LLL Prediction - Home win