La Preview: Barça-Atletico tops the bill as Zizou seeks further perfection
The blockbuster battle of the round is served up as the appetiser in Spain this weekend, says Tim Stannard...
La Liga certainly isn’t one partial for saving the best until last. Barcelona’s huge clash with Atlético Madrid will be over by the time the rest of the weekend has barely begun, taking place on Saturday afternoon and book-ended by Deportivo hosting Rayo Vallecano on Monday night. But in-between all that, there are some tasty morsels to chew over, including Villarreal’s continued stealthy move towards the top three and Eibar ending matchday 22 in the top five. Stranger things have happened.
Will Barça hoarders hold firm against Atlético?
One of LLL’s guilty secrets is the TV show Hoarders where various psychologists and ‘organisational experts’ enter the houses of poor souls who have not thrown a single thing away for 30 years, and still hold their s**t together. The only time the blog has seen a mental health specialist run barfing out of the door was when one subject presented a number of her beloved pet cats. The problem was that a number of them were in liquified state kept in sealed bags in a fridge that had not been plugged in for some time.
Anyway, LLL is a little concerned with all this talk that Barcelona are unable to maintain the rather expensive salaries of their various megastars - reportedly eating up 74% of income and costing €352 million a year - meaning that people dressed in hazard outfits will have to march into the boardroom and persuade the inhabitants to let go of some of the players to keep the lights on, but meeting some resistance. “Not Adriano...we still use him! PUT DOWN THE NEYMAR!!!!!!!!”
Now the blog is contractually obliged to provide a minimum of 1.35% analysis in the daily tomes, so it will note that Barcelona tend to do rather well against Atlético Madrid, and will probably do so on Saturday afternoon when the two teams meet in the Camp Nou. 3-0 probably.
Speaking of Atlético Madrid, the blog suspects that the 3-2 home defeat to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals to end the club’s interests in the competition will have had two purging benefits. The first being two less matches in an already busy schedule for a team with a solid shot at finishing second. The second is that the defence has been so tightly wound up and the forward line so tightly tied up that the five-goal session may have been the equivalent of the players running naked and drunk into the sea and splashing about a bit before getting on with the serious business of Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown.
Barcelona vs Atlético Madrid: Saturday 16.00 CET
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Can Atlético’s jewel at Eibar continue to shine?
Speaking of Atlético Madrid - ooh, this actually feels planned today - one of the reasons why Fernando Torres was left in the stands against Celta and is probably set to return to Milan after a loan spell is the performance of another loanee up in Eibar. Borja Bastón is currently on loan at the Basque club and has knocked in 14 goals in La Liga this season, the same amount as Cristiano Ronaldo once penalties are taken away from the Madrid man's tally. The 23-year-old is currently the top Spanish striker in La Primera and may be set for a return to the Vicente Calderón over the summer after five years on loan, having scored 37 goals for his current team and Zaragoza over the past year-and-a-half. Although the forward says that “it’s difficult to win a place at Atlético,” the Rojiblancos wanting to move out both Torres and the transfer bust, Jackson Martínez, means that a gap could soon be opening for a hot to trot poacher.
Eibar vs Málaga: Saturday 18.15 CET
Can Real Madrid reach ‘perfection’ again?
The collective hive mind of the Madridista media will be wiped clear on Sunday after the Espanyol result in Capital City, which will be a comfortable 5-1 win for Zizou’s men to set off another series of front pages about the team achieving pure perfection. Indeed, a record that sees Real Madrid having put 10 past the Pericos in the past two meetings and standing undefeated against Espanyol for nearly a decade means that the majority of the Bernabéu massive might choose to have a quiet night in front of the TV.
After all, the country’s top-rated show these days happens to be That’s my ham! - a competition where contestants have to use the senses of smell and touch to work out which of the series of hams in front of them has been in their house for the past three months. Heck, even Sergio Ramos did rather well.
With no Copa del Rey business and transfers, the hot topics that have kept media busy bodies active this week have been the relief that Cristiano Ronaldo was reportedly more expensive than Gareth Bale after all, and some players not playing as much as under Rafa Benítez. Yep, about as interesting as Sunday’s match.
Real Madrid vs Espanyol: Sunday 20.30 CET
Gary Neville wishing upon a star against Sporting
It was with some sense of startling that LLL caught an image of Gary Neville on the sidelines in Las Palmas during Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg in the Canaries. The former Manchester United man had a familiar look of any manager in La Liga - tired, hollowed out and haunted.
But perhaps the Englishman would have had a decent night’s sleep on Thursday - epic flight home withstanding - after a 1-0 win that puts the club into the semi-finals and looking ahead to a date with Sporting with ridiculous optimism. “I am sure the fans will be in a good mood, and there will be a great atmosphere,” said Neville with his team currently sitting in 11th and without a Primera win in 11 games.
Valencia vs Sporting: Sunday 16.00 CET
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