La Preview: Barça face welcome distraction as Rafa admits helpless Ramos battle
A curious weekend in La Liga in that it resembles a fine crusty bread sandwich with healthy bits in it as bookends, then some tasty cheese, meat, lettuce and all that stuff. But then ruined with gherkins (although appealing for some).
The latter pretty much sums up Sunday’s games, compared to the fine fare offered up on Friday, Saturday and Monday. Here’s what to look out for…
Slightly moveable object meets sometimes stoppable force in Riazor
Deportivo and Atlético Madrid. Sixth against third. Two legends of the Spanish game collide like planets don’t in La Riazor, for a clash that will be like a game of footballing chess… if the pieces were stuck to the board, sealed into an unmanned capsule and then blasted towards Pluto. Be warned, fair traveller of the La Liga seas: this particular match may be “one for the purists”.
Neither side are built to attack, attack, attack and both are stingy in letting the other team settle too much on the ball – Atlético and Deportivo top the La Liga stats for the fewest amount of shots on target conceded. It’s an admirable 24 for the Rojiblancos, which is what Keylor Navas tends to face in most Real Madrid games these days.
While it's routine to see Depor slugging it out on TV’s graveyard shift on a Friday, it's unusual to see Atleti there. On this occasion, the fixture list was jigged to allow the Madrid side extra time to haul booty across the world to play Astana in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Getafe game least interesting date in Barca’s barmy calendar
While Getafe can be stubborn and occasionally rebellious bedfellows for Barcelona, the Madrid side are probably going to roll over as the home fans get busy trying to hook up with their Tinder-style app.
This leaves plenty of time to talk about everything else going on in the busy Camp Nou world, this week in under 80 words. (Deep breath). Barça failed to beat a third-tier side in the Copa but will probably do so in the Camp Nou, Javier Mascherano pleaded guilty to tax evasion, Barcelona are going to invite UEFA scorn and ire by handing out Catalan flags for the BATE match, next week the French PM said they can play in his country, and Douglas is set to be out for eight weeks but no one will notice and those that do will probably cheer. (Let’s out breath). Actually, that sounds like a song of the Holy Bible from the Manics.
Real Madrid look for ordinary day against Las Palmas
I don’t try and manage the choice of salad dressing nor stop Ramos drinking beer
If ever there was a game that was going to be spent by Real Madrid supporters munching bird seed in the Santiago Bernabéu and waiting dutifully till at least 15 minutes before the end to leave, it's the visit of Las Palmas.
The opposition under a new coach will be suitably solid and try to keep Madrid at bay with a 16-man backline, but don't have the zing of Celta to liven things up in attack. A functional 3-0 is on the cards and a lot of time spent by supporters shuffling through Facebook on their phones.
At least keeper Navas will have a quieter day, although he's currently an injury doubt – something that Rafa Benítez admits he will be quite happy with. Indeed, the Madrid boss was quite chipper in an interview on Spanish radio on Thursday night, when he said that he wasn't quite the control freak that people took him for. “I don’t try to manage the choice of salad dressing nor stop Ramos drinking beer.” Quite right. One of those would be ludicrous and the other almost impossible.
Levante promise updated approach under new boss
It normally takes about eight years before reality intrudes on a long-standing and long-tiresome gag for the blog. So, in LLL’s world, Arizmendi is the worst, Maniche is chunky, nothing exciting happens to Racing Santander, Paco Chaparro looks like a depressed Mick Jagger, and Spain choke during World Cups.
So there's no point in new Levante boss Joan Francesc Ferrer – Rubi – claiming that his new team is going to throw away the five-man defence and get all progressive, as for nearly a decade more in LLL’s mind, Levante will be dirty, dull but quite admirable in both respects.
In fact, all those attributes would come in use this weekend in Mestalla in a local city derby that the Valencia players must be absolutely thrilled by, considering how picky the fans are at the best of times – never mind when Levante stop by for tea and a headbutt.
Moyes faces next big test of security in San Sebastian
With Aston Villa looking elsewhere for their new coach – possibly because David Moyes gave that instruction to them – the Scotsman is still in charge at Real Sociedad, a side whose movement in the league from when he took over to where the Basque outfit is now is fairly minimal.
A win against a Levante side that swiftly sacked their coach afterwards has relieved a little bit of the pressure on the club, making Moyes’s decision to leave for him, but that release may not last when Celta Vigo and their brand of wild rampant football comes to town like a group of Mad Max road warriors. All week, a whole host of names have been linked with the potentially vacant La Real job, with blast-from-the-past Juande Ramos the frontrunner in some quarters.