La Preview: Betis apologise for being leaders as Atletico forget Aguero

Saturday

Sevilla (5th) v Valencia (2nd) - 18.00 (local time)
Having been ditched by most of the clubs that were supposedly supporting his campaign against financial inequality in la Liga, Sevilla president José María del Nido has since had to put up with the supposedly infallible Real Madrid and Barcelona dropping points willy nilly in recent weeks.
The Sevilla head honcho was probed on this development by a journalist who asked whether Del Nido still felt la Liga was made up of two big clubs, 17 also rans and Sporting. “I ask you to put that question to me in May,” said the Andalusian big cheese knowingly.
Del Nido also confirmed happily that he was “tremendously satisfied” with Marcelino the manager whose Sevilla side are unbeaten with eight points from 12. “We haven’t played the best football in every match but we’ve had good moments at Villarreal, against Málaga and in Pamplona and what we have to do is look for stability so that these good moments last for 90 minutes instead of 15.”
LLL Prediction - Draw

Athletic Bilbao (18th) v Villarreal (13th) - 18.00
Wednesday’s defeat at Málaga makes this Athletic’s worse start to a la Liga season in 32 years. Not exactly a good way for Marcelo Biesla and his fancy passing ways to introduce himself to suspicious Basque supporters.
Athletic have just the single point and are jammed into the relegation zone when a repeat of a top six performance was expected from the team. Still, it could have been worse claimed the Argentinean boss after his team’s Málaga loss when putting it into context with the previous trouser-pulling, bottom-exposing defeat by Betis. “We got back our feeling after that game. Security and organisation. We were able to attack too. Now we’ve got to put the two things together.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Real Madrid (7th) v Rayo Vallecano (11th) - 20.00
The hills are alive with the sound of Primera pundits in Spain sifting through tea leaves - not that this would be a particularly noisy activity - trying to find reasons for Florentino Pérez’s decision to go down to the dressing rooms to speak to the players and manager after Madrid’s goalless draw with Racing.
One opinion-sharer on radio station Cadena Ser scoffed that it was the kind of nonsense that “a small club” gets up to whilst the editor of AS opined that the gesture from the Madrid president was “significant”. “The super manager needs support,” wrote Alfredo Relaño on Thursday. An alternative theory was that the Madrid main man had gone into the bowels of el Sardinero to warn the players that Mourinho wouldn’t be going anywhere no matter what happens this season - as some are rumoured to be hoping for this eventuality - and it was time they realised this.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Barcelona (4th) v Atlético Madrid (8th) - 22.00
It’s very much a case of ‘Kun who?’ around the Vicente Calderón these days, with supporters struggling to recall the departed striker - and not just because of the vast amounts of booze and naughty ciggies consumed before, during and after each Atlético Madrid game.
Falcao is very much the man of the moment in the Rojiblanco ranks, and with good reason after the Colombian forward scored against Celtic in the Europa League, bagged three against Racing last weekend and nabbed a couple more on Wednesday in the 4-0 win against Sporting. Indeed, it could have been even better for Falcao, with the striker having a penalty turned down and a perfectly good goal disallowed too.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Sunday

Mallorca (15th) v Real Sociedad (9th) - 12.00
It’s make or break time for Michael Laudrup apparently.  Tuesday’s defeat to Villarreal sees the Great Dane’s grip on power weakening with the board wavering on whether to stick with Laudrup or move onto fresh managerial meat. That wavering could well turn into square-jawed certainty if Mallorca fail to beat visiting Real Sociedad at high noon.
“There’s no other solution that winning on Sunday,” admitted Laudrup after the Villarreal defeat, the side’s third in a row, with the Mallorca boss saying that being fired was “a part of football.”
LLL Prediction - Home win

Levante (6th) v Espanyol (10th) - 16.00
There’s no doubt at all who la Liga’s team and player of the week has been. It’s Levante and their cuddly captain Sergio Ballesteros after two victories for the club and a goal for the defender in Wednesday’s 2-1 win against Rayo Vallecano in the Spanish capital.
But despite the side’s Champions League-chasing form Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martínez was all with the sensible after Wednesday’s victory. “We are in la Primera but we have to keep our feet on the ground, because there’s a long way to go, and we are taking it one game at a time,” poo-pooed the manager of the moment.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Granada (16th) v Osasuna (12th) - 18.00
Little by little, Granada are getting used to the heady way of life in la Primera - well, the Andalusian side haven’t lost all four games anyway - just three of them. The problem is scoring goals with Granada managing just one, the winning effort from Ikechukwu Uche against Villarreal.
LLL Prediction - Draw

Sporting (20th) v Racing (17th) - 20.00
LLL is desperately hoping for a win for Sporting on Sunday as the longer that Manuel Preciado is at the club the more time he can come out with comments like the one on Thursday after the Atlético Madrid defeat, the fourth from four this season - “I consider myself the person most responsible for this sh*t that we have seen.”
LLL Prediction - Home win

Zaragoza (14th) v Málaga (3rd) - 22.00
There were some signs of life from Zaragoza in the 4-3 defeat to Betis on Thursday. Javier Aguirre’s men were 4-1 down at one point before Juan Carlos dragged the team back into contention. “The least you can ask is for the team to give everything on the pitch and that’s what they did,” said the Zaragoza manager approvingly.  
LLL Prediction - Away

Monday

Getafe (19th) v Betis (1st) - 21.00
Getafe on a Monday night in a game being broadcast on TV. You won’t only be able to hear the sound of pins being dropped in the Coliseum but the deafening rustle of them being removed from their velvet lined boxes. Not even the visit of the league leaders (on Friday morning anyway) will drag people out despite Betis being a thrilling sight to behold these days, especially after a 4-3 win over Zaragoza that put the side at the top of the table for the first time since 7 October 2001.
“It seems like we have to apologise for being leaders,” joked Betis manager, Pepe Mel.
LLL Prediction - Away win

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