La Preview: Big Two set for cricket scores as Betis look for Mestalla mayhem
Ten and one. That’s the amount of goals La Liga Loca suspects Barcelona and Real Madrid will rack up against Levante and Granada, and the strikes (or strike, more accurately) in response. This weekend for the big boys is not the most thrilling one on the cards. Instead, the matches of the weekend are Valencia – on a downer from the Champions League defeat – against Betis, on an upper for being back in La Primera and for having Joaquín kicking about the place. LLL wouldn't be completely surprised by an away win there.
The other clash is between two teams in Europa League action on Thursday, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao, and who probably take the competition far too seriously for their own good. Here’s five other posers...
Can Barcelona lift Rafinha ahead of lost campaign?
All injuries are unfortunate and untimely but the ACL tear for Rafinha that sees the Brazilian missing the rest of the season is particularly tough. The footballer was becoming a key part of the Barcelona team, taking advantage of the breathing space left by Pedro and Xavi Hernández. Indeed, Rafinha was also making waves for his country, having been called up by Brazil and scoring agains the USA in a recent friendly.
Of course, this is a huge setback but at least he will have the support of his brother, Thiago, who also suffered for over a year from knee ligament issues. Of secondary important is what this means to a Barcelona squad that is already thin due to the transfer ban and departures of those aforementioned players. Andrés Iniesta is certainly capable of putting in a shift in the front three, along with youngster Munir. However, the lack of bodies in midfield now could be costly until Arda Turan can play or the club chooses to sign again. None of this is likely to be an issue against Levante at the Camp Nou, in truth.
Can Ronaldo take advantage of absent friends?
Just when LLL thought it was impossible for life to get better for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese pouting poacher was already enjoying the wiggle room being left by the injured James Rodriguez – room that afforded space for eight goals in two games – when even more good news came his way. Gareth Bale, another footballer with hunk appeal, knackered his calf and could be out for a good few weeks, although no fixed time has been given for the Welshman’s absence. These two huge holes that Ronaldo will gladly fill will come against Granada, a team that Madrid beat 9-1 last season in the Santiago Bernabéu.
Is Simeone softening at the Vicente Calderón?
And LLL always thought that it was alone in finding Diego Simeone a bit of a charmer at press conferences. As well as terrifying. But apparently, a study into all the La Liga managers reported that Atlético Madrid’s Argentine coach was by far the best communicator of the bunch. As honest and open as Unai Emery but without going on so long, perhaps.
Indeed, Simeone is softening up on the pitch too according to Antoine Griezmann, who says that he has been given permission to break away from a normally rigid, rigorous Rojiblancos structure and go rogue from time to time. “Simeone has told me to do whatever I want to create danger,” said the Frenchman, who had a box of fireworks confiscated having dragged them onto the pitch ahead of Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Galatasaray.
Griezmann nets one of his two goals against Galatasaray
Will Carlos Vela still be a happy bunny after Saturday?
LLL imagines that David Moyes isn't the understanding type. So it's doubtful that the Scottish coach of Real Sociedad was too impressed with the non-scoring Carlos Vela expressing a distinct lack of interest in staying with the club past the January window. Indeed, the Mexican said that he was on the brink of joining MLS and would have been “close to home”, making LLL think that Giovani dos Santos is the sloppy seconds for LA Galaxy when it comes to big-name Mexican mercenaries. “I’m happy here until January,” announced Vela. That may not be the case if the forward doesn’t produce the goods on Saturday against Espanyol, with La Real still without a win and without a goal in three games this season.
Can Getafe get support(er) on board for Málaga match?
LLL feels cheated. Getafe promised a drama-free, non-relegation-battle season for their fan(s). But that’s not what is being served up. Oh no. Getafe are currently at the bottom of the table with three games gone and without a single point. But the club is now ready to fight back with the ultimate weapon of any small-fry team – the hastily made inspirational video to get the supporter(s) on board.
“It’s not how you start, but how you finish,” is the message from manager Fran Escribá, posing manfully in an empty stadium. Well, it might have been during a Getafe game to be fair, as the stands in the background look pretty much the same in both scenarios. “In the past you have helped us overcome adversity,” was the reminder from a constipated-looking Pedro León. The big game that is being built up with such gusto is the Friday night visit of Málaga, a team that has yet to score but is still not in the relegation zone somehow.
Incidentally, LLL’s push for followers for Getafe’s new Twitter site was a spectacular success, with the total jumping from 7,003 last week to up to 7,535 now. Good work.