La Preview: Death threats, Pepe poking and Getafe’s big scare

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Espanyol (9th) v Granada (17th) - 18.00 (local time)
Good grief, Espanyol will be quivering in their Catalan boots ahead of next week’s Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg clash with lower league Mirandés. The opposition coach, Carlos Pouso, was so irked at his team throwing away a 2-0 lead against the Pericos by conceding three late goals in six minutes that a heck of promise was made ahead of the rematch.
“We are going to die whilst killing but I done’t want to be misinterpreted. There won’t be any violence, dirty play or sitting back,” yelled the Mirandés main man.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Racing Santander (15th) v Getafe (13th) - 18.00
In the same way you have that sinking feeling of horror in the stomach having realised your house keys or wallet have been lost, Getafe fans must have been fearful that Javier Arizmendi had ended his loan spell at the massively imploding Neuchatel Xamax early. After all, the Madrid club has more than enough strikers on its roster to launch easy chances over the bar in the form of Miku and Dani Güiza.
But the Coliseum collective - all 25 of them - were able to breath a sigh of relief in the end when it appeared that Arizmendi would be merely passing through Getafe before signing on to launch footballs into orbit with Mallorca.
LLL Prediction - Draw

Real Sociedad (14th) v Atlético Madrid (10th) - 20.00
When the chips are down, as they frequently are, the Spanish football press can be a touch mean-spirited. On the other hand, when there’s fresh optimistic meat around, as in the form of Diego Simeone at Atlético, the papers can be an easier ride than Sergio Ramos. Allegedly (yes, LLL has flicked through the odd gossip magazine by accident).
One of the remarkable innovations that have seen Atlético Madrid pick up four points from six, according to a purring Marca, is that the new guy in town prefers to sit on the left side of the bench as opposed to the right like evil Gregorio Manzano. Also, “Manzano forced players to have breakfast together before training,” notes the paper, while it is voluntary with Simeone. Of course, had that been the other way round then the paper would have been praising the Atlético coach to his nipples on his brilliant team-bonding ways.
LLL Prediction - Draw

Real Betis (11th) v Sevilla (7th) - 22.00
Sevilla’s suffering form has seen Marcelino blessed with the vote of confidence from his president, José María del Nido. Ahead of the derby against Betis, del Nido says that a manager only eight months into the job is quite safe despite a run of four league games without a victory. “There isn’t any result that could endanger the coach’s job.”
There was at least some good news in Sevilla's fairly bleak existence, with AS reporting that Monchi - the side’s Sporting Director - would be signing on with the club for another five years, despite stories that he would be joining the coaching set up of the Spanish FA, whose teams LLL has been told have been fairly successful of late.
LLL Prediction - Draw


Osasuna (6th) v Valencia (3rd) - 12.00
Valencia’s sluggish start to the new year which sees just one point from two in 2012 has certainly upset the fans, who booed the team off the Mestalla pitch in last weekend’s defeat at Real Sociedad. However, the Copa del Rey has given Valencia and Unai Emery a bit of a lifeline with victories in the last sixteen over Sevilla and a 4-1 win in the quarter-final first leg against Levante to keep everyone happy.
“We know that despite it being 4-1, nothing is definitive and there’s another leg,” said a dutiful Emery after Thursday, late night derby clash.
LLL Prediction - Draw 

Rayo Vallecano (12th) v Mallorca (16th)  - 16.00
Rayo boss José Ramón Sandoval is not a happy Vallecas bunny at all. Although the coach and his players have performed well above expectations by sitting comfortably in mid-table at the (nearly) halfway stage of the season, a key player at the club has been moved off against the manager’s wishes, although the footballer in question said he wanted the transfer to Belgium on the very good grounds that he’d get paid an awful lot more money.
Centre-back, Jordi Figueras, was on loan from Rubin Kazan but has been sold to Bruges with Rayo being compensated €700,000. Although cash is a vital commodity at the club these days, Sandoval fumes that football should have come first in the decision. “I gave my opinion to the administrators, the technical secretary and explained the important of the player to the team, but this wasn’t taken into account. We now face the league with two right-footed centre-backs, one who’s on four yellows.” “I want to win the next game but we have to be realistic. We are going to war with water pistols,” fumed the Rayo boss.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Málaga (8th) v Barcelona (2nd) - 18.00
It’s with a scowl and a snarl that Gerard Piqué must have been poked into the spotlight to face the press on Thursday afternoon and a barrage of questions from the Clásico the night before, a match that finished so late the central defender must barely have had time to go to bed.
While Piqué commented as diplomatically as possible under the circumstances that he wouldn’t know what he’d do if one of his teammates had the same night as Pepe, the Catalan defender did try to defuse further damage to morale to the Spanish side by praising his comrades for Euro 2012. “The national team showed examplary behaviour. There won’t be any problems” assured the political tightrope-walking Piqué.
LLL Prediction - Draw

Levante (4th) v Zaragoza (20th) - 19.45
Zaragoza’s season-saving - or so the club’s president hopes - signing frenzy has begun. Midfielder Tomas Dujmovic has been brought in from the cold from Dinamo Moscow, scary striker Carlos Aranda has left Levante to head to the other end of the league table whilst Zaragoza are maneuvering to bring another forceful presence to the team by picking up Málaga’s Apoño on loan.
It’s fighting players to match with the fighting talk from coach, Manolo Jiménez, who says that “nine out of ten people think the team will go down. I don’t.”
LLL Prediction - Home win

Real Madrid (1st) v Athletic Bilbao (5th) - 21.30
LLL suspected that the Bernabeu brains at Marca would be spinning like mad to get Real Madrid out of their sticky situation in their Clásico cup clash, but the blog was quite wrong. Instead, the paper has continued along its Godzilla-style path of destruction in attacking José Mourinho. Friday’s edition lists the seven sins of the Madrid manager during the game, criticises the manager’s transfers from the summer and prints a page of letters from fans attacking the Portuguese boss.
The paper doesn’t even approve of Pepe defending himself by claiming the Messi hand stamp was an accident on the club’s TV channel. “Pepe is falsifying reality and has turned Real Madrid into an accomplice that shames the club’s supporters,” fumes the editorial.
LLL Prediction - Home win


Villarreal (19th) v Sporting (18th)
Now, LLL is no expert when it comes to motivating footballers. In fact it’s not really an expert at anything. But the blog reckons that when the chips are down at club, the last thing José Player wants is some besuited blowhard insulting him in the press. Villarreal already dour situation has perhaps been worsened with the club’s VP, José Manuel Llaneza blustering that “if anyone doesn’t like the way things work now, they can go whoever they are. The good life and cushions are over.”
Not content with this diatribe, Llaneza then claimed that Monday’s home match against Sporting was the most important in his 17 years at Villarreal, suggesting that the director must have been completely smashed during a certain Champions League semi-final with Arsenal.
LLL Prediction - Home win