La Preview: Espanyol’s embarrassment, Mourinho’s madness & a fan club’s lack of faith

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Espanyol (5th) v Mallorca (14th) – 18.00 (local time)
Oh dear. A Copa del Rey quarter-final knock-out over two legs by the mighty Mirandés sees Paul from Barcelona getting a special guest appearance to explain away the "shameful, shameful, the blog tells ye!" embarrassment.

“Basically I never mind when the better team wins. And this is one of those occasions. Mirandés were better over the two legs and thoroughly deserved to go through, Espanyol created nothing and got what they deserved. Giving away stupid free kicks in the last minute was ridiculous. A poor performance and boy do we need a striker. I may be in hiding for some time. –– Paul, Barcelona"
LLL Prediction – Home win

Rayo Vallecano (13th) v Athletic Bilbao (7th) – 18.00
The Copa del Rey quarter-final job was probably already done in Mallorca, with Athletic going into Wednesday’s home leg holding a 2-0 advantage. But speaking of advantageous legs, a wonderful air-shot from Mallorca keeper Juan Calatayud certainly helped the Basque side on their way to an encouraging semi next week.
LLL Prediction – Away win

Real Madrid (1st) v Zaragoza (20th) – 20.00
One would have thought the ever-cheerful, magnanimous José Mourinho would have all been with the handshake and "Great sporting spectacle, old bean" after the spiffing 2-2 draw with Barcelona on Wednesday. But apparently not according to the Madrid manager’s spokesman, Eladio Paramés, on his Twitter account.

Down in the depths of the Camp Nou parking garage, Mourinho apparently had words with referee Teixeira Vitienes, shouting at the Clásico's man in the middle that “You screw over those who are working. You don’t respect serious professionals, now’ll you smoke a cigar and go off laughing, it’s a disgrace.”
LLL Prediction – Home win

Villarreal (17th) v Barcelona (2nd) – 22.00
Whilst the Madrid media have taken the draw and Copa del Rey knockout to Barcelona as a victory (because the side wasn’t as humiliated as usual), the Catalan capital has turned once more into Gloat City, especially in reaction to José Mourinho’s reported comments to the match referee.

“When he talks more about robberies they talk less about him, the real loser of this story,” wrote Sport's Joan Batlle of Mourinho’s cunning tactics. “'Gentleman of honour',” scoffs Mundo Deportivo's JM Artells, invoking a phrase from Real Madrid’s anthem.
LLL Prediction – Away win


Betis (12th) v Granada (18th) – 12.00
For a while, Fabri’s snow-white flap-top and potty-mouthed ways were doing just fine for Granada. But then a bit of poor form, along with a public rebuke of some of his players for not training hard enough, pushed Granada president Quique Pina into dispensing with the coach who delivered back-to-back promotions and Primera football to the club. Meanie-head.

Former Atlético Madrid manager – and there are an awful lot of them kicking about – Abel Resino has taken over, and he has a plan. Oh yes. “They are better footballers than they believe,” said the one-time goalkeeper, giving some love to his players.

Beep, beep! News flash: Resino actually has two plans to stay up. The second is blind faith. “I believe there are four or five worse teams than Granada.” Unfortunately these sides weren't named, but LLL imagines one rhymes with Laragoza.
LLL Prediction – Home win

Real Sociedad (15th) v Sporting (19th) – 16.00
If your team are probably going lose and eventually get relegated, then you’d might as well make some cash out of it to ease the pain. That was certainly the view of one particular Sporting fan group, who won nearly €91,000 on Spain’s equivalent of the football pools – by correctly betting on a home win for Villarreal against their boys last Monday.
LLL Prediction – Home win

Levante (4th) v Getafe (11th) – 16.00
With Levante flagging a little at the start of the new year, it’s reinforcements ahoy in Valencia. The forgotten man of Racing Santander, Oscar Serrano, rode in to save the day and get sent off on his debut in the cup against Valencia. “Levante is a club that goes for players with my profile,” said the midfielder, more or less admitting to be cheap, desperate and limited but willing.
LLL Prediction – Home win 

Racing Santander (16th) v Valencia (3rd) – 18.00
Valencia have enjoyed Ever Banega disappearing from games, and turning up late for training still giddy from the night before, so much that the club has decided to give the Argentinian midfielder a contract extension from 2013 to 2015. And not because of a plan to sell him this summer, repeating the manoeuvre of Valencia-for-life Juan Mata. “We’ve renewed him not with the intention of selling him, but that he stays here,” claimed Valencia president Manuel Llorente, convincing no one.
LLL Prediction – Home win

Málaga (10th) v Sevilla (9th) – 21.30
It’s with a heavy sigh that LLL faces the battle of the drop-outs: midtable moneybags Málaga against sorry Sevilla. But the blog might have to scratch the ‘moneybags’ part, as it seems that Málaga may not flash with cash after all: the LFP have barred the club from signing anyone this January until €2m owed to Osasuna is paid for Nacho Monreal, bought over the summer.

Up there with “I tripped and fell into the life-boat” for excuses is Málaga’s explanation for this unfortunate event. “The consequence of complexities in approving budgets and transactions with foreign institutions,” was the official excuse from the Qatari-owned club, who also fell behind in payments with Valencia and Villarreal for Isco and Santi Cazorla.
LLL Prediction – Away win 


Osasuna (6th) v Atlético Madrid (8th) – 21.00
So, here’s the theory behind an advertising campaign to get supporters to be season tickets for the second half of Atlético Madrid’s season. Whilst LLL would have gone for “it probably won’t be as bad as the first half”, advertising bods have run with the old-school notion that a human soul weighs 21 grammes. Atlético have two million fans in la Liga goes the blurb, meaning that the Rojiblancos have two tonnes of soul behind them for the next five months. And if they re-sign Maniche, they could have two tonnes of player.
LLL Prediction – Draw