To be fair, the story that arose on Thursday – that a potential assistant referee for the upcoming Clásico was alleging that he'd been leaned on to give decisions in favour of Real Madrid – doesn't look that great. But that's just one perspective in a multi-faceted world. The other is that La Liga is, for once, being visionary and ahead of the times.
It has realised that most people these days are pressed for time in terms of consuming entertainment. There’s an awful lot of it about.
Films and TV shows are rated and slated first to allow busy types to make choices before committing two hours of their lives. There’s no reason football cannot be the same. Imagine if you could get spoilers on the Clásico to know if it's worth watching or not. Just sayin’.
Anyway, the one thing La Liga has been up until now is wildly unpredictable. Hopefully this weekend it will be more of the same. Here’s a few primers to look out for...
Can Celta pull off another surprise against Real?
Despite being rather spiffing for much of the season, it looked like Barcelona went for the Arsenal approach in their clash against Celta Vigo in September which ended in a 4-1 thrashing, and didn't really bother to study up on the opposition. The Galicians have since gone on to beat Sevilla and Villarreal, so Real Madrid should be forewarned and forearmed in Saturday’s meeting between two teams tied on 18 points.
Now, La Liga Loca is no tactical genius but it expects that Madrid might be a little more sturdy in defence that their Catalan cousins, who opted for plonking their last line of defence inside the opposition half, a concept Valladolid were fond of a good eight years ago.
Of course, in Vigo, the locals fancy their chances. None more so than Nolito, who was instrumental in the dismantling of Barcelona and feels that a repeat performance is possible. “If Celta are on form, then we can do a lot of damage to Madrid,” promised the striker, who also pledged his immediate future to Celta. Unless God had other plans for him, he also noted. Not sure if he was referring to Jorge Mendes there.
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Celta Vigo v Real Madrid - Saturday 16.00 CEST
Barcelona hoping for easy ride against Eibar
Barça start a run of three games that should give the walking wounded – Sergi Roberto now joins that posse – a chance to get back on the pitch; Eibar and Getafe in the league and Villanovense in the Copa del Rey shouldn't be too taxing for Neymar. (No financial sleight intended. Well, that’s not entirely true.)
In the first of those clashes, against Eibar at the Camp Nou, they face a side that is repeating the fantastic start to last season, but trying not to repeat the awful end which eventually led to the team’s relegation, to be followed by a resurrection thanks to the whole Elche business. It seems the team in a sprightly mood and looking to enjoy a fearless game in the Catalan capital. But not in the Rayo Vallecano sense, where an abandonment of any kind of tactical adaption tends to lead to a hefty thrashing.
Barcelona v Eibar - Sunday 18.15 CET
Atlético and Valencia try to ‘convince’ in Calderón
Two teams that have had folk humming in a confused manner go toe-to-toe in the Vicente Calderón. Thats despite the fact that Atlético are just two points off the top of the table and Valencia are four from the Champions League places, a competition that brought about two victories for the teams this week. The problem is that neither are achieving the holy grail in Spanish football punditry and ‘convincing’.
Valencia are probably more guilty of that and are involved in a little intrigue where Alvaro Negredo is concerned. Last week, the player discussed coach Nuno’s tactics in Marca. The striker was then dropped for Valencia’s matches against Málaga and Gent, for the good of squad rotation apparently. This clash is one of the two big tasty games of the weekend – but has the ring of a classic Atlético 2-0 win all over it.
Atletico Madrid v Valencia - Sunday 20:30 CEST
Can Las Palmas get bounceback from new boss?
The side cast adrift in the Atlantic Ocean and in the relegation zone face a bold new future after the sacking of Paco Herrera last Monday. The new man in charge is Quique Setién, a former Racing Santander and Atlético Madrid midfielder who has spent the past six years at lower league Lujo. Setién’s Primera debut is a toughie against Villarreal, a team that shook off last weekend’s defeat to Celta with a 4-0 going-over of Dinamo Minsk in the Europa League.
Las Palmas v Villarreal - Sunday 16.00 CET
Will dodgiest defences repeat under Friday night lights?
Rayo and Espanyol, both in action in the graveyard shift on Friday night, might be wanting to take a lead and follow on from Monday’s epic battle between Sporting and Granada and continue some erratic performances at the back that means both teams have conceded 17 goals.
Coach Sergio of the Pericos looks like his side may be delivering on their side of the bargain in Vallecas by promising to go out on the attack. In the same press conference, Sergio Gonzalez also pulled off a smart move when asked about the Clásico match-fixing business. “I claim the Fifth Amendment,” was the response.
Rayo Vallecano v Espanyol - Friday 20.30 CEST
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