La Preview: Madrid set for an early start as Reyes pays for Manzano moan

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Mallorca (14th) v Sevilla (5th) - 18.00 local time
Saturday sees former Betis boss and fan Lorenzo Serra Ferrer and a frantic former Sevilla manager Joaquín Caparrós teaming up to try and lead Mallorca to victory over the Andalusian visitors to the Balearics. “Football makes stranger bedfellows than politics,” joked Mallorca manager Caparrós. “In football, everything is possible, in politics it’s more difficult. We have seen managers and players who were with Sevilla being with Betis and vice versa.”
LLL Prediction - Away win

Betis (12th) v Málaga (6th) - 20.00
For a club that would have given its right leg to be in la Primera during two long years in la Segunda, the current crisis of six straight defeats is one Betis would have settled for this time last season.
It is this perspective that is perhaps behind what has been a measured response from the team’s current president, Miguel Guillén, who has called for everyone to take a chill pill considering the club is still in mid-table after what had been a bright start to the year. “The manager and squad all have our backing. Because today may be white it can’t be black three days later,” mused Guillén.
Manager Pepe Mel has been just confident ahead of this Andalusian derby on Saturday. “If I see I’m not capable of taking us forward, of course I would go, but it isn’t the case. In fact, it’s the opposite. I feel a tremendous faith in the work we are doing and the steadiness we have.”
LLL Prediction - Away win

Levante (3rd) v Valencia (4th) - 22.00
And so it’s the test of tests to see if Levante can pick themselves up after a defeat to Osasuna in Pamplona - many clubs have been there - with a rousing Saturday night, big TV clash against Valencia in a city derby.
Man-of-the-hour, month and year, Sergio Ballesteros, certainly doesn’t seem to be so confident ahead of the visit of the men from Mestalla. “We canb’t host rivals being called favourites, not least sides who are playing in the Champions League. It’s ridiculous,” claimed the Levante defender.
Over in the opposition corner and Valencia striker Jonas will have to console himself with the knowledge that he isn’t the fastest goalscorer in Champions League history with his strike in 10.92 seconds against Bayer Leverkusen. That honour still goes to Roy Makaay’s ever amusing goal for Bayern Munich against Real Madrid which clocked in at 10.12 seconds.
LLL Prediction - Away win


Real Madrid (1st) v Osasuna (8th) - 12.00
This midday kick-off aimed to catch early birds in the UK and late night nappers in the Far East, sees LLL starting off a day during which the blog will be attending a marathon of matches in Madrid. Once the 3-1 win for Real Madrid is over and the blog nosily finds out what Alvaro Arbeloa will be doing with the rest of his day, it’s off to watch Rayo take on Real Sociedad at six and then Getafe against Atlético Madrid at ten. And that’s where LLL will probably get stuck. But follow the fun throughout the day on the LLL Twitter feed. Or not, if you have something better to do.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Granada (19th) v Racing Santander (18th) - 16.00
Seeing as Racing are no good these days and the players are probably still owed money from umpteen years ago, there is a least one smiley, young scamp in a dressing room that contains more long faces than a Ruud Van Nistelrooy look-a-like convention.
That talented urchin is 18-year-old Jairo, who has been most impressive in his cameos this season. Indeed, if the youngster makes another 45 minute appearance on Sunday then Jairo will trigger a clause that gives him a nice, professional contract. Not that this guarantees getting any money, as his new team-mates will no doubt tell him.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Zaragoza (15th) v Sporting (17th) - 18.00
This week, Helder Postiga confirmed what LLL has long suspected - you don’t mess with Zaragoza’s Mexican manager, Javier Aguirre. “He’s a very direct coach in the way he speaks to players. He’s the most direct manager I’ve had in my career,” revealed the club’s Portuguese striker.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Rayo Vallecano (11th) v Real Sociedad (16th) - 18.00
José Ramón Sandoval is set to miss this clash against Real Sociedad and the next for what sounds like a wonderfully vitriolic attack on the entire officiating team at last weekend’s Villarreal game. Sandoval has been suspended for two games for apparently “making protests at the main referee, the assistants and the fourth official,” claimed the official report. Sandoval himself maintains that “my actual words were ‘I think this is a yellow card’ and the fourth official sent me off.” Let's just say LLL is scratching its chin Jimmy Hill style...
LLL Prediction - Home win

Espanyol (7th) v Villarreal (13th) - 18.00
Pericos would have been particularly peeved all week after a point was snatched from Espanyol’s grasp after a penalty was awarded against Ndri Romaric when a ball struck the midfielder in the face, with the referee thinking that the ball hit the player on the arm. It was a spot-kick that ultimately gave Málaga a 2-1 win.
The midweek appeals committee has since cancelled the yellow card subsequently given to Romaric but that hasn’t made a moody Mauricio Pochettino any happier. “If they called this penalty against Barcelona or Madrid, it would have gone to the Supreme Court,” fumed the Espanyol manager.
LLL Prediction - Home win 

Athletic Bilbao (9th) v Barcelona (2nd) - 20.00
The papers in Spain were all about stats this week. Víctor Valdés beat Miguel Reina’s clean sheet record of 824 minutes against Plzen. Leo Messi beat the 200 goals mark in official matches for Barcelona with his hat-trick in the same game. And Pep Guardiola managed his Dream Boys in a competitive match for the 200th time.
In that spell, the Barça boss has overseen 144 wins, 39 draws, and 17 defeats (and, subsequently, 17 crises) with 500 goals scored and 143 conceded. And in a stats clash cross over, the club’s Argentinean striker has scored 160 of that 500. Which is about a half, or maybe a third. Who knows. Someone else work it out.
LLL Prediction - Draw

Getafe (20th) v Atlético Madrid (10th) - 22.00
José Antonio Reyes seems to have a ‘loves me, loves me not’ relationship with his club managers at Atlético Madrid. With Javier Aguirre the waters were very frothy indeed with the combined potty-mouthed feistiness of both characters leading to difficult times. The former Arsenal and Real Madrid winger got on just fine Quique Sánchez Flores, but has fallen out badly with Gregorio Manzano, with Reyes telling his coach to stick his substitution where the sun rarely shines during the clash with Athletic Bilbao last week.
Reyes was subsequently dropped from the squad that faced Zaragoza and was missing against Udinese on Thursday, apparently due to the flu. “There is no Reyes case, as there is no case with any player who has not played in the past games,” claimed Manzano when quizzed over a possible fall-out.
LLL Prediction - Draw