La Preview: Málaga still missing money, while Mourinho carries on moaning

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Málaga (3rd) v Rayo Vallecano (15th) - 16.00 (all kick-offs local time)

It's quite incredible to think that, despite the brilliant performance of the Málaga players in la Primera and the Champions League this season, the players are still being diddled with their money. Over the summer, a deal was struck where 70% of what was owed to the squad (around €8 million) would be paid by November 1. That would prevent the players making legal claims against the club which would cause a host of issues with UEFA and the Spanish FA. But that day has passed with the debts reportedly still outstanding. "We'll talk about the topic of payments on Friday," promised a concerned Manuel Pellegrini after the 4-3 away win in the Copa del Rey at Cacereño. The result leaves Malaga with just the single defeat in 15 competitive games, making them arguably the best-value squad in the world.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Barcelona (1st) v Celta Vigo (13th) - 18.00

It’s been a fairly peculiar week in the Catalan camp. Stories of Montoya nicking a taxi driver's wallet (denied strongly by the Barça defender), the continuing non-appearance of Gerard Piqué, an agent looking for a bit of attention with a tall story claiming that Pep Guardiola would have stayed if David Villa, Dani Alves, Gerard Piqué and Cesc Fabregas were sold over the summer, a perfunctory Copa del Rey win against Alavés and the unfortunate story of José Pinto being bonked on the head by a sandwich thrown from the crowd. If it was bread so crusty it could make your gums bleed, it could have been quite painful. However, the referee's report said that no harm was done - "medical attention was not required, he was able to carry on with the game." Phew.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Real Madrid (4th) v Real Zaragoza (9th) - 20.00

A 4-1 victory for Real Madrid against Alcoyano in the cup effectively makes the Bernabeu second leg utterly redundant - cheers at the Spanish FA no doubt. Six 'cantera' products featured in the game and there was a debut goal for the 17-year-old José Rodríguez. Surely, then, no reason for another moan from José Mourinho in his spat against the coach of the club's second team, Castilla? Of course there is. "He has potential and youth," said Mourinho, discussing central midfielder Rodriguez. "He is a possibility if he's playing because he is not playing much now," sniffed the Madrid boss in a highly uncoded message to his new arch-nemesis, Alberto Toril.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Valencia (11th) v Atlético Madrid (2nd) - 22.00

It’s up-and-down time for Valencia striker Jonas, who was substituted against Athletic Bilbao two rounds ago and subsequently fined for making rude gestures demonstrating exactly what he thought of the decision from Mauricio Pellegrino. However, Jonas was back against Llagostera and even managed to redeem himself a little by scoring. "I was wrong with the gesture and what happened," admitted the forward."These are tactics. But if I have to be on the bench then so be it, I'll show that I can play for Valencia." But should he fail to impress against an all-conquering Atlético Madrid in front of his own supporters on Saturday, Jonas will be wishing he never made the squad in the first place.
LLL Prediction - Away win


Real Sociedad (14th) v Espanyol (19th) - 12.00

Beep, beep, beep! Backtrack alert! "We know that the cup generates excitement," said a cheerful Espanyol boss Mauricio Pochettino before Thursday's 3-1 defeat to Sevilla which poured further misery on the Catalan club. Still, at least the Pericos lost to a half-decent Primera outfit. Weekend opponents Real Sociedad contrived to lose 2-0 away at second division Córdoba in perhaps the one interesting result of the night. "The responsibility for the defeat is everyone's," said manager Philippe Montanier. However, this being the Copa del Rey and two-legged, la Real get another go to make amends.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Deportivo (18th) v Mallorca (12th) - 16.00

A week ago, Rayo boss Paco Jémez complained about his team getting a hard time from referees this season. A few days later he became the seventh Primera manager to be sent off for challenging the judgement of the match officials, or perhaps just looking at one of them a bit funny. "This feels like a dictatorship," he fumed. Expect Deportivo's José Luis Oltra to be the next coach sent to the stands after commenting that "we managers feel a bit persecuted by the referees. They are paying closer attention to us, surely due to some directive from the Referees' Committee." One sign of a hand-flap and it'll be dismissal number eight for Oltra against Mallorca.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Osasuna (20th) v Real Valladolid (10th) - 17.50

Good news and bad news if you like your football northern, gritty and ever so 'real'. Osasuna lost out to Sporting in the first leg of their Copa del Rey match and failed to score once again in a 1-0 defeat, with José Luis Mendilibar complaining that his footballers lack a "hunger for goal." However, it's hip, hip hooray for the still-wonderful Sporting, who had a dreadful start to the campaign before appointing former Rayo boss, José Ramón Sandoval, who has put a spring back in the Asturian side's step.
LLL Prediction - Away win

Granada (17th) v Athletic Bilbao (16th) - 19.45

And so Athletic Bilbao's scintillating season continues with a goalless draw in the Copa del Rey against third-tier Eibar. To be honest it could have been a whole lot worse for Marcelo Bielsa's Basque strugglers. While the team may be floundering in their football, their Argentine coach continues his sparkling form in verbosity, so LLL will just let Bielsa be Bielsa in his post-match press conference. "I know it's difficult to accept, but in the dynamic of bad results the first step in any recovery is to perform with humility. It doesn't sound exaggerated to not be especially disappointed with a draw with Eibar."
LLL Prediction - Away win

Sevilla (7th) v Levante (6th) - 21.30

Levante lost to lower league Melilla, but ‘so flippin' what?!’ says LLL. Juan Ignacio Martínez's men are moving strongly in sixth place, and lie second in their Europa League group. However, with the cheapest season ticket for all three competitions just €160, wouldn’t a cup run be marvellous value for money?
LLL Prediction - Home win


Getafe (8th) v Betis (5th) - 21.30

As not an awful lot happens in Getafe's world aside from the crowd reaching four figures from time to time, talk at the Coliseum continues to centre around the team’s strike problems. "We have a lot of players that can score six goals, but none that can score 15," complained Getafe boss Luis García last weekend, before his team beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1. Lo and behold, a forward got on the scoresheet for the first time in the shape of Álvaro Vasquez.

Another striker looking for his chance is Adrían Colunga, not exactly in García's good books last season and set to stay that way after a little bit of a strop this week. Colunga has made just two starts in la Liga this season and says that anyone who his happy on the bench "doesn't deserve to play football." It’s a comment that brought about a little sob from Kaká. "I am self-critical but I think that I have performed well. I've made two assists and this counts in football."
LLL Prediction - Home win