La Preview: No praise for Piti, Osasuna on the edge and Bielsa’s latest barminess


Betis (4th) v Granada (19th) - 21.30 (all times local)
The tiny, tiny, tiny spark of hope for Granada fans during last weekend's 2-1 home loss to Athletic Bilbao, which saw the Andalusian side fall into the relegation zone, was the return of Dani Benítez. The midfielder had finished a three-month ban for lobbing a bottle at a referee at the end of a tempestuous clash with Real Madrid at the end of the last campaign and is rather happy to be back, albeit apparently with a worryingly hyperactive metabolism. “The past three months have been hard. I wouldn’t wish any footballer that kind of punishment. I understand that the Federation has to punish such severe acts but they have to understand that we are going at 300 heart beats per minute,” explained a very red-faced Benítez.
LLL Prediction - Home win


Rayo Vallecano (11th) v Celta Vigo (15th) - 16.00
Pity poor, er, Piti. Last Saturday, the Rayo player scored two goals to lead his team to a glorious victory at Málaga. But does this win him any recognition whatsoever from the readers of Marca, a group should quite like all things football? That’s a big fat zero.
In a weekly poll where the readers get to vote on the best player of the previous weekend’s football, the Rayo forward came just seventh below a raft of Real Madrid and Barcelona players topped by Ronaldo and Messi, neither of whom scored in their respective games. Indeed, out of the 16 players who received votes, only four don't play for Barça or Madrid. Roberto Soldado, who scored a stonker against Atlético Madrid, didn’t get anything at all. It’s as if nobody gives two hoots about any one aside from the Big Two. Imagine that!
LLL Prediction - Home win

Espanyol (18th) v Osasuna (16th) - 18.00
LLL has been spectacularly wrong this season when predicting that managerial heads will roll. But the Spanish tea leaves suggest José Luis Mendilibar will be the first Primera head to be chopped if Osasuna fail to get something out of Saturday’s Espanyol clash. Nevertheless, as is ever the case, the footballers are behind the boss, etc, etc, before welcoming their new alien overlords a day later. “It wouldne’t be good if the boss goes,” admits goalkeeper Andrés Fernández, “But he’s still the same as he is when things are going well, still cantankerous, shouting and working hard.”
LLL Prediction - Draw

Zaragoza (12th) v Deportivo (16th) - 20.00
Oh dear. Poor Deportivo are set to go into administration if a deal cannot be struck over the next four months with the hardball-playing tax authorities in Spain who will now be embargoing all the club’s income to pay down the debt with the ‘Hacienda’ which stands at at least €34m. If things weren’t already tough enough at club that has to rely on Riki for goals, it seems that the footballers may well be going unpaid. “The viability of the club will never, never, never be in danger. Not in any case,” promised Depor president Augusto Lendoiro, a figure who will apparently be dealing with the issues of enormous overspend of the early part of the decade for the rest of his days.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Málaga (5th) v Real Sociedad (17th) - 22.00
Bad news for mad Antoine Griezmann, but good news for Real Sociedad with the club’s gobby, party-loving, constantly-wanting-to-leave footballer banned from any kind of footballing activity with France – at youth or full international level – for quite some time. Having gone before the nation’s very busy disciplinary body this week, the wicked wide boy has been outcast until the start of 2014 after breaking curfew during his last U20 call-up for a night out at a discotheque. A few days later France lost 5-3 to Norway.
LLL Prediction - Home win


Valladolid (8th) v Valencia (9th) - 12.00
Two goals for Sophiane Feghouli against BATE led Valencia to a 4-2 home win which ended up considerably closer than it should have been, considering the Spanish side were 3-0 up at one point. Arguably the club’s best player at the moment, the midfielder is becoming the next walking price-tag set to be sold so the club can buy a few bags of cement for the construction of New Mestalla, which may or may not be completed faster than the Sagrada Familia. “I'm happy here, and I want to play for the time for the maximum time possible,” said the Algerian, eight months before a move to Chelsea or Manchester City.
LLL Prediction - Away win

Athletic Bilbao (16.00) v Sevilla (7th) - 16.00
Perhaps LLL’s favourite story of the year. Marcelo Bielsa has an expertly designed and constructed running track built around Athletic’s Lezema training centre. For about two metres, the track runs between a road and a garage for the ground staff's lawnmowers. So of course, the Athletic boss bans the pitch-pokers from using the garage, so as not to damage that section, and makes them park their machines on the verge outside. Wonderful madness.
LLL Prediction - Home win

Mallorca (13th) v Barcelona (1st) - 17.50
Mallorca's players and fans may or may not have not enjoyed Barça's midweek loss to Celtic: it either showed how to beat Barça or provoked talk of the Catalans looking to dish out a bit of a beating, licking wounds, point to prove, etc. However, in either case the omens aren't great for Mallorca, who have lost five league matches in a row and were recently whipped 5-0 in the Balearics by Real Madrid. “We are not worried because there’s still a lot of games left, but to lose five in a row is not a good sign,” admitted goalkeeper Dudú Aouate. “But apart from the Madrid game, which was really bad, we didn’t deserve to lose the other four.”
LLL Prediction - Away win

Atlético Madrid (2nd) v Getafe (10th)
And so Dani Güiza leaves both Getafe (for a second time) and Spanish shores, having contributed pretty much diddly squat to the Coliseum club in a season and a quarter spell – apart from some extra frown-lines on the forehead of manager Luis García. Thirty league appearances and three goals last season, and not a single second this year. Unsurprisingly, a figure in Spain known for being rather fond of the nightlife has gone to pastures new. To Malaysia, to be exact, to join Johor. “To be honest, I don’t know much about Malaysian football, but I’ve seen some videos of games on the internet before coming and it seems like it’s passionate football.”
LLL Prediction - Home win

Levante (7th) v Real Madrid (3rd) - 21.30
LLL really doesn’t know if the current hot topic in the Spanish capital of Mourinho and club’s cantera (youth system) provides enormous enjoyment or simply makes the blog want to bang its head on the table until it falls off and rolls into the kitchen. To bring everyone up to date, the Spanish press have been baiting Mourinho for failing to promote from within where possible. The weary response from the Madrid boss was that the Castilla players are either too old, not good enough, playing out of position or not getting enough games.
The first question to Mourinho at Monday’s press conference ahead of the Borussia Dortmund game wasn’t on the match but whether a failure to attend a ceremony earlier that day at Valdebebas was a slur to the club or because he wasn’t invited. As the Portuguese pointed out quite correctly, he would have been criticised for both going and not going.
The debate may well reopen this weekend, with Gonzalo Higuaín and Karim Benzema both out injured for the next few matches, leaving a place open for Castilla striker and first-team squad member Alvaro Morata. But funnily enough, Mourinho may well chose to field someone called Cristiano Ronaldo as a centre-forward instead.
LLL Prediction - Away win