The mercifully rare midweek preview - Round 36

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Betis (12th) v Valladolid (14th)

Today's the day when the Beticos roll up their sleeves, scrunch up their eyes and endure a 90-minute long Chinese burn from the bully boys of the Spanish footballing authorities.

Today's the day when they finally get around to playing their home away from home game in La Cartuja. Not such a bad deal considering the stadium is not that far away, has been painted in the last century and that Betis were able to choose when and how they wanted to take their punishment.

But all this wasn't enough to stop the pint-sized Paco Chaparro moaning about the whole shebang. "It's possible that playing at La Cartuja could favour (Valladolid). I'm sure that 30,000 will be there," complained the man who definitely can't get no satisfaction.


Getafe (13th) v Almería (8th)

The fans will be absent in their droves, as they have been all season. Big Bernd Schuster has paid a visit. And everyone at Getafe has been handed their scripts ahead of an encounter which could see the home side safe as houses should they win. Or in deep, deep doggy do.

"We're not afraid, but we are concerned," confessed Pato on Monday. And it's a emotion shared by Michael Laudrup who told the press on Tuesday that "there is no fear. But everyone is a bit concerned."

Fear is definitely not being felt in the Almería camp, a side who still have a midge's microwave of a chance (Humphrey Lyttelton RIP) of qualifying for Europe. "If we get into the UEFA Cup then there'll be a party. If not, we will have one anyway," promised Beastie Boy boss Unai Emery.

Home win.

Recreativo (17th) v Villarreal (2nd)

A lesson to all the cowardly-custard clubs who refuse to let their loan players play against them - yes, you Real Madrid. Take a long hard look at Villarreal for how a big club should behave.

The Yellow Submarine is the elder brother to Wednesday's opponents and frequently move their players to Andalusia to let them have a bit of a knock about away from Madrigal for a season.

This year, Barbosa, Caceres and Marco Rubén are all holed up in Huelva. And all will be allowed to take on their owning club, despite the fact that it could cost them an automatic Champions League place if the wind blows in the wrong direction.


Deportivo (9th) v Levante (20th)

Did anyone else out there suspect that the recent promises to pay the Levante squad were a lot of old hokum? Then give yourselves a big pat on the back.

The eight million euro credit line which was offered by a financial institution to the impoverished players - an action which averted a strike against Recre - has been withdrawn, leaving the Levante squad back at square one and not very happy, according to AS.

"There are a lot of non-sporting concerns and players out of action," sighed manager José Angel, looking ahead to a match against a team with the joys of the Intertoto cup in their sights.

Home win.

Valencia (15th) v Zaragoza (16th)

Comparing the 'classico' to this enormous encounter is like comparing El Canto del Loco to the Rolling Stones. Mestalla is where the real midweek action is at. Yes siree Bob.

The big talking point in the Valencia camp is whether David Albeda will be making an appearance in front of the home fans and what his reception will be like should he do so.

One fan club pressie thinks that Albeda will be just fine, despite being harassed in his car by Ultra groups at last week's Osasuna game. "I'm sure he'll give everything as he's a Valencia man," said Jaume Part. Considering a bunch of other 'Valencia men' just got hammered 6-0, his compliment does not inspire confidence.

Home win.

Mallorca (7th) v Osasuna (18th)

With four or five points needed from their next three games, things are looking a little bleak in the Osasuna omniverse. And this pains Pierre Webó who left Pamplona for the party paradise of Mallorca last summer.

"I have a lot of affection for the club and the people at the Reyno," emoted the saddened striker. "I really fear for them." And so does La Liga Loca.

Home win.

Murcia (19th) v Athletic Bilbao (11th)

Despite being a local club for local people, Athletic Bilbao have signed up for a possible Intertoto odyssey along with Mallorca, Depor and Getafe (bless 'em). But they will need to go great guns in the final three matches if they are to board that particular cruise ship of craziness.

For starters, Athletic will need to beat the club managed by legendary Basque battle-axe, Javier Clemente and condemn him and his Murcian men to second division football next season.


Racing Santander (5th) v Sevilla (6th)

Despite having been in the papers "having signed or not signed a contract" every day, according to the man in the maelstrom himself, Marcelino is more than a little irked that this crunch encounter is not making bigger footballing waves as it's a game which could well see one of these two clubs pulling a Fernando Alonso and dropping out of the race for the Champions League.

"The match hasn't been given the importance it deserves," complained the Racing coach - especially by the fans who are set to stay away from Sardinero. "We have to have a public totally behind their team, like what happened with Murcia. I find it difficult to understand why it's not the case," complained the Racing boss.

Home win.

Real Madrid (1st) v Barcelona (3rd)

With one half of La Liga Loca supporting a teeny-tiny, play-off blowing, Finidi George-buying, won't-amount-to-anything-ever-club, it will never understand how fans of big teams can be so preening and precious whenever a josh or jibe is made against their title-winning, multi-trillion dollar earning megaclubs.

Especially the supporters of Barcelona and Real Madrid, who either become overcome by the Victorian vapours or go into an rampant rage at any perceived p*sstake against the great name of their clubs.

When Samuel Eto'o did his "Madrid, *naughty word* salute the Champions!" rant, the blog thought it was hilarious. But his outstanding outburst ended up with humble apologies and fines.

This year, it is the turn of those humourless hacks at Mundo Deportivo to get their panties in a bunch over reports that the Real Madrid players sang - to themselves - "Laporta stay!" on the trip home from Osasuna. Not as funny as mad Sammy's effort, admittedly, but fairly harmless nonetheless.

But no, complains Santi Nolla in Mundo Deportivo. "It was ugly, showing the absence of the minimum class and clearly a complete lack of fair play on their part," grumbled a man who must be a joy to stand next to at a party.



Espanyol (10th) v Atlético Madrid (4th)

Another normal week in the life of Atlético Madrid. Another week of Javier Aguirre staying / going stories. And another fine for the club's authorities - this time a 3,000 euro sanction for the racial abuse of Recre's Florent Sinama-Pongolle last Saturday. And another round of press conferences of players saying that there are five / four / three finals left until the end of the season.

This time round it was Maxi, who confessed on Tuesday that "to go back to hearing the name of Atlético amongst the greats will be amazing."

Espanyol could not give two hoots about Atletico's dreams and are set to boycott the Montjuic encounter, according to one anonymous supporter in Marca. "The players don't deserve the fans that they have."

Home win.