A Sad Day at Sporting and Athletic's Copa Cruise

It is with a heavy heart – and yes, LLL does have one – that the blog must report the firing of Manuel Preciado. The long-time Sporting manager, smoker and swearer extraordinaire has been through horrendous personal tragedy but has kept going despite all the horrible stuff life has thrown at him, including the death of his wife, son and then father.

Preciado took a severe professional blow on Tuesday when he was told that his services with Sporting were no longer required after nearly six seasons in charge and 232 official games. The last of those was against Real Sociedad: a 5-1 defeat to leave the team in relegation zone.

Although Preciado has been in many a sticky spot before with Sporting and survived, this current bad run was one too many for club president Manuel Vega-Arango, who announced emotionally during a joint press conference that "I don't know if the decision will be good or bad, but it has been very considered. There was enormous sadness in taking it."

The now-former coach took the bad news with dignity, saying that "I will be with this team for life." It seems the Sporting supporters have the same affection, with 'Thank you Preciado' becoming a top Twitter trending topic in Spain.

The other big news oop north in Spain was the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg between third-tier Mirandés and Athletic Bilbao in the ground of the mighty minnows. But unlike those flimsy nanny-pants sides Villarreal and Espanyol, the battling Basque team were not going to be the evening's Primera butt-monkeys and came away with a 2-1 lead to take back to Bilbao thanks to a couple of goals from the currently imperious Fernando Llorente.

The other, less glamorous tie takes place on Wednesday evening, with Valencia hosting Barcelona – who by all accounts have been having a spot of bother on the road this season.

Because both Leo Messi and Sandro Rosell have used the word 'referee' in recent comments, the Madrid press have got into quite a tizz saying that the Catalan side, their backs up against the photocopier, are lowering themselves by resorting to tactics used by the likes of, well, Real Madrid.

Admittedly, one particular method of the capital club's manager is to wait for a referee to go to his car after a game and then hurl insults at him – an action that, quite remarkably, will go unpunished.

"This is bad news for football," noted Marca's editorial on Wednesday, commenting on the Barça president observing that things weren't going too well for them this season with refs. "This murky territory of making complaints appeared until now to be the exclusive territory of Mourinho."

With La Liga's big two currently chorusing "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me" it appears that the referee in Wednesday's cup clash will be under just as much scrutiny as the players.