Is this the week that Real Madrid's season crumbles into dust?

Real Madrid's season is on the verge of collapsing as the La Liga relegation battle heats up. Tim Stannard looks ahead to the weekend's action in Spain...

After all the kerfuffle over El Clásico in La Liga and the Crashico in the Champions League, quite enough has been written about Barcelona this week quite frankly.
 
And Atlético’s league campaign is in semi-stasis until Wednesday’s second leg against the culés, so they get a pass. But Real Madrid don’t get off so lucky in the big weekend preview, although the blog has put them in some fine company for matches to look out for this weekend. 

Will Madrid face the music against Eibar?

Madrid have got themselves in a sticky situation and are just a few days away from their season crumbling into dust

Before the Madrid press could even begin to bring up the traditional ‘need a miracle' campaign of the 'Spirit of Juanito' – the annual invocation of the memory of a former player killed in car crash in 1992, but made famous for comebacks – the son of the footballer told them to leave their Ouija boards in their boxes.
 
“Leave him in peace,” was the tweet from @j7_roberto, “every time you mention his name to make a comeback, we lose.” And that’s pretty much the case.
 
Juanito sign
Juanito is remembered fondly by Real Madrid supporters
 
Once again, Madrid have got themselves in a sticky situation and are just a few days away from their season crumbling into dust at the Santiago Bernabéu, after a flat performance and 2-0 defeat against Wolfsburg that had Zinedine Zidane scratching what was left of his hair. 
 
Naturally, the reception was not fantastic in some parts of the Madrid media, with AS yelling ‘Bad, Bad, Bad’ from the front cover, although Marca did try to rally the troops. “Optimism and Madridismo” was the paper's brave declaration. 

Another son of a former player will be treading the Bernabéu boards on Saturday as Eibar come to town in a bit of a dead rubber. But midfielder Adrían hopes that it's a different story as he visits the club where he started his career. That’s because this particular Adrían is son of Míchel, the Real Madrid legend who is currently ruining Marseille. “I hope Madrid have another stumble,” declared the midfielder ahead of the match. Probably not on Saturday, but it could be coming just a few days later.
 

Can Valencia take advantage of distracted Sevilla?

True supporters prove themselves when it really matters,” said Neville’s former number two in an optimistic plea to the Mestalla

Well, LLL suspects that anything is worth a shot considering how precarious matters look for Valencia at the moment. A change of manager after axing Gary Neville didn't seem to make an immediate impact, as they lost 2-1 to Las Palmas in a less-than-excellent performance.
 
So the current poor bugger on the bench, Paco Ayestarán, took his players off to a brand new location to train on Wednesday, hoping that a change is as good as a rest. Or something like that.

Paco Ayesteran

Gary Neville's successor Ayesteran has a tough job on his hands

Off the footballers trotted to Parador de El Saler, by the seaside. A day later and Paco was off to meet some supporters groups ahead of a crucial home date with Sevilla on Sunday. “True supporters prove themselves when it really matters,” said Neville’s former No.2 in an optimistic plea to the Mestalla.
 
If Valencia play anything like they are genuinely capable of then they should get the better of Sevilla, a team yet to win away all season in La Liga and Europe. Scratch that! Beep Beep Beep! Sevilla have ditched that deadbeat statistic with a battling 2-1 win against Athletic in the Europa League in San Mamés on a rain-sodden Thursday. Because that's just what they do in the Europa. 

But with Sevilla not having an awful lot to play for in La Liga, Sunday’s game is an opportunity that not even the struggling Mestalla men can afford to pass up. 
 

Betis in genuine ‘final’ to avoid relegation rumble

Levante are coming to Seville in a huge opportunity to lift a bit of a footballing weight off the team’s back with a victory

With three defeats in a row, Betis are now in the same place as Valencia on 34 points, and looking rather nervously at the cluster of clubs below in the relegation battle. 
 
One of those teams, Levante, are coming to Seville with a huge opportunity to lift a bit of a footballing weight off their back. Betis coach Juan Merino was most critical after last weekend’s 5-1 defeat to Atlético Madrid, suggesting that anyone not up for the fight should train elsewhere. 

Ruben Castro

Castro's goals could help fire Betis to safety

One of the few functioning footballers for Betis, Rubén Castro, was in agreement. “This is the match of the year,” claimed the forward, who has 16 league goals this season. Rubén Castro’s not wrong. 
 

Can Rayo take step closer to pact with Paco?

Rayo Vallecano’s leadership and Paco Jémez continued the we-love-him, we-love-him-not dance in the press over the renewal of the manager’s contract – a dangerous game to play for the former, considering the baldy coach is on the wishlist of a few clubs, irrespective of if Rayo go down. 

Paco Jemez

Jemez's future at Rayo remains in doubt

“I had to take the first step,” said Paco this week, speaking about the negotiations. “Did they respond to me? No.”

That’s because the club are waiting to see which division Rayo are in come the end of the season, says the club president Martin Presa, who notes that it isn't the appropriate time to be discussing such matters. 
 
To give Rayo a helping hand in San Mamés against Athletic Bilbao, the club is transporting fans to the Basque Country for free on coaches, hoping to take advantage of a team on a bit of a downer after Thursday’s Sevilla defeat.