ALMERIA, SPAIN - MARCH 06: Lionel Messi (L) of Barcelona is tackled by Modeste M'bami of UD Almeria during the La Liga match between UD Almeria and Barcelona at Estadio del Mediterraneo on March 6, 2010 in Almeria, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Image

La Liga Matchday 12 Saturday Preview: Almeria Manager Juanma Lillo Living On Borrowed Time?

You wouldnt think it looking at the press but there is Matchday 12 to be played before next weeks 'Match of the Century' between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Both sides will want to win the pre-match mindgames by entering the tie on top of La Liga. Almeria, looking to save their doomed manager Juanma Lillo, face Barca at the Mediterraneo while Real Madrid lock horns with Athletic Bilbao in what promises to be a fierce battle at the Bernabeu.

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La Liga Matchday 12 Saturday Preview: Almeria Manager Juanma Lillo Living On Borrowed Time?

Almeria vs Barcelona

Vital clash for both sides. Barcelona will be looking to enter into the Clasico at least a point behind Real Madrid, while Almeria will be looking to save their managers job as anything other than a win will surely see Juanma Lillo relieved of his duties at the Estadio Mediterraneo. Dead man walking. Stuck in the relegation zone on nine points it's been a terrible start to the season for Almeria and they will be looking to star players Pablo Piatti and Kala Uche to open up a Barca defence likely to be deprived of the services of Gerard Pique. It will be a big risk on Pep Guardiolas behalf to send out Pique when a yellow card would out him out of the match against Real Madrid. The fearsome trio of Leo Messi, Pedro and David Villa will line up in attack, as local hopes rest on Diego Alves, without a doubt one of the most underrated goalies in world football.

Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao

If this tie were to be played in the San Mames, you could well expect an upset. As it is Real Madrid are the hosts and you can't see past a home win as Mourinhos side aim to maintain their one-point lead at the top. Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to end a two-game drought infront of goal while big Fernando Llorente just can't stop scoring. Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho will have to be at their best to contain the man mountain. Eslewhere there will be a fierce midfield battle between Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira and Javi Martinez and Pablo Orbaiz and much of Bilbaos hopes will depend on restricting the supply to CR7, Di Maria and Mesut Ozil.

 

Villarreal vs Valencia

A match oddly billed as the Battle of The Valencian Community, this game will give us some idea as to which team is best equipped to finish third. A local derby but a tame one. Carlos Marchena will be facing some familar faces as he prepares to meet the club he spent over nine years at, while his old club enter the tie with plenty of walking wounded. César, Albelda, Juan Mata, Mathieu, Jordi Alba, Topal and Manuel Fernandes all miss out, while for Villarreal only young winger Jefferson Montero will be missing. Both sides have explosive strikeforces and all eyes with be on the Nilmar/Rossi and Aduriz/Soldado partnerships, with many predicting a bagful of goals. Valencia beat Getafe in their last outing which ended a run of four league matches without a win, whereas Villarreal lost last time out against Barca which ended a run of four straight wins.

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