La Liga Preview, Week 1: Monday's Barcelona-Villarreal Highlights First Matchday

The Liga BBVA will finally start up this Saturday after what felt like years of annoying transfer rumors, bankruptcy notices, players with unpaid salaries, labor disputes...wait, what? I'm being told that all of that is still going on. Oh well, enjoy our La Liga preview for Week 1.

August 26, 2010: Well, it finally happened. After a couple weeks of uncertainty (and a seemingly endless supply of strike- and lockout-themed jokes), the Spanish Liga BBVA season is set to begin on Saturday. Did anything actually change after all that? Probably not! But who cares? We have the Liga to look forward to! 

In all seriousness, this week we have a whole swath of interesting matches for you to enjoy: nouveau-riche Málaga travel a couple hours north to take on Anadalusian rivals Sevilla; perennial powerhouse FC Barcelona host always-exciting Villarreal at the Nou Camp; and Real Madrid travel east to visit...Zaragoza. Did we mention this was a two-horse race?

Saturday, August 27th

Sporting vs. Real Sociedad

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST) El Molinón, Gigón

Honestly, and I mean this with all due respect, I can't imagine a less meaningful game to begin a season. Ah, well, that's what you get when you start a week into the schedule--a preview of what the year is actually going to look like. Do you want to know what matchup would've started the season had it begun on time? A double take of mediocrity with Espanyol-Granada and Levante-Zaragoza. 

Pick: 1-0 to Sporting.

Valencia vs. Racing Santander 

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST) Mestalla Stadium, Valencia

Well that's a bit more like it. The nouveau-poor Racing make their way over to Valencia to face a once-great team struggling with a crushing debt. Classic Liga action. In all seriousness, it'll be interesting to see how Valencia play without Juan Mata (to Chelsea), but with Sergio Canales (from Real Madrid)--they have potential to be a very entertaining team this year.

Pick: 2-1 to Valencia.

Granada vs. Betis

22:00 CET (4:00 PM EST) Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes, Granada

Oh man, a matchup of the titans! Both newly-promoted teams get to square off in a battle to determine which one of them will have the early edge in the relegation scramble. Betis will be looking to recoup all the prestige they lost when they dropped down; Granada will be looking to put a stamp on their passage to the first division. But who will prevail?

Pick: 1-1 Draw.

Sunday, August 28th

Atlético Madrid vs. Osasuna

12:00 CET (6:00 AM EST) Estadio Vicente Calderón, Madrid

No one expects Atleti to be good this year. But that might suit them--they're a famously bipolar team, who seem to play well whenever anyone expects them to be bad, and to choke monstrously whenever anything is expected out of them. So with the departure of Kun Agüero to Manchester City...could this be the year that Atlético finish third?

Pick: 2-0 to Atlético. 

Athletic Bilbao vs. Rayo Vallecano

16:00 CET (10:00 AM EST) San Mamés, Bilbao

This match is interesting for one reason: Fernando Llorente's amazing golden locks. I mean, wow. Oh, and yeah, you're reading that right, Rayo Vallecano rounds out the list of the five teams from Madrid in this edition of the Liga BBVA. Care to spot the other four?

Pick: 2-1 to Athletic.

Mallorca vs. Espanyol

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST) Ono Estadi, Mallorca

I've always liked Espanyol. In 2007 they were the team that turned the Liga around in about five seconds  (just watch the video, it'll all make sense). My prediction: Carlos Kameni will morph into a dragon and devour the entire stadium. Oh, and Raúl Tamudo will score (yeah I know he doesn't play there any more).

Getafe vs. Levante

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST) Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, Madrid

This might, against all odds, be one of the most boring games of the weekend. It features two mid-table sides who will be unsure what to do against each other, and who were pretty inconsistently boring last season. It's also possible that I'll be completely, horribly wrong. 

Pick: 0-0 Snoozefest (or maybe a 5-4 shocker to Getafe).

Zaragoza vs. Real Madrid 

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST) La Romareda, Zaragoza

Oh hi Madrid. Remember that video? Madrid were playing Zaragoza that same night in 2007 (and battled to a 2-2 draw). Probably not going to happen again. 

Pick: 1-4 to Madrid.

Sevilla vs. Málaga

22:00 CET (4:00 PM EST) Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, Sevilla

Now this is a bit more like it. Nouveau-riche (and actually rich, not we-thought-we'd-be-rich-when-this-overseas-investor-bought-our-club-but-we're-still-bankrupt-and-no-one-knows-what-to-do rich like Racing) Málaga will look to put their foot down as an actual title contender by going into a famously hard stadium and picking up a win. And Sevilla will look to avoid falling farther from grace by putting a damper on Málaga's "We're the third-best team now" party.

Pick: 3-3 Draw because neither team plays defense. At all.

Monday, August 29th

FC Barcelona vs. Villarreal

21:00 CET (3:00 PM EST) Camp Nou, Barcelona

I know Villarreal fans don't want us to pity them...but come on. First, their monumentally easy first match (home versus Sporting) is postponed so they have to open the season at Barcelona...then they get drawn into one of the hardest groups in the history of the Champions League. Sorry, bro. Tough week. But hey, Barça's never been great at starting seasons, plus they'll be tired from all the Supercup-ing.

Pick: 2-1 to Barcelona.

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