La Liga 2012, Week 17 Preview And Fixtures: FC Barcelona Face Espanyol In Catalan Derby

Happy Reyes, Spanish friends! It's back to la Liga, after a pretty uninteresting Christmas/holiday transfer market. Bring on the infinity-to-nothings!

La Liga is back! After a winter break spent fantasizing about what Kaká would look like in a PSG uniform (or was it Chelsea? Wait, or Juventus?), and actually finding out what José Antonio Reyes looks like in a Sevilla kit (wait, we already knew that?) I'm pretty ready for some football. So bring on the duopoly!

Saturday, January 7

Levante vs. Mallorca

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

Ah, starting off the strong, as always. Some shine has come off of Levante's early-season success, but they haven't completely faded: they're in a strong position to fight for a European spot...assuming they don't actually just suck. Which is probably what we're going to find out sooner rather than later.

Pick: 1-1 draw.

Racing Santander vs. Zaragoza

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

What better way to start off the year than three games featuring six mediocre-to-downright-awful sides? Take this matchup: on one hand we have probably descending Zaragoza, desperately fighting off relegation-battling Racing trying to remain in the hey-maybe-we-won't-have-to-worry-about-relegation picture.

Pick: 0-1 to Zaragoza. Racing doesn't deserve to be in that vaunted this-doesn't-matter-so-why-try group.

Real Sociedad vs. Osasuna

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

Osasuna's players and executives are pretty upset with FC Barcelona's tricky trick involving Leo Messi and a non-existent flu virus. Because they totally would have gotten a better result than a 4-0 loss if they knew Messi was playing before hand.

Pick: 2-1 to la Real.

Real Madrid vs. Granada

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Real Madrid completed arguably the worst half of play of the Mourinho era on Wednesday, dropping two goals to not-quite-figured-out Málaga. They then completed a brilliant comeback win by scoring three times in the second half. Which half is more indicative of this team's actual level? I'd wager heavily on the latter.

Pick: 4-0 to Madrid, though Mourinho is planning on rotating some defenders...though it won't matter.

Málaga vs. Atlético Madrid

22:00 CET (4:00 PM EST)

Atleti just lost (arguably) their second-best player in José Antonio Reyes to Sevilla; Málaga is coming off a brutally dispiriting loss to Real Madrid where they snagged defeat from the jaws of victory. Which team is in worse mental shape? I'm guessing Atleti, but that's just because they're always in bad shape.

Pick: 1-1 draw.

Sunday, January 8

Rayo Vallecano vs. Sevilla

12:00 CET (6:00 AM EST)

Sevilla has had a really up-and-down season so far, but I can only imagine that the addition of their prodigal son José Antonio Reyes (how many times have I said this dude's name?) can only help (I think?). They're a formidable side when they put it all together, and should have no trouble feating on a relegation-level Rayo side.

Pick: 0-2 to Sevilla. José Antonio Reyes.

Getafe vs. Athletic Bilbao

16:00 CET (10:00 AM EST)

Geta really has made a team of castoff Real Madrid products; and this lies in very stark contrast to Athletic Bilbao, who have a bunch of players who might one day make it on to Real Madrid (hello, Iker Muniain and Fernando Llorente), and then be shuttled back to Getafe after they're old or bad. Tangent? Sure!

Pick: 0-1 to Athletic.

Villarreal vs. Valencia

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

Man, remember when this would have been one of the best games in Spain? Yeah, me too. Anyways, ROBERTO SOLDADO!

Pick: 1-3 to Valencia.

Real Betis vs. Sporting Gijón

19:45 CET (1:45 PM EST)

Ah, Betis. It's really nice to see them back in Primera: they have a really fun fanbase, and they do deserve to be here on a general note. But man, they really suck. And Sporting is really not the fearsome defensive powerhouse they were last season. Ah well.

Pick: 0-0 draw.

Espanyol vs. FC Barcelona

21:30 CET (3:30 PM EST)

Word on the street is that Leo Messi isn't sick. In fact, the word on the street is that he wasn't ever sick, and proved it by scoring twice against Osasuna only a couple days ago. In fact, one has to wonder why those "Messi is sick" rumors even came out...Well, I'm sure that Espanyol will have learned from Osasuna's mistake, and won't fall for the classic Barcelona "phantom illness" prank, because, you know, that totally influenced the result of that match.

Pick: 1-5 to Barcelona.

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