La Liga 2012, Week 21 Preview And Fixtures: Is FC Barcelona Frozen? (No)

Brrrrrr.

There's nothing like a little relegation-fodder to help Barcelona shake off the ice that they've built up around them in their last three matches.

It's cold in Spain. Well, it's cold if you're from southern Europe (and not from the north east of the United States). It's all anyone here is talking about--apparently some sort of wind is blowing across the Iberian peninsula from Siberia...I think? Well, it appears that the members of FC Barcelona have...frozen. Kind of. They're not playing any worse, really (they have the same possession as always), but they're just not winning. They've drawn their last three games against lowly sides like Real Madrid, Valencia, and Villarreal (the horror), and they've looked impotent, mediocre, and *gasp* whiny (ironically, the day after Rosell made those comments Barcelona benefited hugely from a refereeing mistake). But does that, and Real Madrid's seven-point Liga lead mean an end to the blaugrana Liga dynasty? Probably not.

Saturday, February 4

Athletic Bilbao vs. Espanyol

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

Hey! Here's an exciting match to start off the week! And how much are we going to charge you to watch Fernando Llorente make mincemeat of Espanyol's defense? Well, if you're a radio announcer, you're barred from entry. So that sucks.

Pick: 3-1 to Bilbao.

Mallorca vs. Real Betis

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

I know it's hard to believe...but it's already time to talk about relegation (sorry, everyone but, like, seven teams). Mallorca are only two points above the relegation zone (15th place), while Betis isn't doing tons better at three points above (13th place). [Side note: it's amazing how bottom-heavy this Liga is. There are a whopping 8 teams that could drop down to the relegation zone in one matchday! Even Sevilla, a traditional powerhouse, is only six points out of the relegation zone].

Pick: 0-0 draw, the most common result in Spain.

Levante vs. Racing Santander

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

You know what team isn't in danger of being relegated (yet)? Yes, that's right, Mr. Reader! It's Levante! (Ok, I deserve all the things you're muttering to yourself right now. But cut me some slack, I've had a long day). Everyone's favorite hyper-physical, defensive ex-bottom feeder shouldn't have any problems facing a probably-will-get-relegates-and-boy-do-they-deserve-it Racing side. Right?

Pick: 1-0 to Levante.

Getafe vs. Real Madrid

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Real Madrid travel to Getafe, a traditional stumbling ground for their arch-rivals...but not for them so much. However, with Pepe, Marcelo, Angel Di Maria, Sami Khedira, and possibly Xabi Alonso nursing injuries, it's possible, however unlikely, that Mourinho's boys will drop some points (and be ready to cue the "IMPROBABLE BARCELONA COMEBACK!!!1!1!" headlines from Goal.com if that happens). It's also important to remember that Real Madrid's second squad cost a combined €234,000,000 (yes, that's not true, but the fact that you stopped to think about it just proves my point).

Pick: 1-3 to Real Madrid. Ho hum.

Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad

22:00 CET (4:00 PM EST)

Ah, nothing like the sweet, sweet Camp Nou to heat up some "frozen" boots. Sure, Barcelona's a bit banged up, and yes, they've managed three draws in their past three games...but do you really expect them to continue that against Real Sociedad? And at the Camp Nou? No. Chance.

Pick: 5-0 to Barcelona. I'm tired of predictions.

Sunday, February 5

Sporting Gijón vs. Osasuna

12:00 CET (6:00 AM EST)

I'd like to call for a moment of silence to mourn the departure of Manolo Preciado as Sporting's head coach. A former favorite of mine, Preciado was at Sporting's helm for almost 10 years. He first came to my attention on a higher level last season, when he fired a water bottle at Real Madrid's team bus while yelling profanity at José Mourinho after a contentious match. I then proceeded to spend an entire podcast calling him "Manuel" and insinuating that he was drunk. I might not be the best person.

Pick: 0-2 to Osasuna.

Sevilla vs. Villarreal

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

Ah, Sevilla. They're not having the best season, are they? Sitting in 11th place, they're only 6 points above the relegation zone; but they're also only three points behind Athletic for a spot in the Europa League. Wait, really? Yes, it's true: it's almost as if our duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona is hurting the other teams by hoarding points. Real Madrid has twice as many points as Sevilla. You know what? I'm just gonna say it. #occupylaliga! We are the 99% (of teams in Spain)!

Pick: 2-1 to Sevilla.

Zaragoza vs. Rayo Vallecano

19:45 CET (1:45 PM EST)

Rayo is still having a sneaky-good season (and by sneaky-good I mean "not in the relegation zone"). That could all change with a loss to Zaragoza. Seriously.

Pick: 1-2 to Rayo.

Atlético Madrid vs. Valencia

21:30 CET (3:30 PM EST)

And here you have it folks, your game of the week. A resurgent Atleti ushering in the Simeone era on the boots of Radamel Falcao taking on a Valencia side that'll be looking to build on an impressive performance against Barcelona in the middle of the week? Yes, please, I'll take two.

Pick: 2-2 draw. Que viva el fútbol!

Monday, January 23

Granada vs. Málaga

21:00 CET (3:00 PM EST)

I don't really understand why...but Málaga has had a ton of Monday games. Somehow this feels unfair. But I don't know against whom. Oh, well. But hey, it's always fun to watch Ruud van Nistelrooy beat up on relegation-fodder, right? And hey, maybe Julio Baptista will pull off another awesome bicycle kick. Oh, wait, sources are now confirming that he has been injured since 2011.

Pick: 1-2 to Málaga.

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