La Liga 2012, Week 25 Preview And Fixtures: Basque Derby Highlights Weekend

How much of Marcelo Bielsa will we see this Sunday? Hopefully tons.

I'm tired of writing about Real Madrid and Barcelona. So I'm not going to mention them until I have to. Let's see how long that takes.

So last week I spent a good chunk of cyber-space talking about how Real Madrid and Barcelona (BINGO!) would both be facing tough opponents, and made some half-baked argument about how these matches could speak volumes about both sides' title aspirations. But then I said, "or, it could tell us absolutely nothing." Or something to that effect. And that was pretty much what we learned: Real Madrid can win even when it looks like they're going to lose (we already knew that), and Barça can do the same. Yawn.

So this week I'm going to take a completely different tact and focus entirely on Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad: the two Basque sides will square off in the biannual derbi vasco (or "Xaxvari xskxkvsu" in Basque--no, that's not actually Basque, yes, that's a joke about how incredibly complicated their language is) in Bilbao this weekend. Expect a shootout, as both of these sides enjoy attacking waaay more than they enjoy defending (though Athletic is no slouch at it).

Saturday, March 3

Getafe vs. Málaga

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

Remember this epic Julio Baptista goal? That's what happened the last time these two sides play. Oh, and Pedro León scored this shocker. So yeah, this is a pretty underrated game.

Pick: 2-3 to Málaga.

Mallorca vs. Osasuna

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

Anyone who has read this column before knows how I feel about Mallorca. But few know that I feel similarly about Osasuna.

Pick: 0-0 to no one.

Rayo Vallecano vs. Racing Santander

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

I completely believe in this Rayo side. I really do. And I know that, despite being so poor that they don't have the money to allow their players to exchange shirts after matches (at least that's the rumor), that they're going to make a run at Europe this season. Have faith. VALLECAS!

Pick: 2-1 to Rayo.

Barcelona vs. Sporting Gijón

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Do you have any idea how good Messi is as the Camp Nou? Oh, yeah? Well check this out: in 12 matches, Messi has scored 23 goals and recorded six assists. Those are incredible, god-like numbers: he scores almost two goals per game, and creates almost two and a half.

Pick: 5-1 to Barcelona.

Sevilla vs. Atlético Madrid

22:00 CET (4:00 PM EST)

This game will probably be talked about more than any (non-Barcelona, non-Madrid) fixture this week, but I'm not sure I think it deserves the attention. Neither of these sides are particularly good, though Atleti can hang with the best, and Sevilla desperately need to prove they belong in Primera still. It could be interesting; it could be real crap. But isn't that the case with all of these matches?

Pick: 1-1 draw.

Sunday, March 4

Real Zaragoza vs. Villarreal

12:00 CET (6:00 AM EST)

So, last week I picked a huge number of games correctly. Like, I called Villarreal drawing 2-2 against Athletic. But hey, it's not like that one was really a complicated one to see coming. And this one isn't either.

Pick: 1-3 to us! Lots of goals! (Wrote the same thing last week)

Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Sociedad

16:00 CET (10:00 AM EST)

And here it is! The moment that precisely five of you have scrolled down the page to see! It's always fun to watch the Basque derby: these clubs, for all their mutual enemies (Real Madrid and no one else), really do hate each other. I'm excited to see some sparks fly now that la Real is finally among la Liga's non-terrible sides.

Pick: 2-1 to Athletic.

Granada vs. Valencia

18:00 CET (12:00 PM EST)

Will Roberto Soldado celebrate his inclusion on the Spanish national team (FINALLY) by scoring against lowly Granada? Umm, are most teams in Spain totally bankrupt? (The answer is yes, if that wasn't immediately apparent).

Pick: 1-3 to Valencia.

Real Madrid vs. Espanyol

21:30 CET (3:30 PM EST)

It's always fun to watch high-end mediocre sides come to the Bernabéu. Real Madrid get up for it. They get up for it. And that tends to result in lots and lots of goals. And hey, maybe we'll get to see Real Madrid prodigy Álvaro Morata in action due to Karim Benzema's injury and Gonzalo Higuaín's mediocre form.

Pick: 3-1 to Real Madrid.

Monday, March 5

Levante vs. Real Betis

21:00 CET (3:00 PM EST)

Are Levante back? Well, that was the question that (almost none) of the Spanish newspapers were asking after their win last week against Espanyol in Barcelona. The world responded with a massive "who are Levante again?" and the Spanish press sulked away, their shoulders sagging.

Pick: 1-0 to (OMG THEY'RE BACK) Levante.

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