La Liga 2012, Week 29 Preview And Fixtures: Bruised Real Madrid Face Stern Sociedad Test Without Pepe, Ozil, Mourinho

IT'S THE APOCALYPSE, according to Spanish media.

Real Madrid has dropped four points in the last two matches. Which was cause for Barcelona fan paper Sport to emblazon "WE ARE GOING TO WIN THIS LEAGUE" across their front page. Welcome to Spanish media.

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?! Real Madrid has finally begun to slump after a hectic 12-match stretch where they didn't drop a point; in the last two matches, they've dropped four points, as Barcelona has snuck back into the title race. Madrid's draws against an in-form Málaga, and a rejuvenated Villarreal side might not seem like the most catastrophic thing to ever happen in the history of the league...but if you feel that way then you probably don't live in Spain.

Saturday, March 24

Mallorca vs. FC Barcelona

18:00 CET (1:00 PM EST)

Leo Messi is really good.

Pick: 1-4 to Messi.

Real Madrid vs. Real Sociedad

20:00 CET (3:00 PM EST)

At the end of Madrid's most recent stumble--a 1-1 tie with Villarreal, the tying goal coming on another last-minute free kick--los blancos were so incensed by the referee's actions that a large group of them were ejected from the match for arguing. Mesut Özil, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, José Mourinho, and Mourinho's assistant Rui Faria were all chucked, leaving Madrid to play la Real without a good chunk of their defense.

Pick: 2-1 to Real Madrid.

Getafe vs. Valencia

22:00 CET (5:00 PM EST)

I just don't know what to think about Valencia any more. Last week's loss to Zaragoza is the low point of their season, and possibly of the whole franchise ever (OK, not really), but I still think they're a solid side. So. Where does that leave us?

Pick: 1-2 to Roberto Soldado.

Sunday, March 11

Real Zaragoza vs. Atlético Madrid

12:00 CET (7:00 AM EST)

Last week's victory over Valencia represents a seminal moment in this Zaragoza side's season: it could signal the beginning of a ....oh crap I got nothing. They're bad. They beat a good team. It happens. They're still going down. Sorry.

Pick: 0-2 to Atleti.

Espanyol vs. Málaga

16:00 CET (11:00 AM EST)

Málaga is a good side, actually, despite their defense. I've been saying this all season--and now, I finally feel a bit vindicated. Their draw against Real Madrid might have been last second, but they did look like a real fighting side, and their come-from-behind annihilation of Rayo Vallecano on Thursday showed the kind of grit you need to succeed in this duopolistic Liga.

Pick: 1-2 to Malaga.

Levante vs. Osasuna

16:00 CET (11:00 AM EST)

Ugh.

Pick: 0-0.

Athletic Bilbao vs. Sporting Gijón

18:00 CET (1:00 PM EST)

CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN BILBAO TO ME PLEASE?! I mean, it's not that complicated, i guess: they just care more about European football than la Liga. Fine. But they're just two completely different sides when they play in the Europa League and the Liga. Odd.

Pick: 0-0 amiwrong?!.

Rayo Vallecano vs. Villarreal

19:45 CET (2:45 PM EST)

Miguel Angel Lotina is not a fun coach. And his teams rarely play fun football. But if Villarreal needs to use him to stay in Primera, I understand. And Rayo is finally slumping, so this could be a good game for Villarreal to tug their way above the drop zone.

Pick: 0-1 to the Yellow Submarine.

Real Betis vs. Racing Santander

19:45 CET (2:45 PM EST)

Oof. Honestly, I'd watch Levante-Villarreal instead. These two sides are embroiled in a relegation battle, so this will be a tense match; it will also be a bad match. So take your pick.

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

Monday, March 12

Granada vs. Sevilla

21:00 CET (3:00 PM EST)

Granada put on one hell of a show on Tuesday, scoring three goals at the Nou Camp to actually make Barcelona sweat. Well, kinda. Lionel Messi didn't sweat. But everyone else did. And it should be interesting to watch these two Andalusian sides square off in what should be a derby match, but probably isn't because Granada sucks.

Pick: 0-2 to Sevilla.

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