La Liga 2012, Week 32 Preview And Fixtures: Madrid Derby Takes Center Stage

RADAMEL FALCAO!

And, just like that, la Liga became interesting again. Well, sorta.

Real Madrid drew a very, very feisty Valencia side on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid, ensuring that the race to the end of this Liga campaign will be long and drawn out. Much ink has already been spilled (is this a saying?) about Madrid's wasted opportunities, Valencia's daring defense and epic keeper Guaita, so I won't waste any more time on it here. It was a great game, and a well-deserved 0-0 draw.

Now, as Real Madrid and Barcelona head into a very complicated April, only a couple matches loom large: Real Madrid's showdown Wednesday with Atletico Madrid, and the Clásico (to end almost all Clásicos, you know, except for that Champions League Final Clasico...if it happens) on April 21st. Welcome to Thunderdome.

Tuesday, April 10

Osasuna vs. RCD Espanyol

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Espanyol is about to risk irrelevancy (if they haven't stumbled into it already), and desperately need a win to remain close to the top places in the table. Osasuna could very well re-establish themselves as a legitimate European contender (well, sorta) with a big win. I'll be watching.

Pick: 2-3 to Espanyol. I believe!

Real Sociedad vs. Real Betis

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Sociedad are a first division side. I just know it. Betis, I'm not so sure about. But I don't think that either side deserves to be relegated this year (when there are so many better teams to relegate...).

Pick: 2-1 to la Real.

Barcelona vs. Getafe

21:00 CET (3:00 PM EST)

Barça are on a tear right now, dominating opponents like it's 2010 all over again. But can this uncannily well-timed winning streak come to an end against an overmatched Getafe side that already pulled off one of the shocks of the year by beating Barcelona earlier? Well, suffice to say that even the great sides have a tough time beating Barça twice. Somehow I doubt Pedro León and company will do Real Madrid any favors this week.

Pick: 5-1 to Barcelona.

Wednesday, April 11

Granada vs. Athletic Bilbao

20:00 CET (2:00 PMM EST)

Granada are one of the teams that I hinted at earlier. They could easily be relegated this year, and I wouldn't bat an eyelash. OK, that's a bit unkind. I like Granada, for what it's worth--the city, that is. Anyhow, Marcelo Bielsa.

Pick: 0-2 to Athletic.

Sporting Gijón vs. Levante

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

I think it's finally time to accept that Levante aren't a fluke. OK, I kinda accepted that a few weeks ago. But their victory over Atleti last weekend was truly fantastic, and they deserve to be in the top spots of the league. And that's a pretty absurd thing to say about a side with such a low payroll.

Pick: 1-2 to Levante.

Valencia vs. Rayo Vallecano

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

RAYO SCORED 6 GOALS THIS WEEKEND! 6!!!! You know how many Valencia scored?! 0!! Who were they playing against? DOESN'T MATTER!

Pick: 1-2 to RAYO. Homer pick alert.

Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid

22:00 CET (4:00 PM EST)

Let's put aside all the "when was the last time Atleti beat Madrid?!" gags and focus on a couple other significant factors. Atleti has been way worse than advertised this year (in Spain) but have managed to pick up their game when they need to--in the Europa League, basically. They played Barcelona to touch-and-go 2-1 loss (thanks to a hyper-cheeky Messi free kick), but lost to Levante this weekend while seeming exceedingly tired from partying. The only question about this match is which Atleti will show up. Either way, it should be fun to watch.

Pick: 1-3, though it might seem closer.

Thursday, April 12

Villarreal vs. Málaga

20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST)

Hey look! It's a match between two of my favorite non-Madrid teams! I love Villarreal, and fully believe in them this season...and I love Málaga's nouveau-riche panache. And hey, if Málaga actually, you know, works out then it might attract more investors to a dying sport. Seriously.

Pick: 2-2 to us!

Racing Santander vs. Mallorca

21:00 CET (3:00 PM EST)

Hey! It's two teams I don't like at all!

Pick: 0-0.

Sevilla vs. Real Zaragoza

22:00 CET (4:00 PM EST)

I was really excited about Zaragoza climbing out of the relegation zone. It's still possible, but with matches against Barcelona, Sevilla, and company on the docket (they already lost to Messi), it's looking a bit grim. Here's to hope!

Pick: 0-1. To hope!

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