La Liga 2012, Week 2 Preview And Matches: Halftime For Real Madrid And Barcelona

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 23: Head coach Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid CF reacts during the Super Cup first leg match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou on August 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Sure, La Liga is more important than the Supercup. But that doesn't mean that this weekend will feel like anything more than a brief break, a breather for Real Madrid and Barcelona to regroup.

Let’s just get it all out there: Real Madrid and Barcelona aren’t really thinking about the Liga right now. Sure, they’ll talk a big game about how these matches are more important than their Supercup tie, but we all know they’re lying—or, at least, they’re trying desperately to believe what they’re saying.

Because sure, these matches, in the grand scheme of things, are more important than a Supercup win: neither side would dispute that. These early-season point swings can easily turn into late-season success; dropping two points in August is the same as dropping two points in April.

And I’m sure that’s what José Mourinho and Tito Vilanova will be telling their squads as they travel to Getafe and Osasuna (respectively).

But, for now, the fans will view this weekend as a short reprieve, a deep breath before the next round.

Saturday, August 25

Real Sociedad vs. Celta

(19:00 CET, 1:00 PM EST)

It’s interesting to remember the early-2000’s, when both of these teams were at the apex of their powers: Real Sociedad was a perennial top of the table finisher, while Celta was jumping around, but featured strong players and a hyper-passionate fanbase.

Pick: 1-1.

Espanyol vs. Zaragoza

(21:00 CET, 3:00 PM EST)

Ah. Zaragoza. I put the odds on them finishing in the bottom third of the table at about 90%. And Espanyol, well, who knows anymore.

Pick: 2-0 to Espanyol.

Real Betis vs. Rayo Valecano

(21:00 CET, 3:00 PM EST)

Last year, both of these teams played extremely enigmatic football: sometimes, they’d show up and play the best match you could possibly imagine them playing; then the next week, they’d produce a polar opposite result. Your guess is as good as mine as to what we’ll see.

Pick: 2-2.

Málaga vs. Mallorca

(23:00 PM CET, 5:00 PM EST)

The finishing-at-1AM match could be promising Saturday, though it’s far from a certainty. Mallorca has been known to lock themselves down when they’re under pressure, and there’s no guarantee that this Málaga side will be able to produce any more 16 year-old magic.

Pick: 0-0.

Sunday, August 26

Osasuna vs. FC Barcelona

(19:00 CET, 1:00 PM EST)

Not a particularly good match for Barça to draw right before going to Madrid: Osasuna are known for physical defence, and a staunch home-field advantage. They’re fighters, which is exactly the opposite of what Vilanova and company need.

Pick: 1-2 to Barça.

Getafe vs. Real Madrid

(21:00 CET, 3:00 PM EST)

Last year, whenever Barça played before Madrid, the blaugrana dropped points—or at least had a higher probability of dropping points relative to their other time slots. I doubt this trend will continue. But this is a good matchup for Madrid, as they won’t have to leave their city to travel, and tend to have a pretty good go of it in Getafe.

Pick: 1-3 to Madrid.

Granada vs. Sevilla

(21:00 CET, 3:00 PM EST)

If this game were solely based on which city was cooler, well, I’d still pick Sevilla—but it would be way closer. Right now, Granada are lucky to be in Primera, and Sevilla have two national team players.

Pick: 0-2 to Sevilla.

Valencia vs. Deportivo

(23:00 PM CET, 5:00 PM EST)

This is a bit better from the LFP schedulers—choosing to put Valencia at the midnight timeslot is preferable to Zaragoza. But, then again, literally any team would be preferable to Zaragoza.

Pick: 3-1 to Valencia.

Monday, August 27

Valladolid vs. Levante

(20:00 CET, 2:00 PM EST)

I don’t really know what to say about this game, other than I’m probably staying away. I don’t love Levante, especially not away—hyper-defense—and Valladolid can be fun, but I worry about them against a suffocating, space-sucker like Levante.

Pick: 0-0.

Atlético Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao

(22:00 CET, 4:00 PM EST)

In the rematch of the Europa League final, I have little doubt that a similar scoreline will result (though perhaps not as large). Radamel Falcao and company are, at the moment, a better side than Athletic, no matter how many goals they during the week.

Pick: 2-1 to Atletico.

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