La Liga 2012, Week 4 Preview And Fixtures: Real Madrid Continue Tough Opening At Sevilla

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 02: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Granada CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on September 2, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo is still sad--for completely incomprehensible reasons, as far as we can tell--and playing Sevilla this week won't cheer him up. But hey, maybe being back in Madrid will help his tan? No? Well, I can't help you there, then.

Real Madrid have had it, well, a bit rougher than normal at the beginning of this Liga campaign. Their first match was a tough draw against an invigorated Valencia, their second another draw to a battle-ready Getafe (much more unexpected), and they finally caught a breather in week 3 by hosting Granada.

This week, it's back to battle for Madrid, as they travel to a depleted (but still dangerous) Sevilla side. "Once more into the breach, dear friends," said José Mourinho never.

Barcelona travel to Getafe, who remain on a sugar high from beating ("drawing") Madrid. We'll see if it lasts, or if the Cataluñans can calm the hyperactive beast.

Oh, and it's worth noting that Barcelona and Madrid are traditionally at their most vulnerable after international breaks. I don't have a study to prove it, so this is completely hearsay, but I would wager that their records over the past few seasons in post-FIFA break games has been significantly worse than in other contexts.

Saturday, September 15

Málaga vs. Levante

(16:00 CET, 10:00 AM EST)

Speaking of sugar highs...Málaga has done much, much better than anyone thought they would in the early going. And Levante, much to no one's surprise, has reverted to not-that-good form.

Pick: 2-1 to Málaga.

Valencia vs. Celta

(18:00 CET, 12:00 PM EST)

Valencia: a good team. Celta: just ascended. There's no room for this type of parity with the amount of money each team has.

Pick: 1-0 to Valencia.

Getafe vs. Barcelona

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

Getafe are riding high, even while hemorrhaging money. And then there's Barça. And they're really, really good. So yeah.

Pick: 1-4 to Messi.

Sevilla vs. Real Madrid

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

Alvaro Negredo is still angry about the EuroCup; Jesús Navas is still happy about it. The combination has allowed Sevilla to remain an incredibly threatening team. Madrid would do well to make Cristiano Ronaldo happy in whatever way possible to get a hold on this game.

Pick: 0-1 to Madrid.

Sunday, September 16

Espanyol vs. Athletic

(12:00 CET, 6:00 AM EST)

Here's a morning game that I could at least consider getting up for. And the Asian markets are being treated to two teams in turmoil, which is fascinating--with Athletic struggling without Javi Martínez and Fernando Llorente, and Espanyol unsure of their plan for the future.

Pick: 1-1.

Granada vs. Deportivo

(16:00 CET, 10:00 AM EST)

Neither of these teams are fantastic; both of these teams are very fun to watch.

Pick: 2-3 to Depor.

Osasuna vs. Mallorca

(18:00 CET, 12:00 PM EST)

Opposite of the game above. Two relatively good teams; two teams that tend towards being very boring.

Pick: 0-0.

Real Sociedad vs. Zaragoza

(19:50 CET, 1:50 PM EST)

I predict goals. Goals goals. Unless Zaragoza gets scored on early then shuts down to keep face. (Speaking of studies, shouldn't someone do a study about why I hate Zaragoza so much? There's no good reason, I admit, so why the hate, I ask myself. Honest answer: dunno.)

Pick: 2-2.

Atlético Madrid vs. Rayo Vallecano

(21:30 CET, 3:30 PM EST)

Radamel Falcao...as good as Messi? Well, not exactly, but that's kind of what Fabio Capello suggested. I'm a huge, massive Falcao fan...but really? He's probably the best pure forward in the world right now, but if we had a soccer WAR, I would wager my whole house that Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi add at least an entire win or two per season more than him.

Pick: 3-1 to Atleti.

Monday, September 17

Valladolid vs. Real Betis

(21:30 CET, 3:30 PM EST)

And, for Spain's version of Monday Night Football, we have...two of the worst teams in the country! In all seriousness, Valladolid is actually a very fun team to watch--they're the COMPLETELY INDIGENT version of Barcelona's tiki-taka--and Betis has been exciting, too. So actually, I'm going to amend my snarky joke: I'd watch this one.

Pick: 2-1 to Valldolid.

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