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La Liga, Week 9 preview and fixtures: Real Madrid remains on the ropes

Yes, it's just week 9. But Real Madrid have failed to make up any of their eight-point gap with Barcelona. Tick, tock, Mourinho.

Lars Baron

Real Madrid is in trouble. Sure, they're still a great team--don't let Pepe's back-pass errors to Barça and Dortmund trick you--and they still have an acceptable defense without Alvaro Arbeloa, Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao. But they're stuck in neutral in the Liga, watching October slip away while their eight-point gap from the beginning of the year remains stubbornly fixed.

Are things over? No. But Madrid is definitely not favored to defend their title this season, and every day the odds grow longer.

Atlético Madrid, on the other hand, remain tied with Barça at the top. And you have one man to thank for that.

Saturday, October 27

Espanyol vs. Málaga

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

I really thought my crush on Málaga would have disappeared by now--it was hurt substantially by their summer escapades--but it really hasn't. If anything, I'm coming around to the view that suffering this summer actually unified the group and may push them to new heights.

Well, that and the thought that Manuel Pellegrini isn't a very good coach in most circumstances (sorry Villarreal fans).

Pick: 1-2 to Málaga.

Real Betis vs. Valencia

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

Oh, Valencia. They're so loveably stuck in the mid-Champions League places, and really have no hope of going anywhere until the financial market stabilize and they can finally pay down the debt that they've accrued on their stadium.

Pick: 2-2.

Celta vs. Deportivo

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

An exciting match between two teams that were really fun to watch in the early 2000's and late 1990's. Good to see them both back.

Pick: 2-1 to Celta.

Rayo Vallecano vs. FC Barcelona

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

Well, Rayo's field is pretty much the exact opposite of Barcelona's, if that makes any difference--it's short, small, and not a place that people in their right mind would like to go.

Pick: 0-3 to Barça.

Sunday, October 28

Zaragoza vs. Sevilla

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

I feel like every week I talk about how the noon game is bad. It's not really this week, which is why I've had to succumb to the "talking about your joke meta-commentary" commentary. It's like a documentary about a documentary. Like watching the "how Planet Earth was filmed" except for way less awesome.

Pick: 0-2.

Levante vs. Granada

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

I don't love either of these two teams, but I do enjoy JIM. So yeah. Maybe he should move to the EPL, where his talents would be very appreciated.

Pick: 2-1 to Levante.

Athletic Bilbao vs. Getafe

(17:50 CET, 11:50 AM EST)

Fernando Llorente is good, and exciting, and pretty much a gorgeous golden god. Everything else about Athletic is a disappointment this season. Maybe they'll continue their semi-turnaround. Maybe they'll just disappoint again.

Pick: 0-0.

Atlético Madrid vs. Osasuna

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

Everyone is waiting for this Atleti team to implode. Radamel Falcao just won't let it happen. It's OK, I'm sure he'll be happy to destroy Atleti in a few years when he's suiting up across town. #ca$hmoney

Pick: 2-1 to Falcao.

Mallorca vs. Real Madrid

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

Historically, Madrid has played about as well in Mallorca as they have in Germany or in A Coruña--namely, they've been exceedingly bad. But hey, this is Mourinho's Madrid. They won't keep that trend going, right?

Pick: 1-2 to Madrid.

Monday, October 29

Valladolid vs. Real Sociedad

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

I firmly believe that it's too early to start drawing any firm conclusions about where teams will be relative to other sides at the end of the year; at the same time, I think 10th place is more or less accurate for Valladolid (pretty good, not consistent), and that 15th is more or less right for la Real (not great but avoiding relegation).

Pick: 2-0 to Valladolid.