La Liga’s ninth week looks like an easy one in terms of predictions. Beware, though. Much has been said about the FIFA virus and the effect of international weeks on the performance of top teams the following weekend, but the UEFA virus also exists, especially in the case of Europa League participants.
European competition matches during the week weren’t as successful as they have been for Spanish teams in the last decade or so, and the impact of the negative results for Sevilla, Athletic and Villarreal, coupled with the lack of rest compared to other teams could bring a few upsets to the table.
Let’s start. Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.
1. Levante (12th) vs Getafe (14th): 1. (Sat, 13:00)
After three consecutive goalless matches, Levante coach Juan Ramón Lopez Muñiz still believes: “Our strikers will eventually score and everything will be alright”. Even if his words sound like the lyrics that a football-obsessed Bob Marley could have written watching Levante play, this column partially agrees with his enthusiasm: the hosts have the talent to do much better than that. Getafe, a traditionally poor travelling team, have done fine so fine – one win and two draws in four matches – but at some point they must regress to the mean. A 1-0 home win seems safe enough.
2. Betis (9th) vs Alavés (19th): 1. (Sat, 16:15)
Similarly to what happened last season with Las Palmas – or at least during the half of the season in which coach Quique Setien seemed to care –, Betis have become the Random Must Watch Team of the tournament. Of course, the fact that Setien coached both teams makes this title not random at all, but let’s just get on with the column.
Last week’s 6-3 loss to Valencia showed most of Betis’ talent for spectacle: terrible lapses of concentration, unwavering faith on themselves and memorable moments of collective inspiration. They have a better bench that your average La Liga team, so assuming that Setien manages to give the squad some consistency, victories and entertainment away. A win on Saturday is in the cards, as is another loss for the hard-fighting, but very limited Alaves
3. Valencia (2nd) vs Sevilla (5th): 1. (Sat- 18:30)
Yes, Valencia currently sit in the second position of the standings, undefeated and scoring left, right and centre. Who would have thought… Last Sunday they managed to score six times through six different players, a very rare feat that shows how intensely the whole team attacks. A personal favourite of this column is Gonçalo Guedes, the Portuguese winger who spent last season warming PSG’s bench. His ability to carry the ball forward at top speed is impressive, as is his vision of the game’s flow. He constantly knows where his team mates are, especially the forwards. One to watch indeed.
While Valencia have reached an excellent for this early, Sevilla show worrying signs of internal disarray. The rotation policy implemented by Eduardo Berizzo has generated discomfort in the dressing room and raises growing criticism in the media. The brutal midweek defeat at the hands of Spartak Moscow will leave scars, while Valencia, out of European competitions this season, should look fresh and motivated. Clear ‘1’.
4. Barcelona (1st) vs Málaga (20th): 1. (Sat- 20:45)
It’s hard to explain how the constant turmoil in Catalonia has not affected Barcelona’s results, but the fact is that Lionel Messi, oblivious to politics, appears to be on a mission to break every scoring record and erase the memories of Neymar as quickly as possible. Indeed, the squad is formed mostly by foreigners and politically indifferent Spaniards and Catalans, with very few exceptions. Most of them rejected the idea of cancelling the match on October 1st: their focus is on winning titles, and that is what’s keeping the side’s almost perfect record so far.
Their performance last weekend against Atletico was impressive. They overcame a tough beginning and finished the match on top form, Messi looking as though the trip back from Ecuador was just a short bus ride. A very tough constest for Michel to save his job. Impossible, in fact.
5. Villarreal (8th) vs UD Las Palmas (18th): 1. (Sun – 12:00)
Down with the flu, this scribe spent Thursday afternoon watching football. Villarreal’s home draw vs Slavia Prague left me fuming even more, as the hosts looked absent for a good half an hour, and reacted well, but could not finish the job. However, they still look way too good for Las Palmas, even on two day rest and with an early kick off on Sunday.
The visitors have lost all the enchanting passing game they showed last season, as their coach plenty of classy players left in the summer. Especially tragic is the case of Roque Mesa, their outstanding defensive midfielder, who now can’t buy a match with Swansea. Sounds harsh, but Las Palmas look bound to the Segunda Division this early in the season, unless something drastic happens.
6. Celta (10th) vs Atlético de Madrid (4th): 1. (Sun – 16:15)
Consistently inconsistent, last weekend Celta showed us again what they’re capable of when they’re inspired. Iago Aspas scored a hat trick he desperately needed in order to recover his confidence, and the team led 5-0 in the Canary Islands until they conceded two very late goals that somehow masked their ruthless performance. They have a fantastic chance to jump a few spots in the standings on Sunday, when the tired, frustrated Atletico are due to visit Vigo. Diego Simeone hasn’t found the right partner for Antoine Griezmann, the wingers rarely work, the fullbacks look in their worst shape in years. The squad need something that shakes them up, and they can’t afford to wait until Diego Costa joins them in January.
7. Leganés (6th) vs Athletic de Bilbao (11th): 1. (Sun – 18:30)
Due to the aforementioned flu, Athletic’s 2-2 draw in Sweden took a decent part of my Thursday afternoon. It was a lot more painful than it sounds (the match, not the flu). The Bilbainos’ performance, woeful for at least 75 minutes of the match, can’t be explained by any stat of the match, especially by the final score. The draw makes their life in the Europa League extremely complicated, and some voices asking for coach Ziganda’s head have already been raised. They visit the best defensive team of the tournament so far, the surprising Leganes, who have managed to get 14 points with just seven goals. A textbook 1-0.
8. Real Madrid (3rd) vs Eibar (16th): 1. (Sun – 20:45)
Gary Lineker’s tweet regarding Karim Benzema unleashed a complete thunderstorm between Real Madrid fans, one almost close to a civil war. The French forward has become one of the most polarising motives of disagreement between Madridistas. There’s the line of thought that defends him as Cristiano Ronaldo’s perfect partner; they understand that Benzema won’t score much next to the Portuguese star, and never ask for more goals when he fails to score. In the opposite corner, many believe that any forward playing next to Ronaldo would get on the scoresheet a lot more than Benz. This line of dissidence feels vindicated every time Benzema has one of those matches in front of goal, just like last Tuesday’s vs Tottenham.
In this topic, I feel like Buridan’s ass, unable to move towards hay or water. Or rather, I feed myself plenty by bitching when he misses and satiate my thirst when his movement opens space for other team players. Would I look for another striker? I probably would.
Visitors’ coach Mendilibar will very likely apply a 3-5-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu, similar to the formation that gave his side a point in La Coruña last weekend. They have scored three times in eight matches. This won’t fix it.
9. Real Sociedad (7th) vs Espanyol (13th): X. (Mon- 20:00)
In their midweek extravaganza in Macedonia – a 6-0 win over Vardar Skopie with four goals from William Jose – Real Sociedad proved how entertaining they can be when they feel superior and take their chances. Pity that’s not usually the case, as their back four is still far from solid. I don’t think Espanyol can win in Anoeta, but they defend reasonably well and should take advantage of the hosts tiredness to get a point.
10. Deportivo de La Coruña (15th) vs Girona (17th): 1. (Mon – 21:00)
It’s early to resort to clichés, but this looks like a do-or-die match for both, and the home side knows well how to play these matches, especially in front of their public. Girona won’t finish in the relegation spots after their match finishes simply because the bottom three are hopeless.
Last week: 3/10 (30%)
Season: 23/50 (46%)
Note: Copy this easy summary to write your own quiniela and share it with us in the “Comments’ section:
1. Levante (12th) vs Getafe (14th):
2. Betis (9th) vs Alavés (19th):
3. Valencia (2nd) vs Sevilla (5th):
4. Barcelona (1st) vs Málaga (20th):
5. Villarreal (8th) vs UD Las Palmas (18th):
6. Celta (10th) vs Atlético de Madrid (4th):
7. Leganés (6th) vs Athletic de Bilbao (11th):
8. Real Madrid (3rd) vs Eibar (16th):
9. Real Sociedad (7th) vs Espanyol (13th):
10. Deportivo de La Coruña (15th) vs Girona (17th):
(All kick-off times are CET)