Preview of La Liga’s 32nd week
The Spanish phrase at the head of this week’s ‘quiniela’ refers to those moments in any culture when you want things doing quickly, cleanly, and without much fuss. Well that’s exactly what I’m going to do now, because I have to pack my bags and fly to Moscow unfeasibly soon, and unlike you lucky folks, miss most of the Spanish games over the weekend, although I might try to sneak in match number 4 below, if my hotel wi-fi does the business. We shall see.
Whatever, it’s been an emotional old week, what with Barça going to the wall, Madrid and Atleti almost following them, and Sevilla dying with their boots on. It seems slightly difficult to re-focus on the bread and butter of the league programme, but it still exists, rest assured. Nevertheless, I cannot remember so much debate at my workplace over a penalty since the famous Jordi Alba incident against Eibar. But you could argue that the stakes were slightly higher on Wednesday.
Nonetheless, shall we? It’s a ‘1’ for a homer, ‘X’ if you can’t make your mind up, and ‘2’ if you’re feeling a bit confident.
- Girona (8th) vs Betis (5th): 2 (Friday 21.00)
I like Girona but they were really pathetic last week at Anoeta, and not only that, they spoiled my quiniela (but not my weekend). Like Eibar, they seem to be getting a bit of a nosebleed now, after scaling unprecedented heights, and maybe the scaling was more satisfying than the eventual reality, stuck between their satisfaction at the season’s outcomes but not quite good enough for Europe. Unfortunately, they face the league’s in-form side on Friday night. Betis are in a state of euphoria, with seven wins from their last 10 and currently on a run of three consecutive victories. They’re playing great football under Quique Setién too – ‘alegre’ (happy) to quote the adjective most used about them at the moment. It’s a question of opposites, because Girona look a bit depressed to me. Away win.
2. Sevilla (7th) vs Villarreal (6th) : 1 (Saturday 13.00)
Sevilla did well in Germany on Wednesday night but their post-European league games this season have tended to see them lacklustre and short of ideas. Then again, that might just as well define their opponents on Saturday, a Villarreal who are terribly inconsistent and who seem to have lost their spark in the process. They were poor at home to Athletic last Monday, and are threatening to go into a tailspin. The trouble is for the quiniela, they’re always possible winners because of the quality that continues to lurk in their ranks.
This game will have a big say in the eventual Europa League placings this season, but I can’t make my mind up. Sevilla will be tired and a bit emotional, but I reckon they’ll see that a defeat will complicate matters for them, giving Villarreal a four-point lead over them. Home win – but close.
- Barcelona (1st ) vs Valencia (3rd ): 2 (Saturday 16.15)
Ooh – this is the big one! Barça have a tendency, because of the long periods they go without experiencing losses and their accompanying effects, to delay their fight-back reactions longer than other clubs who might be fighting for their lives. Valencia are on great form, at least as far as results go, and it’s tempting to see them toppling Barça’s apple cart a little further. Tuesday night’s defeat in Rome will have left its mark, and Valencia have won eight from the last ten, only losing once (to Atlético).
Barça can lose and still win the title at a trot, but their main motive for winning is surely to beat Real Sociedad’s record of 38 league games undefeated, which they equalled last weekend. Funny isn’t it, but I feel they’re going to blow it. Away win.
- Las Palmas (19th) vs Real Sociedad (13th): 2 (Saturday 18.30)
Last weekend I bet against my own side, thinking Girona would beat them, and they responded to my psychological trick by winning 5-0. Under new coach Imanol, Sociedad are tighter at the back, not quite so obsessive about possession, and discovered to their delight last weekend that they could play on the counter-attack. That’s why I think they’ll win this one quite easily, desperate though Las Palmas might be. Momo and Gálvez are both out for the home side, and Paco Jemez is starting to play blues tunes on his flamenco guitar. Away win.
- Leganés (14th ) vs Celta (9th) X (Saturday 18.30)
Celta are looking for a late run into Europe, although they won’t get an easier game than last week’s thrashing of Sevilla for some time. Only one defeat in the last five, Leganés will nevertheless be a tricky prospect, and they played better than people gave them credit for last week in the Camp Nou. I really liked El Zhar and Gabriel Pires. I reckon it’ll be a draw.
- Athletic (12th) vs Deportivo (14th): 1 (Saturday 20.45)
Was it the mere presence of comeback-man Iker Muniain that inspired them to last Monday’s surprise win at Villarreal, or are the team waking up from their torpor? Athletic fans profess themselves worried, in case a good run saves coach Ziganda’s bacon, but maybe he’s already out, in truth (and Berizzo’s probably in). Deportivo won last week, but could just as easily have lost the game. They’ll struggle in Bilbao. Home win.
7. Eibar (10th) vs Alavés (16th): 2 (Sunday 12.00)
Another Basque derby, just for a change. Alavés are looking better than Eibar at the moment (no wins in five), where internal doubts are reflecting themselves externally on the pitch. But the derby aspect might wake them up. Alavés got back to winning way at home to Getafe last week with their useful forward line. I’ve got this funny feeling that it’s a 2. Away win and mini-crisis to open up at Eibar, not that one wishes it upon them.
- Atlético (2nd) vs Levante (13th): 1 (Sunday 16.15)
Atlético are still going, despite premature reports of their death during much of the season. Now in the semi-finals of the Europa, with an interesting match against Arsenal to come (Wenger v Simeone – now there’s an interesting contrast in styles), they shouldn’t have too many problems coping with Levante, although the visitors have gone five games without tasting defeat.
They’re still eight points clear of Depor, the ‘top’ of the three sides still in the relegation zone, and might fancy saving their breath for a couple of easier games later on. Rochina’s four-match suspension has also put a bit of a cloud over things this week for them. They might surprise us and get a draw, if Atlético have one of their off-days (they’re another poor post-Europe performer) but I’ll be boring and go for a home win.
9. Getafe (11th) vs Españyol (15th): 1 (Sunday 18.30)
Not quite the game to get the pulses racing, but you never know. Espanyol seem to have given up for the season, being in no serious danger of relegation, and Quique Dr House looks like he might be back in England next year, in his yo-yo sort of way. Getafe? Mid-table, a solid season, but not a lot to shout home about, save the excellent Angel this season. They’ll win, probably 1-0.
- Málaga (20th) vs Real Madrid (4th): X (Sunday 20.45)
There are few who would bet on an upset here, with Málaga practically resigned to 2nd Division life next season, but you never know. It’s been a stormy week for Madrid. Málaga did beat Villarreal two games ago, and will at least be motivated by the occasion. I’m going to stick my neck out and say a draw. I just think Real Madrid will be knackered.
Last week: 6/10 (60%).
Season: 115/240 (47%)
- Girona (8th) vs Betis (5th):
- Sevilla (7th) vs Villarreal (6th):
- Barcelona (1st) vs Valencia (3rd ):
- Las Palmas (19th) vs Real Sociedad (13th):
- Leganés (14th) vs Celta (9th) :
- Athletic (12th) vs Deportivo (18th):
- Eibar (10th) vs Alavés (16th):
- Atlético (2nd) vs Levante (17th):
- Getafe (11th) vs Espanyol (15th):
- Málaga (20th) vs Real Madrid (4th):