The (not very long) wait is over. Luis Enrique announced his first list as the coach of the Spanish national team, and the surprises were minimal. Jordi Alba, with whom Luis Enrique does not get along since his time at the Barcelona bench, was left out, as were Koke, Lucas Vazquez and Iago Aspas. I have to admit that I’m shocked that Isco made the cut.
True to form, Luis Enrique said that he would not discuss Aspas’ case or any other, for that matter. He also announced more “surprises” in upcoming lists and invited the injured Diego Llorente, who just broke his leg, to share these days with the team so that he “cheers up a bit”.
One of Luis Enrique’s main assets is his obsession with fitness and training, something that we saw paid off when he coached Barcelona. How that will play out when coaching a national team is unclear. What is indeed guaranteed is that we’ll get plenty of soundbites and controversies with Lucho on the Spanish bench. Good times.
Shall we? Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.
- Getafe (11th) vs Valladolid (14th): 1. (Fri – 20:00)
If you’ve never heard of someone called Jaime Mata, you’re probably not very familiar with Valladolid. A quite competent striker, he scored 35 goals for the visitors last season, obviously a key component of their successful push to play in La Liga. Mata now plays for Getafe, and even though he states last season was his most accomplished one as a professional, he says he won’t blink if he has to score against his former team.
Which will probably happen. Valladolid have played decent football, but are toothless in both boxes, Getafe looked competitive last week in their win over Eibar, so a “1” to start the weekend. Funnily enough, Friday being the last day in the transfer window and both teams having quite a few players involved in potential deals, it’s possible that one of these deals could happen while the match is being played. La(no space)Liga for you, dear quinielistas.
- Eibar (19th) vs Real Sociedad (7th): X. (Fri – 22:00)
Phil will cover this one live from Eibar, in his remarkable quest to watch all 19 away matches of Real Sociedad.
You may be wondering why Real Sociedad have played three in a row away from Anoeta. It’s not because of the new asymmetric LaLiga calendar. In fact, the visitors are conducting major works in their stadium, and they are due in early September, so they asked Javier Tebas to play their first three matches away from home.
They have done quite well so far, even if they gave away two points at Leganes last weekend. I still believe that they needed to have signed a couple of players in certain positions, and Theo looks like an elephant in a china shop, but perhaps I’m underestimating Garitano’s ability to get the most out of a group that have played together for a while now. The late addition of Sandro, coming from Everton, should help quite a lot up front.
Eibar have lost both matches and need a win to get their confidence going, but I can’t see them beating this Real Sociedad. That said, the visitors have never won at Eibar, so let’s go for a conservative “X”.
- Villarreal (13th) vs Girona (16th): 1. (Fri – 22:00)
At some point on Friday, Girona will decide if they sell forward Portu to Sevilla or not. Well, he’s not travelled to Villarreal, which is a telling sign. One can’t overstate the importance of Portu for Girona last season, as he led the line and pestered every Primera División defence.
Portu’s absence in Villarreal already weakens his squad a lot. Girona’s focus on this match is quite questionable, as they’ve left most of the transfer business for the very last day. Half of the team does not know whether they’ll stay or leave, and a few gaps in the squad still need to be fulfilled. Villarreal look like the better and more focused side.
- Celta (8th) vs Atlético de Madrid (9th): 2. (Sat – 18:30)
The visitors were extremely disappointing last weekend against Rayo, and only the always impressive Jan Oblak and Rayo’s profligacy in front of goal allowed them to leave the pitch with a win. We demand more from Atleti, mr Simeone. The only doubt in his now deep and high-quality squad was Filipe Luis, and it now appears as though the Brazilian will not leave for Paris. No excuses for Atleti this season.
That said, Juanfran and Vitolo are injured and won’t travel to Vigo, but Simeone has more than enough dynamite to win there.
On the hosts’ bench, another Argentinean, Antonio Mohamed. Judging by his words, he wants Celta to play less fancy and more Atleti, if you know what I mean. Celta could do with a higher defensive discipline, but let’s hope they don’t lose the offensive flair that has made them so entertaining over the years.
- Rayo Vallecano (20th) vs Athletic de Bilbao (5th): X. (SUSPENDED)
Every visitor loves Vallecas, Rayo’s enchanting stadium. It does take you back to the 80s, and that is excellent from the atmosphere point of view, but not very good from the security one. Rayo are refurbishing Vallecas, and intended to keep playing there while these works were being executed, but the regional government has decided to close the stadium after a couple of incidents that could have ended badly for some local supporters. God only knows when this one will be played.
- Real Madrid (1st) vs Leganés (12th): 1. (Sat – 20:45)
Gareth Bale looks the part, I say with my fingers crossed. This looks like the perfect beginning of the season for the Welshman to recover his confidence and lead the team offensively.
He will have some extra help, as Real Madrid matched Sevilla’s offer for Mariano so the hyperactive striker will come back to Madrid. This seems to spell the end of Borja Mayoral’s hopes to have a season full of second half cameos, but it wasn’t meant to be, indeed. He’ll go somewhere on loan, and I’m not sure he’ll ever come back to the Santiago Bernabeu.
The hosts haven’t impressed, but they’ve looked fine, and definitely good enough to beat Leganes. The visitors had a fantastic second half against Real Sociedad, but their back four needs some work and lacks speed, and that is what Real Madrid have now that Asensio and Bale look bound to start every match.
- Levante (10th) vs Valencia (15th): X. (Sun – 12:00)
After all the controversy over kick off times, someone in LaLiga must be mad to schedule a football match in Valencia at noon. I wouldn’t like to be in the players’ skin at the end of the second half, when the heat and the humidity will be at their maximum of the day. The Ministry of Health has asked LaLiga to reconsider kickoff time, to no avail when this Quiniela was posted.
This will be a nail biter. Valencia have started below their own high standards under Marcelino, while Levante look in better shape, despite their home defeat to Celta last weekend. This will be an ugly contest, and I can’t see any side defeating the other as they both fight the heat.
- Alavés (17th) vs Espanyol (4th): 2. (Sun – 16:15)
While I was watching Espanyol defeat Valencia last weekend, the thought that this could be their season crossed my mind. Last year under Quique Flores they showed promise a handful of times, but never managed to get a consistent sequence of results that would increase their self-confidence. This may happen now, and this is probably the most risky bet on the quiniela, as Alaves know well how to defend their home turf.
- Barcelona (2nd) vs Huesca (6th): 1. (Sun – 18:30)
This LaLiga campaign feels a bit weird for Barcelona. Their dominance of this competition in the last decade is overwhelming, but a few frustrating eliminations in the Champions League have left the Barcelona supporter slightly uninterested in the domestic competition. What Valverde & co did last season is outstanding, even if some believe that this is a poor copycat of Guardiola’s Barcelona, when in fact it has nothing to do with it.
They will dismantle the happy newcomer Huesca, ecstatic after getting four points in two away matches. Even if Suarez is already under friendly fire and though it’s not clear how Coutinho and Dembele fit on this team, Huesca have not seen anything remotely similar to Messi in their industrious travel through the lower divisions of Spanish football.
That said, the visitors look like they’re here to have fun, so even if this ends up in a rout, they’ll have their chances to score in the Camp Nou.
- Betis (18th) vs Sevilla (3rd): 1. (Sun – 20:45)
This is THE match you can’t miss this weekend. Derbies in the city of Sevilla are not always entertaining from the footballing perspective, as often the tension is so high that neither team can perform as well as they would hope. But this time my expectations are high. Betis, the hipsters’ team, likes to play the ball and go forward, even though they haven’t scored yet. Sevilla look really good under Machin, more cohesive and coordinated than at any point last season.
The home team have managed to get Giovani Lo Celso on loan, a huge reinforcement for their squad and one that fits well with their approach. Sevilla, trying to get Portu, have plenty of talent as well.
Again, this should be huge entertainment on and off the pitch. I’ll go with the home team as they did well vs their neighbours last season and need some good news after an underwhelming first two matches. Sevilla also played their last match of the qualifying stage for the Europa League on Thursday, so that should have an impact too.
Last week: 5/10
Aggregate: 8/20 (40%)
- Getafe (11th) vs Valladolid (14th):
- Eibar (19th) vs Real Sociedad (7th):
- Villarreal (13th) vs Girona (16th):
- Celta (8th) vs Atlético de Madrid (9th):
- Rayo Vallecano (20th) vs Athletic de Bilbao (5th):
- Real Madrid (1st) vs Leganés (12th):
- Levante (10th) vs Valencia (15th):
- Alavés (17th) vs Espanyol (4th):
- Barcelona (2nd) vs Huesca (6th):
- Betis (18th) vs Sevilla (3rd):