Christmas is coming for some, the goose is getting fat and the players and management just want to sit around in their festive hats happy in the knowledge that their last game before the yuletide rest was a win, or at least a non-defeat. It helps that fireside mood, and the alleged spirit of Christmas. José Mourinho will be unemployed, but safe in the security of his 15 million pay-off and the news yesterday that Real Madrid would not be contemplating his return ‘either short or long term’. How about the medium term? Probably not either. My esteemed colleague Ed Alvarez will be pleased with this news since he had threatened to give up his club membership in the event of a Mou return.
The Christmas footy break is now a permanent feature of the Spanish scene, and it does usher in a reflective welcome rest for the strugglers and a glow of satisfaction for the pace-setters. They will still be two games short of the official half-way point to the season, but there is a psychological effect now to the ‘Christmas champions’ syndrome and it’ll motivate them all to go out with a Christmas-cracker bang. It will also probably ruin your predictions, but please feel free to make and post them below. See you in January.
I’ll be in the UK but will try my hardest to be physically present at the FA Cup 3rd match between Crystal Palace and Grimsby. Tonight (Friday) I shall celebrate St Thomas by watching Real Sociedad v Alavés in yet another Basque derby, but I’m not complaining. Anyway, got to do this fast because I’m packing my bags.
Shall we? Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.
- Girona (10th) vs Getafe (7th): X. (Fri, 19:30)
Both sides have reasons to be semi-jolly at this stage, Girona because of their smooth transition to the new style of Eusebio and Getafe for simply being in 7th place, despite their president’s conviction that there is a conspiracy afoot to relegate them this season. Nonsense sir! Furthermore, they’ve only lost once on their travels so far. It’s gotta be a draw. I offer nothing more profound in my analysis.
- Real Sociedad (15th) vs Alavés (6th): 1. (Fri, 21:00)
As noted, I’ll be there. RS’s home record is pitiful this year, despite being surrounded on three sides by their nice new (and louder) stadium, but they’re looking at a crappy Christmas if they lose this one, since that would make it four on the hoof and even begin to put Garitano’s position under threat. The fans are not quite convinced by his style, and think that he plays on the basis of the initiative of the opponents, as opposed to using the quality at his disposal to dictate games. They may be right, although it ain’t quite so simple as that. If David Zurutuza plays, things tend to brighten up. Alavés have done splendidly so far, but looked poor against Athletic in their last game. I think Real will shade it, but probably 1-0.
- Betis (5th) vs Eibar (13th): 1. (Sat, 13:00)
Betis are working hard on the being the league’s most schizo side so far, but they’re certainly entertaining, as indeed they were last year. However, the belief in Setien’s own belief seems to be paying off in terms of their lofty league position now, and they’ll desperately want to maintain the good vibes, in front of their noisy and adoring fans. Eibar are nobody’s fools and could indeed mess up the party, but I don’t think so. It’s a home win for me.
- Atlético (3rd) vs Espanyol (11th ): 1. (Sat, 16:15)
There seems to be no argument for this one, although it could be the classic ‘quiniela buster’ that ensures nobody in the entire country gets 100%. The only argument (if there is one) is that Espanyol will lose their 6th game in succession if they fall in the Wanda, a place where Atlético are yet to lose. I‘m sorry, but I can’t see it, despite the news that Lucas is on his way to Bayern. I did joke the other day that it would be nuclear if Simeone were to be recruited by Manchester United this summer and Mou were to end up at Atlético. Unlikely? Yep, but start spreading the rumours now. Home win.
- Barcelona (1st) vs Celta (9th): 1. (Sat- 18:30)
Celta are being a bit annoying this season but have picked up a little in the last three games. Barça are on a roll, however, and this doesn’t look like the kind of game that will get in their way. They suddenly seem to have more resources than ever, with young ‘uns appearing by the score and the old ‘uns continuing to do the business. Home win, then perhaps wait for the Getafe game away after Christmas to really test their mettle.
- Athletic (18th) vs Valladolid (12th): 2. (Sat- 20:45)
Athletic have taken 4 from 6 since Gaizka Garitano took over, but they don’t look any more inspired than under Berizzo. They were lucky to beat Girona two weeks ago, and their draw at Alavés was efficient but deadly boring. Valladolid are a well-organised and talented side, despite losing their last two home games. For me it’s a 2.
Valencia (14th) vs Huesca (20th): 1. (Sun – 12.00)
Poor Huesca are everyone’s whipping boys, although they’ve been playing better of late and deserved their point last week at home to Villarreal. However, the visitors that day were/are also undergoing a crisis of confidence, and Huesca’s away record is poor (only 4 points). Valencia, as ever, don’t know whether to laugh or cry but they’ve got too much quality to blow this one. Not very imaginative of me, but a home win again. Despite Valencia’s single home win so far (and 6 draws) I can’t see Huesca nicking anything.
- Leganés (16th) vs Sevilla (2nd): 1. (Sun – 16:15)
I’m still not sure about Leganés. I liked their spirit when I saw them play Sociedad early in the season in Madrid, and I don’t see their continued fall as inevitable. Their home record is decent and despite their low position they’re on a run of six games undefeated. Sevilla are aiming at higher things, of course, but this one has that ‘surprise’ look about it. Sevilla haven’t lost in seven (the last time was at the Camp Nou) but despite their more solid look this season they don’t pummel opponents, and win by tight margins. I’m going to stick my neck out and predict a home win.
- Rayo (19th) vs Levante (8th): X. (Sun – 18:30)
Poor old Rayo. Everything was looking so sunny for them at the end of their excellent season last campaign. Their problems are obvious (a creaky back-line) and they’ve conceded the most at home of any top-flight club, which is unusual for them at a ground whose special characteristics they have traditionally exploited. Levante are the third-highest scorers away from home, so the pattern seems obvious. A high-scoring game, but since I have only one draw so far, let’s go for another.
- Villarreal (17th) vs Real Madrid (4th): -. (3/01/2019 – 21:30)
Madrid are playing in the ‘Mundial de Clubes’ and so let’s pick one from the 2nd Division (below) with which to substitute the game.
- (sub) Cadiz (6th) v Deportivo (2nd) Sat. 20.45
This looks like a worthy 2nd Division game to enter this esteemed quiniela for the first time. Love Cadiz and everything about them and hope they return to the top flight, but they do have a habit of fading away just when it gets crucial. They lost to Málaga last week but deserved better, and yo-yo Depor are on a 13-match unbeaten run, not having lost since the Alcorcon game in Jornada 5. Mind you, they draw quite a lot and are not top for that reason, but all good things come to an end, especially when Liga Fever’s spotlight makes your eyes blink. Home win.
Last week: 5/10 (%)
Season: 54/140 (36%)
- Girona (10th) vs Getafe (7th):
- Real Sociedad (15th) vs Alavés (6th):
- Betis (5th) vs Eibar (13th):
- Atlético (3rd) vs Espanyol (11th ):
- Barcelona (1st) vs Celta (9th):
- Athletic (18th) vs Valladolid (12th):
- Valencia (14th) vs Huesca (20th):
- Leganés (16th) vs Sevilla (2nd):
- Rayo (19th) vs Levante (8th):
- Cadiz (6th) vs Deportivo (2nd):