With very scarce hours of sleep since I became a father, I keep watching matches half-awake, half-asleep. I wake up thinking that some team draw, but then I discover that they scored twice more and won the match since I dozed off, and realise that I missed a good 25 minutes of the match. I’m not sure who scored, who played well, I can’t get a complete picture of each team performances… Is this going to be how I watch football for the next year or so? Does one develop a way of processing this info while sleepy or fully asleep? Is this the state in which the VAR judges analyse Suarez’s contraventions?
Ok, ok, let’s start. Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.
- Sevilla (4th) vs Levante (10th): 1. (Sab, 13:00)
Two defeats and two draws in their last four matches have taken Sevilla from title contender status – according to Phil, anyway – to under-fire Champions League pretender. Alaves and Getafe, only one and two points behind the Sevillistas respectively, smell blood, and the hosts would do well to react. Their dismal second half display at the Santiago Bernabeu disappointed many and brought in their wake some new reasons for concern.
Coach Pablo Machin needs to instil some inspiration into the squad, which is obviously undergoing its most complex time of the season. The biggest issue is offence: two goals in the last four matches show how much Sevilla struggle with their finishing of late. They did have a reinforcing performance against Barcelona’s second team in their Cup fixture, but that’s just not enough as a measure for Sevilla’s current level.
Levante are a great team to measure how solid you are. I still favour Sevilla, but it’s a tough opening match indeed.
- Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Getafe (6th): X. (Sab, 16:15)
And speaking of tough squads, on Saturday Atletico will host their poor man’s version. Coach Bordalas has taken Getafe to unprecedented heights this season through an approach that Diego Simeone would gladly embrace if he were to coach Getafe. We discussed their success in the last quiniela and they won again last weekend, so they will arrive at the Wanda in their best shape of the season.
Simeone’s men did what they needed to do against Huesca, but their offensive struggles grow. Morata’s signing seems like a desperate measure, but the fact is that this season they depend too heavily on their midfielders, and unless Griezmann is inspired, the remaining forwards are contributing little.
I can see this finishing at 1-1 after a record number of professional fouls during the 90 minutes.
- Leganés (15th) vs Eibar (11th): 1. (Sat, 18:30)
I do enjoy the work that both coaches are doing with very scarce resources. Leganes compete well with a more traditional approach for a small team, and had their chances at the Camp Nou until Suarez used his carte blanche to score Barcelona’s second. Eibar, more innovative in their approach, would contend for Europa League spots if they could find a decent scorer, but those don’t come cheap.
Leganés are decent at home, while Eibar travel very poorly – six points in nine matches. Home win.
- Valencia (9th) vs Villarreal (19th): 2. (Sat, 20:45)
The must-watch TV on Sunday night! The Villarreal drama keeps unfolding, while Valencia show the decent team they are when they travel and struggle to win at home in front of their demanding crowd. Do you think I’m exaggerating? So far Valencia have won twice at home: their victims, Rayo Vallecano (18th) and Huesca (19th).
Here’s a bet to make money: “2” for Villarreal, especially if they score first and the home fans berate their players they way they only know how to do. Despite the fact that they’ve not won in their last seven, the visitors have won in Mestalla in each of the last three seasons. Bearing in mind a couple of absentees in Valencia’s defence, this could work. But whatever result you pick, do watch this one: fun and morbo guaranteed.
- Valladolid (16th) vs Celta (17th): 1. (Sun- 12:00)
If Valladolid were as good at home as they are away they’d be in 8th position. They’ve won 14 points away but just eight at home, and that could cost them dear as the season progresses. The chance to get three points at home is excellent: Celta will still miss Iago Aspas for some time – no date for his reappearance still – and we know too well that they are simply a decent Segunda División team when he doesn’t play.
- Girona (12th) vs Barcelona (1st): 2. (Sun- 16:15)
I do believe that one of the appealing traits of LigaFever is the different points of view Phil and I have on many things related to football and even Spain as a concept. I’ll give mine regarding Suarez’s goal last week, one that Phil saw as fair play: there is no other striker in LaLiga who would get away with such a play. None. Any similar interaction between a forward and a goalie is automatically ruled as a foul in 100% of cases, even if the striker gets first to the ball – which Suarez didn’t, but still.
Suarez’s license to kill since he arrived in Spain – suspended after one of his most infamous incidents, by the way – is hard to believe. How a striker that has seen red cards galore everywhere he’s played has avoided them completely in four and a half seasons in Spain is mindboggling, especially because he’s not changed one iota. Well, he has: the biting is over at least.
A couple of weeks ago he was booked after abusing a linesman, which was surprising because he does that constantly and is never booked. He’s outstanding as a player when in shape, and he’s now near the best he’s been in the last couple of seasons, but Suarez comes with the package, and if his clubs ignore the downsides, they enjoy an unfair advantage.
Well, rant over. Having rested Messi and Dembele in their midweek loss in Sevilla, it seems like Valverde has adjusted his priorities after last season’s Champions League fiasco in Rome, and taking the players’ input. The Copa del Rey, now embraced by Real Madrid as a potential season saver, is not a priority for Barcelona anymore. Let me tell you it makes a lot of sense.
For this one, it’s hard to see anything but a visitors’ win. Girona play entertaining, offensive football, but with Messi rested, life is really hard for the opposition.
- Athletic de Bilbao (14th) vs Betis (7th): X. (Sun – 18:30)
Even though we’ve seen very entertaining displays from Betis of late, they always do well vs classy sides and struggle vs physical ones, and the new Athletic have recovered their intimidating way of playing football since Garitano took over. Now that Iñaki Williams has broken his curse at the new San Mames, they can dream with a few wins in a row to leave the wrong half of the table behind.
- Real Sociedad (8th) vs Huesca (20th): 1. (Sun – 18:30)
Not even Real Sociedad can screw this one up, can they?
- Espanyol (13th) vs Real Madrid (4th): 2. (Sun – 20:45)
Only a week ago I was demanding that the real Real Madrid show up, disappointed in Solari’s bizarre twists and turns with the line-up and the bland performances of the team. Two matches later, I embrace my fickleness and root for Solari to succeed as Real Madrid coach.
In these two matches he finally used the same midfield plus forwards combination, and it looks fine. Benzema and Vinicius play well together, as the Frenchman knows how to find the tireless Brazilian in space, while Modric is slowly getting better match after match. Granted, this is not the line-up for a Champions League winning side: similarly to Atletico, they struggle mightily to score. In their win over Girona for the Copa del Rey, Solari’s men took 14 shots in the first half and only scored once. Either Vinnie and Benzema suddenly discover a hidden killer touch, or this side will put together a decent second half of the season but will fall short in every competition. At least, this is something worth watching, as they’ve started to play with something resembling guts.
I had to double check Espanyol’s recent record. I could not believe that they’ve lost eight of their last nine matches, but that’s the way it is. From Champions League spots to just four points above relegation in a terrible stretch that should grow on Sunday, as long as this Real Madrid shows its more recent face.
- Alavés (5th) vs Rayo Vallecano (18th): 2. (Mon – 21:00)
I know this sounds like a boutade, but this is the typical match that Rayo has to win to stay up, and even though Alaves have walked on water at their own stadium, I would not be surprised if they somehow underperform on Monday with a smaller crowd. Risky, but on a regular bet this could make you rich.
Last week: 4/10 (40%)
Season: 70/170 (40%)
- Sevilla (3rd) vs Levante (12th):
- Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Getafe (6th):
- Leganés (13th) vs Eibar (16th):
- Valencia (11th) vs Villarreal (19th) :
- Valladolid (14th) vs Celta (17th):
- Girona (9th) vs Barcelona (1st):
- Athletic de Bilbao (15th) vs Betis (7th):
- Real Sociedad (8th) vs Huesca (20th):
- Espanyol (10th) vs Real Madrid (4th) :
- Alavés (5th) vs Rayo Vallecano (18th):