To be or not to be… a derbi


From the English word Derby, name of a famous horse race, created by the Count of Derby.

  1. m. Horse race, especially the famed one celebrated annually in which three-year-old specimens participate.
  2. m. Sporting confrontation, usually playing the sport of football, between two sides followed by fans who maintain a rivalry, often due to regional reasons.

That is the definition of “derbi” by the Real Academia de la Lengua Española, the Spanish institution which determines the general rules to use the language and the generally accepted meaning of each word. Yes, there is an institution for that in Spain, copied from the French in our extremely brief Illustration phase. My point? Derbis are based on rivalries, which often, BUT NOT ALWAYS, are born of proximity.

This means that what is first required for a derbi to exist is the rivalry, which may or may not have arisen between two competing regions, cities, neighbourhoods, etc. Again, the regional factor is an accessory. If there is no rivalry, there is no derbi, even if both teams come from the same region.

If you take a look at this weekend’s list of matches, only one match slightly approaches the category of derby, and that is Athletic vs Eibar. It used to be more of a feud than a derby, as another unmentioned factor to call a match a derbi is a certain correlation of forces between the teams, which indeed generates the rivalry, and Athletic have always been a much bigger club than Eibar. In fact, Eibar used to play vs Athletic’s youth team, as they plied their trade in the Segunda, a division that Athletic have never been in.

eibar ath
Eibar vs Athletic: getting there as a derby

Eibar played vs Athletic in the Primera Divisón for the first time in 2015 (!), but since then things have started to change, and the constant signing of Eibar players by Athletic, together with the growth of the club from the small town of Eibar, have started to develop something resembling an actual rivalry.

Getafe and Rayo? I really doubt it. They played for the first time in 1976 in the Second Division, but in the next 42 years they’ve only played 24 times, which means that they’ve played in different divisions more often than not. On top of that, no real bad blood between them: no relegations due to the other team, no Copa del Rey finals lost with a dodgy goal, no betrayals from top players leaving one club for the other… So no, if your news outlet tells you that this is a derby, it’s just not the case.

Shall we? Let’s start. Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.

  1. Espanyol (14th) vs Huesca (20th): 1. (Fri, 21:00)

If the hosts win, they will finish the weekend in the upper half of the table. Bearing in mind that they’ll play again at home vs Valladolid the following weekend, they could get really close to the Europa League spots with two consecutive wins. “We want to be the team that impressed everyone at the beginning of the season”, says coach Rubi, although that sounds like a delusional desire. Espanyol started off in good shape and caught a few teams off guard, but at this point Rubi’s decent coaching can’t hide the limitations of his squad.

Wu Lei looks the part

For the visitors, a victory would take them within one match of leaving the bottom of the table, something unthinkable a month ago. But they got seven points from the last twelve, conceding only one goal in those four matches, so they look like they can put together a decent push. That said, they’ll miss two starters at the back, and they’re still very poor travellers. Home win.

  1. Getafe (5th) vs Rayo Vallecano (19th): 1. (Sat, 13:00)

This ‘un-derbi’ has a clear favourite, as Getafe are just one point away from a Champions League spot, which means that they’re putting together an amazing season. Rayo have improved and lead the head to head contest with 11 wins in 25 matches, but that has to do with the Rayo and the Getafe of the old times. This is a clear home win.

  1. Sevilla (4th) vs Barcelona (1st): X. (Sat, 16:15)

Sevilla have won six of the last 24 points, but I must follow my own advice: Barcelona come off a tough match in Lyon, and will probably rest players managing their seven-point advantage over Atletico. On top of that, Sevilla are quite solid at home (seven wins, three draws, only one loss vs Getafe in the fourth week of the tournament), and will play with the recent death of their former president Ales in mind. That extra bit of motivation that can make the difference.

Messi suarez
No rest for the duo on Saturday

Valverde has taken all his top players to Sevilla, but he’ll no doubt be thinking of the two consecutive clásicos coming up on Wednesday and Saturday, so he’s bound to rotate, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. This is Barcelona dropping points, ladies and gentlemen.

  1. Alavés (6th) vs Celta (17th): 1. (Sat, 18:30)

You only need one piece of news to make your pick for this match: Iago Aspas will not come back to Celta’s line-up until the end of March, and that’s the optimistic estimate. I’m not exaggerating, this could be the kiss of death for Celta, who have won one of their last eight, with seven defeats.

  1. Athletic de Bilbao (11th) vs Eibar (10th): 1. (Sat, 20:45)

“Those people speaking of the Europa League make me laugh”, said coach Garitano on Friday’s press conference. It does sound bizarre that, after such a convoluted season – Athletic went for 12 matches without a win – a section of the Bilbao media sound that optimistic. Indeed, Garitano prefers to remember the recent victory in Huesca and try to surpass Eibar in the standings.

On Eibar’s side, it’s time to remember. Five years ago the team got promoted, in a side coached by Garitano himself with three players that now appear in the Athletic squad: Yuri Berchiche, Dani García y Ander Capa. So yes, this Athletic owes a lot to Eibar’s way of nurturing players, but indeed has a deeper squad and should win on Saturday.

  1. Leganés (13th) vs Valencia (9th): X. (Sun- 12:00)

Following the streak, this should be Valencia’s 15th draw this season and Leganes’s ninth. The visitors got a few results going their way, including their classification for the next round of the Europa League, but they should feel that extra match on their legs. Leganes, with the in-shape En-Nesyri – I admit I never saw that coming at all – is solid defensively, so this looks like a stalemate.

  1. Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Villarreal (18th): 2. (Sun- 16:15)

I’m taking my own theory to the extreme. In this case, Atletico will collapse after their monumental second half effort against Juventus. The famous win gave Simeone another chance to shine with his celebration, an inexcusable gesture that Cristiano Ronaldo tried to emulate with his “Five Champions” foolish comment during and after the match. Gento won six and I can’t recall him showing off on the pitch vs Atlético or Barcelona. And, already on this tangent, it’s actually a relief to see Ronaldo pull this crap wearing another team’s shirt…

cholo balls
Oozing class, the one and only Diego Pablo

Villarreal killed Sevilla last weekend and then qualified for the next Europa League round on Thursday. That is probably the first time this season that they get two positive results in a row, so why not dream at the Wanda? This is a visitors’ win, and Cazorlita will score.

  1. Valladolid (16th) vs Betis (8th): 1. (Sun – 18:30)

Betis continue their season with an unimaginable mixture of famous victories and horrendous defeats. In midweek, the team that defeated both Barcelona and Atletico at their respective games managed to lose 3-1 to the mighty Rennes. No offence meant, but we’ve seen much better teams lose versus Betis. In a completely data free observation, I believe that Setién’s problem, other than his shocking arrogance when speaking of opposing teams, is that he hired Jesé and gave him the car keys. I can’t remember any player of Jese’s profile making any team click, so there. This is another loss to Valladolid, who defeated Betis at Sevilla a few months ago, another proof of how disconcerting this team may be.

  1. Levante (12th) vs Real Madrid (3rd): X. (Sun – 20:45)

To me, this is Solari sending a mixed team thinking of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday and the Clasico on Saturday, but not in LaLiga as a potential title. Defeating Barcelona twice in a row can get him the job next season, but a poor result in Levante won’t make him lose it.

Vinnie on the bench, more Asensio and Bale and another lacklustre display just to see a much more competitive version of the team on Wednesday. Jose Luis Morales will score.

  1. Girona (15th) vs Real Sociedad (7th): 2. (Mon – 21:00)
Bound to lose on Monday

Coach Eusebio meets his former team for the second time since he left, in this case in Girona after a memorable win in Madrid. His team desperately needed those three points, but even though Girona are no Betis, they can win against top teams and play a shocker against Real Softciedad. And this is exactly what will happen on Monday: the best Erreala of the season will win comfortably at Montilivi.

Last week: 4/10 (40%)

Season: 90/210 (43%)

  1. Espanyol (14th) vs Huesca (20th):
  2. Getafe (5th) vs Rayo Vallecano (19th):
  3. Sevilla (4th) vs Barcelona (1st):
  4. Alavés (6th) vs Celta (17th):
  5. Athletic de Bilbao (11th) vs Eibar (10th):
  6. Leganés (13th) vs Valencia (9th):
  7. Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Villarreal (18th):
  8. Valladolid (16th) vs Betis (8th):
  9. Levante (12th) vs Real Madrid (3rd):
  10. Girona (15th) vs Real Sociedad (7th):


5 thoughts on “To be or not to be… a derbi”

  1. Espanyol (14th) vs Huesca (20th): X
    Getafe (5th) vs Rayo Vallecano (19th): 1
    Sevilla (4th) vs Barcelona (1st): X
    Alavés (6th) vs Celta (17th): 1
    Athletic de Bilbao (11th) vs Eibar (10th): 1
    Leganés (13th) vs Valencia (9th): 2
    Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Villarreal (18th): 1
    Valladolid (16th) vs Betis (8th): 2
    Levante (12th) vs Real Madrid (3rd): 2
    Girona (15th) vs Real Sociedad (7th): 1


  2. Last week: Not the 9/10 I predicted!
    Season: More than 0

    Espanyol (14th) vs Huesca (20th): 1
    Getafe (5th) vs Rayo Vallecano (19th): 1
    Sevilla (4th) vs Barcelona (1st): 2
    Alavés (6th) vs Celta (17th): 1
    Athletic de Bilbao (11th) vs Eibar (10th): 1
    Leganés (13th) vs Valencia (9th): X
    Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Villarreal (18th): 1
    Valladolid (16th) vs Betis (8th): 2
    Levante (12th) vs Real Madrid (3rd): 2
    Girona (15th) vs Real Sociedad (7th): 2


  3. I haven’t included tonight’s game because I was away ‘enjoying’ West Ham V Fulham at the London Stadium. BTW, if you’re ever offered a ticket to watch football there turn it down. The game’s miles away and for a relatively new stadium the catering is average. A poor away day.

    The better news: last week 5/10.

    Getafe (5th) vs Rayo Vallecano (19th): 1
    Sevilla (4th) vs Barcelona (1st): x
    Alavés (6th) vs Celta (17th): 1
    Athletic de Bilbao (11th) vs Eibar (10th): x
    Leganés (13th) vs Valencia (9th): x
    Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Villarreal (18th): 1
    Valladolid (16th) vs Betis (8th): x
    Levante (12th) vs Real Madrid (3rd): 2
    Girona (15th) vs Real Sociedad (7th): 2


  4. Espanyol (14) – Huesca (20): 1
    Getafe (5) – Rayo Vallecano (19): 1
    Sevilla (4) – Barcelona (1): 2
    Alavés (6) – Celta Vigo (17): 1
    Athletic Bilbao (11) – Eibar (10): 1
    Leganes (13) – Valencia (9): 1
    Atlético Madrid (2) – Villarreal (18): 1
    Real Valladolid (16) – Real Betis (8): X
    Levante (12) – Real Madrid (3): 2
    Girona (15) – Real Sociedad (7): 1


  5. Last week: 4/10 (40%)

    Season: 50/120 (42%)

    Espanyol (14th) vs Huesca (20th): X
    Getafe (5th) vs Rayo Vallecano (19th): 1
    Sevilla (4th) vs Barcelona (1st): X
    Alavés (6th) vs Celta (17th): 1
    Athletic de Bilbao (11th) vs Eibar (10th): X
    Leganés (13th) vs Valencia (9th): 1
    Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Villarreal (18th): X
    Valladolid (16th) vs Betis (8th): 1
    Levante (12th) vs Real Madrid (3rd): 2
    Girona (15th) vs Real Sociedad (7th): 2


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