With embarrassing delay due to reasons beyond this scribe’s control, this Quiniela is published when the first match of the weekend has already been played and the second is about to start. In any case, I was taught that when one is late, explanations rarely help, so let’s just get to it.
Shall we? Let’s start. Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.
- Rayo Vallecano (19th) vs Girona (15th): 1. (Fri, 21:00)
I really thought Rayo would win this one, first because they have improved especially at their own stadium, and second because Girona are poor travellers unless they play at the Bernabeu. We now know that the Madrid province also awakens their competitive spirit.
- Espanyol (14th) vs Valladolid (16th): X. (Sat, 13:00)
Bearing in mind that 22 out of the 30 points Espanyol have at this point were conquered in their own stadium, it seems sensible to favour the home side, but the fact is that they’re not as reliable at Cornella as they used to be. Last week, they drew against bottom-of-the-table Huesca. Their defence is not what it used to be, and coach Rubi, revered by the football illuminati and with the full backing of the president – if you don’t fire your coach after four points in eleven matches you really really trust him — seems less and less confident on an arguably short squad.
Valladolid, without the talented but controversial Verde, can get a point in Cornella simply with their decent defence.
- Villarreal (18th) vs Alavés (6th): 1. (Sat, 16:15)
Taking a look at the stats of these two teams shows you how differently you can play football and get results regardless of seemingly important stats. Neither Alavés nor Villarreal have exactly been inspired offensively this season: in 25 matches, the hosts have scored 26 times and the visitors 25. There are 13 better attacks than these two clubs in LaLiga. Let’s take a look at their defence: Villarreal have conceded 33 times, while Alaves 28. That means that Villarreal’s net is -7, and Alaves’ -3. Now explain to me how on earth Alavés have 14 more points than Villarreal at this stage of the season.
And the answer is competitiveness: Alavés have competed in almost every single match so far, with harder defeats to Barcelona, Atleti and Real Madrid perfectly plausible and a rare day off against Getafe (4-0). A look at Villarreal’s past calendar prompts head shakes and audible sighs, as their season has been a sequence of unbelievably soft performances and silly defeats. Plus the fact that Villarreal are almost level on goals with Alaves is already a telling sign: last season they’d scored 10 goals more at this point, the Bacca and Ekambi of yore now hardly recognisable.
On Saturday, Villarreal will miss Bruno, Trigueros and Cáseres on midfield, so their classic DM duo will be altered. They need to go for the win here, so a little bit of risk won’t hurt. Almost do or die for the hosts here.
- Huesca (20th) vs Sevilla (5th): 1. (Sat, 18:30)
Yes, you saw that right. This is a 1, as Huesca keep playing tough match after match and Sevilla seem content with letting their season go down in flames without much effort to put out the fire. Machín will be under serious scrutiny after this one, and the visitors out of the Europa League spots.
- Real Madrid (3rd) vs Barcelona (1st): X. (Sat, 20:45)
I have to admit I’ve never felt this unmotivated to go to the Bernabeu to watch Barcelona. Four wins in the five last matches is already tough to swallow, but the fact that the Azulgranas triumphed last Wednesday almost without trying made it even more bitter. They only needed a few sparks by Dembele and Suarez to trounce Real Madrid, while Messi, running more than in other clasicos, didn’t quite look as interested as in previous matches.
But a clasico is a clasico, and you never know when the specific underdog is going to wake up. We heard chants asking for Florentino’s resignation last Wednesday, and another home defeat to Barcelona would just be too much. I don’t think Valverde will rotate much, but Messi should rest, and that is always welcomed by the Madridistas.
A longer reflection about Real Madrid’s season is long overdue, although the main mistakes are clear for all to see: Florentino has chosen 13 CL titles, 33 Ligas and a brand new stadium over 14-15 CL titles and 35 ligas with the good old Bernabeu. Moving from the loaded squad that won LaLiga two years ago to the current configuration, with plenty of promise but not many goals was always going to take its toll.
Barcelona chose the opposite, and surrounded Messi’s final few seasons with a handful of very expensive signings, that may work sooner or later, better or worse, but the intent was there and it’s slowly starting to pay off.
For this one, let’s just go for one draw that will not kill the Madridistas and will keep the Azulgrana happy and on top of the standings, far far away.
- Eibar (11th) vs Celta (17th): 1. (Sun- 12:00)
I have given up on Celta, you have given up on Celta… Hell, even Celta seem to have given up on themselves. But wait, this movie isn’t over yet. Prepare for a memorable Iago Aspas comeback at the end of March, with the team in relegation spots and the fans dreading to exchange divisions with Depor, now 4th in the Segunda just three points behind the leaders.
Anyway, this is Eibar’s, no doubt.
- Betis (7th) vs Getafe (4th): 2. (Sun- 16:15)
I was extremely fond of coach Setién as a player, and I kept that enchantment during his first few coaching jobs. The spell was broken during the final months of his embarrassing tenure with Las Palmas, and now the more I hear his press-conferences, the less I think of him. His arrogance knows no bounds. On paper, I’d always favour a team like Betis, who enjoy having the ball and who are also making the most of Sergio Canales’s talent, a personal favourite of mine, especially facing the poor man’s Atleti, Getafe.
But, similarly to Xavi Hernandez, Setien keeps uttering that crap about his way being the only acceptable way to win, and that’s just too rich for my taste. Combine that with the amazing sequence of Getafe, now 4th in the standings, and let’s just go for Bordalas’ boys.
- Real Sociedad (8th) vs Atlético de Madrid (2nd): 2. (Sun – 18:30)
Phil will report on this match against one of his least favourite teams. The combination of a history of violent fans with the classy Simeone is hard to digest if you haven’t been born next to the Manzanares. Phil’s preferences aside, I’m afraid that Atleti are back. The swagger, the chest-bumping, the scrotum-grabbing are there, and those signs, unnerving as they may be, announce that the 2015 Atleti is back, and no sane football club will enjoy the next couple of months, starting with Real Sociedad on Sunday.
- Valencia (9th) vs Athletic de Bilbao (10th): 2. (Sun – 20:45)
Both teams have crawled back from very disappointing situations in the standings to simply disappointing ones. Valencia at least will have something to remember this season, their first Copa del Rey final in 10 years. That said, they both look ready to mount a challenge for a Europa League spot, trying to surprise the few, less experienced teams in front of them. If you want to bet on the running streak, an X is your option, but I believe that Valencia will pay the midweek effort to make that final and will politely hand Athletic three points.
- Leganés (12th) vs Levante (13th): 1. (Mon – 21:00)
The Le-Le derby! Rivalry generated by the ownership of a couple of letters!
Well, in fact they are almost copycat teams, although the Levantinistas are slightly more fun, as it should be when you compare the East with Madrid. I’ll take the hosts and the impressive Braithwaite, the best signing of the winter transfer window.
Last week: 3/10 (30%)
Season: 93/220 (41%)
- Rayo Vallecano (19th) vs Girona (15th):
- Espanyol (14th) vs Valladolid (16th):
- Villarreal (18th) vs Alavés (6th):
- Huesca (20th) vs Sevilla (5th):
- Real Madrid (3rd) vs Barcelona (1st):
- Eibar (11th) vs Celta (17th):
- Betis (7th) vs Getafe (4th):
- Real Sociedad (8th) vs Atlético de Madrid (2nd):
- Valencia (9th) vs Athletic de Bilbao (10th):
- Leganés (12th) vs Levante (13th):