Up to four coaches could be packing their bags after this LaLiga weekend is over. The poor performances of Valladolid, Sevilla, Rayo Vallecano and… oh well, Real Madrid, could easily result in four dismissals, as club management will feel they’d be more than justified after their respective sequences of results, and all four squads look as though they could do with an injection of morale from a new manager.
With two-thirds of the season gone, eight coaches have already lost their jobs, which is exactly the same number at the same point in time last season. Beating the LaLiga record — seventeen firings — sounds impossible, but if we get those four gents out there could still be hope.
Black humour aside, in all these four cases it’s blatantly obvious that the coach can’t be totally to blame, but that firing the 22 players isn’t an option either. Indeed, coaching is a high risk job. I just hope they get their contracts paid in full.
Shall we? Let’s start. Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.
- Athletic de Bilbao (12th) vs Espanyol (13th): X. (Fri, 21:00)
Biggish names for a Friday evening match. It’s rare to see Athletic here, but it’s probably a one-off, as the Friday evening match is bound to be eliminated by LaLiga. In any case, this is an even, promising match, and the winner could dream of European football next season, as they both currently sit four points behind the sixth position, occupied by the ailing Sevilla.
Despite Iñaki Williams, Aritz Aduriz and Iker Muniain, or perhaps because of them, the locals have the second worst attack of the tournament, with 25 goals in 26 matches. Even Huesca have scored more than Athletic so far, which speaks volumes of how much Williams has struggled or how father time has caught up with Aduriz.
The visitors score slightly more, but only at Cornella. 12 goals in 13 trips look similarly poor, and to add insult to injury, their striker Borja Iglesias won’t play on Friday. This one stinks of stalemate, but if you have the chance take a peek at Wu Lei, watch a born entertainer.
- Alavés (5th) vs Eibar (10th): 2. (Sat, 13:00)
Good God. Alaves’ coach, Abelardo, had to confess this week that he paid 30k to an extortion network that would create fake profiles of escorts in a public contact web page, to then blackmail any potential patron that agreed to meet with that fake escort. Apparently, Levante’s Toño had something to do with it as well, but from the network side of things he’s spent a few nights in jail right after he extended his contract with the club from Valencia.
These things do indeed distract teams, so I guess the chaste Mendilibar and his boys should take advantage of this on Saturday morning. Will this have an impact on Abelardo’s reputation? Who knows. Other players got away with even less “standard” stuff…
The in-shape Charles on the scoresheet is another attractive bet.
- Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Leganés (11th): 1. (Sat, 16:15)
I warned last week: Atleti are back, in their ugliest and most annoying reincarnation. They trounced Real Sociedad on Sunday, and have now won their last three without conceding, plus the Juventus thrashing in the Champions League. Not a bad run at all, and they’ve even managed to get Morata back into the right mindset, which for the kid is a lot more important than his physical shape.
If you doubt, Leganés will miss six starters — Cuéllar, Siovas, Recio, Óscar Rodríguez, Jonathan Silva and Bustinza – and they’re no Manchester United. Sure home win.
- Barcelona (1st) vs Rayo Vallecano (19th): 1. (Sat, 18:30)
A few days before meeting Olympique de Lyon in the Champions League last-16 round, it’s very safe to expect Valverde to rest plenty of his starters. With morale sky-high after two more victories at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona can even afford a half-mast performance on Saturday to defeat Rayo Vallecano, energetic and motivated, but extremely limited and usually struggling away from Vallecas.
The visitors have lost their last five, and there’s already a name on the table to replace coach Michel: Julio Velazquez, who has coached Betis and Udinese among others.
- Getafe (4th) vs Huesca (20th): 1. (Sat, 20:45)
I’m not going to do it, but following some bizarre logic that has worked wonders in the past, this should be a 2. Huesca have improved, need the three points and Getafe can’t believe how high they are in the standings, so they’re bound to relax at some point.
Still, Getafe are where they are because they don’t take a single minute off, so it would be reckless to bet on anything different from a 1. Coach Bordalas perhaps exaggerated a little bit: “The match against Huesca is the most important of the whole season”, he said on Friday. His point is clear: Huesca are not as bad as the standings make them look, and another three points now would mean a huge step forward towards a memorable season.
- Celta (17th) vs Betis (8th): 1. (Sun- 12:00)
After another brutal string of poor results, Celta fired their second coach of the season, Miguel Cardoso, and brought Fran Escriba on board. Escriba has coached Getafe and Villarreal, among others, and is a fan of flair over steel, which I guess suits Celta. And even though the king of Celta’s flair, Iago Aspas, is still injured, Betis’ current, dire situation – Sergio Canales aside – makes this a great moment for Escriba to start off on the right foot. Celta will win, and we’ll hear a bunch of preposterous excuses salted with claims of not playing the game the right way from Setien.
- Girona (14th) vs Valencia (7th): 2. (Sun- 16:15)
I can’t think of a season with more ups and downs than that of Valencia. Now they do look on the way up, but they were poor in Krasnodar and are always two LaLiga defeats away from “Marcelino go home” chants at the Mestalla. In fact, I guess that every single Valencia coach is only two defeats away from “XXX go home” chants, but I digress.
I’d favour Girona, as Valencia’s Thursday match should take its toll, but Eusebio’s injury list is so long that I’d probably finish faster if I mentioned the names of the available players for Sunday. This is a Valencia win with a bunch of subs in the line-up, and Gonçalo Guedes finally making the scoresheet.
- Levante (15th) vs Villarreal (18th): 2. (Sun – 18:30)
Just when we thought Villarreal could do without the distractions of the Europa League to focus on avoiding relegation in LaLiga, they travel to Russia and win 3-1 over Zenit, with goals from Iborra and Gerard Moreno. Those two players could be key for this final third of the season, and getting them into their form of last season will indeed help the yellow team.
I should probably know better, but let’s back them for one last time before quitting on them altogether.
- Sevilla (6th) vs Real Sociedad (9th): 2. (Sun – 18:30)
One draw and four defeats in the last five LaLiga matches tell how poorly Sevilla have played of late. The home draw against Slavia was probably the last straw, and club management are now considering using Joaquin Caparros, currently the football director, as replacement before the season ends. The fear of finishing out of European football spots is real, as Valencia and Betis are just one point behind Sevilla. Hell, Real Sociedad are only two points behind them, so a win would get the Basques in the fight for that sixth spot.
- Valladolid (16th) vs Real Madrid (3rd): X. (Sun – 20:45)
The hosts did look good at some point earlier this season, but two wins in their last 17 matches have made those memories feel like sparks taken from previous years. Coach Sergio is in the hot seat, but he can find solace just by looking at the other bench on Sunday. Santiago Solari looks like a dead man walking after four consecutive defeats in ten days at the Santiago Bernabeu (Girona, Barcelona, Barcelona, Ajax). The fact that he used pretty much the same 11-12 players, and that two of them ended up injured in the fourth match, speaks volumes about Solari’s fixation with his idea of a starting line-up, and the unintended, but predictable consequences of his stubbornness. Throwing away a full season in four home losses sounds like a nightmare that could never happen in real life, but that’s exactly what has happened under Solari’s command.
The rest of the season will be an ordeal in slow motion for Real Madrid: there’s no obvious replacement for the Argentinean manager, that’s why he’ll sit on the Pucela bench on Sunday. The supporter will have to decide whether he wants Jose Mourinho and his bag of tricks back or if he prefers the team to reach rock bottom and then start from scratch under a younger manager, assuming that the club has the guts and the patience to bet on some up-and-coming coach. All the senior alternatives that would make the heart of the Madridistas beat a bit faster are taken, and I can’t see Jurgen Klopp pulling a Lopetegui on Liverpool.
While Sergio Ramos and Florentino Perez blame each other for the brutal failure this season has been, the players have made a vow to try and finish the year in second position, which seems like denial when you see how tough Atleti look right now. Without Vinicius, Real Madrid’s flow is predictable, and the goal scoring issues will become even more evident, as even though the young Brazilian struggles to score, he assisted with a certain recurrence. At least this is not played at the Santiago Bernabeu: their next home match could become a nightmare for a number of players, assuming they even play.
The prediction for Sunday? A boring draw. Neither team can offer much at this point.
Last week: 5/10 (50%)
Season: 98/230 (42%)
- Athletic de Bilbao (12th) vs Espanyol (13th):
- Alavés (5th) vs Eibar (10th):
- Atlético de Madrid (2nd) vs Leganés (11th):
- Barcelona (1st) vs Rayo Vallecano (19th):
- Getafe (4th) vs Huesca (20th):
- Celta (17th) vs Betis (8th):
- Girona (14th) vs Valencia (7th):
- Levante (15th) vs Villarreal (18th):
- Sevilla (6th) vs Real Sociedad (9th):
- Valladolid (16th) vs Real Madrid (3rd):