It’s one of those sandwich weeks, stuffed between the two chewy pieces of Champions League bread, Iker Casillas’ heart-attack, Xavi’s retirement and Messi’s official deification by the international press – to which the aficionados and sages of LaLiga respond ‘Eh? He does that every week, and actually he didn’t play particularly well against Liverpool’ – not forgetting Valencia of course, their defeat at Arsenal and the bad behaviour of some of their numbskull followers – please note the use of the quantifier ‘some’.
Whatever, it behoves me to do this weekend’s quiniela, with Mr Alvarez somewhere over the Atlantic and myself in a hotel some 100 metres from SD Compostela’s stadium (Vero Boquete de San Lázaro), on a work visit for other motives than footy I might add, but interesting to effect a short pilgrimage and wander around the perimeter, which I did just five minutes before hitting these keys. I recall that in my early years in Spain, they spent 4 seasons in the top flight and were half-decent, before they plummeted to regional status, folded and were re-born as the present outfit, now playing in Tercera (3rd Division) and looking upwards. Any further candidates for a plummet or a rise? Are your ears burning Huesca?
Let’s have a look at the state of the union in this sandwich weekend, with three games left to play of this sizzling sausage season. Shall we? Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.
- Sevilla (5th) vs Leganés (13th): 1. (Fri, 21:00)
In Galicia there is a saying that the men are indecisive, such that in a lift you never know if they’re going up or down. I’ll investigate this later, but in the meantime it’s Sevilla who seem thus – one week looking wonderful (5-0 at home to Rayo) and the next losing away – yes, away to Girona! Nobody loses away to Girona, come on! So in-the-lift-Sevilla will be hoping to defeat Leganés on Friday evening, and you suspect they might. One point behind 4th-placed Getafe (who entertain the aforementioned Girona) they cannot afford to let the madrileños escape from them at this delicate stage of the proceedings. Leganés seem comfy enough in mid’ table. I can’t see why it won’t be a home win.
- Levante (16th) vs Rayo (19th): X. (Sat, 13:00)
My heart bleeds for Rayo and the fact that a defeat or even a draw will probably seal their fate – with six points between them and Levante (and Girona). Rayo basically need to win, which should ensure an interesting game, at the very least. Levante are not safe, however, and will be going for it too. It sounds like one of those games where both sides end of dissatisfied. Scoring draw. Rayo are on a relative high after last week’s win against their noiseless neighbours, but anyone can beat RM these days. It’s probably a case of too-late-was-the-cry. The top flight will be a lesser place without Vallekas, but c’est la vie. It’s a tough league. One cannot get by on Marxism alone.
3. Espanyol (10th) vs Atlético (2nd): X (Sat- 16:15)
Interesting one. Espanyol have given occasional impressions of being a good side this season, only to disappoint in the finial reckoning. Small squad, small chance, basically. The visitors are rarely caught in the end-of-season mode, such is the Cholo’s insistence on daggers between the teeth on all occasions, but they’re looking a tad tired, winning their last three but all by a single goal. Like RM, who cannot catch them now, the squad is playing for a contract, a contract renewal or extension, or in the case of some, a place in the shop window. Well – they might have waggly tails, but I don’t think they’ll get much from Espanyol, more or less on the same vibe. Draw.
4. Alavés (8th) vs Real Sociedad (9th): 1. (Sat- 18:30)
It’s a local derby at the wrong time, at the fag-end of a season in which both sides should or could have done better – Alavés because of their excellent first half to the season, and RS because of their potential. Now, Abelardo is on his way and the club is mired in a public dispute between coach and president, and the visitors are simply limping home, with too many of their key players injured – in a season when there have been more questions asked about the physios of the club than about the players. Sociedad have given debuts to nine ‘canteranos’ this season, right down to a 17 year-old who then went home on his pushbike last week from the stadium. Surely, this is the stuff that football is made of, not fat cheque books derived from fossil-fuel misuse. Alavés have had a worthy season too, and with the visitors still severely depleted, you have to go for a home win.
5. Celta (15th) vs Barcelona (1st): 1. (Sat – 20:45)
An improving Celta against Barcelona B? Well, you hardly need a searing analysis do you? Home win.
6. Getafe (4th) vs Girona (17th): X. (Sun – 12:00)
This will be one of the better games, for obvious reasons. Getafe are getting closer to their unlikely prize, despite their defeat in Anoeta last weekend which, despite the anti-ref/VAR protests planned for this game, was thoroughly deserved. Their constant moaning, reluctance to play football and general negativity almost make me want them to fail in their quest, but I don’t wish to seem churlish. It would also be a great ad for LaLiga, to have such an unlikely side competing in the Champions League, and you wouldn’t put it past them to spring a few surprises. The main problem this weekend is that Girona are sweating just above the gibbet, and with Valladolid at home to Athletic, they could drop into the bottom three and never be seen again. However, their away form has been half decent. It’s a difficult one to predict but I think that they’ll cancel each other out. Scoreless draw.
7. Eibar (12th) vs Betis (11th): 1. (Sun – 14:00)
Betis have played some fine stuff this season but it seems almost inconceivable that they’ve ended up in mid-table obscurity. Coach Setién isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you can’t accuse him of a lack of conviction. But Betis look tired and have only one point from the last four games. Eibar have made a good go of this season, and continue to give the impression that they are here to stay. They’d dropped off a bit of late, so that their startling win at Valencia last week was just the tonic to finish the season on an upward slope. They’ll be too organized and physical for Betis. Home win.
8. Real Madrid (3rd) vs Villarreal (14th): 2. (Sun – 16:15)
I predicted at the start of the season that RM would finish below the Champs League places and although it looked drastic at the time, I wasn’t far wrong, at least as far as their general play and outlook on life has been this campaign. You can almost see Zidane thinking ‘Did I really come back or is this just a crap dream?’ And who can predict this one, with Villarreal at last looking happy. Well, they drew at home to Huesca last week, but that was more about Huesca than it was about them, and they’d won three on the trot before that. You can’t really see anything but an away win, can you, despite the fact that neither side are really playing for much. You could argue that Villarreal still need a win to be truly safe, so let’s use that as the excuse to say away win. Schadenfreude I hear you say? Who does he play for anyway? Eintracht Frankfurt?
9. Valladolid (18th) vs Athletic (7th): X. (Sun – 18:30)
Another tricky one to predict, and who would’ve thought, a few months back, that Athletic would be going into this game with their Europa dreams intact and the Champions League not an impossibility.
But Valladolid are 3rd from bottom and desperate to preserve their hard-won status from last season. The other Ronaldo will be beaming positive vibes from his presidential heights, but this is going to be desperado stuff. Anything could happen, so a draw! Nobody will emerge happy from that.
10. Huesca (20th) vs Valencia (6th): 2. (Sun – 20:45)
Hope springs eternal when the maths are still on your side, but it’s looking like time’s up for Huesca, barring a miracle. Even assuming they win the next three, a single win from Girona, Levante and Celta will relegate them. Valencia’s unexpected stumble last week and their Thursday visit to Arsenal may tire them, but they must win. I think they’ll pick themselves up. Away win and ciao Huesca – y hasta la vista. It was fun while it lasted.
Last week: 3/10 (30%).
Season: 119/290 (39%)
- Sevilla (5th) vs Leganés (13th):
- Levante (16th) vs Rayo (19th):
- Espanyol (10th) vs Atlético (2nd):
- Alavés (8th) vs Real Sociedad (9th):
- Celta (15th) vs Barcelona (1st):
- Getafe (4th) vs Girona (17th):
- Eibar (12th) vs Betis (11th):
- Real Madrid (3rd) vs Villarreal (14th):
- Valladolid (18th) vs Athletic (7th):
- Huesca (20th) vs Valencia (6th):