La Quiniela: Real Madrid return to Elche as Barcelona lock horns with Alaves

In our last Quiniela, Phil and I started to compete on our weekly predictions. It wasn’t an auspicious start by any stretch of the imagination: after a decent 2/3 in Saturday’s matches, both of us only got one result right in the remaining seven matches, ending up tied at 3/10. This weekend looks a lot easier, or at least I keep telling myself so.

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

  1. Espanyol (11th) vs Betis (3rd). 21/1, 21:00

Eduardo Alvarez: 1. I know that Betis are in terrific shape, with Juanmi and Borja Iglesias scoring what Fekir and Canales throw their way, but their bench is not very deep and they’ve been playing twice a week for two months in a row. Raúl de Tomás on the scoresheet.

Phil Ball: X. Hmmm…not quite so sure it’s an easy week. It’s true that Betis have been dunked in a lot of emotive water recently and have come up smiling to the surface, but their tiredness can still worry Espanyol who have much less to their creative bow.  I’ll go for a draw, although my finger is twitching on the ‘2’ button.

  1. Levante (20th) vs Cádiz (19th). 22/1, 14:00

EA: 1. The hosts broke their spell and won last weekend after almost nine months without a victory, and I’m sure they’ll make it two in a row. José Luis Morales will take them within a point of Cadiz and on the relegation battle again. The visitors should have never let coach Alvaro Cervera go. 

PB: 1. I’m inclined to agree. Cádiz are feeling a bit better about themselves now, with the cup run a motivating factor, but in these dog-eat-dog scenarios you have to favour the side that’s just got itself back on the upward slope, and anyway, Levante are more rested.  But it’s a desperate situation for them still, so to lose would be unthinkable.  Capt. Morales to the rescue,  in the battle of the pensioners (Soldado, Negredo…) Home win.

  1. Villarreal (8th) vs Mallorca (17th). 22/1, 16:15

EA: 1. Mallorca surprised with a great Copa del Rey performance in which they defeated Espanyol, and just had a fantastic signing in goalie Sergio Rico on loan from PSG. But they simply don’t have enough to compete with a Villarreal who struggle away from home, but take care of business at La Ceramica stadium.

PB: 1. Yes. Mallorca played well in the cup game but as I said, I don’t rate Espanyol. Villarreal’s weird season continues with that defeat last time out to Elche, but the fact that they’ve managed to retain their big guns from the vultures of the Premier League is cause for optimism. I think they’ll gain in consistency now. Definite home win.

  1. Sevilla (2nd) vs Celta (12th): 22/1, 18:30

EA: 1. After dropping points to Valencia missing glorious chances in midweek, Sevilla desperately need a win on Saturday. Tecatito will score. Even though Celta have improved, I can’t see them stopping the hosts, who fancy their chances to contend for the title.

PB: 2. Time to stick my neck out. Like Betis, Sevilla have had an emotional roller-coaster ride but not come up smiling. There’s something a bit dysfunctional at the heart of the side (Jordan, Diego Carlos), aggressive and talented though they are. Celta are on a bit of a roll, and I fancy their chances of upsetting the Madrid-chasers. Tecatito is from Hermosillo, where my daughter is currently working, but that’s about it. Aspas to continue his run. Celta just have that good feeling about them at the moment.

  1. Atlético de Madrid (4th) vs Valencia (9th). 22/1, 21:00

EA: X. Awful timing for Atlético, who must face an extremely physical side just when the team looks at its lowest point since Simeone took over. The atmosphere is extremely charged, including meetings between fans and players, something that reminds of days which I thought were gone. Not that Valencia are in a nice place either, especially with Daniel Wass asking to be transferred precisely to Atletico, but I believe the visitors can get a point at the Wanda out of these troubled waters.

PB: X. Yep – I’m inclined to agree. It’s the kind of game Valencia will relish, especially with Atlético on such a poor run. I saw them live on Wednesday and was serially unimpressed. But it’s their back line that is suffering, which is uncharacteristic of them. Almost tempted to go for a ‘2’ here, but I’ll chicken out.

  1. Granada (13th) vs Osasuna (14th). 23/1, 14:00

EA: X. Osasuna started the season as one of the best travelling sides in Europe, and are slowly regressing to the mean, but I see them earning a hard fought point versus the improved Granada. 

PB: 1. I’m not so sure about Granada’s improvement, but Osasuna are down on their luck.  They won’t fancy it. Home win.

  1. Real Madrid (1st) vs Elche (17th). 23/1, 16:15

EA: 1. The football gods always prepare one of these surprises every season: these two teams played for the Copa del Rey on Thursday and now have to face each other again. Elche were spectacular and took Ancelotti’s side to the limit, but things will be different with Real Madrid’s A team starting at the Bernabeu. Beware, rest of teams: if Isco and Hazard can win a do or die match for Real Madrid in extra time, anything can happen this season.

PB: 1. Well I’d love to disagree, but let’s make Ed happy and go for the obvious result. There’s nothing really to suggest that Elche – a better side than they might appear to be – can cause an upset here, although their recent form is good (2 wins and a draw in the last three, and a decent showing at Barcelona).  Madrid have got their mojo working, and it’s even motivating the undead (Isco, Hazard….).  Home win.

  1. Rayo Vallecano (6th) vs Athletic de Bilbao (10th). 23/1, 18:30

EA: 1. I predict a classic let-down match from Athletic. The phenomenal performance to defeat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey will be followed by a lacklustre display versus one of the best home sides in Europe. Rayo are 8W/2D in 10 matches in Vallecas. Oh, and I just remembered that Phil compared Muniain to no other than Wayne Rooney when the former first played with Athletic. Obviously different careers, but even though I laughed back then it’s obvious that Iker, still not 30, is already an Athletic legend in his own right.

PB: X. Good analysis from Ed, but the Rayo bubble must burst at some point. I agree that Athletic will be war-weary, but they’ve got the players (Yuri’s back) to scare Rayo on that intense little pitch of theirs. And although I stick by my Muniain description, the problem is that he can look like Messi one day, and the next disappear without trace. His absence from the Spanish national side tells you a lot, I think.  Anyway – for me it’s a scoring draw.

  1. Real Sociedad (7th) vs Getafe (16th). 23/1, 18:30

EA: X. Coach Quique has brought new energy to Getafe, and that has been felt not only on the pitch, but also in the transfer window. The visitors are in their best shape of the season and Real Sociedad, even with the impressive Oyarzabal who never takes a day off, will fail to win this one.

PB: X. Reluctantly, I agree. I’ve gotta bad feeling about this one, so soon after the euphoria of Real’s cup win and the recent return to form. Getafe are suddenly on a roll, and I can see Real getting bogged down.  Isak will probably be back for the hosts, but Borja Mayoral has a habit of scoring against the Basques.  Probably a scoring draw.

  1. Alavés (18th) vs Barcelona (5th). 23/1, 21:00

EA: 2. The Xavi era so far: five wins after 14 matches. The change in style and attitude is there, but the results are not quite appearing yet. Even if we see underperforming stars and overvalued players, this squad should get all three points in Vitoria. All that’s left now is LaLiga. If they don’t, the pressure of the Barcelona media on the team will become absurd. 

PB: X. Again, Ed’s analysis is good, but it misses certain factors, one of them being Alaves’ desperation. They’re not looking good this season, but they’ve got Lejeune back and Joselu can be a handful.  Barça have lost Ansu and Gavi and the San Mamés game won’t make them too keen on returning north.  On paper it’s a 2, sure, but Alavés have spirit, at least at home. And on Sunday night, it’s going to be a chilly -3 in Vitoria.  No way Barça are going to win.

Aggregate results:

Phil Ball: 3/10

Eduardo Alvarez: 3/10

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