Is there a title race? Not yet. Could there be one? Well, if Real Madrid drop points in Vigo and Barcelona defeat second-spot Sevilla, we’ll be in for an extremely interesting final quarter of the season. Who would have thought eh?
Shall we? Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.
1. Getafe (15th) vs Mallorca (18th). 2/4, 14:00
Eduardo Alvarez: 1. Last weekend Mallorca finally got into the relegation zone after a few months working hard to get down there. I can’t picture them suddenly righting their wrongs – third worst scorers in the league and second-worst defence at the same time, which is not an easy feat – to win in Getafe. The hosts got over 70% of their points at home and I trust coach Sánchez Flores to get this job done. A win for them would be gigantic.
Phil Ball: 1. Hard to disagree. Love the ‘working hard to get down there’ phrase. Yeah – the only plus for Mallorca is their increasing desperation, but their rubbish away record and Getafe’s good home form, as Ed says, suggests a straight ‘1’. It’s also freezing in Madrid, and those softies from Mallorca won’t fancy it. Then again, with Javier (el Vasco) Aguirre making his debut on the bench, anything can happen. But….I’ll take the easy way out. Home win.
2. Levante (20th) vs Villarreal (7th). 2/4, 16:15
EA: 2. The gulf in talent and motivation is so huge that I could picture Villarreal’s second team defeating the hosts on Saturday. Eight points away from salvation with nine matches to go and with which is by far the worst defence of the tournament, I guess Levante are already gone. The visitors have the chance to get closer to the top four, and I believe that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
PB: 1. As fans of this column will know, I don’t trust Villarreal and my doubts about their mentality has been endorsed on various occasions. Last two away games they’ve lost to Cádiz and Osasuna. It’s true that they’re more rested for this one, but I still think Levante will trouble them – because they’re probably down, in truth, and so not under that much pressure. Villarreal will also half an eye on the Bayern match, in four days’ time. Home win.
3. Celta (11th) vs Real Madrid (1st). 2/4, 18:30
EA: 2. The visitors took a humongous hit to their confidence in the shape of a humbling 4-0 home defeat at the hands of Xavi Hernandez’s Barcelona two weeks ago. Now Real Madrid know well that they need a win here to consolidate their advantage in the standings and the apparent feeling that there’s something not quite right happening at the Bernabeu. Of course, this team misses badly the absence of any starter, especially in the case of Benzema, but they must get this job done or else they’ll risk a growing Barcelona fancying a go at the title. Ancelotti’s son will coach the team in Vigo, which is always a bizarre sight if you don’t believe in the transfer of power from father to son.
PB: 2. Tricky call this one. Celta should have done better this season, given the quality they have, and 6 home defeats is unbecoming of them. They’re too far off the Euro spots to realistically challenge and I fear that Madrid are rather more pumped up for this one. It might depend on whether Benz makes it, but I’ll go for an away win too.
4. Atlético de Madrid (4th) vs Alavés (19th). 2/4,, 21:00
EA: 1. Atleti have reacted indeed, and now they fancy a top 2 finish and another round at the UEFA CL. Well, this is a must win for them if they want to keep Barcelona within striking range, but it’s Alavés who will have to show something to avoid relegation. Can’t see the hosts losing this one, although I only guessed one out of ten correct results in my last Quiniela…
PB: 1. Despite Ed’s poor showing last time out (and he has the balls to admit it, at least), you can’t see Alavés getting much from this one. Their lack of pace at the back is alarming, and with Joao and Antoine skipping around like spring lambs up front, it doesn’t look good for the visitors. I was talking to an Alavés fan yesterday, and he’s an optimist. When I asked him if he thought they’d avoid the drop, he replied with a phrase that I can’t really repeat here. He meant ‘no’. Home win.
5. Athletic de Bilbao (8th) vs Elche (14th). 3/4, 14:00
EA: 1. I know I tend to favour Athletic well above their results this season, but the fact is that they have an amazing physical presence, and they generate more chances than most adversaries. In this case, they should defeat an almost safe Elche. Ah! And could Iñaki Williams end up playing the World Cup… for Ghana? That’s on the table now, apparently.
PB: X. Agree with the analysis but not the result. Elche are a bit stubborn – the sort of side Athletic find it hard to break down. Iñigo Martinez is out too, and I wouldn’t underestimate Elche’s front line of Boyé and Milla. Scoring draw. Oh – and Williams will be distracted by thoughts of Qatar (that’s a joke, just in case).
6. Betis (5th) vs Osasuna (10th). 3/4, 16:15
EA: 1. After their slump in form, this two-week break should have helped the hosts to recover some of their swagger. They’ve only won one of their last four, and they may have lost the Champions League train. But they have a chance to finish a fantastic season with a final challenge, and that’s what coach Manuel Pellegrini said they’ll do on Thursday. Osasuna, at this point only playing to enjoy themselves, can upset anyone, but without that competitive edge they should lose on Sunday.
PB: X. Hmmm…tricky one. Again, Ed’s right about Betis (and Osasuna) apart from the ‘competitive edge’ point with the moodily effective Jagoba in charge. Betis also lose quite a lot of magic without Fekir and Canales (and the cuddly Borja Iglesias). Draw.
7. Granada (16th) vs Rayo Vallecano (13th). 3/4, 18:30
EA: 1. Granada’s huge away win in their last match vs Alavés saw them earn two spots in the standings, but especially gave them faith to believe they can still stay in LaLiga after 11 consecutive matches without a victory. They do have enough talent to avoid the relegation battle, and the calendar is mildly favourable. Another win at home vs the almost safe Rayo will reinforce their confidence.
PB: 1. Agreed. Rayo are thinking about next season, although on 32 points they want fancy being drawn into a late relegation battle. They’ll pick up enough points at hone to survive though. Granada haven’t done well against fellow strugglers, but they need it more. Home win.
8. Valencia (9th) vs. Cádiz (17th) 3/4, 18:30
EA: X. I’ve been tipping Valencia to drop points in every single match since they made the final of the Copa del Rey – to be played on the 23rd of April – and they’ve proven me wrong a couple of times so far. Well, I insist: in this case they have nothing to play for and Cadiz desperately need points. Unfortunately for the visitors, they don’t have much talent upfront, so a draw is in the cards.
PB: X I hate to agree too much, but Cádiz are looking better and Valencia are indeed on the crest of a very small wave. You could argue that 5 points shy of the European spots should motivate them, but something is stirring at Cádiz. I’m almost tempted to say away win, but I’ll settle for the draw too.
9. Barcelona (3rd) vs Sevilla (2nd). 3/4, 21:00
EA: 1. Can you imagine the reception the Camp Nou is going to give Barcelona on Sunday? Prime time, warm Sunday night and that great feeling of having scored four at the Bernabeu… The cules have a few reasons to feel happy and optimistic about the future of their team and on top of that the calendar sends them Sevilla, in what is the perfect occasion to reach the second spot still with a game in hand.
Sevilla have managed to keep their second spot so far, but the lack of spark in their performances is more and more obvious. The winter signings haven’t worked and the team looks tired, dying for the season to end. The exact opposite of Barcelona – great signings and the feeling that they have already turned the season around – who, if Real Madrid drop points on Saturday, may even feel they have the chance to pester their arch-rivals a few times more before the season is over.
PB: X. I dunno about this one. Ed’s analysis looks spot-on but surely, Sevilla must wake up soon? I’d suggest, mildly, that the rest will have done them good, and with the injury-list getting better, I see them bringing Xavi’s pups down to Earth a little. They like drawing too – 12 times this season, the most in the league. You look at that forward line and the back line and you know they can do the business. Rakitic to show some old mates what he can still do? Draw.
10. Real Sociedad (6th) vs Espanyol (12th). 4/4, 21:00
EA: 1. We’ll see many matches like this in the next eight weeks. That is, a team that’s playing for a clear aim – top six finish, avoid relegation, etc – faces another team who has nothing to feel motivated about. Unless a third team has thrown an incentive for the latter in the shape of a white suitcase full of cash, the former should win 90% of these matches. And given that it’s way too early for Betis or Villarreal to be sending wads of cash to San Sebastian – usually these moves start five weeks or so before the end of the season –, Real Sociedad should prevail on Monday, even without the injured Oyarzabal.
PB: 1. I’ll be there, despite the cold of a Monday night – and will be expecting nothing less than a win. RDT is doubtful too for the visitors. Real should have killed Sevilla last time out, but goal-scoring paranoia notwithstanding, they’ll win this one. Now they’re rested, as Ed implies, they’ll do fine up to the end of the season.
Phil Ball: 44/80
Eduardo Alvarez: 37/80