La Quiniela: Real Madrid to struggle away to Sevilla following Champions League

Written by Eduardo Alvarez and Phil Ball.


Eduardo Alvarez: It looked like a pretty decent European football week for Spanish teams – two Champions League semi-finalists in Real Madrid and the mighty Villarreal, plus an extremely tight elimination of Simeone’s masters of the dark arts, who in fact competed very well… And then Barcelona lose to the ninth best German team, in a terrible performance by both fans and players of the Azulgrana.

Are European competition a fair assessment of each league’s quality? Perhaps they are if you take a number of years. That said, pretending to extract long term conclusions with the results of one specific season it’s as biased as trying to judge a team for one specific match. And, despite believing that he coaches the most demanding team in the world, Xavi wouldn’t want us to do that with his Barcelona.

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

1. Real Sociedad (6th) vs Betis (5th). 15/4, 21:00

Eduardo Alvarez: 1. Friday’s matches usually showcase a couple of midtable teams playing to entertain each other, but this is a must-watch indeed. Two really competitive squads who enjoy having the ball and attacking with it will try to make sure they get three points which would be key to catch Atletico and fight for the last Champions League spot next season. Both have won three of their last four and drew the other one, so they’re in decent shape. The hosts are doing ok without their best player, Oyarzabal, so I’ll pick them over Betis, even though the latter are a pretty solid visiting team. Tough one to start the weekend.

Phil Ball: 1. Tougher still when you’re in Amsterdam and not physically at the game, but I’ll be spectating from my son’s sofa, clad in the blue and white. It’s indeed a tricky one to predict, and quite a lot hangs on this game. Betis are Real’s ‘bestia negra’ (bogey man) this season, already having beaten them 4-0 twice (in league and cup) and the hosts are up for this one – a win would also put them a point above Betis in the table. They both play a similar game, as Ed says, and it should be a cracker. I really don’t know what’s going to happen, but Real are playing better than Betis at the moment. That’s all I can say. Home win.

2. Elche (15th) vs Mallorca (17th). 16/4, 14:00

EA: 1. Neither team is safe – Elche are four points above relegation and Mallorca just one. That said, the hosts attack and defend better, and have a more balanced squad. I’m going to play it safe, since I already took a gamble on Mallorca last week – against Atletico! – and paid off. Don’t want to tempt fate twice.

PB: X. Yes – the Mallorca call last week was impressive, but the circumstances dictated the result, as Ed predicted they would. Elche looked a bit short on ideas last week against Real Sociedad, and Palacios, Boyé and Carrillo are out for this one. A draw is a fairly useless result for them both, but I fear that it will be that sort of over-cautious game.

3. Alavés (20th) vs Rayo Vallecano (13th). 16/4, 16:15

EA: X. I’m going to stick my neck out and say Alavés are going down at the end of the season. Last 10 matches: 1W, 2D, 7L. Coach Mendilibar was not able to steady a ship that was terribly flawed from start of the season. While Rayo are just six points above relegation, a draw here would mean the world to them. They have enough at the back to pull it off against the worst offense of the tournament.

PB: 2. Agree about Alavés’ destiny, although it gives me no pleasure to say it. It was a case of poor planning, basically last summer. The squad’s way too thin, and it’s shown. I think Rayo are starting to recover and will win this one. The only possible hitch might be a desperate last all-or-nothing phase for the hosts, but it ain’t looking good. Pere Pons is out too. Away win.

4. Valencia (9th) vs Osasuna (10th). 16/4. 18:30

EA: 2. This should be Friday’s match, don’t you think? These two do not care much about what happens in the next seven matches. The hosts at least must prepare for the Copa del Rey final, which will take place next Saturday, whereas Osasuna have literally nothing to play for. Well, I’m going to assume that Bordalas rests half of his starters and only brings a few of them in for the last 30 minutes, at which point it will be too late. A relaxed Osasuna will upset the Valencianistas.

PB: X. I’m inclined to agree with the general tone here, but Valencia are still too good to just lay down their arms for this one. Draw.

5. Getafe (14th) vs Villarreal (7th). 16/4, 21:00

EA: 1. Trademark letdown match from Villarreal after what is probably their biggest feat in history, even bigger than their Europa League title last season. Very few sides can brag about two solid performances against Bayern Munich, especially in the Champions League. That said, I can’t see them playing a competitive match four days later, and Getafe will want these three points to feel liberated from the relegation battle once and for all. Easy home win.

PB: X. That’s a big call, although we’ve both been getting it right with Villarreal recently. There’s certainly a pattern here of ups and downs, but as I said last week, Emery can’t put all his eggs into the Champions League basket with Liverpool up next…..the Juve and Bayern exploits might realistically be the last of them. With Real Sociedad now eight points about them in the league, they really have to come down to earth and try to catch them – or else they won’t even be in Europe next year. Getafe will be a tough opponent because they always are – and they’ll eke out a draw.

6. Granada (16th) vs Levante (19th). 17/4, 14:00

EA: X. I really want to believe in Comandante Morales getting Levante out of the relegation zone by working his magic over the next few weeks, but that appears delusional. I don’t think Granada are going to be free of trouble anytime soon either, so I guess this is going to be a stalemate which will leave both sides frustrated and even more stressed out for the upcoming matches.

PB: 1. That was a killer defeat last week at home to Barça, especially when it looked like they might get something from the game. For me it’s the turning point, and Granada’s edgy work-rate will wear them down. Granada were decent at Sevilla last week too, but with only 29 points this a must-win for them. Campaña and Roger are out too, for the visitors. Home win.

7. Atlético de Madrid (4th) vs Espanyol (11th). 17/4, 16:15

EA: 2. You probably think I’m mad, because Atleti need these three points to defend their fourth spot as they watch Betis and Real Sociedad really close behind them. On top of that, Espanyol could not care less about what happens at the Wanda on Sunday. However, I’m afraid it will take both Atleti and Simeone a couple of weeks to regroup after the tough elimination vs Guardiola’s City, and Espanyol, usually terrible travelers, have a couple of decent players who will be delighted if they win at the Wanda. This is the upset of the weekend.

PB: 1. A brave call young Edward, but nah – I see it the other way round. Atlético need to ensure their place in next season’s Champs League, and anyway they’ll be motivated with sword between teeth after all the stick they’ve been receiving this week, justified or not. They’ll be pumped up. Home win.

8. Athletic de Bilbao (8th) vs Celta (12th). 17/4, 18:30

EA: 1. The hosts can still claim the seventh spot, and that’s enough to get San Mamés going and getting the win against the relaxed Viguenses. It’s a pity that the visitors didn’t really get going during the season, as they have enough talent on the pitch and on the bench to have tried for higher objectives.

PB: 1. Yes – it’s an obvious one, I suspect. Celta can always upset the apple-cart, but only when they feel like it. In their mid-table oblivion, it’s hard to see them worrying the more motivated Athletic, who still dream of Europe next season. Agreed – home win.

9. Sevilla (3rd) vs Real Madrid (1st). 17/4, 21:00

EA: 1. The match of the weekend finds an exhausted Real Madrid, who will miss Ferland Mendy due to injury and will probably feel the tiredness of the extra time vs Chelsea on the legs of their most important players. Benzema and Nacho will struggle to play, but the fact is that Ancelotti does not have too many options, especially at the back. This is going to be a feast for the physically intense Sevilla, and coach Lopetegui will probably want to make a point with a win on Sunday.

PB: X. As my son just said, ‘Yeah, Madrid are knackered’. And Sevilla’s afore-guaranteed spot in the Champs League is now in question, unless they smarten up. It might not actually be a cracker, because Madrid will try a more cautious approach – with good reason. I smell a goalless draw, despite Lopetegui’s motivation to get one over on his old mates.

10. Barcelona (2nd) vs Cádiz (18th). 18/4, 21:00

EA: 1. Not sure how much importance Xavi Hernandez is going to give to the Europa League, but I guess he won’t be rotating his side any longer. At this point his focus must be to finish as close to Real Madrid as possible, and even generate a bit of anxiety among the Madridistas so that they’re more prone to slip. He must also decide who to retain and who should go for the next season, but it’s hard to imagine the impact of the Europa League elimination. The whole match was tragic and Pedri’s injury made it even worse. Even if the squad are still shell-shocked, they should win easily vs Cadiz and breathe a bit before analyzing what went wrong and how much of that can be fixed with the current squad.

PB: X I don’t think so. The result in midweek showed Barça that you can’t assume that everything is suddenly rosy. Not just the result but the farce of the attendance and then Pedri’s injury – with the added fact that Cádiz need the points more than the hosts and are actually quite hard to beat…I can see the mini-crisis continuing for at least this game, but I’ll shy from saying an away win. Cadiz know how to frustrate teams who are temporarily down on morale. Draw.

Aggregate results:

Phil Ball: 53/100

Eduardo Alvarez: 50/100

Tags La Liga La Quiniela
La Liga - Club News