La Quiniela: The relegation rumble and a question of rotation in the Madrid derby

Written by Eduardo Alvarez and Phil Ball.


Eduardo Alvarez: Is it all over with four matches to go? Well, at least in the top part of the table it looks like that. But if you want strong emotions, look towards the bottom. I’d say six clubs are fighting to avoid the last three spots, and there’s plenty of drama coming up, with some do-or-die matches this weekend and a few clubs that, having done their homework, can cash in with the infamous white suitcases (cash incentives from other clubs so that they win their matches vs troubled teams even if they are already safe).

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


  1. Levante (20th) vs Real Sociedad (6th). 29/4, 21:00

Eduardo Alvarez:  1. One of the few matches in which both parties have something at stake opens the weekend. Hosts fight for their lives, visitors think of that Europa League spot that could had been a Champions League one with a decent finisher in the team. Real Sociedad haven’t won in their last three, whereas Levante seem determined to go down throwing punches left, right and centre. I’ll vouch once more for Jose Luis Morales, although it does feel like a very risky call.

Phil Ball: X. Saw it before writing but I’ll concede the point. I would have called a draw (which it should have been, had the ref not invented a penalty). Ho hum.


  1. Mallorca (16th) vs Granada (18th). 30/4, 14:00

EA: 1. The highest stakes on the weekend, no doubt. Only one point separates both clubs and you will see the tension in two sides who, judging by their talent and investments, should not be undergoing such a dramatic situation. Granada have gone five matches without a win, while Mallorca haven’t been that bad at home in fact. Tough home win, Karanka’s Granada in big trouble.

PB: X. Massive game, particularly after Levante’s win.  Mallorca will go for it, and play a defence of four (then three if it goes awry) but Karanka’s approach has been defensive since he became a coach – indeed, he is both praised and criticized for this facet.  My feeling is that they will cancel each other out and it’ll be a draw that neither really wants.


  1. Athletic de Bilbao (8th) vs Valencia (10th). 30/4, 16:15

EA: X. These two clubs have enjoyed great moments during the season, especially in their respective Copa del Rey runs. Now, in the middle of the table and probably thinking of what will happen next season, it’s hard to see them impressing next year. In the summer, Athletic won’t get any personnel that could help them give that leap towards the top 5, while Valencia don’t have the cash they used to throw away signing players. This has everything to be a quite boring match.

PB: 1. Yes and no.  Athletic still think they can nick a European spot, and with their arch-rivals Real Sociedad stuttering, it’s a reasonable motive to keep going.  Valencia are indeed stuck in inertia, with the threat of Soler and others leaving. Home win.


  1. Celta (12th) vs Alavés (19th). 30/4. 18:30

EA: 1. Alavés gave themselves a lifeline by defeating Villarreal last weekend, but they were facing the B side of a club which was about to play one of their biggest matches of their history three days later. I do believe that the win will add some faith to the team, but I also believe that a few white suitcases will have travelled towards Vigo. With some “motivation” thrown in and the freedom of playing with no downside, Celta are in fact a quite scary team in front of their own crowd. Easy home win.

PB: 2. Ha yes – the famous suitcases. I’m sure it’s done in cryptocurrency these days but hey, whatever.  It’s true that they beat the ‘B’ team but something is stirring there.  They’ve got an awful record away from home and they’ll miss Escalante and Duarte (suspended), but Celta will be a psychological mess after the Santi Mina case all week. Draw or away.  I’m sticking my neck out. Away win.


  1. Cádiz (17th) vs Elche (13th). 30/4, 21:00

EA: 1. The same theory can be applied to this match, but Elche, more talented than their position would make you think, play away from home. Cadiz will be all over them from minute one, and they have shown enough promise in the last few weeks so that we believe in their win. I hope that their victory in Barcelona is not fooling me in this case.

PB: 1. Yes, agreed.  In fact I’m completely confused as to who is going down this season now, but Elche are safe enough, unless they receive some cryptocurrency. That makes it an interesting ending to the season, at the very least.  Home win.


  1. Betis (5th) vs Barcelona (2nd). 1/5, 14:00

EA: 1. Well, this is Betis’ last chance to secure a Champions League spot. If they don’t defeat Barcelona, it seems really hard for them to surpass Atleti, three points ahead and facing Real Madrid’s C side on Sunday. Also, a draw will be enough for the visitors to guarantee their place in Europe’s top competition next season, after their relegation(s) this year. To me, the key to this match is how consistent Xavi’s Barcelona really is? Honestly, I have no idea. They went undefeated for a ton of matches to then lose three home games in a row against obviously inferior opposition. Given what we’ve seen lately from the visitors on the pitch, I feel that the hosts have a huge chance to extend their challenge for one more week.

PB: X. I concur with most of the analysis, but Betis too have been a bit wobbly of late, despite their cup triumph. They haven’t actually scored in their last three league games and they looked tired against Getafe. How motivated are they though, to open up that 5-point gap over Real Sociedad?  Kind of, but I see this as a low-scoring draw although on paper it’s an attractive fixture.


  1. Getafe (15th) vs Rayo Vallecano (11th). 1/5, 16:15

EA: 1. With a win, Getafe should be safe, although with 36 points they look quite calm already. Fate throws Rayo in their hands, a team with their homework done and extremely happy with the way season has played out. Also, they’re the sixth worst travellers in the tournament, which comes in quite handy for the hosts. Ah, it’s been Enes Unal’s breakout season in Spain, and one can finally see what some scout guessed in the past. He’ll probably score on Saturday as Rayo can’t deal well with that type of strong, physical forward.

PB: 1. I kinda like Rayo, despite some of the daft stuff that goes on in the upper echelons of the club, but I always wish them well. But I think their safety will now indeed guarantee a sort of limp to the finish, particularly in this type of game. It might not be too pretty, and Getafe (most fouls and most cards this season again) will be too organised for them. Furthermore, they’re not quite safe just yet. Home win.


  1. Villarreal (7th)vs Sevilla (3rd). 1/5, 18:30

EA: 2. I can see Villarreal half dead after their effort versus Liverpool, and Sevilla competing hard to reach that second spot that would give them access to Geri and Rubi’s Supercup in Saudi Arabia. I expect a very strong Sevilla performance, and it’s on Lopetegui and their men to show their motivation until the end of the season. The hosts have done all humanly possible to make this an unforgettable season, and it’s ok if they want to take a few matches off. On top of that, Gerard Moreno is injured.

PB: X. Geri and Rubi sounds like a great new ice-cream company. They should go for it. But the match….well Villarreal might be knackered, but the chances of playing European football next season are beginning to look thin unless they get their act together. They still have Real Sociedad to play too. I think they’re obliged to win this one and that Sevilla will be less bothered….but it’ll end up as a scoring draw. Believe me.


  1. Espanyol (14th) vs Osasuna (9th). 1/5, 21:00

EA: 2. No one really cares about this one, but the rumours of Espanyol players arguing in the dressing room after their loss at the Bernabeu and the fact that Osasuna are terrific away from their stadium make me think that this will end up with boos from the Espanyol fans at Cornella.

PB: 2. Yeah – it’s indeed a bit of a dead-rubber game. I’m really not sure it’s even worthy of analysis. Osasuna are good away, yes. I’ll play tactically to stay ahead of Ed. Away win.


  1. Atlético de Madrid (4th) vs Real Madrid (1st). 2/5, 21:00

EA: 1. I refuse to comment on the pasillo controversy. In any case, my guess is that Simeone will field his most physical side to show some teeth at the Wanda. If Carletto has any prudence left, he’ll start Vallejo, Mariano and Co and won’t care that much about the final result. He’s already lost 4-0 at home to Barcelona with no consequences in the general outcome of the season, so he should give this one up and avoid any injuries for the higher objective, Paris. Easy home win and Mariano ends up sent off.

PB: 2. No Felix and Lemar, although Savic is back to lend the game a few nasty stares. This could be a damp squib or a cracker, but I can’t agree with Ed on RM’s likely attitude to this one. For me they’ll try to make this game like the curtain fall on a surprisingly good season and will play the Pretorian Guard from the start.  Vallejo and Nacho as centre-backs though might be a problem, but what do Atlético have to offer at the moment apart from bluster?  Away win and a few worrying heavy tackles for Carlo’s eyebrow raising.


Aggregate results:


Phil Ball: 60/120


Eduardo Alvarez: 56/120

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