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May 4, 2012

Week 32 - Let the chaos begin

It's almost over! What are we all going to do at the weekends? Go for walks? Talk to our families? Perish the thought! Not too long to wait now until June and the European Championship. Meanwhile, we can still become millionaires with the Quiniela - as long as you ignore mine and Eduardo's advice. I'm stepping in for Eduardo this week, and he'll do Monday's column, but I'll be back to analyse the curtain fall on May 13. Things are falling into place now and, of course, we have our champions. The big news is that Real Madrid managed to get through their open-topped bus journey to Cibeles fountain on Thursday without dropping anything too valuable, but that's because they haven't been given the trophy yet. Sergio Ramos is under orders not to touch anything silver, and Iker Casillas took an inordinate amount of time to tie the Real Madrid scarf around the neck of the goddess Cibeles, who tolerated him with great patience. Ed will analyse Madrid's title triumph this weekend in more detail, but suffice to say that the San Mames victory (incidentally the first time in La Liga history that another side has won the title there) was easier than it had looked from the perspective of last weekend. Athletic eventually seemed to have their minds on other things (two cup finals), and so we move into that awkward phase for the Quiniela, where it becomes almost impossible to predict anything with much accuracy. Several sides are playing for nothing in particular now, and those who are tend to turn the form books upside down. Let's take a look. Remember, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win. 1. Zaragoza (18th) v Racing (20th): 1 It's difficult to see any other than a home win here. Rayo are still 'catchable', three points above Zaragoza in 17th place, and travel to Sevilla. If they lose there and Zaragoza beat relegated Racing, it's going to the wire. This could indeed become the main focus of the weekend. Poor Racing seem broken, although they rallied briefly this week to draw at Getafe. Nevertheless, they have not won since January 15, when they took three points from Osasuna. Zaragoza, on the other hand, have hit form just in time. The scarves held aloft at the Romareda read "Si se puede" (Yes it's possible!). Hope springs eternal, but they may be right. 2. Athletic de Bilbao (8th) v Getafe (10th): X Again, with the Europa League final in Bucharest next week, Athletic may feel that their best chance for qualifying next season is to beat Atletico Madrid in that game, and to go steady on the rest. It's not really a part of their mentality, but they were less-than lion-like against Real Madrid on Wednesday. The good news for them is that Getafe's season is as good as over, despite the mathematical possibility that they could still qualify for Europe. Nevertheless, it's probably going to fizzle out in a draw. 3. Mallorca (7th) v Levante (5th): X Mallorca are finishing on a high, and have moved up into 7th place - winning four from the last five. By beating Levante they would be equal on points with them and suddenly in for a potential Europa place. Levante, however, have not come this far only to stumble at the final hurdle. It may be a fight to the death, and difficult to predict. Levante have only won a single game from the last five, however. It's now or never, to clinch a deserved place in Europe. I think they'll get a result. They're experienced and clever enough to play for one. 4. Granada (15th) v Real Madrid (1st): 2 Granada have done very well to pull out of, and stay away from, the relegation places for some time now, but they still find themselves in a tricky situation with two games to go. Why? Well they're not mathematically safe yet, with Zaragoza looking as though they could easily win their last two games, and Real Madrid are unlikely to relax, given their new target of 100 points and the Ronaldo 'Pichichi' challenge. Granada then travel to Rayo on the last day - a potentially nuclear encounter. They need to beat Real Madrid, but in trying to do so, may end up pointless. Away win, I suspect. 5. Sevilla (12th) v Rayo Vallecano (17th): X So the Michel-led revolution never really happened, and the latest defeat at home to neighbours Betis has hardly lightened the mood at the Pizjuan. They cannot really aspire for anything now except their dignity, but Rayo visit needing to win. Only a few weeks ago, Rayo were talking about Europe, but now they find themselves in trouble after five defeats on the trot. What a strange season they are having. Their last win was a 6-0 drubbing of Osasuna, preceded by a 4-0 defeat away at Real Sociedad. And of course, the 7-0 home defeat to Barcelona hasn't done their confidence any favours. But I'll stick my neck out and predict a draw. Sevilla won't have the stomach to fight for much more. 6. Barcelona (2) Espanyol (13th): 1 Espanyol's promising season has become rather a damp-squib, possibly due to the rumours that their excellent manager, Mauricio Pochettino, is wanted by a host of European clubs. It's the 'Harry Redknapp effect', and they're now condemned to mid-table. I can't see them putting up much resistance at a de-caffeinated Catalan derby. Home win, with Leo Messi trying his best to stay ahead of CR7 in the Pichichi race. 7. Sporting (19th) v Betis (11th): 1 Sporting are as good as down after losing at home to Villarreal on Tuesday, but they may grasp onto their tiny ray of hope and go for a win. Betis have been excellent of late and have only lost once in the last nine games, securing their top-flight status for next season and showing how patience with manager Pepe Mel paid off, when all seemed lost after the opening phase of the season. However, Europe is a bit of chimera now. I think Sporting have more reasons to go for a win. 8. Atlético de Madrid (6th) v Málaga (4th): X The last-gasp equaliser from Real Sociedad's Carlos Vela on Wednesday night did Atletico considerable damage, at least with regard to their Champions League aspirations. Now, to qualify for the Europa, they find themselves in a similar situation to Athletic, whom they meet in mortal combat in Bucharest on Wednesday night. Take it easy against Malaga, and risk qualification by winning the final? It's a tricky dilemma, but Malaga won't be coming to offer any favours, with the 4th spot still not guaranteed. They can still catch Valencia, but they might be happy to settle for fourth, keeping their owners reasonably happy in the process. This is a difficult one to predict so I'll take the coward's way out and go for a draw. 9. Valencia (3rd) v Villarreal (16th): 2 It's been a season of reflection for Villarreal, unlucky in injuries and suddenly unsure of themselves in terms of internal policy. They're still not out of the woods, with Zaragoza fighting to the death, and they won't find this short trip an easy one. Valencia are fresh from a 4-0 confidence-restorer, and although manager Unai Emery would appear to be moving on, nobody seems terribly bothered. If Valencia win this one, then their Champions League spot is secured. Villarreal won't make it easy for them, however. I've got a funny feeling about this one. I reckon it's an away win. 10. Osasuna (9th) v Real Sociedad (14th): X Real Sociedad take the short trip over the mountains with a more confident look about them, having gone seven games without defeat - a run that means they will play in the top flight again next season. Osasuna, after a surprisingly good season, always up there in the top part of the table, are finally succumbing to tiredness and the consequences of a thin squad. Win their last two (they travel to Racing on the last day) and they could still make the Europa League, but the spark seems to have gone. They only have one win from the last seven, and the visitors are looking much fresher. Despite the fact that Sociedad are only playing for pride, I think they'll get a point. Use this easy 'Copy and Paste' summary to write your own Quiniela and share it with us in the 'Comments' section. If you get 10 correct results, your name will be mentioned in the following Quiniela column! 1. Zaragoza (18th) v Racing (20th):
2. Athletic de Bilbao (8th) v Getafe (10th):
3. Mallorca (7th) v Levante (5th):
4. Granada (15th) v Real Madrid (1st):
5. Sevilla (12th) v Rayo Vallecano (17th):
6. Barcelona (2) Espanyol (13th):
7. Sporting (19th) v Betis (11th):
8. Atlético de Madrid (6th) v Málaga (4th):
9.Valencia (3rd) v Villarreal (16th):
10. Osasuna (9th) v Real Sociedad (14th):

Last week: 7/10 (70%)
Season: 143/310 (46%)

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