"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future" - Niels Bohr, Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner
After another pathetic quiniela performance last weekend (three out of ten, taking my season total to seven out of 20), I will admit that Sunday and Monday were pretty tough days from a psychological standpoint. My emotions went through all the five stages of grief, as per Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' classic model.
First, it was denial. Those results couldn't be right. Surely Tenerife hadn't managed to draw an away match at Valladolid in which they were trailing 3-0. It was impossible that both Valencia and Sevilla had missed the chance to get closer to the top two by drawing apparently easy home games. Athletic scoring four away from home? Against Almería of all teams? Naaahh, the almerienses hadn't allowed four goals at home since they came back to the top-flight two and a half seasons ago.
Something had to be wrong with the results. One after another, I checked ESPN Soccernet's results page and most sports newspapers, and they all showed the same scores. Good God, I got three for real!
Anger (second stage) kicked in. Why me? Someone does not want me to do well. It must have something to do with all those online betting sites sponsoring most Spanish football teams. The matches must be rigged! La Liga is a fraud! I am going to sue them all!
A few hours later, my wrath had disappeared. According to Kübler-Ross, once anger vanishes, the individual starts to 'bargain with reality (third stage). In my case, I talked myself into believing that this week's results were the most difficult of the season, and that my 3/10 should be worth more like a five or a six.
At the end of the day, only one single gambler in the whole country got all 15 Primera and Segunda matches right, none of my readers surpassed four, and my dear maid got the same meagre three correct results I had. Therefore, I thought I could write my following column selling you readers the idea that I got five or six. At this point, that made a lot of sense.
This bargaining phase finished in a pretty painful moment: exactly when I realised that I got only three correct results. There were just three. One, two and three, Eduardo. Out of ten. What made this a tougher pill to swallow was yet another excruciating realisation: I still had another 27 La Liga weekends to go, in which, most likely, I would get only three (or maybe even less) correct results a number of times…
Depression (fourth stage) took over. I spent a good half a day feeling numb, trying to process what had just happened and was likely to happen again in the near future. It was a rough time indeed.
However, I am glad to tell you that I've completely overcome my depression cycle, and am now into full-blown acceptance mode (fifth and final phase). Let's leave the explanation of what has already occurred to economists and Sunday night/Monday morning writers. I'll go on taking risks, making mistakes and improving my still error-prone Commandments.
After this quick catharsis, it's time for this week's quiniela - and, remember, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win. Let's analyse this weekend's games:
1. Sevilla (3rd) - Valladolid (15th): 1.
Will Sevilla shatter two of my quinielas in a row? I don't think so. After their disappointing home draw against Málaga, the football gods deservedly punished the sevillistas: they will have to face Barcelona in their next Copa del Rey tie. I hope they have learnt their lesson.
Last week, I did not give enough value to Málaga's great track record at the Sánchez Pizjuán (my mistake). However, Valladolid are a completely different matter (ten positive results in 37 Liga matches at Sevilla). On top of that, the pucelanos will feel miserable after throwing away a 3-0 advantage vs Tenerife. Had I mentioned that already? Sorry, I am still bitter - acceptance does not mean forgiveness.
2. Xerez (20th) - Atlético de Madrid (17th): 2.
Q: Will Kun Agüero go to Chelsea in the next transfer window for an estimated transfer fee of £50 million? A: Of course. He's at least six months late, and Atlético would kill for that kind of money. Q: What will be Diego Forlán's reaction? A: He just renewed his contract with Atlético until 2013, maintaining his buyout clause at 36 million euros (and he's 30), so retirement would seem a reasonable option.
Before any of that happens, Atlético need all the points they can get. The second half of the season without Agüero could be a nightmare. They can't afford not to win at Xerez.
3. R. Madrid (2nd) - Almería (13th): 1.
No brainer, right? Commandment #1 tells us to respect table positions. And history does not help Almería either: they have never won a La Liga match at the Bernabéu. Even without the injured Kaká, the home side can build on their competitive Camp Nou display, although they have only scored three times in their last four matches. Cristiano Ronaldo's comeback at the Bernabéu should help them to recover their attacking prowess from the beginning of the season.
Ronaldo's won't be the only comeback at the Bernabéu next Saturday: the great Hugo Sánchez, Almería's coach, will delight the merengues faithful with his visit. Get ready for an impressive standing ovation.
4. Deportivo (5th) - Barcelona (1st): X.
The Catalans finish two demanding weeks (Athletic, Inter, Real Madrid) with a challenging trip to La Coruña. On Wednesday night, they even played (and won 0-2) a midweek La Liga match against Xerez, brought forward to accommodate the blaugrana's trip to Tokyo for the FIFA Club World Cup in mid-December.
Depor have won their last three matches and are hard to beat. This match looks like Barça's Bilbao outing two weeks ago (difficult timing, tough opponent, away match), so we'll go for a draw.
5. Tenerife (16th) - Sporting (7th): 2.
Except for two defensive reinforcements, Sporting play pretty much the same starting XI they did last year. One year of experience works wonders with youngsters: seven matches undefeated, in which they scored nine and, most importantly, conceded only three.
Despite their miraculous 3-3 draw at Valladolid (and they could have even won the match), Tenerife keep showing that same naivety Sporting have now left behind. Their respective positions in the table are already telling: it's time for the gijoneses to make a statement.
6. Espanyol (11th) - Racing (19th): 1.
I'd pay NOT to watch this one. Espanyol used to play much better when their management was fighting with skipper Raúl Tamudo. Last weekend, the periquitos even got the dubious honour of becoming the first team unable to break down Atlético's dodgy defence this season.
In the opposite corner, I give you Racing de Santander, who have not scored in their last four matches. I am telling you: this match won't be pretty. Given that we shall respect table positions, let's go for a '1', although this encounter has a more than faint smell of stalemate.
7. Mallorca (6th) - Zaragoza (14th): 1.
Quiniela spoiler alert! Quiniela spoiler alert! Mallorca have won every single La Liga match at Son Moix this season, while Zaragoza are consistently inconsistent week in, week out, if that makes any sense.
This match is one of those clear '1's that will kill you Sunday night when you review the results and see that Zaragoza somehow managed to win. I have been deeply reflecting about how to identify these annoying occurences and write a commandment about them, unsuccessfully so far. For now, we'll ride Mallorca's positive streak, so '1' it is.
On a side note, this week we found out that Gregorio Manzano, Mallorca's boss, makes a total of 1.9 million euros a year. Isn't that a bargain? Man City owners, what are you waiting for?
8. Málaga (18th) - Osasuna (10th): X.
The "You shall respect table positions" commandment automatically gives at least an 'X' to Osasuna in this match. I wouldn't go any further - I can't see the rojillos winning two away matches in a row and they beat Zaragoza last weekend.
9. Villarreal (12th) - Getafe (9th): 1.
What is going on with Villarreal? Simple: they win at home and they lose away. Ernesto 'Txingurri' Valverde, the home team gaffer, bought some time with a much-needed win in their Europa League midweek clash. In any case, much more is expected from this team.
Getafe have won their last two, so both streaks annul each other. "When in doubt, you shall pick 1", says Commandment #4.
10. Athletic (8th) - Valencia (4th): 2.
The wide San Mamés pitch is perfect for Valencia to maintain their great away form. I believe that David Villa, Antonio Mata, Pablo Hernández and David Silva will tear apart the slow Athletic defence with their speed. Let's ride the chés positive streak (14 matches unbeaten between La Liga and Europa League).
One may wonder whether the locals' physical approach could intimidate the tiny Valencia players, but their skill should be enough to deal with the hard-working likes of Carlos Gurpegui (suddenly one of Mr Ball's favourites - night encounters will do that to you) & co.
Last week: 3/10