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Soccernet Quiniela - Week 3 - Football overdose

Do you remember that puzzling break after just one week of La Liga football? Well, the cunning Spanish calendar now dictates that, between this weekend and the following, each team will have to play three matches, right after this week's European fixtures involved up to seven Spanish teams, almost half of them having to travel away from home.

The logic behind the global football schedule is hard to understand, and for our quiniela purposes that lack of coherence makes it even harder to determine the impact of this chaotic football overdose in the performance of the squads. But I guess that is just another element that makes the results tougher to predict, and therefore adds an extra level of interest to the tournament... and to our bets.

Let's start. As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.

1. Espanyol (12th) - Almeria (14th): X.

"This team need to show more determination on the pitch", angry gaffer Mauricio Pochettino said after Espanyol's dismal away display against Villarreal (4-0). During the last few months they've also shown that they need Argentinean striker Osvaldo if they want to score at all, only he's out for a month. Looks like favourable grounds for Almeria, usually a disciplined side away from home, to get at least one point at Montjuic.

2. Mallorca (18th) - Osasuna (16th): X.

Honest advise: brew plenty of coffee if you intend to watch this one. These two teams have played a combined 360 minutes of La Liga football this year, and yet they both are still scoreless. Mallorca will miss suspended centre-back Nunes, but that should not be that much of a concern against the brave, yet not very incisive Osasuna. This match has 'stalemate' written all over it.

3. Sporting de Gijon (13th) - Athletic de Bilbao (11th): 2.

After defeating Mallorca, the home side play their second consecutive home game against Athletic, but then they'll have to face Barcelona (midweek) and Valencia (next weekend). Not only the upcoming fixtures look tough for Sporting, but it's also worth mentioning that Athletic's last defeat at the Molinon happened back in 1991. The leones have a few players nursing slight injuries, but their squad appear more complete and more physical than Sporting do at these early stages of the season.

4. Real Sociedad (4th) - Real Madrid (5th): 2.

Will Real Madrid be able to replicate Wednesday's dominating Champions League performance in the domestic tournament? Will new signing Ozil confirm his early success among the madridistas? Will Real Madrid's back four remain unbeaten after this match? And specially, will CR7 finally stop missing sitters?

On Wednesday night, Real Madrid looked the part against an arguably weak Ajax side, although surprisingly enough it was los merengues' biggest star, CR7, who appeared to be the only piece out of sync. Wasteful in front of the goal, the most worrying sign came not from his unusual lack of accuracy, but from his shameless display of selfishness. Jose Mourinho will have to work hard to integrate him in a team that otherwise have started to work well together.

Real Sociedad have begun the season above (my own) expectations, with a hard-working starting eleven and plenty of movement in the final third (ask Almeria). However, without Joseba Llorente it will be tough to beat Real Madrid, even if it is in front of a packed Anoeta. Must-watch match indeed.

5. Hercules (9th) - Valencia (2nd): 2.

"We played better than Inter", said striker Haedo Valdez after Hercules successfully pulled out the biggest upset of the season, referring to the second-leg match of last season's Champions League semi-finals between the Italian side and Barcelona. It's only the second game of the season and a recently promoted club are already comparing themselves with the European Champions, good God. In any case, Hercules impressed, but I would not be surprised if this coming Sunday they present us with an archetypical hangover match.

They face 2nd place Valencia, on fire after two La Liga wins and one Champions League demolition. Los ches have taken advantage of a benign calendar - which by the way, starts to get tougher next Wednesday against Atletico - and have been especially ruthless away from home. Everything points at the number '2'.

6. Racing de Santander (19th) - Zaragoza (17th): 1.

Have you seen a more surreal defensive display from a theoretically top level team than what Leo Franco and his pals did last Sunday? Five goals suffered in less than 35 minutes, against a 17-year-old striker (more on him in match number nine), and a couple of average attacking midfielders. Things can only get better for Zaragoza.

Racing have not scored yet and have zero points, but their coach, Miguel Angel Portugal, believes that "We're on the right track". Since he took over at Racing, at the beginning of the previous season, he has made his team react in a number of difficult situations. Even though the squad appear too short this year, they should have enough to beat Zaragoza at home.

7. Levante (20th) - Villarreal (6th): X.

Levante seem to have chosen consistency: two matches, two 4-1 defeats. "We are not physical enough", was full back Javi Venta's euphemistic assessment of his team's performance so far. One could be a bit harsher than that.

The only question here is: Can Villarreal win away from home? Recent history says 'no'. They come from a hard midweek defeat in Zagreb, where their final effort to draw was fruitless - although gaffer Garrido fielded almost a B side. The amarillos should get at least one point.

8. Atletico de Madrid (1st) - Barcelona (8th): 2.

Another match you should not miss if you have the chance to watch it. The deserving Liga leaders, Atletico de Madrid, have the chance to open a six-point advantage over Barcelona. And no, you're not reading 'News of the World'.

Some factors get in the way of an Atletico win: the midweek schedule favours Barcelona - played an easy home match on Tuesday while Atletico were defeated in Greece on Thursday -, Pep's team are probably aiming for an emphatic win after their surprising loss to Hercules, and the rojiblancos have not solved their left flank issues, given that Filipe Luis continues his slow comeback from injury, and that Antonio Lopez is an average full back at best. That means plenty of space for Messi to run riot.

Even though we have enough proof of the colchoneros' recent ability to outperform themselves on the big stage, especially when Barcelona pay them a visit, I believe this will be the beginning of one of those astonishing Barca winning streaks. And remember, Messi has left the pitch among a standing ovation from the whole Calderon more than once in previous seasons.

9. Malaga (10th) - Sevilla (3rd): 1.

This Andalusian derby always delivers fun matches, even if they tend to be played with just a bit too much tension, or maybe just because of that. This is a perfect situation for Malaga: they lifted some pressure off their shoulders after a convincing win at Zaragoza, and host a Sevilla side that come from two disappointing results and have not found their rhythm yet.

On top of that, Sevilla's dressing room seems to be losing their faith in their coach. Alvarez's performance against PSG, making his third substitution with 30 minutes to go, and subsequently having to leave an injured Jesus Navas limping on the pitch for 20 minutes, did not improve his ratings among the Sevilla faithful.

Malaga's wonder kid Juanmi, who last weekend became the youngest player to score a brace in La Liga, has the chance to prove that he's no flash in the pan. Let's keep an eye on him.

10. Deportivo de La Coruna (15th) - Getafe (7th): 2.

Depor's gaffer Lotina stated this week: "I still believe we have good strikers". That would be like Xabi Alonso saying something like "I don't think CR7 is obsessed with scoring" ... Wait, Xabi actually said that! Delusion takes over La Liga!

Deportivo can't score to save their lives, and will suffer with Getafe's lightning quick counter attack. This match could become the beginning of trouble for Lotina...


Use this easy 'Copy and Paste' summary to write your own quiniela and share it with us in the 'Comments' section. 1. Espanyol (12th) - Almeria (14th): X.
2. Mallorca (18th) - Osasuna (16th): X.
3. Sporting de Gijon (13th) - Athletic de Bilbao (11th): 2.
4. Real Sociedad (4th) - Real Madrid (5th): 2.
5. Hercules (9th) - Valencia (2nd): 2.
6. Racing de Santander (19th) - Zaragoza (17th): 1.
7. Levante (20th) - Villarreal (6th): X.
8. Atletico de Madrid (1st) - Barcelona (8th): 2.
9. Malaga (10th) - Sevilla (3rd): 1.
10. Deportivo de La Coruna (15th) - Getafe (7th): 2.
Last week: 7/10 (70%) Season: 12/20 (60%)

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