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Dec 10, 2010

Quiniela - Week 14 - Master Del Bosque

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Vicente del Bosque, boss of the Spanish national team, will win the Golden Ball for the Best Coach of the Year in the awards ceremony to be held in January. The Italian journal had already correctly anticipated that Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi would make the final shortlist of candidates for the Player of the Year trophy, therefore it looks like the Italians have reliable sources.

You could question the justice of Del Bosque's award by remembering that certain José Mourinho won a treble with an Inter side that hadn't reached the final stages of the top European competition since Helenio Herrera coached them. You could. However, let me remind you that Vicente Del Bosque, arguably building on his predecessor's work, took a side globally known as 'the perennial underachievers' to win the World Cup, and that indeed deserves the prize on January 10.

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

1. Getafe (9th) - Villarreal (3rd): 2.

Villarreal's amazing season so far has earned the Amarillos tons of compliments from their rivals Getafe. Coach Michel said that "Villarreal is our benchmark", while defender Marcano chose to go down the hyperbolic road: "They have La Liga's best strikers." A tad bit exaggerated, maybe.

The fact is that, up to this point, coach Juan Manuel Garrido has improved on Manuel Pellegrini's best seasons with Villarreal in every single statistical category. Getafe's behaviour gives us no reason to go against the grain.

2. Sevilla (10th) - Almería (19th): 1.

Whatever happened to the 'Manzano Effect'? After four consecutive defeats in a row, Sevilla look every bit the way they did when cousin Antonio got the boot in his proverbial: chaotic on the pitch, while a bit too party-prone off it (Zokora's and Romaric's night-time exploits were recently punished by the club).

A mixture of defeats and controversy should combine to ensure a heated reception for Manzano and his men on Saturday evening at the Sanchez Pizjuan. Fortunately for them, visitors Almeria are the second worst team in La Liga, and despite their usual combativeness when facing their neighbours from Sevilla, they'll go back home empty handed.

3. Atlético de Madrid (8th) - Deportivo de La Coruña (14th): X.

As announced in this column a few weeks ago, Atlético's favourite friend, Cris Is, came back for good after a couple of unannounced cameos. "Every year we have a bad spell", states Diego Forlán, in what seems to be some sort of rationalisation.

In this case, the bad spell includes three defeats in a row against theoretically beatable teams - Levante, Aris Salonica and Espanyol - especially when you take a look at Atlético's impressive starting XI. President Cerezo declared on Thursday that "no one in the club has even considered the idea of firing [gaffer] Quique" - a safe sign of trouble on the horizon for the manager.

Deportivo's resurrection, based on Lotina's return to a good old 5-3-2, created a new, serious, solid and boring as (insert Lucifer's home here) side, quite different from the one that started the tournament. They'll get a point at the Calderón, meaning quite a few boos for Mr Cerezo.

4. Athletic de Bilbao (11th) - Espanyol (4th): 1.

Athletic's languid display in the first Basque derby in four years provoked strong words from their president, Fernando Garcia Macua: "We've been unable to compete, we weren't up to standard." The players weren't happy with it, but it should make us expect a radical reaction from the Leones to please their crowd (and president) in San Mamés. Espanyol will be thinking of their upcoming match against Barcelona the following Saturday, and shouldn't put up much of a fight.

5. Sporting de Gijón (18th) - Levante (15th): 1.

"This team is not dead," screamed Sporting's coach Manuel Preciado after their fourth defeat in a row. Glad to hear that, given that the Sportinguistas haven't won a single match since mid-October and have the worst goal difference in La Liga.

Levante aren't doing much better, although two recent home wins took them out of the relegation zone. Their away record is as dismal as their performances, a total blessing for Preciado and his keen, but naïve youngsters, who usually give their all at El Molinon. Time to start climbing.

6. Hércules (12th) - Málaga (17th): 2.

And talking about climbing, doesn't this look like the perfect chance for Pellegrini's Malaga to take another step towards recovering their lost swagger? They won convincingly against Racing last week, hired Enzo Maresca (a former Sevilla player) to strengthen their midfield, and now travel away from La Rosaleda, which usually plays to their strengths.

If that wasn't enough, Hércules fans should be concerned: rumours of David Trezeguet and/or Nelson Valdez leaving in the winter transfer window grow with every passing week. Could Hercules possibly survive without them?

7. Mallorca (7th) - Racing de Santander (16th): 1.

Rightful owners of the 'Consistently Inconsistent' tag, last weekend Mallorca laid an ominous egg against Getafe, which prompted gaffer Michael Laudrup to say: "Playing like this I'd rather lose 3-0 than 2-1". Message conveyed clearly, Michael. No one's trying to hide wikileaks of any kind in Mallorca. It's a full transparency policy.

Racing's season, on the other hand, has been consistent (insert synonym of 'excrement' here). Coach Miguel Angel Portugal chose to put the blame on the players after their horrendous defeat in Malaga, prompting president Pernia to ask him for discretion: "These comments shouldn't leave the dressing room". Among all that unrest, Racing still are the worst away side in La Liga. That won't change on Sunday.

8. Zaragoza (20th) - Real Madrid (2nd): 2.

You have to love the Madrid media. After killing Karim Benzema for almost a year and a half, the Frenchman scores a hat-trick in a meaningless Champions League match and immediately becomes the answer to all of Real Madrid problems. Just two weeks ago, the same journalists told the club not to hire a replacement for the injured Gonzalo Higuain, "as Kaka should be back anytime soon". I don't even have a joke here.

Last weekend against Valencia, the Madridistas got back to their winning ways with some help from the referee, and it does not seem like they're going to look back, at least until they have to play Barcelona again. Zaragoza's boss, Javier Aguirre, has spent the whole week trying different starting XIs for this fixture, but deep inside he knows that even with a starting XV his team wouldn't be able to get a point on Sunday. A clear '2'.

9. Barcelona (1st) - Real Sociedad (6th): 1.

The visitors spent four years waiting to beat their arch-rivals Athletic in a derby. That day finally arrived last Sunday, and now they're entitled to at least two weeks of relax and enjoyment. Real Sociedad won't be back to work until 2011, which means that Barcelona and their bunch of youngsters will have another chance to have fun on the pitch and gain some top-level experience. When things go well, things go well.

10. Valencia (5th) - Osasuna (13th): 1.

Valencia's hard-fought draw at Old Trafford appears to be the stamp of approval this team needed. The ches not only made it to the next round, but they had that bit of luck every team requires to become respected. Guaita became a first choice goalkeeper in Manchester, finally appearing like a trustworthy alternative to the aging Cesar.

Can Osasuna take advantage of Valencia's likely lack of tension? With one away point in seven matches, and Valencia's extra day of rest - this is Monday's match - it does not seem likely.

PS. I finally joined twitter! You can follow me at @Papamoskis. I intend to tweet mainly about La Liga and the Spanish national team, but other random stuff can also make the cut.

Use this easy 'Copy and Paste' summary to write your own Quiniela and share it with us in the 'Comments' section. If you get ten correct results, your name will be mentioned in the following Quiniela column!

1. Getafe (9th) - Villarreal (3rd): 2.
2. Sevilla (10th) - Almería (19th): 1.
3. Atlético de Madrid (8th) - Deportivo de La Coruña (14th): X.
4. Athletic de Bilbao (11th) - Espanyol (4th): 1.
5. Sporting de Gijón (18th) - Levante (15th): 1.
6. Hércules (12th) - Málaga (17th): 2.
7. Mallorca (7th) - Racing de Santander (16th): 1.
8. Zaragoza (20th) - Real Madrid (2nd): 2.
9. Barcelona (1st) - Real Sociedad (6th): 1.
10. Valencia (5th) - Osasuna (13th): 1.

Last week: 6/10 (60%)
Season: 69/130 (53%)

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