Manchester United
4:30 PM UTC
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Tottenham Hotspur
Stoke City
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Atletico Madrid
LIVE 31'
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Real Madrid
7:45 PM UTC
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Schalke 04
TSG Hoffenheim
4:30 PM UTC
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AC Milan
LIVE 87'
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AS Roma
7:45 PM UTC
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Paris Saint-Germain
8:00 PM UTC
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Quiniela - Week 26 - Losing appeal

"We didn't come here to compete for the three points, this match was just a formality", were the words of Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini after his team lost 7-0 to Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. "I only played those three starters (Weligton, Martin Demichelis and Eliseu) because I had no one else to replace them with. Our priority always was our next match against Osasuna, not this one."

The icy relationship between the former and the current Real Madrid coaches is well known, especially after a week loaded with barbs from Mourinho in the direction of Malaga. Therefore, Pellegrini's statements could be directed to provoke the Portuguese coach, who had previously complained about other Primera Division managers because, according to him, they were playing weakened squads against Barcelona.

However, regardless of any personal differences between two specific managers, the current lack of balance in La Liga increasingly generates instances of this 'We Don't Stand A (Expletive) Chance, So Why Try At All' approach from the smaller clubs, and with each of these occurrences the competition loses a bit of appeal. A body like the Spanish FA or Liga de Futbol Profesional should be looking into this matter, and building a more even tournament, but that would be a lot to ask, wouldn't it? Let's start. As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.

1. Mallorca (10th) - Valencia (3rd): 2

This column's opinion of Mallorca's stunning win against Espanyol in Sarria? A swan song. In the second half of the season, the now depleted Mallorquinistas have earned only seven points in seven matches, scoring just five goals in the process. Even if Valencia arrive on the beautiful island after playing - and losing - a demanding match against Barcelona, the Ches are in the midst of a fantastic streak away from home, with four wins in their last five, including three amazing comebacks. You have to love a '2' here.

2. Barcelona (1st) - Zaragoza (15th): 1

The Fatal Distraction Syndrome could very well apply to this apparently easy home match for Barcelona. Most of their players, staff and fans will understandably be thinking of Barca's upcoming Champions League fixture against Arsenal, and the fact that the Catalans now enjoy a seven-point cushion over arch-rivals Real Madrid only reinforces the possibility of a relaxed Blaugrana display which could see them drop a couple of points at home. On top of that, Gerard Pique keeps publicly explaining how Shakira has nothing to do with his football form, quickly building a classic suspicion of distraction in the dressing room.

That all sounds like a strong case for a draw, until you factor in the aforementioned 'We Don't Stand A (Expletive) Chance' approach, quite likely be applied by Zaragoza on Saturday. The Maños will be missing up to seven players, four of them due to injuries - apparently real, as far as we know - while another three starters picked up their fifth bookings of the season against Athletic, conveniently leaving them out of this match. Do I even need to bother writing '1'?

3. Atletico de Madrid (8th) - Villarreal (4th): 2

A tricky match. In the visitors' corner are Villarreal, who have already proven that they suffer when they play several matches in a row, as is the case now with five in 13 days. They also have a poor away record of late having enjoyed only one win in their last five games. In the hosts' corner, I give you the inimitable Atletico de Madrid. Enough said.

However difficult to predict this match might be, do not dare, dear reader, to miss it if you have the chance. Atletico - Villarreal is becoming a classic in its own right, and given that the former have started to struggle when they play in front of their fed-up faithful, '2' it is.

4. Sporting de Gijon (18th) - Getafe (11th): 1

Getafe president Angel Perez is doing his club no favours. During the past week he's given several interviews in which he insinuated that current boss Michel won't keep his job at the end of the season, even pointing at Luis Enrique, Barcelona B's manager, as an excellent candidate for the position.

We all know what happens in almost any club when it becomes evident that the gaffer has no support from the president, right? Michel will immediately lose control of the dressing room. Factoring in that Sporting desperately need these three points, it's a clear '1' here.

5. Hercules (17th) - Almeria (20th): 1

Welcome to the first six-pointer of the week, courtesy of two strong relegation candidates. Hercules boss Esteban Vigo must feel great to be back in Alicante as his team haven't been able to score in the past 953 minutes they've played away. However, Almeria are almost as bad in the visitors' role: with eight points in 13 matches, they're hardly a threat. Time for David Trezeguet to score another cracker and win some breathing space for his coach?

6. Malaga (19th) - Osasuna (16th): 2

The second six-pointer of the week. According to Pellegrini, this is the match his squad really cared about, and not that farce which for some unfathomable reason they were obligated to indulge in on Thursday night at the Bernabeu. The Chilean has now an almost full, rested squad ready to face Osasuna, who didn't have that benefit in their boring, but tense midweek contest against Deportivo.

I know I should go for a '1', but this is a pick decided by karma. The Gods of Football will come back to haunt Pellegrini, not because of his somewhat understandable prioritisation of effort, but because of his complete lack of shame about it.

7. Levante (13th) - Espanyol (5th): 1

Are Levante suddenly good? Since the second half of the season kicked in, the Levantinistas - who incidentally enjoy the smallest budget in La Liga - have won five matches, drawn one and lost just one. Compare that to Espanyol, who during the same period have won two and lost a depressing five. Add to that the sensible loss of Joan Verdu, the influential Periquito midfielder, to injury and what is your pick for Monday? I thought so.

8. Athletic de Bilbao (6th) - Sevilla (7th): X

Athletic still are an exciting team to follow as they are physical, motivated and have a bunch of enjoyable players to watch. Amazingly enough, they've lost their past four games in a row, and now face Sevilla in the third six-pointer of the week, as both teams struggle to secure a Europa League spot.

Sevilla have won five times in their past six visits to San Mames, a respectable feat indeed. The sneaky Sevillistas, now a bizarro version of Athletic, aren't fun to watch anymore, but are somehow managing to stay around the top six, and should take advantage of Athletic's poor streak to get one more point in La Catedral.

9. Racing de Santander (12th) - Real Madrid (2nd): 2

Mourinho's press conference after his side destroyed a bunch of players dressed up like Malaga at the Bernabeu would give any half-decent journo enough material to write a book. My personal highlight: "Assuming that the club management aren't happy with my job at the end of the season, it's easy, I'll leave. And then I'll come back here as a rival." As usual, the Portuguese is not lacking in self-esteem.

On Sunday the Mou team visits Ali Syed's Racing, an undefeated team since the Indian millionaire took over the club four matches ago. Despite the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo misses out due to injury, an away win is likely. However, if Racing beat Real Madrid, get ready for one of the most contagious demonstrations of joy ever seen in any La Liga presidential box.

Note: Don't forget to join the 'Munitis and Gio dos Santos should play together at all times' group on Facebook. It only makes sense.

10. Deportivo de La Coruna (14th) - Real Sociedad (9th): 1

At this stage of the tournament, the insightful observer may have concluded that Real Sociedad will end up in mid-table when all is said and done. The donostiarras have wasted several chances to get closer to the top six - their home draw against Levante on Wednesday a relevant example - but are doing enough to avoid getting pulled into trouble. In this case, with four starters likely to sit out due to injury, a more motivated Depor side get the nod.

PS. A quick reminder: you can follow me on Twitter! (@Papamoskis).

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

Last week: 3/10 (30%)
Season: 115/230 (50%)


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