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Mar 18, 2011

Quiniela - Week 28 - Karma rules

When you read these lines, the Champions League draw to determine the quarter-final matches of the biggest football tournament worldwide will have already taken place. Given La Liga's calendar and the Copa del Rey final, Spanish football fans have two guaranteed meetings between Barcelona and Real Madrid to be held in April. The outcome of this Champions League draw could make that four (four mega-derbies!) in just a fortnight. Be aware of the fact that, by writing that initial paragraph, I was simply trying to jinx the chances of that ordeal from happening. (It can't happen until the semi-finals - Ed) Let's start. As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win. 1. Mallorca (9th) - Zaragoza (16th): 1. With every passing year, karma proves more and more its undeniable importance as a (negative) prediction tool. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, we saw Manuel Pellegrini's Malaga ruthlessly punished against Osasuna - who earned their first away win in ages - because of the Chilean's anti-karmic statements after his team's 7-0 defeat in Madrid. Most of times, karma is indeed a female-gender canine. However, in some cases karma evens out negative events. Akihiro 'Aki' Ienaga, Mallorca's Japanese midfielder, should give us another example on Saturday, leading his side to victory against Zaragoza, an awful away side. 2. Barcelona (1st) - Getafe (11th): 1. The biggest and most unsettling news of the week: Barcelona's Eric Abidal had to undergo surgery on Thursday to remove a liver tumour. The Frenchman, who was having an above-average season for his team, received an impressive demonstration of support from everyone related to football in Spain, from journalists to coaches and managers, and especially from fellow players. Even arch-rivals Real Madrid showed a t-shirt with a supportive message after their win over Lyon on Wednesday. Abidal will be temporarily replaced in the squad by 21-year-old Andreu Fontas, a promising but obviously inexperienced talent from the B side. A rested Barcelona will no doubt make an effort to dedicate this Saturday's match to their recovering colleague. Getafe, with a terrible Camp Nou record, being one of Lionel Messi's favourite targets, and missing midfielder George Boateng due to his insults in perfect Spanglish (literally, he screamed: 'F*** you, hijo de p***' without missing a beat) to referee Ayza Gamez last weekend, should be an easy prey. 3. Atletico de Madrid (8th) - Real Madrid (2nd): 2. If you've been following La Liga for eight years or less, you probably believe that a) Barcelona or Real Madrid always win the title; b) Villarreal are a traditional Spanish football side and c) Real Madrid always beat Atletico de Madrid. In fact, Atletico haven't defeated their neighbours in ELEVEN mindboggling years. For how long can this run last? The case for Atletico is arguably thin: five matches undefeated (three of them draws), Sergio 'Kun' Aguero in shape and highly motivated to prove Argentina's boss Sergio Batista wrong after not having called him up for their upcoming matches against USA and Costa Rica, and Real Madrid's likely tiredness after their midweek Champions League match. But it's hard not to favour the Merengues here, and not only because of the running streak. Karim Benzema, the former house cat now transformed into a lion, can't stop scoring, while Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria keep creating chances both for themselves and their teammates. The attacking arsenal of the Madridistas appears simply too rich for Atletico's unstable defence to deal with appropriately. Yet again, it looks like another Real Madrid win at the Calderon. 4. Sporting de Gijon (17th) - Almeria (18th): 1. The relegation battle brings to us the first six pointer of the weekend. Sporting, undefeated in their last five at home (three wins, two draws), and with the quickly recovered striker David Barral, host Almeria (one win in their last six outings) without their classy winger Pablo Piatti. Sporting should make the best of their home advantage to get three extremely important points. 5. Hercules (19th) - Osasuna (13th): X. Second consecutive six-pointer. Hercules' injury plague has no end. Striker David Trezeguet, defender Noe Pamarot and Jorge 'Tote' Lopez, won't be able to play against Osasuna. In Tote's case, he'll be out for six months, which gave Hercules the possibility of replacing him with a new signing. However, the cash-strapped Alicantinos decided against it, so on Sunday it will be Haedo Valdes by himself against Osasuna's tight back four (fifth best defence in La Liga, believe it or not). The Rojillos have performed so well after they replaced Jose Antonio Camacho with Miguel Angel Mendilibar that it would seem foolish not to go for at least an 'X' here. A visitors' victory sounds like a stretch. 6. Racing de Santander (15th) - Real Sociedad (10th): 2. Doesn't this look like a six-pointer? Phil Ball would probably disagree, but his Real Sociedad are now playing with fire after getting one single point in their last four matches, including a shocking home defeat to bottom-of-the-table Malaga. However, let's analyse Racing's last six matches (right after the now under-fire Indian millionaire Ali Syed took over). They won the first two (the world famous 'Champagne Effect'), drew the following two ('Gasless Coke' status) and have lost their last two. You don't need to draw a graph to see the trend, correct? 7. Malaga (20th) - Espanyol (5th): 1. When you sell half of your starting back four, like Espanyol did in the transfer window, any injury to any remaining defenders will bring you trouble. Argentinean starter Juan Forlin broke his foot and will be out for three months, so you can imagine how happy Periquitos' boss Mauricio Pochettino feels now. The Espanolistas have started to struggle to keep up with La Liga's pace in the second half of the season, and they're actually entitled to relax at this point. Even though they play the worst team of the competition so far, Malaga will play for their lives and seem to have learned the lesson after Pellegrini's karmic gamble made them hit rock bottom. 8. Deportivo de La Coruna (14th) - Levante (12th): X. This won't be pretty to watch: La Liga's worst scoring side, Deportivo (23 goals in 28 matches) meets the fifth worst. Levante's recent results impress - 17 points in their last nine matches, after having won only 15 in their first 19 matches, but their injury list still looks too long to keep this effort up with an away win. 'X' it is. 9. Athletic de Bilbao (6th) - Villarreal (4th): 1. The weekend ends with two mouth-watering matches. First, Athletic host Villarreal, an encounter between two top-six sides who aren't at their best at this point of the season. The home side have lost four of their last six, although they still maintain a remarkable home record (ten wins in fourteen matches). Villarreal, who just qualified for the quarter-finals of the Europa League, look like one of those husbands living a double life: bags under their eyes, random behaviour, humour changes and an inability to consistently perform their marital duties. This column would be surprised if they manage to rise to the occasion in San Mames, not the most ideal of scenarios to recover from a midweek effort. 10. Valencia (3rd) - Sevilla (7th): 2. The final cherry on the cake of this loaded La Liga weekend: Sevilla, who deservedly earned a draw against leaders Barcelona last weekend, visit Valencia, still trying to digest the consequences of their elimination in the Champions League tournament. The good news for Valencia: Portuguese full-back Miguel Brito, suspended by the club for a whole month because of his late-night exploits, is back in the side. But even if, as it seems, Sevilla are going to change a third of their starting line-up for this match, they'll have few better chances to beat Valencia at the Mestalla. If boss Gregorio Manzano can build on their performance against Barcelona, they should get back on track for a Europa League finish. 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 (9th) - Zaragoza (16th): 1.
2. Barcelona (1st) - Getafe (11th): 1.
3. Atletico de Madrid (8th) - Real Madrid (2nd): 2.
4. Sporting de Gijon (17th) - Almeria (18th): 1.
5. Hercules (19th) - Osasuna (13th): X.
6. Racing de Santander (15th) - Real Sociedad (10th): 2.
7. Malaga (20th) - Espanyol (5th): 1.
8. Deportivo de La Coruna (14th) - Levante (12th): X.
9. Athletic de Bilbao (6th) - Villarreal (4th): 1.
10. Valencia (3rd) - Sevilla (7th): 2.

Last week: 5/10 (50%)
Season: 127/250 (51%)

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