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Apr 8, 2011

Quiniela - Week 30 - Derby overdose

The midweek Champions League results have brought us closer to a scenario dreaded by the Madridistas and relished by the Barcelonistas: unless one of the two squads lay a XXXL-sized egg in their respective second leg matches, the two biggest clubs in the country will play four derbies in just 18 days. If you're one of those who thought that the current duopoly wasn't much fun, now you're very likely to overdose on clásicos. Let's start. As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win. 1. Athletic de Bilbao (5th) - Real Madrid (2nd): 1. Imagine for a second that you are Jose Mourinho. Ok, I understand that this exercise may be tough because you are very likely not Portuguese, have not won top-level football titles in three different countries, are not into wearing grey suits with grey shirts, grey ties and grey coats and probably do not believe in your own immortality. But let's put that aside and imagine you are Real Madrid's boss on Saturday. Your team just played two very demanding matches (a crushing home defeat against Sporting de Gijon and a Champions League rout of Tottenham, also at the Bernabeu). Some of your key players are nursing slight-to-moderate injuries, and you already know it's very likely that you will spend the following month playing against the best team on earth every four or five days. On top of that, the La Liga title seems completely out of reach at this point, while your second place looks totally safe. And now I ask you, Real Madrid coaches: how many starters would you include in your line-up for Saturday? Three, two, one? Why even take any risk at all? Actually, why would you even bother travelling to Bilbao? On the bright side, we'll finally have a chance to watch Álvaro Morata and Pablo Sarabia play for Real Madrid in the top flight. If those reasons were not enough, Bilbao desperately need the points to keep their Europa League spot. Expect a packed San Mames, a very hostile atmosphere for the Madridistas and a comfortable win for the Leones. 2. Barcelona (1st) - Almería (20th): 1. They don't come much easier than this one, do they? Just when Barcelona most needed a break to rest for their upcoming and extremely tough calendar, bottom-of-the-table Almeria are due to pay a visit to the Camp Nou. Roberto Olabe, the visitor's new coach, stated that 'I am no magician' during his first press conference. The tough news for Almeria: they'll need David Copperfield or better if they want to stay up in the Primera División. And if you expected some relaxation from the leaders, Pep Guardiola, lately in a surprisingly sombre mood even after Justin Bieber's visit to Barcelona's training ground, has been emphatic: ''If there is a match we can't afford to lose, it is the one against Almeria''. Enough said. 3. Mallorca (9th) - Sevilla (6th): 2. Morbo guaranteed! Sevilla's manager Gregorio Manzano comes back to the crime scene. Despite his impressive tenure leading Mallorca to arguably two of their best seasons ever, his controversial and poorly managed exit led him to his being despised by most of his former supporters in the beautiful island. One of his most sarcastic comments about Mallorca's fan base: ''The stadium was always empty when we played at 5pm because the locals were busy eating paella'' has provoked a well-humoured response by a group of peñas, who will congregate two hours early at the stadium to dine a huge paella in Manzano's honour (kick-off time is 10pm). Back to the football: Mallorca's only striker, Pierre Webo, is injured. Sevilla, after their draw against Barcelona, look as consistent as they have all season, and it sounds as though Jesus Navas will be able to play. Despite Mallorca's payback mood, '2' it is. 4. Sporting de Gijón (13th) - Osasuna (12th): 1. Sporting, their coach Manuel Preciado and midfielder Miguel Angel de las Cuevas lived their most glorious moment of the season last weekend, defeating Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. The squad got three extremely important points, the coach exacted revenge over Jose Mourinho and the midfielder, raised by Atlético's youth teams, made an old dream of his come true by scoring the winner over the Madridistas on their own turf. The good vibes should continue on Sunday. During the last two and a half seasons, the Gijoneses have shown they know how to grind out a home win, and the Rojillos will miss their centre-back, Sergio, suspended, while at least statistically speaking, it's hard to imagine a third consecutive away win for Osasuna. 5. Hércules (18th) - Espanyol (7th): 1. I am now officially inaugurating the 'Espanyol won't get more than six points until the end of the season' bandwagon. As its founder and only spokesman, let me tell you that the Pericos have won nine out of the last 33 points, that they have no healthy defenders, and that, as their forward Ivan Alonso declared earlier this week, 'the only thing missing in this unlucky streak is one of us getting pregnant'. And yes, this is an all-male football team. It is exactly what the doctor ordered for struggling Hercules, who just broke their scoreless spell away from home with a masterful display by no less than Royston Drenthe - the man, the myth, the legend. The relegation battle will become even more interesting after this match. 6. Racing de Santander (11th) - Levante (10th): 1. Time for Levante to take a match off, don't you think? Their second half of the season exceeds all expectations, but at some point their small squad has to have an impact. Manager Luis Garcia will miss up to six starters due to injury or suspension, including striker Diego Caicedo and two of his back four. Great chance for Racing, who have finally embraced the Pedro Munitis/Giovani dos Santos connection and who will miss striker Markus Rosenberg, which is actually a good thing. Three easy points for the home side. 7. Málaga (19th) - Deportivo de La Coruña (16th): 1. When your best offensive option is a 35 year-old midfielder with a 20-page-long file on his knee-injuries, you're probably in trouble. After Juan Carlos Valeron's eloquent dissertation on the art of passing last Sunday, leading Deportivo to their best match in months, the La Coruña press now demand that Valeron starts in every single game. One has to side with boss Lotina in this issue as, even though the playmaker still sees angles no one else imagines, he's far from the shape required to play 90 minutes every single week. And that is why Malaga can count with at least one point on Sunday, given that containing Depor's lame attacking efforts - the worst offence of La Liga - should be a piece of cake even for Malaga's awful back four - the worst defence of La Liga, by the way. Can Malaga score at least once? I say 'yes'. 8. Atlético de Madrid (8th) - Real Sociedad (14th): 1. Which of the following is not true? a) Quique Flores has informed Atletico's management team that he won't stay at the club at the end of the season. b) Some delusional Atletico fans still talk about Champions League football next season. c) Last week, the President of the Atletico de Madrid, Female Section, received a letter from Michelle Obama. d) Real Sociedad haven't won since mid February. e) Atletico are the easiest team when it comes to predict their results. Even Phil Ball admitted this: there is no way that Real Sociedad win this one. But then remember that the false statement was e)... 9. Valencia (3rd) - Villarreal (4th): X. An exhausted, although gloriously happy, Villarreal visit Valencia to fight for the third spot. Their spectacular Europa League victory took a brutal toll, as the Amarillos lost centre-back Gonzalo Rodríguez (broken leg). Hard for them to show the same level of energy on Sunday, although Valencia aren't as consistent as they should be at home (only seventh best home record). A draw will keep their fight alive for another week. 10. Zaragoza (17th) - Getafe (15th): 1. We could call this 'The Bizarro Derby'. This televised match could break the record for lowest number of viewers: Monday night, one boring squad (Zaragoza) versus a collapsing one (Getafe), several injuries to key players in both teams ... If you watch it, you deserve some recognition. Let's trust Zaragoza, as they need the points more. PS. 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 10 correct results, your name will be mentioned in the following Quiniela column!

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


Last week: 4/10 (40%)
Season: 137/270 (51%)

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