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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

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Quiniela - Week 31 - Clasico calculations

This Saturday will mark the start of 18 exhilarating days during which the two biggest clubs in Spain are due to meet each other four times, with three titles to play for. However, this column would kindly like to point out that those same 18 days will also be instrumental in narrowing down the number of teams who will effectively fight for Europa League spots or to avoid relegation in the final four weeks of the season, with the logical consequences in our Quinielas. Enjoy the derbies, but don't lose sight of our target: the chimeric perfect ten. Let's start. As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win. 1. Getafe (16th) - Sevilla (5th): X. It's time for the real Getafe to stand up. Their slump in form - five losses and four draws in their last nine - leaves them only four points above the relegation zone and the absence of their best forward, Manu del Moral, along with winger Pedro Rios and midfielder Derek Boateng only makes matters worse. Since their draw against Barcelona four matches ago, Sevilla are undefeated, but they still show only glimpses of their past glory. Without their starting wingers, Jesus Navas and Diego Perotti, they should be happy with a draw at the Coliseum. Getafe's boss Michel could very well be out of a job come Saturday night. 2. Malaga (19th) - Mallorca (9th): 1. At this point of the season, it simply comes down to who needs it more. Mallorca are pretty much free from trouble, which has been an amazing demonstration of tactical shrewdness and player management by boss Michael Laudrup, who has managed to get the most out of a shrinking squad. Malaga need three points desperately and, despite their inconsistency, have the assets to get them on Saturday. 3. Almeria (20th) - Valencia (3rd): 2. Almeria currently sit bottom of the table, seven points away from salvation with seven matches to go. "We have real chances to stay up," said optimistic president Alfonso Garcia on Wednesday, while announcing a 50% discount on Sunday's match tickets, aiming to lure Almeria fans away from the dark temptation of staying at home on their cosy couches to watch Real Madrid versus Barcelona. However, Almeria are La Liga's worst home team, with only two wins in 15 matches. This staggering stat gets even more concerning when they host a rested, in shape Valencia with an on-fire Roberto Soldado, who has bagged six goals in his last two matches. 4. Real Madrid (2nd) - Barcelona (1st): X. A large contingent of the Spanish media believes that this match has lost most of its importance due to the eight-point difference between both clubs. However, as the first of a four-match series, this match could have a meaning beyond its significance for the languishing title race. Indeed, Barcelona have the upper hand psychologically and not only because of their five successive La Liga wins over their arch-rivals. At three key instances in the last two years, just when Real Madrid appeared to have the chance to turn things around, the Catalans laid down the smack ruthlessly. The 6-2 execution at the Bernabeu that broke Real Madrid's 18-match undefeated run two seasons ago; the comfortable 2-0 win last season, also in La Castellana; and the brutal 5-0 demolition at Camp Nou last November, just as Jose Mourinho and the new signings seemed to have recovered the Madridistas' swagger. The sight of Real Madrid players leaving the pitch with 'we can't beat these b******s' expressions on their faces after a derby has become all too familiar at this point. Mourinho knows he needs a win to build on for the upcoming matches, although Pep Guardiola is aware of that too. Points in favour of RM: a) A home match, with a fan base looking for any excuse to get behind their team; b) Barcelona's issues with needing to replace Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal at centre-back, losing speed and / or size with potential replacements Gaby Milito, Sergio Busquets or Javier Mascherano - a worrying thought when Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria play for the other team; c) Mourinho's defence has only been breached four times in their last 13 matches (including Champions League games). In contrast, Barcelona can count on a) Their away record this season, which is even better than their home one. Pep's team enjoy more open space far from the Camp Nou, their passing rhythm becoming even faster; b) Mourinho's motivation - his statement on Thursday ("I'll train with a ten-man team, as refs usually send one of my players off when I play against Barcelona") will only fuel the Catalans' desire to win; c) The aforementioned psychological upper hand they seem to have over the Merengues, based on their almost complete control of the last five encounters. Given all that, an uncompromising draw sounds like a reasonable result for this first match. Impact on morale notwithstanding, both sides will want to save some energy for the upcoming matches and should be content leaving the pitch undefeated. It is important to note that the potential fall-out from this game could reverberate around the rest of La Liga. If Real Madrid were to lose, Mourinho's side could still easily finish second just by doing what he did against Athletic last week - fielding eight subs - between now and the end of the season. There may be the occasional slip-ups here and there, though, and some relegation-threatened teams could find a three-point gift from Real Madrid in the final seven matches. 5. Real Sociedad (13th) - Sporting Gijon (11th): X. Thank goodness Phil Ball didn't make the trip to the Calderon last weekend. Actually, we can safely state that Real Sociedad didn't either, as the side who played against Atletico barely resembled the Donostiarras we used to enjoy just a couple of months ago. The pressure on the Realistas' shoulders is now evident, almost blatantly clear in the case of the younger players. Antoine Griezmann is a shadow of the daring, shameless winger who lit up the second half of 2010, while the back four keeps facilitating the opposition strikers' job. The future looks bleak in San Sebastian. 6. Levante (10th) - Hercules (18th): 1. Last Sunday in Santander, Levante proved that they take no matches off. It had all the makings of an easy defeat: away match, trailing after an own goal by centre-back Nano, striker Felipe Caicedo injured, comfortable position in the table ... but they kept going until they drew level in the final minute. That means 24 points in the second half of the season, the third best record in La Liga despite having the lowest budget - a meagre, borderline unbelievable €8 million. Even though Hercules new boss, Miroslav Djukic, started off well, a result in Levante sounds like a stretch, especially with six players injured. 7. Deportivo La Coruna (15th) - Racing Santander (12th): 2. Allow me a pick straight from the gut ('yeah, right, like all the rest are 100% rationally justified', many of you may be thinking). This column can no longer stand Depor's current approach to football, i.e. 0-0 is a great result. What would you think of the following rule: In addition to the last three sides in the standings, those clubs who scored less than one goal per match at the end of the season would also be relegated regardless of their position, opening new spots for Segunda Division teams to be promoted. Fair, right? Applying this wise piece of law to the current state of affairs, Depor and Sporting would go back to the Segunda next season, although I do believe that the Gijoneses will be able to get over that fence in the next few matches. 8. Osasuna (14th) - Athletic Bilbao (6th): 1. Hard to analyse this match without thinking of Athletic's poor outing last Saturday. The Leones wasted a glorious chance to defeat Real Madrid's B side with a lame performance that puts their prospective Europa League spot next season at stake. Not satisfied with that, boss Manuel Caparros & Co spent the whole week talking about referee decisions and conspiracy theories. Fatal Distraction Syndrome applies here, even more when midfield beast Javier Martinez will not play. Osasuna have spent the whole week talking about this match and its importance for their La Liga survival, and you already know this column rewards constructive behaviour. 9. Espanyol (8th) - Atletico Madrid (7th): 2. In 'the other derby', the free-falling Periquitos meet the suddenly resurrected Atletico Madrid. Last week's results saw the Rojiblancos leapfrog Espanyol in the standings, after what seemed an eternity behind Barca's neighbours. Quique Sanchez has included Brazilian Diego Costa in his line-up, which has actually worked wonders for the rest of the side, remarkably in the case of Miguel Angel Reyes, who looks at his best in this final part of the season. All the talk about signings and particularly farewells - Kun Aguero, Diego Forlan and keeper David De Gea lead the polls of those likely to leave the club in the summer - could have an impact on Atletico, but in their current state of form, the Colchoneros look too fast and unpredictable for Espanyol's decimated defence. 10. Villarreal (4th) - Zaragoza (17th): 1. If we have to judge this match by Villarreal's phenomenal meltdown in the Mestalla last Sunday, '2' would look like a sensible option. Against Valencia, the Amarillos paid mightily for their midweek Europa League effort and though they faced an away trip to FC Twente this week, it was a less demanding encounter before their clash with Zaragoza at El Madrigal. The comforting side of things for Villarreal: a) they play against Zaragoza on Monday, which means one more day to rest; b) The visitors are the second worst away side (9 points after 15 matches; and especially, c) Zaragoza brought onto themselves all the fury of the football gods with their unsportsmanlike behaviour in the final minutes of their match against Getafe. They threw balls on the pitch as the match was being played, interrupting Getafe's flow. That will cost them dear. PS. A quick reminder that 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. Getafe (16th) - Sevilla (5th): X.
2. Malaga (19th) - Mallorca (9th): 1.
3. Almería (20th) - Valencia (3rd): 2.
4. Real Madrid (2nd) - Barcelona (1st): X.
5. Real Sociedad (13th) - Sporting Gijon (11th): X
6. Levante (10th) - Hercules (18th): 1. .
7. Deportivo La Coruna (15th) - Racing Santander (12th): 2.
8. Osasuna (14th) - Athletic Bilbao (6th): 1.
9. Espanyol (8th) - Atletico Madrid (7th): 2. 10. Villarreal (4th) - Zaragoza (17th): 1.

Last week: 4/10 (40%)
Season: 141/280 (50%)

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