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Apr 22, 2011

Quiniela - Week 32 - Between derbies

Did you, dearest reader, even care to remember that La Liga will indeed follow its due course this weekend, despite suffering derby overdose? No? Well, that's one of the reasons why we have the Quiniela, especially for those teams no one really talks about anywhere else. 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) - Getafe (14th): X.

Always intriguing to watch, despite being almost fan-less, Getafe get the prize for the 'Most Surreal News of the Week': the club has been sold to a group from Dubai, the deal including not only more than 50% of the club's shares, but also the right to exotically rename this endearing institution 'Getafe Team Dubai'. Incidentally, I can't think of a Primera Division location which looks less similar to Dubai than Getafe.

Although the visitors shouldn't believe they're free of danger just yet, their win over Sevilla on Saturday gave them some space to breathe and probably saved boss Michel's head, which was in serious danger of being severed by unhappy president Angel Torres. Mallorca, safe in mid-table, showed no signs of life last Sunday in Malaga, therefore an 'Austria versus Germany' type of draw between these two clubs appears sensible for everyone involved.

2. Sevilla (6th) - Villarreal (4th): 1.

Three converging factors lead to '1' for this, at least on paper, mouth-watering match: 1) Sevilla badly need a win to keep their current Europa League status; 2) Given the standings, Villarreal should at this point be content with a fourth-place finish, switching their focus to increase their chances of a Europa League title - they'll play the semi-final first leg on Thursday; 3) Precedents show that Villarreal have trouble reconciling both competitions.

The Amarillos, just like this writer, are still trying to come to terms with UEFA's decision to punish Santi Cazorla and Nilmar after they forced their suspensions in the first leg of the quarter-final against Twente. What is the criteria applied here?

3. Zaragoza (18th) - Almeria (20th): 1.

As soon as recently appointed Almeria boss Ricardo Olabe announced that "I'm not a magician" - a quote with Nixonian echoes, only Olabe was actually telling us the truth - we knew the club would end up being relegated, but giving up this fast feels preposterous. The Almerienses have spent the past two weeks deciding to whom they will sell their best assets, especially winger Diego Piatti, rather than putting together a radical salvation plan, which is what they actually need.

And exactly what the doctor ordered for fellow strugglers Zaragoza was a visit from bottom-of-the-table Almeria. If the home side repeat their solid, although fruitless performance at Villarreal last Monday, this should be an easy win and a huge step towards salvation.

4. Valencia (3rd) - Real Madrid (2nd): 1.

Ladies and gentlemen, the sales season is officially open! This column's over/under for 'Real Madrid starters benched by The Special One in Mestalla' opens at seven, but it'll probably move up to ten an hour from kick-off. Mourinho will probably use this match as a test for the upcoming Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, so get ready to see some players out of position, tons of long balls and even a Real Madrid rendition of the Turtle Formation from the Roman Army in Asterix.

Couple that with the Copa del Rey title celebrations, including those dropped drinks ... er ... cups, and assuming that Valencia won't turn Athletic on us, this is as clear a '1' as you will ever see. Roberto Soldado may very well get to ten goals in four matches; keep an eye on him this Saturday.

5. Barcelona (1st) - Osasuna (16th): 1.

Pep Guardiola can't feel happy. Not only has Barca's boss just lost his first final as a manager, but he also did it against Jose Mourinho, which was probably a tougher pill to swallow. However, Pep's biggest concerns now lay ahead: the absence of Eric Abidal, Adriano and Bojan, together with Carles Puyol's problems, seriously limit his options to add tactical variation and answer Mourinho's improved anti-Barcelona approach. David Villa's noticeable slump in form is not helping either.

Time to go back to basics against Osasuna. Even if the Navarros still need the points, Barcelona's B side can still beat them comfortably. On top of that, have you seen this Barcelona lose twice in a row? Me neither.

6. Sporting de Gijon (11th) - Espanyol (8th): 1.

The saddest news of the week: Manuel Preciado's father died after being run over by a car on Wednesday night. Not that Sporting or their coach needed any extra motivation to get a win and feel safe until next season, but now we'll see the 'let's dedicate this win to Manuel's father' sentiment, itself too big a motivating factor for Espanyol to resist.

You already know that this column founded and proudly rides the 'Espanyol Won't Win Again Until Next Season' bandwagon. Even if Argentinean striker Osvaldo is back on fire and just isn't missing.

7. Atletico de Madrid (7th) - Levante (9th): 2.

Even though Atletico's managing duo of Miguel Angel Gil Marin and Enrique Cerezo managed to survive an Egypt-style crisis just over a month ago, the waters of the Manzanares river still look troubled. While a sizeable group of Rojiblancos have imitated Man Utd's fans' tactics - yellow and green scarves and all - the odd couple are still trying to cling onto their positions and are saying publicly what most Colchoneros would like to hear. "We've signed an agreement with Sergio Aguero so that he agreed not to accept any offers from Real Madrid," Gil Marin said on Thursday. "De Gea and Aguero will not leave in the summer," insisted Mr Cerezo hours later. Watching Cerezo speak reminded us of Airplane's unforgettable scene in which Leslie Nielsen tells the whole plane to calm down because the situation is totally under control, as his nose grows, Pinocchio style.

Levante are now La Liga's second best team in the second half of the season, with the lowest budget among all 20 clubs. And yes, it's very likely that coach Luis Garcia will go somewhere else when the season ends. In all honesty, they now have nothing to play for, so they can go out and have fun. No place better to do that than our beloved Vicente Calderon stadium.

8. Hercules (19th) - Deportivo de La Coruna (13th): 1.

No Deportivo player has been able to score ten goals or more since 2006. Remember, this was the team who won various Pichichi titles with strikers like Bebeto, Roy Makaay and Diego Tristan. Last Sunday, the Gallegos played some of their best football of the season, courtesy of Juan Carlos Valeron, but the inventive midfielder's body can't guarantee two consistent matches in a row, even more so when the upcoming one is a do-or-die encounter at the Rico Perez Potato Field against Hercules' army of hard tacklers.

In one of those twists that so often happen in football, Miroslav Djukic, Hercules' boss, desperately needs a win over the team that saw him achieve success as a player. But he counts on Royston Drenthe, who has explained to the media what Hercules have to do to win this one: "We need to attack in order to score first, and then defend to prevent them (hopefully he refers to Deportivo) from scoring". Now it's only a matter of execution, Royston.

9. Racing de Santander (15th) - Malaga (17th): 2.

For the first time since October, Malaga find themselves out of relegation spots, although still level on points with Zaragoza, the best among the worst three sides. The Malacitanos pay a six-pointer visit to Racing, who are again in turmoil due to their owner's ongoing succession of broken promises regarding the payment of their salaries. You don't want your team to be on the brink of strike action when they're dangerously close to relegation, do you?

Malaga have been a bit more consistent away from La Rosaleda, and they can take advantage of El Sardinero's likely very charged atmosphere on Sunday.

10. Athletic de Bilbao (5th) - Real Sociedad (12th): X.

Dear reader, please admit that as you were reading last week's column, in which this prone-to-error writer singled out Real Sociedad's Antoine Griezmann as the biggest disappointment of the second half of the season among the Realistas, you immediately phoned your bookie and placed a huge bet on him scoring at least once against Sporting last Sunday. It only made sense.

Athletic will miss some relevant players on Sunday as Iker Muniain, Xabi Castillo and Gorka Iraizoz won't be able to play. I asked Phil if he fancied guessing this one: his answer was a 1-1 draw. There you go.

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 ten correct results, your name will be mentioned in the following Quiniela column!

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

Last week: 5/10 (50%)
Season: 146/290 (50%)

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