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Napoli want to avoid UCL exit - Sarri


Quiniela - Week 33 - a protest

Shame on you, the two biggest clubs in Spain. After a thrilling build-up to the semi-finals of the Champions League, you both have managed not only to fall painfully short of expectations, but, more disappointingly, to embarrass your own supporter bases with stunning behaviour that fits more with kindergarten playgrounds and childish quarrels than with iconic stadiums and the Beautiful Game.

This column's frustration, now in historical heights, demands punishment, even if somewhat symbolic: your names won't be written in this weekly space until you give some tangible sign of coming back to your senses, respecting your rivals, and especially behaving according to your history and values.

Let's start, even if we are in a grumpier mood than usual. It's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.

Team M (2nd) - Zaragoza (17th): 1.

The wise gambler should focus on potential reasons for this NOT to be a '1'. Team M resting players for a desperate late charge in the Champions League semi-finals? Lacking psychological balance after Wednesday's defeat? Losing focus on La Liga? Total Distraction Factor? Well, it seems like we have few. A repeat of Sporting's visit, perhaps?

No, not really. If we have to judge by the health and freshness of Team M's second unit (two emphatic wins over Athletic and Valencia away from home) and Zaragoza's dismal travelling performance (one win in 16 matches, against Malaga back in January), '1' sounds like a safe enough bet.

Allow me a mega-quick detour on the subject of Wednesday's fiasco: Team M's original anthem reads 'Cuando pierde, da la mano' ('When defeated, shake hands'). Someone hand out a copy of the lyrics to the current coach, please. On a pink slip. Even if he knows how to win titles.

Real Sociedad (12th) - Team B (1st): 1.

Did you take a look at Team B's bench on Wednesday? An emotionally unstable goalkeeper, four kids, Gaby Milito and Ibrahim Afellay. Injuries and suspensions have decimated Team B in this final part of the season, and one has to assume that they will travel to San Sebastian intending to save themselves for next Wednesday's repeat of the battle of Helm's Deep from 'The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers'.

Not that Real Sociedad represent now that much of a threat to most teams, but they need the three points to feel totally safe, and have Team B's Total Distraction Factor on their side.

Deportivo de La Coruna (13th) - Atletico de Madrid (7th): 2.

From Marca's website on Wednesday: 'Deportivo work on their finishing'. That would hardly sound like news for your average football team, but in Depor's case it might well be an unprecedented training exercise this season, so it earned them a 2,000-word piece and the cover of the website (okay, I may have exaggerated a bit).

The Rojiblancos took advantage of their spare time during the week to play a friendly match against Raja Casablanca, one of their partners for player development. Diego Forlan shone in Tanger, scoring a hat-trick and getting some warm comments from Quique Sanchez Flores, which probably means that the Uruguayan will spend 89 minutes on the bench against Depor.

In any case, Depor v Atleti deserves your attention. The Colchoneros need a win to keep their Europa League challenge alive, while Deportivo have won four of their last six at La Coruna and could achieve safety with a win. While tempted to go for a 'X', Kun Aguero is on fire and should make the difference on Saturday.

Levante (10th) - Sporting de Gijon (11th): X.

Germany v Austria anyone? One point would pretty much guarantee Primera Division football for both teams next season, as they're already over the 40-point mark. Why bother to take risks?

And if you're counting, this is the third time that this column has suggested a convenient draw between two teams in the last two weeks. So far, a disappointing 0/2. Finally, a random question: is Ecuadorian striker Felipe Caicedo the oldest looking 22-year-old ever?

Malaga (16th) - Hercules (19th): 1.

Who would have known that Julio Baptista was what Malaga needed to escape the relegation zone? Not me. The Brazilian's ability to score crackers has given Malaga a decent chance of staying up after an extremely disappointing season. The Malacitanos play three of their past five matches at home, finishing the season against Team B at La Rosaleda, a game that could be theirs much more easily than they initially expected.

On Sunday, they have the chance to put fellow strugglers Hercules almost out of their misery. With no major absentees on either side, both home-field advantage and a superior squad lead us to conclude a '1' is the most likely result. Wouldn't it be paradoxical if the only squad able to beat the probable La Liga champions (Team B) ends up relegated?

Racing de Santander (15th) - Mallorca (9th): 1.

This is a textbook example of 'Who wants it more?'. Mallorca have recently focused on winning their home matches, taking the away ones as a chance to visit and enjoy other cities on the Peninsula. Racing, undergoing an excruciating 156-chapter soap opera with owner-cum-speculator Ali Syed as its main villain, know that they stand a much better chance to get their overdue salaries paid if they stay in the Primera next season. In summary, expect some highly motivated Racinguistas going for Mallorca's jugular, and at least 30 minutes of chants against Mr Syed on Sunday.

Almeria (20th) - Sevilla (6th): 1.

To the less enlightened Quiniela gamblers, almost-relegated Almeria shouldn't be a rival for the more motivated Sevilla, who need all three points to keep up with Atletico and Athletic in their effort to secure a spot for next season's Europa League.

However, please be reminded that this is a derby, that Almeria are free of pressure and would love to spoil Sevilla's party, and finally that the Sevillistas joined the Dark Side of the Force last Sunday, when they resorted to the old and pathetic trick of throwing a second and a third ball on the pitch to interrupt Villarreal's flow of play. Time for the Karma Police to intervene, don't you think?

PS. Gregorio Manzano, Sevilla's boss, should leave in the summer. He won't be out of a job next season, though.

Villarreal (4th) - Getafe (14th): 2.

It takes a fantastic team to come back from such a brutal defeat as the one Villarreal suffered against Porto in the Europa League semi-finals, and it is even harder to pull off when you have to play after only a two-day rest. The Amarillos aren't there just yet, and as they're trying to banish their Falcao nightmares, they have to face a disjointed but hungry Getafe, who were recently sold to the Royal Emirates Group. One imagines that the players will want to impress the new owners, even if it's just to keep their jobs for next season. Boss Michel will have a tough task in that regard.

Osasuna (18th) - Valencia (3rd): X.

Four consecutive defeats have halted Osasuna's resurgence and taken them back to the gloomy depths of the relegation zone. Valencia appeared a safe bet to win almost every match until the end of the season, but their horrid display last Saturday against Team M raised some doubts, especially at the defensive end. Neither team have relevant absentees, so let's go for a conservative 'X'.

Espanyol (8th) - Athletic de Bilbao (5th): X.

When all is said and done, Espanyol may very well end up in the lower half of the table, an amazing feat given their excellent start to the season. And next year looks even worse: the Españolistas will surely sell striker Osvaldo, their top scorer, and may even lose boss Mauricio Pochettino.

When asked about the coach's plans for the upcoming season, Espanyol's public relations manager stated: "Pochettino's new contract extension until 2014 is a done deal, although we haven't signed it yet, but we do have a verbal agreement, although it's not a 100% commitment yet". Clear, right? I'm so confused that I'll pick 'X' for this one, even if Athletic have won their past two away from San Mames and really need this win. Like they did against Atleti, Espanyol will fight a good fight in front of their faithful.

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!

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

Last week: 6/10 (60%)
Season: 152/300 (51%)


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