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Danny Welbeck will be worth the wait

Arsenal 23 hours ago
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Sep 16, 2011

Quiniela - Week 3 - They're human

What a week! Real Madrid wearing red, Barcelona drawing two in a row and Atletico looking like a squad deserving some respect. Is this Armageddon? The ESPNSoccernet Quiniela has the answers for you, dear reader.

Let's start. As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.

1. Sporting de Gijon (19th) - Valencia (2nd): 2.

Sporting have started the season on the wrong foot. Two defeats against potential rivals in the relegation battle is hardly a promising beginning, even less so when the Sportinguistas struggled to get a single shot on target.

This is not the best preparation for Valencia, an extremely competitive away side despite their disappointing Champions League midweek draw against Genk. Pay attention to the new pair at the centre of the defence, Adil Rami and Victor Ruiz, who looked an impressive partnership in Valencia's last two matches. And, yes, right now Roberto Soldado seems unstoppable.

2. Granada (20th) - Villarreal (17th): 2.

One can't deny that Granada are delivering what was expected before the season commenced: no points and no goals, after two matches. The huge gap between the Granadinos and Malaga became almost appalling in last Monday's encounter, and history should repeat itself against Villarreal this coming Saturday.

Regadless of boss Juan Carlos Garrido's outbreak of denial - "We weren't defeated as clearly as some may think" - Villarreal suffered a humbling midweek thrashing at the not-so-gentle hands of Bayern Munich. The Amarillos should get back on their feet again and notch their first win of the season.

3. Mallorca (10th) - Malaga (8th): 2.

In one corner, Michael Laudrup, Mallorca's boss, infuriated with the club's management after having had to 'sell' 32 goals in 2010 and another 16 in 2011 (that is the number of goals that players sold by Mallorca had scored for the club in those seasons, according to the Danish coach).

In the other corner, you have Manuel Pellegrini, with a guaranteed contract until 2016, and the subject of such an embarrassment of riches that Julio Batista - nine goals in 11 matches with Malaga - might sit on the bench despite being fully in shape. Indeed, at the end of the day, it is 11versus 11, but this particular match-up has all the hallmarks of resulting in a '2'.

4. Barcelona (4th) - Osasuna (7th): 1.

They're human! Barcelona have drawn their last two matches in all competitions. Do read that sentence again, please. Two consecutive draws and four goals conceded, showing surprising deficiencies at the back, as well as at set-pieces, with makeshift centre-backs Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets struggling to cope with their new responsibilities. Utterly unacceptable, right?

To add injury to insult, Andres Iniesta suffered his seventh muscular damage in just over two seasons and will have to sit out for a month. Is a crisis in the offing?

Well, actually, no. I'm sure Phil Ball has already explained the meaning of the expression 'pagar los platos rotos' (literally, to pay for the broken plates) before. Osasuna will pay for a preposterous number of broken plates on Saturday…

The Navarros will present their 2011-12 budget for approval at the end of the month for a total of €28 million. In related news, Barcelona just posted their highest income ever, a whopping €473 million, which means that Goliath is 16.9 times bigger than David in this case.

5. Sevilla (6th) - Real Sociedad (5th): 1.

While Sevilla President Jose Maria del Nido continues his outspoken crusade for a fairer distribution of the TV rights, Alvaro Negredo keeps increasing his goals tally and breaking records in the process. With his goal last weekend at Villarreal, he's scored 10 in his last six La Liga matches - an impressive feat indeed.

Real Sociedad, enjoying a remarkable start to the season, will probably feel like taking a weekend off in Sevilla. One can't blame the young Realista squad for that.

6. Getafe (16th) - Rayo Vallecano (12th): X.

First of all, one quick mea culpa. Rather than roll over and pretend to be dead in their match at the Bernabeu, Getafe showed plenty of pride and determination. My sincere apologies. If repeated, Geta's impressive display should grant an easy victory against Rayo, but one suspects that the lack of supporters at the Coliseum and the theoretically inferior opposition will play in favour of the Vallecanos. I really like the 'X' here.

7. Zaragoza (18th) - Espanyol (9th): X.

A couple of matches have confirmed one expected characteristic of Zaragoza: they're an insufferable team to watch, and also an unexpected discovery courtesy of the €8 million they paid for goalie Roberto may not be such a waste of money after all). Javier Aguirre has tested 20 different players in just two matches, but the truth is out there for all of us to see: any combination of 11 players currently in the Zaragoza payroll will have serious difficulties to win a match.

Both teams have painful woes in their pursuit of goals, and should be more than happy with one point.

8. Atletico de Madrid (15th) - Racing de Santander (13th): 1.

The hype is here, dear Colchoneros. Atletico won their first Europa League match against Celtic, with a thoroughly enjoyable display from their three marquee signings, Radamel Falcao, Diego Ribas and Arda Turan. Similarly to some past reincarnations, the squad looks quite competitive on paper and is set to draw large crowds to the Calderon, exaggerating the expectations among the Rojiblancos.

Racing visit Madrid without Pedro Munitis, the root of their offensive flow, out injured. I'm quite sure that the hype will grow bigger on Sunday night, but remember, harder they fall.

9. Levante (11th) - Real Madrid (1st): 2.

Cristiano Ronaldo said this week: "People boo me because I am good-looking, rich and a great footballer". Hardly ever a candidate to win a popularity contest among opposition fans, CR7 was so incensed after Real Madrid's win in Zagreb that he couldn't help himself and gave us material for the next few months. On Thursday, the Levante players who took part in the press conference had to answer questions such as "Do you think Cristiano is good-looking?", "Do you envy Cristiano?", "Would you like to be him?", and so on and so forth.

Last season, Real Madrid dropped two points in Levante, but that feels like a different era. The home side have not improved one bit over the summer, and this campaign's Real Madrid look merciless and ooze attacking quality. An easy win for the visitors.

10. Athletic de Bilbao (14th) - Betis (3rd): 1.

Athletic supporters were starting to show concern about boss Marcelo Bielsa's approach and in-game decisions, and frankly the team already needed to give proof of their commitment. A well-earned midweek win in Bratislava could well be the sign they were hoping for. And even though Betis have six points in two matches, a result in San Mames appears too much of a stretch.

• PS. You can follow me on twitter! (@EdAlvarezSpain).

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

• Last week: 6/10 (60%)

• Season: 9/20 (45%)

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