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Week 7 - The fun begins

'After the next two matches, the La Liga table will be split in half', said Getafe's midfielder Pablo Sarabia in Thursday's press conference. At first that sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but the reality shouldn't be far away from that. This week gave us some light, early warnings, but rest assured that we're in for a sudden explosion of upset fans, fired coaches and general mayhem ... Get ready, the fun is about to begin.

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

1. Sporting de Gijón (20th) - Granada (18th): 1.

On paper, not an exciting match by any stretch of the imagination: the worst offensive sides in La Liga face to face. Looking at the depressing scoring record, it smells like a classic stalemate, but the home side can't afford to drop points at El Molinon versus a direct rival like Granada.

Sporting deserved better in their last two losses against top sides - Barcelona and Sevilla - while the visitors, a hard team to beat at their own pitch, have lost all their three away matches without a single goal to their name. Some oxygen for Sporting's likeable manager Manuel Preciado, please.

2. Racing de Santander (19th) - Espanyol (10th): 2.

A game of contrasts: Racing are in huge turmoil, while Espanyol just won their first away match in 10 months and have improved from their dark mood of the beginning of the season.

The hosts not only have to deal with a short, limited squad and terrible results so far, but also with former players complaining - retired midfielder Quique Setien just declared that Racing is currently managed by unscrupulous, greedy executives - as well as rumours about players feigning injuries, as it has been the case with one of the best names in football, Swedish midfielder Kennedy Bakircioglu.

On top of their win at Vallecas last weekend, Espanyol have plenty of reasons to celebrate: Romaric seems back in shape (who knows for how long), their new stadium in Cornella has given them a solid base and striker Juan Albin just started his training regime after three months injured. It could be a second consecutive win for Espanyol on Saturday, and the streak won't stop there. Quoting Junior Soprano, 'these things come in threes'.

3. Málaga (6th) - Real Madrid (3rd): 2.

Morbo!, this fixture screams out loud. Malaga's Chilean boss Manuel Pellegrini meets his former club in a home match with his squad almost fully fit - only Julio Baptista won't be available - and far more organised than last season. Málaga's starting XI sounds intimidating to most sides, and they have had the whole week to prepare for this game.

Surprisingly, and despite their defeat at Levante, it makes sense to trust Madrid more when they play away from home, especially against sides like Malaga that enjoy having possession. Real Madrid's front four feel at ease in those circumstances and can finish any match off with their dizzying speed. The impressive on-going contest of goal prowess between Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema can't hurt the Madridistas either.

4. Barcelona (1st) - Sevilla (4th): 1.

At the beginning of the season, some wondered how Barcelona would deal with the apparent overdose of offensive midfielders and playmakers. Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Thiago Alcantara et al. looked like an embarrassment of riches, making Josep Guardiola's selection job quite tough.

After seven matches, the answer appears clear: injuries will take care of that. Cesc and Iniesta have already been out hurt, and thanks to Thiago the squad didn't miss a beat. On Sunday, with all of them in the squad, Guardiola will have his first 'good' selection problem of the season.

Sevilla arrive at Barcelona with significant absentees: defender Emir Spahic (five yellow cards in six matches, no small feat), winger Diego Perotti and striker Alvaro Negredo. The Sevillistas had plenty of luck last weekend against Sporting, therefore a '1' sounds like a very safe bet here.

5. Betis (7th) - Rayo Vallecano (16th): X.

Both clubs started the season well, but have fallen mightily in the last month. Betis have lost their last three, while Rayo have three defeats and one draw in their last four. Particularly Betis will be impacted by the brutal injury of wunderkind Alvaro Vadillo, a fantastic talent who was being followed by top European clubs, and who will now have to spend the next six months trying to recover from his knee injury.

Betis boss Pepe Mel, who previously coached Rayo, foresees a tough encounter: "It'll be difficult, we have a very similar footballing approach." One tends to agree, and the fact that the visitors play better away from Vallecas only reinforces his point. Hard-fought draw it is.

6. Real Sociedad (13th) - Getafe (17th): 2.

After a surprisingly good start, things are slowly going back to what this column expected from Real Sociedad: new foreign managers usually find it tough in their first season, and boss Philippe Montanier has started to feel the pressure.

Three consecutive losses brought plenty of second-guessing from the San Sebastian media, who strongly questioned the Frenchmen's decision to play with three centre-backs during the second half of Real Sociedad's defeat against Zaragoza. Bienvenue a La Liga, Monsieur Montanier.

The cash from the sheiks hasn't changed Getafe much. Despite a new coach and signings, their performances have become even more unpredictable. Because of exactly that, this column is going to arbitrarily pick them to win in Anoeta. This gut-feeling decision implies tons of pañuelos blancos (white handkerchiefs) in San Sebastian on Sunday afternoon.

7. Atletico de Madrid (8th) - Mallorca (12th): X.

Yes, I must confess I got carried away. Two consecutive home wins against substandard teams fooled me completely. Mea culpa. I, of all people, bought into the Atletico hype. Taking those two matches out, Atletico haven't been able to score in La Liga, and only a more composed back four than usual keeps them among the top ten. Their midweek outing in Udine wasn't much better, their surprising defeat in the final two minutes of the match bringing back memories, or rather nightmares, of the Atletico of old.

Their squad should still be capable of beating much less talented sides, such as Mallorca, but if we add up the trip to Udine with Mallorca's new fighting spirit, it will be a tough evening for the Colchoneros. 'X' seems appropriate.

8. Osasuna (15th) - Zaragoza (9th): X.

Last weekend's defeat to Athletic only fueled the recent controversy over Osasuna's coach Jose Luis Mendilibar. Before that match, Mendilibar had been asked his opinion on the large number of players from Osasuna's youth teams that have been lured away by Athletic in the last few seasons. His surprising answer - 'Osasuna should be thankful to Athletic' - provoked a quite heated week in Pamplona.The fact that the Pamplonicas' defence is the worst of La Liga doesn't help either.

Are Zaragoza actually decent? It didn't seem like that when the season started, but after three tough matches undefeated, they're starting to look like they can compete. If Helder Postiga stops hitting the post and proves his impressive form last Sunday is no one-off, they could do just fine after all. It would be a case of a manager, Javier Aguirre, working miracles with very limited resources.

9. Valencia (5th) - Athletic de Bilbao (11th): 2.

Probably the most exciting match of the weekend between two teams at different points of progression at this early stage of the season. Los Che started the campaign well, up until their entertaining home draw against Barcelona.

From that point on, mediocre performances and worse results, especially in the Champions League, have brought distress among their fans. On Thursday morning, the Agrupación de Peñas del Valencia (an association that encompasses most Valencia fan clubs worldwide) published a statement demanding true effort from their players and stating that "management and coach are running out of credit".

Athletic's boss Marcelo Bielsa felt the wrath of the fans too, until three consecutive victories and Thursday night's draw with Salzburg changed the general atmosphere in Bilbao. It's hard not to enjoy Bielsa's approach, even if his obsession with playing half the team out of position drives some of his own players crazy. In summary, it looks like a good combination of events to go for a '2'.

10. Villarreal (14th) - Levante (2nd): X.

The positive and the negative shocks of the season thus far meet at El Madrigal to close the weekend. Under normal circumstances, favouring the home side's talent would seem the logical choice, but their exhausting and frustrating defeat against Manchester City during the week, coupled with Levante's smart - and extremely tough - defending will make things hard for the Amarillos. A draw makes sense.

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

Last week: 6/10 (60%)
Season: 32/60 (53%)

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