Week 3 - Ten correct predictions
One of the most popular chapters of 'Freakonomics' - an insightful and quite unclassifiable book from Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner - theorised about how naming your kids one way or the other might mark them for life, leading them to either success or failure.
Last week, this column dared to give itself the title of 'Half Baked', which in hindsight wasn't obviously a good choice. We won't make that mistake twice. This week, dear son, your name is 'Ten Correct Predictions'. Be a good sport and deliver.
Shall we? Remember, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.
1. Celta (18th) - Osasuna (19th): 1.
An unwanted reminder of this column's tough beginning to the season, two early strugglers open the footballing weekend in Spain. Both have lost their first two games, although, just like this column, they deserved more. In terms of talent, anyone can tell that Osasuna have lost a significant amount of what they had last season, but have kept their fighting spirit up intact - ask Barcelona. The hosts also kept it close against Valladolid and Real Sociedad, while they possess a more attacking-minded squad, which could make the difference on Saturday.
2. Zaragoza (11th) - Malaga (8th): X.
At least once every season I get the same call from a close friend who lives in and supports Zaragoza: "You have to come and see this, it's so depressing. Our stadium is crap. The seats are broken. There's no grass on the pitch. The South End looks like it's going to crumble at any point". His first call, back in 2007, worried me a lot. Five years of similar calls and no refurbishing of any kind later, you can probably imagine that La Romareda has already morphed into a tragedy waiting to happen.
It's actually hard to play decent passing football on that ground, which in this case favours the Zaragocistas. Having seen both teams play their two matches this season, I'd go for a '2', but one can't imagine the tired but happy Malaga, waiting to incorporate new signings Roque Santa Cruz and Javier Saviola in the side, getting close to Roberto's goal with their careful build-up game on that pitch.
3. Deportivo de La Coruna (5th) - Getafe (10th): 1.
This prediction, very likely correct, stems from Getafe's own idiosyncrasy, no matter who the coach or the players are. The Getafenses can easily kill a giant one weekend - hence the Matagigantes tag - like they just did with Real Madrid, and then lose against a recently promoted side the following. La Coruna sounds like the perfect scenario for a trademark no-show from the Azulones. Easiest pick of the weekend, or so I keep telling myself.
4. Mallorca (6th) - Real Sociedad (12th): X.
Two weeks ago, the home side won the first 11pm match in the history of La Liga. They drew in another 11pm match away at Malaga. Now the night creatures from Mallorca will try their luck at 10pm against Real Sociedad, a bunch of poor travellers. In fact, the Realistas have not won away from Anoeta since January.
However, the fact that Mallorca haven't been able to sign a real striker keeps manager Joaquin Caparros awake at night, and until the final hours of Thursday, that hadn't changed. It should cost them at least two points on Saturday.
5. Rayo Vallecano (3rd) - Sevilla (7th): 2.
La Liga's management recently decided that, in Spain, September 1 is radically different from August 25 in terms of weather. Thus, those who preposterously justified 11pm kick off times last weekend because of the unbearable heat, have now okayed a noon match in Vallecas on Sunday. Using a classic Spanish expression, Vallecas sera un horno (will feel like an oven). That usually refers to an encounter between arch-rivals and the ensuing atmosphere in the stands, but the powers that be have decided to give the expression a literal instance this weekend.
And whenever extremely high temperatures become a factor, no teams in the country possess better preparation than those from Sevilla. Rayo will lose their surprising co-leading position, confirming the Sevillistas' newfound vigour.
6. Athletic de Bilbao (20th) - Valladolid (2nd): X.
In the last month, we've witnessed how Athletic's intriguing start of a promising campaign blew up in pieces. With Javi Martinez already out, Fernando Llorente training by himself and the growing rumours that the vast majority of the players can't stand Marcelo 'El Loco' Bielsa, things can't go much worse.
If this column were a fan of hyperboles, we could say the Leones now have the potential to become the richest side ever to be relegated when all is said and done, as they can easily get up to €70 million in transfers and won't be able to spend much to reinforce the squad, due to their strict hiring policy. Wait, they can overpay for some bloke who had a half-Basque great-great-grandfather! Well, I guess we've seen that one before - just Google 'Roberto Rios' if you feel like checking. Didn't really work.
Undefeated and with two clean sheets in a row, Valladolid couldn't have asked for a better fixture list to begin their season. A draw in San Mames will keep them in the top spots for one more week.
7. Levante (16th) - Espanyol (17th): X.
Another confrontation between early strugglers who need far more talent than they currently have to keep going during what will be a very long season. The hosts must be exhausted after their European midweek success - they made it to Europa League's group stage on Thursday - while the Espanyolistas have fruitlessly tried to improve their squad. Levante's pitch hardly favours great football or high scores, so a draw looks like a safe choice.
8. Real Madrid (14th) - Granada (15th): 1.
I'll go out on a limb and say that Real Madrid will win most of their matches this season. However, the fact that they tend to score first is starting to become almost meaningless, as they only know how to play in fifth gear and seem unable to maintain a positive result until the match is over. The Madridistas showed glimpses of this illness last season, when they took the lead against Barcelona in no less than three matches - Liga, Supercopa and Copa del Rey - only to lose them all. It also happened in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern: with 1-1, they conceded a second goal when they should have controlled the pace of the match in Munich, and didn't know how to behave after they took an apparently definitive 2-0 lead in the second leg.
More of the same has happened this season against Valencia, Getafe and Barcelona (Supercopa's first leg and almost in the second as well). Can Modric help them out to play keep ball and find spaces on the counter? In any case, they shouldn't need that against the undermanned Granada, but this debate will come back soon enough.
9. Barcelona (1st) - Valencia (13th): X.
Death, taxes and one or two goals per game from Lionel Messi seem the only certainties in life. Now he even scores dead ball crackers, probably to compensate for his wastefulness from the penalty spot. But the spotlight should focus on Andres Iniesta, recent winner of UEFA's Player of the Season award. Yet more recognition of the amazing phase Spanish football undergoes, as well as an additional source of heated controversy over who should have won the award. Can't we just celebrate, please?
'Beware of celebrations', used to say Fabio Capello. And he was right. Teams tend to lose focus whenever some award or homage happens before matches, which was actually the case with Iniesta on Sunday at the Camp Nou. Couple that with a very solid Valencia side, and Barcelona could be in for a mild shock this weekend. After the Supercopa loss to Real Madrid, this match gains remarkable importance for Tito Vilanova. My gut says this is an 'X'.
10. Betis (9th) - Atletico de Madrid (4th): 1.
What a joke. Only four days before this match had to be played, the Spanish FA decided to postpone it. It obviously made no sense for Atletico to play in Sevilla with just a two-day rest after their European Super Cup final against Chelsea in Monaco, even less when the Atleticos would also miss up to seven internationals who would leave on Monday morning to play for their national teams on Wednesday. However, are you telling me that the Spanish FA didn't look at the calendar until now?
So it's a nine-match weekend, and therefore it becomes impossible to get to ten correct predictions, which probably proves that naming your kids isn't that meaningful after all. Enjoy the matches.
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. Celta (18th) - Osasuna (19th)
2. Zaragoza (11th) - Malaga (8th)
3. Deportivo de La Coruna (5th) - Getafe (10th)
4. Mallorca (6th) - Real Sociedad (12th)
5. Rayo Vallecano (3rd) - Sevilla (7th)
6. Athletic de Bilbao (20th) - Valladolid (2nd)
7. Levante (16th) - Espanyol (17th)
8. Real Madrid (14th) - Granada (15th)
9. Barcelona (1st) - Valencia (13th)
10. Betis (9th) - Atletico de Madrid (4th)
Last week: 1/10 (10%)
Season: 7/20 (35%)