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Soccernet Quiniela - Week 2 - Back to business

September 10, 2010
By Eduardo Alvarez
(Archive)

The beginning of the Spanish football season can indeed be catalogued under the 'anti-climactic' tab. Not only did La Liga take a break after just one weekend of football but, during that same break, the national team suffered their toughest defeat in several years at the hands of Argentina.

Vicente del Bosque's side lost 4-1 in Argentina
GettyImagesVicente del Bosque's side lost 4-1 in Argentina

The current world champions, and especially their manager, decided to take the day off at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, which was not a sensible idea when they should have been trying to build on their recent success to consolidate their place among the truly great football teams.

We have one comforting thought, though: the season started with Atletico Madrid's resounding win over Inter to secure the European Super Cup, an early confirmation of this term's promising outlook for the Colchoneros. When this writer uses the word 'comforting' to describe an Atletico Madrid victory, you know it has indeed been an anti-climactic start to the Spanish season.

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

1. Barcelona - Hercules: 1.

While Barcelona hired a defensive midfielder in Javier Mascherano from Liverpool and published a new ethics code - a classic case of the recently appointed president pointing a not very subtle finger at the previous one - Hercules continued their quest to build the most bizarre squad in the history of Spanish football.

The Alicantinos signed the great, the one, the only Royston Drenthe from Real Madrid, and then hired forward David Trezeguet after he was released by Juventus. Trezeguet apparently chose Hercules at the expense of rival clubs because his wife was born in Alicante. The striker, who is almost 33, has only managed to play 39 official matches in the last two seasons, scoring 11 goals. I am sure he'll enjoy the weather on the east coast of Spain.

Earlier this week, an over-optimistic (from their point of view, obviously) piece of analysis from Marca stated that seven Hercules players have already defeated Barcelona during their careers. This surprising feat can be easily explained with some facts: Hercules do have several players that used to be much better - and obviously much, much younger - than they are right now; most of those players plied their trade in stronger sides than this Hercules team; with only one exception, they defeated a previous version of Barcelona, not the current football machine. This is a crystal clear '1'.

2. Valencia - Racing Santander: 1.

This column's reservations about Valencia's performance this season raised some eyebrows in the previous quiniela. The Chés have the chance to prove me and other doubters wrong over the next 20 days as they will play seven matches that will shape their future.

Their first stop, home against Racing Santander, should actually be a walk in the park. The Santanderinos sold their best striker, Tchite, and then got Markus Rosenberg on loan from Werder Bremen. They also signed Chilean international Waldo Ponce, a competent centre back. However, Racing just don't have what it takes to trouble Valencia at Mestalla.

3. Real Madrid - Osasuna: 1.

Jose Antonio Camacho, Osasuna's gaffer and a Real Madrid icon in his own right, returns to the Bernabeu. His impressive record against his former team - five wins and two draws in 13 matches, always coaching clubs on a smaller budget - is, however, simply mundane when compared to Jose Mourinho's eight years undefeated at home in league matches.

Despite the absentees (Kaka, CR7, Ezequiel Garay, Fernando Gago and Raul Albiol), the home side have enough in their arsenal to get their first win of the season. And when you announce a record-breaking €450 million budget, like president Perez did last week, it has to show on the pitch, doesn't it?

4. Athletic Bilbao - Atletico Madrid: 2.

Atletico's Sergio Aguero scored against Spain on Tuesday
GettyImagesAtletico's Sergio Aguero scored against Spain on Tuesday

Don't miss this one. Any Athletic vs Atletico encounter warrants must-watch status and this season they could both go through one of their best runs of form in decades, so the contest should be spectacular.

Athletic's favourable historical record (60% wins vs the Rojiblancos in Bilbao) won't be enough against Atletico's current squad. The surprising sale of midfielder Jurado limits Quique Flores' options off the bench, but the starting XI can beat any team on a given day. They should prevail in San Mames.

5. Getafe - Levante: 1.

My upbeat assessment of Levante went down the drain after watching them play - and deservedly lose - their first match of the season against Sevilla. When 34-year-old Juanfran and 35-year-old Ballesteros make your starting XI, forget about being fast at the back. Mark my words, these two gentlemen should combine for a new record of cautions when this La Liga season is over. They do not have enough to deal with Getafe's Miku and Colunga.

6. Sporting Gijon - Mallorca: 1.

It's still too early to make a judicious call on certain teams, so I'll try to apply some logic. Sporting were decent at home last season, and improved their squad during the summer, even if only slightly. Last year, Mallorca couldn't win an away match to save their lives (or to make the Champions League), and the off-season saw them lose at least two key players and their coach. '1' it is.

7. Zaragoza - Malaga: X.

I am sure you still remember Francisco Pavon, 50% of the 'Zidanes and Pavones' policy as defined by Mr Florentino Perez during his first spell at the helm of Real Madrid. However, here are some depressing facts: Pavon is already 30 and Zaragoza have just sold him to Arles de Avignon, a not very distinguished French club who play in a 7,000-capacity stadium. This means that the last match I saw Pavon play live was a 6-0 thrashing of Zaragoza at the Bernabeu. How the mighty have fallen.

In my previous column, I gave a warm welcome to Jesualdo Ferreira, a winning coach from Portugal who has joined Malaga. On Thursday a good friend asked me: 'Can you name just one Portuguese coach who did well in Spain?' It is a relevant point, indeed. Toni Oliveira was not successful with Sevilla and Carlos Queiroz fell apart in the final third of his only season with Real Madrid. Wait a second, does this curse include the Special One as well?

8. Villarreal - Espanyol: 1.

Joan Capdevila lifted the World Cup this summer
GettyImagesJoan Capdevila lifted the World Cup this summer

These two teams play much better at home than they do when they travel. Villarreal looked impressive during pre-season, only to disappoint most of us in their first match of the season against Real Sociedad. During the week the Amarillos have tested an attacking line-up with Rossi and Nilmar in tandem up front, which coupled with their strength at the Madrigal should do the trick against Espanyol.

A couple of side notes: this could be Joan Capdevila's 350th La Liga match. His collection of trophies (both domestically and internationally) is even more impressive: he only lacks a Champions League title to have a full cabinet. This game should also mark the return of Little Buddha Ivan de la Pena, who played his last competitive match in November 2009. Welcome back.

9. Sevilla - Deportivo La Coruna: 1.

"President Augusto Cesar Lendoiro tried really hard to sign a striker until the very end of the deadline," Deportivo's manager, Miguel Angel Lotina, said last week. Well, he didn't succeed, so Deportivo will continue to suffer in front of goal at least until the winter transfer window opens. Long gone are the times when Lendoiro would spill loads of cash on some promising Brazilian forward.

Sevilla's away win at Levante lifted some of the pressure off Antonio Alvarez's shoulders. Last season, the Sevillistas underperformed in front of their public, as some players were booed by the demanding Sanchez Pizjuan faithful. Time for a fresh start?

10. Almeria - Real Sociedad: X.

Great news! The Spanish version of Monday Night Football is back with a true nail biter: Juan Manuel Lillo, Almeria's coach, meets Real Sociedad, the team he rooted for as a kid and which he also coached a couple of seasons ago. Aren't you excited? An optimal game to end this anticlimactic week, correct?

Okay, okay, it's not really a nail biter but, believe me, this is probably the most interesting Monday night match we'll see in a while. Both sides started well and aim to avoid the relegation battle. One point apiece would make them very happy.

Use this easy 'Copy and Paste' summary to write your own Quiniela and share it with us in the 'Comments' section. Last week we had several quinielistas getting close to the perfect ten.

1. Barcelona - Hercules: 1.
2. Valencia - Racing Santander: 1.
3. Real Madrid - Osasuna: 1.
4. Athletic Bilbao - Atletico Madrid: 2.
5. Getafe - Levante: 1.
6. Sporting Gijon - Mallorca: 1.
7. Zaragoza - Malaga: X.
8. Villarreal - Espanyol: 1.
9. Sevilla - Deportivo La Coruna: 1.
10. Almería - Real Sociedad: X.