Friday, August 24, 2012
Week 2 - Half baked
La Liga's premature start has brought an uneasy feeling to clubs, players, fans and even managers. Most squads still need at least a couple of signings and outgoings before they are complete, the changes in TV rights have caught most supporters, both inside and outside the country, by surprise, and the new and irrational kick off times have suffered even more irrational adjustments since they were first announced.
The season could have taken another couple of weeks to begin and no-one would have complained, especially having to digest two clasicos in the middle of all this mess. And I can't shake off the sensation that the chaos is here to stay. Let's hope that football saves the day, as usual, making us forget all the off-the-pitch nonsense.
Shall we? Remember, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win.
1. Real Sociedad (20th) - Celta (15th): X.
Having started the season on the wrong foot, both teams are looking to get their first points. As observed by Phil Ball last Monday, Real Sociedad's back four looked quite shaky at the Camp Nou, while Celta certainly deserved more from their season opener against Malaga. A draw sounds sensible.
2. Espanyol (13th) - Zaragoza (17th): 1.
Saturday continues with another two teams that suffered defeat in their opening matches. Despite some injuries and quite late reinforcements - Simao Sabrosa has just arrived - the home side appear far more intimidating than the visitors, who look destined for yet another depressing start to the season.
The very loyal Zaragocistas - hats off to the club for somehow managing to have more socios this year than last - may argue that their side's recent record against Espanyol - W6, D2, L2, should probably earn them some respect, even away from La Romareda. Don't think so.
3. Betis (2nd) - Rayo Vallecano (7th): 1.
Only very special teams can score five goals at San Mames. Betis did that last weekend, taking advantage of a dysfunctional Athletic and making the most of Benat Etxeberria's will to impress in Bilbao. Last season, and with a very similar squad, Betis proved that manager Pepe Mel knows how to start the season at top speed, so we should favour them against the newcomers.
4. Malaga (6th) - Mallorca (4th): 1.
Against all odds, Malaga overcame some significant summer losses to their squad and won two consecutive matches, one of them - the first leg of their Champions League qualifier against Panathinaikos - crucial to their financial stability. However, the problems keep mounting: Italian midfielder Enzo Maresca is likely to be the next out of the door as the sale of assets continues. We know that Manuel Pellegrini's teams work in streaks, and this looks like one of the right kind, but how long will it be before they start to miss the absentees?
Mallorca, still trying to bolster their squad with last-minute signings, don't travel well to the Peninsula. That should change if, as rumoured, they add a competent target man like Nicola Zigic to the side. For now, this looks like a clear '1'.
5. Osasuna (19th) - Barcelona (1st): 1.
The hosts have just made the signing of the year: Ghanaian Anthony Annan, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's nephew. Amazingly enough, Jose Mourinho and his scouts overlooked this young midfielder who, through his network of contacts, could probably have managed to get every single refereeing decision to go Real Madrid's way.
Get ready for a very strange defeat for the Azulgranas. The fact that, unlike Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova chose to go at full speed against Real Madrid in the Supercup, wasting precious energy to make a futile statement, might have some influence.
6. Getafe (14th) - Real Madrid (11th): 2.
Nothing can possibly improve Real Madrid's morale more than a quick 30-minute trip to Getafe. The fact that the injured Pepe will miss the match only increases the Madridistas' chances of winning comfortably, as his absence means they won't be booed by all Getafe's 50 supporters. Couple that with the fact that winger Pedro Leon won't play because one of those 'non-compete' clauses in the contract between the Azulones and Real, add the recent addition of the striker species to the extinction list in Getafe, and this becomes an easy win for the visitors.
7. Granada (16th) - Sevilla (5th): 2.
The first Andalusian derby of the season finds Granada still trying to work out their final squad. In a sign of either desperation or intelligence, the Granadinos want to sign striker Odion Ighalo, nicknamed the 'The Legend' by their supporters, for the fourth time. They also have to get rid at least four players, which sounds like serious upheaval mid which to host a rejuvenated Sevilla.
The Sevillistas have done their homework in the summer, and could still improve their 23-man squad by bringing in Jonathan dos Santos on loan from Barcelona. Even without him, they look a far more accomplished team than the hosts.
8. Valencia (12th) - Deportivo de La Coruna (3rd): 1.
Very quietly, Valencia have put together a decent squad. Their latest signing, Aly Cissokho from Olympique Lyon, will surprise many in the left back position. The Valencianistas , who have also got rid of some deadwood, have more than enough to defeat Deportivo, who didn't disappoint their faithful in their comeback to the Primera.
9. Valladolid (8th) - Levante (10th): 1.
A lucky start to the season for the Vallisoletanos: not only did they scrape an away win to take advantage of Zaragoza's customary woes, but now they host a euphoric but exhausted Levante, back from Scotland after defeating Motherwell in their first-ever European match. Time for six unexpected points from two games, and to focus on offloading up to six players who manager Djukic wants to get rid of as soon as possible.
10. Atletico de Madrid (9th) - Athletic de Bilbao (18th): X.
This duel between two races of Rojiblancos and their respective Argentinean managers - Diego Simeone and Marcelo Bielsa - sounds like fun on paper, especially because it reunites last season's Copa del Rey finalists. Bilbao enjoyed a therapeutic victory over HJK Helsinki on Thursday, a 6-0 thrashing that led their fans to sing something along the lines of 'Where is (Fernando) Llorente' in the second half. My crystal ball foresees a pulsating but anticlimactic draw, especially for the hosts.
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. Real Sociedad (20th) - Celta (15th):
2. Espanyol (13th) - Zaragoza (17th):
3. Betis (2nd) - Rayo Vallecano (7th):
4. Malaga (6th) - Mallorca (4th):
5. Osasuna (19th) - Barcelona (1st):
6. Getafe (14th) - Real Madrid (11th):
7. Granada (16th) - Sevilla (5th):
8. Valencia (12th) - Deportivo de La Coruña (3rd):
9. Valladolid (8th) - Levante (10th):
10. Atlético de Madrid (9th) - Athletic de Bilbao (18th):
Last week: 6/10 (60%)