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Friday, May 31, 2013
The goodnight Vienna Quiniela

Rob Train

And so we come to the final round of the season, and indeed our last collective waltz on the Quiniela dance floor. I'd like to say cheers for reading and for not giving me too much grief for not being Ed, while wishing you all a splendid summer. Perhaps we'll meet again on the pristine fields of 2013-14. If not, merci, au revoir and bon voyage. It's been a pleasure... Real Madrid (2) - (15) Osasuna: X Let's face it, nobody cares about the result in the early kick-off. What will ensure a decent crowd at the Bernabeu is whatever Jose Mourinho has up his sleeve as a parting side show. Before the derby against Atletico last December he presented himself to the crowd to be given a thorough scolding, if that was what the crowd wanted. The Ultras duly sang his name, while the usual gaggle of Real tourists took photographs and looked confused. There were about five thousand people in a stadium that holds 80,000 - the regular punters were in the pub, indifferent to the Portuguese prancer's mea culpa. Relations at the Bernabeu have not improved significantly since then and the reception Mourinho will receive in his last game in charge, after a potless season, will one way or the other be a lot louder. Chants of Jupp Heynckes might even fill the air, although its pronunciation by a Spanish chorus may sound different to Mourinho's multilingual ear. In amongst the off-field tumult there is still a game of football to be played and Osasuna doesn't have a bad record against Real. Although there is nothing to play for in real terms, the Pamplona side, having defied my prediction of going down, are quite capable of handing Mourinho a parting shot here with Cristiano Ronaldo out and half the Madrid squad hoping they will be permanently soon enough. Barcelona (1) - (6) Malaga: 1 Ah, Barcelona. Not content with winning the league, signing Neymar and giving the ladies of the world this to while away the lonely hours of the off-season, the greedy swine went and racked up another title this week. Not that anybody outside of Catalonia would have noticed. The Copa Catalunya is an annual competition that, unsurprisingly, is contested by teams in Catalonia. What is more of a head-scratcher is that Barça hadn't won it since 2007, when Espanyol was beaten on penalties. It took the 12-yard lottery to decide this one as well, despite Barcelona fielding what can only be described as a kick-ass side after sending Barca B, C and D out against Nastic in the semifinals. What is therefore less easy to fathom is how Barcelona couldn't find a place for Eric Abidal in the squad for what was essentially a glorified friendly. At an emotional press conference Thursday Abidal said his goodbyes after Barca elected not to renew his contract, despite the player's insistence that he would happily have carried on wearing the claret-and-blue. It is a measure of the Frenchman's huge popularity that the entire team turned out for it, along with the coaching and medical staff, who supported him during his well-documented health issues. Suffice to say that although I admire Barcelona on many levels, my wrath will be duly incurred if Abidal isn't given the full 90 in the final match of the season, and afforded the on-field send-off he deserves. Malaga, meanwhile, is playing catch-up with the sporting authorities more than the table as Rayo in eighth can't catch them at this point. Manuel Pellegrini revealed in an interview this week that the owner's plan was to dismantle the team last summer, which the Chilean managed to prevent. With his departure, there's nothing to stop a proper sheikh-down this summer so I don't expect his players to be particularly interested at Camp Nou. Granada (16) - (10) Getafe: 2 It's a constant source of amazement to me that Granada isn't the capital of Spain. The Catholic Monarchs certainly went to great lengths to nick it back from the Emir Muhammad XII in 1492. No, Phillip II had a brainwave in 1536 and decided to shift the capital to what is now Madrid, but was then a couple of chicken shacks where visitors were well advised to watch where they were putting their feet. As Isabella and Ferdinand were sweeping into the majestic Arab city down south, an outbreak of plague was sweeping through the streets of a small village outside the fledgling capital called Getafe. Modern day Granada, under the eternal watch of the spectacular Sierra Nevada, still boasts the Alhambra, the Albaycin and sufficient remnants of the empire of Al-Andalus to make it a Unesco World Heritage site several times over. The recent naming of a city center plaza after Clash front man Joe Strummer only makes Granada cooler still. About all that can be said of Getafe is that you won't die of plague there any more. One of its neighborhoods is romantically called Sector III. I can't help but feel that a bit of an opportunity was missed back in the day. Whether Getafe will seize its opportunity to play in Europe next season remains to be seen, not least because it is unclear whether seventh or ninth will do. Bettering Sevilla's result will be a start. In any case, it's a nice day out for the traveling fans. Sevilla (9) - (4) Valencia: X The game Valencia could have done without this week as they need a win to ensure Champions League qualification so it can keep the electricity on at Mestalla. Real Sociedad's superior head-to-head record means a win for the Basque side will render a tie useless. Sevilla still has the faintest hope of Europe if it can keep Getafe at arm's length and Unai Emery will be rubbing his hands together at the prospect of denying his old club that which he provided with ease three seasons on the trot For reasons known only to the white handkerchief-waving Mestalla faithful, Emery was not carted out of the stadium on shoulders at the end of his reign. What would the club pay now for the sort of stability he brought despite the financial necessity of selling his best players every summer? Ernesto Valverde's position is about as stable as Mariano Rajoy rollerblading on ice and soon-to-be-not Valladolid coach Miroslav Djukic is already talking up his desire to replace him. Valencia is on a roll of four straight wins and hasn't conceded since Sociedad stuck four past them at the end of April. A tie might not be enough. A tie it will be. Deportivo (17) - (5) Real Sociedad: X The game Depor could have done without this week as they need a point to ensure Primera survival. Also the game La Real could have done without as they need a win to knock Valencia out of fourth. This is probably going to be the game of the final round and it could go either way. A Celta supporters' club offered 50 kilos of mussels to Athletic to beat Zaragoza two weeks ago and that worked just fine, so they're going for it again here. Incentives come cheap in Spain these days. Depor coach Fernando Vazquez is an odd fish himself. A former English teacher who majored in German philology, he rose to become a Primera Division manager from humble beginnings coaching his school soccer team. His predecessor was called Domingos Paciencia, but Depor soon lost its own after a string of Sundays on the receiving end of a beating. Until Depor embarked on a run of four straight wins with a 3-1 win over Celta, the significance of which we'll come to in a minute, the Coruna outfit had won three games all season. Vazquez's side has gone off the boil recently but I expect it to kick up a stink like 50 kilos of mussels in the sun here and get the point it needs. That La Real will have to settle for the Europa League is something I hope Depor will make amends for with a colossal paella. Celta (18) - (12) Espanyol: 1 This is where things get a bit tricky, at least from Celta's point of view. Celta needs to win to have a chance of staying up. In the case of a three-way tie on 35 points and despite a better goal difference of minus 16, Depor would survive by dint of its tally of 10 goals in the six games between it, Celta and Zaragoza, in which the former and latter bagged five and eight respectively. Espanyol hasn't been offered 50 "kilos" - Spanish slang for a thousand euros - of anything to do more than than turn up for this one, unless Depor president Augusto Lendoiro has dismounted his buckled-kneed high horse since making some outlandish claims. Whatever, as young folk are wont to say, Celta has its very survival on the line and Espanyol would rather be at the beach having secured its own Primera status after a brief flirtation with the basement earlier in the season. Mallorca (20) - (14) Valladolid: X If Spain had a middle name, it would be corruption. Enough time and effort is expended on the practice that it is pretty close to replacing the beautiful game as the national sport. If Madrid manages to get the 2020 Olympics, expect it to be included. And expect Spain to do very well. In the latest Corruption Perception Index, Spain is nestled neatly between Bhutan and Botswana. The latest and greatest case involves a former treasurer of the Popular Party, who allegedly received massive (illegal) donations from eminent businessmen while handing out (illegal) envelopes stuffed full of cash to senior party figures, including the current prime minister. Some of these eminent businessmen were connected to the Gurtel corruption network, which profited from huge public contracts (illegally) handed out by the PP allegedly in exchange for gifts and expensive holidays. Also involved directly and indirectly are the king's daughter and her husband the duke of Palma, currently under investigation for allegedly diverting public funds to their private concerns via inflated contracts awarded by the Valencia and Balearic Islands regional administrations. The PP treasurer is also under indictment, while his secret ledgers implicate pretty much the entire ruling political elite. Former PM Jose Maria Aznar was forced into a television interview last week to explain why the Gurtel ring, one of whose ringleaders is gloriously titled "the Mustache" paid over 30 grand toward his daughter's wedding. And of course, all roads lead to Switzerland, where the ex-PP purse-string puller has allegedly squirreled away a cool 20 million. It's a tangled web indeed and will take years to unravel and is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Mallorca's situation is considerably more immediate. They're definitely going down if they don't win, and even if they do they'll need three other results to go their way. And this without Tomer Hemed and Giovanni dos Santos: about as much chance as any of the aforementioned suits swapping their initialed pink shirts for prison overalls. Zaragoza (19) - (3) Atletico: 1 Will anybody ever beat United Colors of Benetton poster boy Luis Aragones' goal scoring record for Atletico? It seems unlikely as the Manzanares club always sells its top striker when the right price comes along. In the case of Radamel Falcao, that price is 45 million or so and the wallet unfolding to hand it over belongs to Russian moneybags Dmitry Rybolovlev. However, yours truly is pretty pleased with reports that Atletico are going to try and sign Belgian battering ram Christian Benteke for much less than half of that fee. At 22, Benteke can only improve and his scoring record for a young, experimental Aston Villa earned him the prefix "the Magnificent" at Villa Park. Maybe he will be the man to knock Aragones off his perch? It would certainly be poetic. In the meantime Atletico couldn't care less about this one after a long season and although I was proved wrong last week when Diego Simeone fielded a full strength side, I expect a Falcao-less affair here, with the likes of the Onion and Oliver Torres trotting onto the field instead. Zaragoza needs a win. Atletico needs a rub-down and a new striker. Levante (11) - (7) Betis: 2 Betis needs just a point to secure Europa League qualification while Levante is not entirely out of the running, although Juan Ignacio Martinez's side needs Getafe and Sevilla to slip up and the CAS to rule against both Malaga and Rayo's inclusion in European competition next season. JIM is expected to leave Levante after this match and Pepe Mel may well be the apple in the eye of several coachless clubs in the summer. With Malaga expected to have a car boot sale after the season is concluded, the cash gleaned by a European foray might tempt Betis to make an offer for its favorite son, the universally loved Joaquin. The mere prospect of seeing the wise-cracking winger back in his native Seville is enough to make me go as weak at the knees as anything trying to prop up the worthless bulk of Lendoiro, so let the dream be made possible here. Rayo (8) - (13) Athletic: 1 Rayo, like so many teams in Primera, also needs to sell in order to keep itself afloat in the turbulent waters of La Liga. But it hardly seems fair that the likes of Lass, Piti and the crocked Leo Baptistao will go for peanuts when Liga has-beens at both Real and Barcelona will fetch multimillion deals simply for having worn a different color of shirt on the bench for most of the season. If there is any justice in Spain, and as you may have noted I am rather skeptical on the matter, then Rayo will not only qualify for Europe on its own merit but will be allowed to compete having made far more of an effort than most Liga clubs to shore up its finances as opposed to most of the basket case institutions that comprise the continent's most unbalanced competition. Eighth is already assured and Rayo can usurp Betis in seventh on a better head-to-head record with a final roll of the dice against an Athletic side that gave up weeks ago. Michel Platini thinks himself the pope of European football thanks to France's strict spending laws. Which of course don't apply to Monaco even though it plays in Ligue 1. If Rayo is denied a well-deserved windfall by the megalomaniac Frenchman's whim, he's welcome to kiss my ring. Use this easy 'Copy and Paste' summary to write your own Quiniela and share it with us in the 'Comments' section. Real Madrid - Osasuna:
Barcelona - Malaga:
Granada - Getafe:
Sevilla - Valencia:
Deportivo - Real Sociedad:
Celta - Espanyol
Mallorca - Valladolid:
Zaragoza - Atlético:
Levante - Betis:
Rayo - Athletic:

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