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Friday, January 21, 2011
Quiniela - Week 20 - Time to react

Eduardo Alvarez

After swapping columns with Phil - he wrote the previous Quiniela, thus leaving on my shoulders the huge responsibility of putting together the mid-term review - things are back to normal. Fortunately Mr Ball maintained this column's utterly unimpressive performance of the season by scoring a 5/10, which means that several of our regular readers are beating us in the aggregated grand total so far. Time to react. Let's start. As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win. 1. Sevilla (10th) - Levante (19th): 1. For gambling purposes, it's always great when the weekend opens with Sevilla, one of the most unpredictable teams this season. Yes, I'm bitter. However, this week the Sevillistas found two reasons to celebrate: they made it to the semis of the Copal del Rey, convincingly defeating in-shape Villarreal, and gave their warmest welcome back to defender Sergio Sanchez, who had been out of the team for over a year because of a heart condition and now seems to have totally recovered. A change of karma, maybe? Levante's coach, Luis Garcia, has just been suspended for two matches because he dared to scream "That goal was legal" to the referee after the latter had disallowed his team's first against Zaragoza. Add that bad karma to their four winless matches in a row, and '1' looks like the reasonable choice. 2. Barcelona (1st) - Racing Santander (14th): 1. Betis, a Segunda Division team, finally broke Barcelona's unbeaten run (28 matches in all competitions) in their Copa del Rey tie during the week. Even though the Azulgranas ended up making it to the semi-finals thanks to their big win in the first leg, a group of journalists rooting for some semblance of a title fight believe that there is still hope: Pep's team can be defeated. This columnist, however, has more of a glass-half-empty kind of view: another 20-something match unbeaten run will start on Saturday. Racing midfielder Manuel Arana stated on Thursday: "It's feasible to get a result in the Camp Nou." He only forgot to add that his club, in the process of being sold to Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed and missing suspended skipper Pedro Munitis, can't possibly be the team to get that result. Inter Milan, maybe? 3. Valencia (4th) - Malaga (16th): 1. Now that Valencia are out of the Copa del Rey, their La Liga goal is clear: Champions League football next season. After a shaky start at home, they've improved - four wins and one draw in their last five games - which should be key to achieving third or fourth spot. Malaga's Sheikh keeps throwing cash left, right and centre. The Malaguistas have signed River Plate star Diego "Dwarf" Buonanotte, a classy if injury-prone offensive midfielder, who will join the team in June. Let's hope by that time they're still in the Primera Division. 4. Sporting Gijon (17th) - Atletico de Madrid (6th): 1. Atletico supporters celebrated their club's 20th consecutive winless match against neighbours Real Madrid by directing chants of "Die, Mourinho" to their arch-rivals' boss. We've seen classier reactions to defeat, I must say. After this hard to digest Copa del Rey elimination, the Rojiblancos travel to meet another group of Rojiblancos in Sporting, who have the chance to win two matches in a row for the first time since October 2009. Despite the difference between the clubs in the table, a Kun-less Atletico, playing away after a stressful match against Real Madrid, don't look that attractive when coming up against the hungry Gijoneses. 5. Zaragoza (18th) - Deportivo La Coruna (13th): 1. Even after having left Zaragoza, Mr Jermaine Pennant keeps adding to his legend: on Wednesday the club called him to let him know that his Porsche was still parked at the city's train station. It seems relevant to say that he departed five months ago, and that the car's keys were inside the car, on the driver's seat. Have you ever felt so absent-minded to the point of accidentally forgetting your car, let alone a Porsche, parked anywhere for five months? No? Neither have I, as far as I can remember. (Actually, give me a sec). (Back from the garage, car's still there). In any case, Zaragoza have finally started to look decent at home - with two consecutive wins - while Deportivo's Copa del Rey elimination at the hands of bottom-of-the-table Almeria can't be a good sign. A home win. 6. Getafe (8th) - Espanyol (5th): X. During the first half of the season, I rhetorically asked whether Espanyol were for real in at least five columns, usually concluding that they lacked depth to make their impressive run last long enough. Call me stubborn, as I still believe their performances should drop in the next couple of months, but they've earned some respect. Getafe, bipolar as they come, can win five in a row (including defeats of Sevilla, Mallorca and Villarreal) and then lose 4-0 at home to Real Sociedad. It's puzzling. Let's go for an 'X', it's the easy way out. 7. Almeria (20th) - Osasuna (15th): 1. Paradoxically, bottom-of-the-table Almeria look like a team in good shape. They have reached the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, where they will play Barcelona, and after a courageous home draw versus Real Madrid, they host Osasuna, the worst travelling side in La Liga. The Rojillos have only managed to get two points in ten away matches - a telling stat that should cost them dear. The sale of Juanfran to Atletico won't help them much either. 8. Real Madrid (2nd) - Mallorca (9th): 1. Do you still harbour doubts about La Liga's Curse of the Portuguese Manager? I'll prove you wrong. For instance, do you believe that Real Madrid's progression to the Copa del Rey semi-finals is enough to disprove the Curse? Then let me remind you that Carlos Queiroz, the Madridistas' last manager from Portugal, reached the final in 2004. Real Madrid's defeat against Zaragoza in that match was actually the turning point of an, up to then, almost exemplary season. Will history repeat itself? Michael Laudrup, a former Real Madrid player, will receive a warm welcome from a Bernabeu crowd that still fondly remembers his 1994-95 season. These pleasantries will very likely end with the opening whistle. I'll go out on a limb and say that CR7 will be on target this coming Sunday. Impressed? That's why they pay me the big bucks. 9. Villarreal (3rd) - Real Sociedad (11th): 1. Villarreal stained their almost spotless season with an awful Copa del Rey performance in Sevilla. They also extended Joan Capdevila's contract until 2013, a questionable decision given that Spain's left-back is not getting any younger nor, especially, any skinnier. But they've demonstrated such consistency at home that they deserve this column's trust, even if it's an ecstatic Real Sociedad who visit El Madrigal after winning 4-0 in Getafe. 10. Athletic Bilbao (7th) - Hercules (12th): 1. In their last eight away matches, Hercules have managed to collect only two points. Their financial difficulties continue. Royston Drenthe didn't train this week (no strike this time, just a sore knee). Do you really believe Hercules can get a result in San Mames? Me neither. And I'm sure that they agree with us. PS. Quick reminder: you can follow me on twitter! (@Papamoskis). 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. Sevilla (10th) - Levante (19th): 1.
2. Barcelona (1st) - Racing de Santander (14th): 1.
3. Valencia (4th) - Málaga (16th): 1.
4. Sporting de Gijón (17th) - Atlético de Madrid (6th): 1.
5. Zaragoza (18th) - Deportivo de La Coruña (13th): 1.
6. Getafe (8th) - Espanyol (5th): X.
7. Almería (20th) - Osasuna (15th): 1.
8. Real Madrid (2nd) - Mallorca (9th): 1.
9. Villarreal (3rd) - Real Sociedad (11th): 1.
10. Athletic de Bilbao (7th) - Hércules (12th): 1.

Last week: 5/10 (50%)
Season: 88/170 (51%)

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