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Friday, October 14, 2011
Week 6 - Scoring is all that matters

Eduardo Alvarez

The annoying stop-start beginning to La Liga's new season is finally over. The lack of continuity and rhythm during these first six matches have brought us plenty of surprises and upsets, but now we head into a run of five consecutive games before the next break - five games that will bring us a clearer picture of which teams are for real and which just got a lucky break. Ready for the ride? Let's start. As usual, it's '1' for a home win, 'X' for a draw and '2' for an away win. 1. Mallorca (10th) - Valencia (5th): 2. Can you explain to me how on earth Mallorca sit comfortably in the middle of the table? Sale of their best players over the summer (check); almost total lack of reinforcements (check); brutal feud between management team and former manager Michael Laudrup, who ends up fired (check); fights between their main shareholders, with the Nadal family finally leaving the board (check). This shouldn't work, right? At least new boss Joaquin Caparros, a socio of former employers Sevilla, will bring his trademark fortitude to work under Betis socio Lorenzo Serra Ferrer. And then they say that politics makes for strange bedfellows... The most interesting news coming from Valencia has to do with President Manuel Llorente, who gave a juicy interview in Marca this week. Some titbits: "We want to win La Liga"; "We are able to replace the players that we sell every year"; "Real Madrid only value the talent that comes from beyond the Pyrenees", "Real Madrid never paid what our players [insert David Villa, David Silva, Juan Mata here] were worth". Despite some issues at the centre of the Los Che's defence, Llorente's optimistic rant and the likely impact of gravity's law on Mallorca tell me this is a '2'. 2. Getafe (17th) - Villarreal (12th): 1. During the week, at least five different players from five different teams said something along the lines of "my team should have more points - we're playing quite well". Getafe's Mane is one of them. Pure blahblahblah, if you ask me. This humble scribe used to rate his degree of success with the opposite gender well below the level of his commendable performances (under his own valuation, at least) until a close friend said: "Get real. Scoring is all that matters." Even if that harsh, pragmatic statement is especially true of any football competition, and having in mind that Getafe are not doing well on that front, opponents Villarreal are not even playing well and will miss strikers Nilmar and Marco Ruben on Saturday. My vote goes to Getafe's Dani Guiza to score again on Spanish soil. 3. Real Madrid (3rd) - Betis (7th): 1. The Merengues bring us a heavier than usual dose of their weekly controversy. First, Vicente del Bosque has allegedly rejected his Golden Badge, awarded to him by president Florentino Perez during the last board meeting. The current Spain boss perceives a lack of spontaneity in the gesture, as it is obvious that the media had been putting Mr Perez under pressure to show some sort of (late) appreciation to arguably one of the most successful Madridistas ever. Then we have Jose Mourinho, presenting us with startling comments about his fallout with Tito Vilanova, Barcelona's assistant coach: "My reaction was perhaps not the right thing to do, but it was a natural one." And finally Cristiano Ronaldo, sad after his country underperformed in the Euro 2012 qualifiers, has to hear that he's in need of a rest amid niggling injury problems. In any case, Betis' visit should not result in a demanding match. The visiting team, including 17-year-old wunderkind Alvaro Vadillo, feature few players accustomed to playing in stadia of the Bernabeu's proportions and, with Real Madrid's recent scoring spree, they're hardly well placed to improve their team's poor record at La Castellana: only five wins in 46 matches. 4. Barcelona (1st) - Racing de Santander (18th): 1. The only question mark about this match: the infamous FIFA virus. Barcelona's recent history shows they suffer steep declines in performance when their players come back from a week with their national teams. An audacious gambler could also factor in the pernicious influence of the trial of former president Laporta, which has the city divided in two camps. But can you believe that the winless Racing, enduring their fourth worst beginning to a season ever, can get a result in the Camp Nou? After having won only twice in 43 matches there? No. PS. A goal to remember: it's been 15 years since Ronaldo scored that wonder goal against Compostela. 5. Granada (19th) - Atletico de Madrid (8th): X. Granada wander around the Primera Division like a bunch of happy kids because they're able to play with the big guys. But the fact is that they've become tough to beat at home, and this weekend the FIFA virus can have a bigger impact on Atletico than on Barcelona: Radamel Falcao and the emotional Luis Perea gave their all in the South American qualifying group matches for the 2014 World Cup; Arda Turan came back injured; Salvio's flight arrived late, ruling him out of Thursday's training session... a draw might be a good result for Atleti. 6. Rayo Vallecano (13th) - Espanyol (15th): 1. Time for one of two streaks to end: Rayo haven't won at home while Espanyol haven't conquered a single point away from Cornella. Given what has happened so far, Rayo boss Jose Ramon Sandoval's words sound like he's heading in the right direction: "We must take one more step to become top level." While he focuses on that, Espanyol's Mauricio Pochettino complains because, understandably, all the talk about his team has to do with much needed signings. '1' it is. 7. Zaragoza (14th) - Real Sociedad (9th): 1. After Antoine Griezmann successfully jinxed his team right before the Basque derby - "We'll win 3-0 and I'll score all three" - former Real Sociedad boss Martin Lasarte declared that the Frenchman "should get better advice". Obviously, Lasarte was referring to Griezmann's public intention to leave the team next summer, and not to his pre-derby statements. This is not the first time that Griezmann has openly hurt the Realistas' feelings, and his mild mea culpa on Thursday afternoon won't be easily accepted by most Sociedad supporters. Karma always sends its bills, Mr Griezmann, and Zaragoza have improved after their initial thrashing by Real Madrid. Clear '1'. 8. Levante (2nd) - Málaga (4th): X. Sergio Ballesteros has become a cult hero. (Try to read that sentence again without raising your eyebrows.) At age 36, he can say he beat Cristiano Ronaldo to a sprint, wants to play until he's 40, and is arguably the only centre-back in La Liga to be responsible for 30% of the shirt sales of his team. Levante's defence has been instrumental in their march to second place. It will be a tough test for Manuel Pellegrini's Málaga, and it appears a draw would be a positive result for both sides. 9. Sevilla (6th) - Sporting de Gijón (20th): 1. Together with Levante, Sevilla have the best defence in La Liga so far. Good news, especially when you play against the worst offensive side. Sporting's nightmarish beginning to the season, which has seen them propping up the table as well as enduring a robbery in their training facilities, just got worse, as their excellent defender Alberto Botia is sick and won't play on Sunday. Even if Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo is also out, this looks like an easy home win. 10. Athletic de Bilbao (16th) - Osasuna (11th): 1. Winless at home after three matches, Athletic are hoping for a change of luck. And what would be a better good luck charm than Fernando Amorebieta's winner for Venezuela, a header that saw the country defeat Argentina for the first time in their history? Ander Herrera is also back from injury, and things seem calmer for boss Marcelo Bielsa after the Leones' victory in San Sebastian. Time for another win over an injury-stricken Osasuna. • PS. You can follow me on Twitter! (@EdAlvarezSpain). 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. Mallorca (10th) - Valencia (5th): 2.
2. Getafe (17th) - Villarreal (12th): 1.
3. Real Madrid (3rd) - Betis (7th): 1.
4. Barcelona (1st) - Racing de Santander (18th): 1.
5. Granada (19th) - Atletico de Madrid (8th): X.
6. Rayo Vallecano (13th)- Espanyol (15th): 1.
7. Zaragoza (14th) - Real Sociedad (9th): 1.
8. Levante (2nd) - Málaga (4th): X.
9. Sevilla (6th) - Sporting de Gijón (20th): 1.
10. Athletic de Bilbao (16th) - Osasuna (11th): 1.

Last week: 5/10 (50%)
Season: 26/50 (51%)

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