La Quiniela for La Liga – Week 6 (September 29 – October 1, 2012)

It has been quite a while since wheretowatch.com has brought you the chance to fill out your Quiniela and make some sweet, sweet dinero (provided you copy and paste my picks and you are actually gambling) and I’m happy to say we are back in business.  Barcelona has had a great start to the season making it 15 points out of 15 under new head coach Tito Vilanova, leading Real Madrid by 8 points.  Surprisingly, Málaga is in 4th place despite the loss of Santi Cazorla to Arsenal, who was sold in an effort to pay down some of the club’s debts.  There is a lot to cover given the time we have missed so let’s get to it.

It is a ‘1’ for a home win, an ‘X’ for a draw and a ‘2’ for an away win.

1. Valladolid (13th) – Rayo Vallecano (8th): 2.

After suffering consecutive defeats to Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid, Rayo Vallecano faces a much easier battle this weekend.  Rayo’s coach, Paco Jémez recently stated that Valladolid “has good players, but no big names” in contrast to the superstars playing for Atlético and Madrid.  Nevertheless, Jémez is surely aware that his side has lost six consecutive points to Valladolid, but will have to hope that losing streak stops.

2. Espanyol (19th) – Atlético de Madrid (2nd): 2.

Atlético Madrid president Enrique Cerezo denied Wednesday’s trade rumors from London newspapers linking Colombian player Radamel Falcao to a $72.6 million Chelsea transfer.  As with every in demand player, there comes a time when Chelsea will come a calling.  Although Falcao is under contract ‘til 2015, Roman Abramovich’s petro dollars can sometimes erase difficulties like legally binding documents when he decides he wants a new player.  Enjoy him while you can Atlético fans he may be gone in January.

3. Malaga (4th) – Betis (6th): 1.

After experiencing success with the arrival of Santi Cazorla this summer, Arsenal is reportedly eyeing up Málaga’s young midfield starlet Isco.  Isco’s exodus would be a blow to a already thin team but skipper Manuel Pelligrini has done a great job so far this season and despite the distractions with Málaga’s financial situation and loss of key players has kept his team in the hunt in both La Liga and the Champions League.  They should keep up the good work at home.

4. Real Sociedad (14th) – Athletic de Bilbao (16th): 1.

It is always difficult to determine the outcome of any derbi, and the Basque competition is no exception.  After an awesome run in Europe last season Athletic is not quite where it was a year ago.  I go with the home team in this situation.

5. Osasuna (20th) – Levante (9th): 1.

Osasuna has begun this season terribly, with only 1 point after 5 games.  However, Levante has only been able to walk away from Osasuna’s home ground, Estadio El Sadar, one time in the Primera Liga.  Last year, Levante came in riding a 10-game unbeaten streak, which Osasuna ended and begin a four game skid for the levantinistas.  Osasuna plays their hearts out to get the home win and try to turn around their abysmal start.

6. Valencia (15th) – Zaragoza (12th): 1.

Coach Mauricio Pellegrino recently stated that los valencianistas need to “demonstrate that this team is alive” after a difficult start to the season. Fernando Gago will be returning to the midfield for Valencia after suffering an injury while playing for Argentina in early September.  His return, plus Valencia’s need for points and a boost, equal a win for los che.

7. Getafe (17th) – Mallorca (3rd): 2.

If Mallorca wins this weekend it would be their best start to a season in their history.  Mallorca’s defenseman, Antonio Lopez, noted the giddy atmosphere but warned that they must give “110 percent and not get caught up in the euphoria” surrounding their current position.  Mallorca stays focused and gets the away win.

8. Granada (18th) – Celta de Vigo (11th): 1.

Who knows?  Granada eliminated Celta from ascension to the Primera two years ago.  Celta’s Iago Aspas states that Celta will be arriving in Granada not looking for revenge but I’m not so sure.  Could be a testy match.  I’m taking the home team in this one. 

9. Sevilla (5th) – Barcelona (1st): 2.

Barcelona boss recently noted that “all the games are complicated but the truth is its worse at the Sanchez Pizjuan… I spent the worst 15 minutes of my life there.”  A little melodramatic, but Sevilla is an extremely difficult place to win.  Nevertheless, Barcelona keeps the pressure on Madrid this weekend.

10. Real Madrid (7th) – Deportivo de La Coruña (10th): 1.

After scoring a hat-trick in the Trofeo Bernabeu on Wednesday, Kaká is once again back in the mix for 1st team responsibilities according to coach Jose Mourinho.  It is that type of depth in the Real Madrid team (that they can have a guy who was world player of the year what seems like just a few years ago on the bench) that makes them so formidable. (Here is Kaka’s acceptance speech, seems like a really decent guy).  Real Madrid have had somewhat of a rocky start to the season but with may be turning the corner.  Either way, Deportivo have a tough task to try to get a win at the Bernabeu.

 By: Ryan Moore

Recap of the 2011-2012 La Liga Season

Alright amigos, we come to the end of another season in Spain’s top-flight soccer league.  As always, we had a lot happen on the final day of the season, with at least a couple of teams getting sent down to La Segunda.

Real Madrid were finally crowned champions after three long seasons of Barcelona dominance.  It has been a record setting campaign for the ‘madridistas’ who scored 121 goals (breaking Madrid’s own previous record of 107 goals during the 1989-1990 season) and finished the league with an outlandish 100 points on their way to a 32nd league title.  Madrid has to be disappointed after crashing out of the Champions League but all in all a very good season for ‘los blancos.’  On a side note there was a very interesting article on Real Madrid’s President, Florentino Perez, in the New York Times detailing Mr. Perez’s use of debt to finance business ventures, including Real Madrid.  Will a global reluctance to ever-increasing debt and FIFA’s fair play initiatives prohibit some of Real Madrid’s spending this summer?  With the sale of Kaká and Gonzalo Higuaín appearing imminent it may not matter as Madrid’s coffers will probably be replenished.  We will see but one always expects Madrid to make a splash in the transfer market…

Villarreal, Sporting de Gijón, and Racing de Santander are the unfortunate teams being relegated to La Segunda.  The heartbreak seems especially unfair to Villarreal.  Villarreal lost to Atlético de Madrid, a team who had nothing to play for, on the last day of the season to see themselves out of La Liga for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.  Falcao scored the winner in the 88th minute, when most Villarreal fans must have thought the tie, and possible safety, were almost inevitable.  Injuries certainly played a part and it is disappointing to see such a talented team go down, but that is how life in La Liga goes.

However, there is no yin without the yang.  Zaragoza, who once seemed doomed to relegation, became the first team to overcome a 12 point deficit to remain in the top flight.  Their fans must be applauding a great team effort. 

Málaga, as their high spending owners surely expected, finished fourth and qualified for the Champions League next season, finishing fourth behind Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.  Manuel Pellegrini, Málaga’s skipper, saved them from relegation last season and now leads his men into Europe (have hope, Villarreal fans, for circumstances can change so quickly!).  Atlético and Levante round out the Europa spots, and hopefully Levante will not curse me so next season, as they have been wildly unpredictable and a quiniela buster for me in the second half of the season.

Leo Messi has the honor of finishing the season as this year’s ‘pichichi’ (La Liga’s top goalscorer), finishing with an incredible 50 goals.  Christiano Ronaldo finished with 46, a total that would certainly have won any other year.  It is somewhat bittersweet, as Pep Guardiola, the coach who has watched Messi transform from a ‘good’ player to arguably the best in the world, will step down as Barcelona’s coach this summer.  Truly unfortunate for the fans, as Pep vs. Mourinho was really shaping up to be a rivalry for the ages.  It will be interesting to watch next year to see how Barcelona reacts to the loss of a true legend.

Well, that’s it for this year.  However, we have an action packed summer with Spain defending its European Championship at Euro 2012.  Look for our coverage.  Next year, the quinielas will be better than ever here at WheretoWatch.com, and look for our introduction to a Premier League Quiniela.

Hasta la proxima!

By: Ryan Moore

La Quiniela for La Liga, Spain’s Top-Flight Soccer League – Week 35

There are some great games this week.  It has been argued by many that La Liga is now a two-horse race, with only Barcelona and Real Madrid really in the running for the title.  Although I don’t agree with that assessment, tomorrow’s Clásico is simply such a big game I think it takes center stage this week.
 
As always, it is a ‘1’ for a home win, an ‘X’ for a draw, and a ‘2’ for an away win.  Last week I was 6/10 which is pretty much the best I’ve done all year.  Let’s see if I can make it two good weeks in a row.
 
1.  Racing (18th) – Athletic (7th): X
2.  Mallorca (13th) – Zaragoza (18th): 2
3.  Granada (17th) – Getafe (11th): 2
4.  Sevilla (9th) – Levante (5th): 2
5.  Sporting (19th) – Rayo (14th): 1
6.  Atlético (8th) – Espanyol: (10th): 1
7.  Valencia (3rd) – Betis (12th): 1
8.  Osasuna (6th) – Málaga (4th): 2
9.  Real Sociedad (15th) – Villarreal (16th): 1
10.  Barcelona (2nd) – Real Madrid (1st): 1
 
El Clásico, Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, 2:00 P.M. ET, Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain.
 
Barcelona currently trails Real Madrid by 4 points in the league, and this is simply a must win if los cules want to have any hope of winning la liga this year, which of course Pep Guardiola still thinks is an impossibility.  Both Barca and R. Madrid are coming off of losses in their Champions League matches this week (to Chelsea and Bayern Munich, respectively).  Both teams need to regroup before the return leg but with this monumental match to play they are simply going to have to press on full steam ahead (although Barcelona got some good news today because Didier Drogba may miss Tuesday’s match at the Camp Nou).  Here are a couple of things to watch for:
 
Pepe and Marcelo:
 
The two Real Madrid defenders, while talented players and obviously very important to the Madrid squad, cannot keep their cool when playing Barcelona.  Last season Pepe was sent off in the Champions League and then stamped Messi in a later game.  These two need to keep their cool in order for Madrid to have a chance.
 
Lionel Messi vs. Christiano Ronaldo:
 
These guys are playing at an astronomical level. Messi and Ronaldo are level at 41 goals apiece this season (a la Liga record) and will most likely both surpass that number greatly by the end of the season (in all competitions Messi has 63 to Ronaldo’s 57).  When it comes to these type of games, however, Messi has been having the upper hand against Ronaldo.
 
In 15 games against Barcelona, Ronaldo only has 5 goals.  Keep in mind that overall he has been averaging a goal every 81 minutes, to Messi’s 72.  Since Mourinho took over at the Bernabeu, Madrid only have one victory (in the Supercup) in ten matches.  Madrid, and Ronaldo, are too talented and has to be some sort of mental block that is preventing them from performing at their highest when they play Barcelona.
 
Christiano Ronaldo is possibly set to extend his contract with R. Madrid, which may be his way of showing that he is either (a) going to play in Spain long enough so that he might face a Barcelona team that he will possibly be able to beat or (b) a glutton for punishment.  Either way, odds are that eventually the tide will change and Real Madrid will become the dominant side.  
 
Whether or not that is going to occur tomorrow….
 
Check out the site to see where you can watch the game.  I’m probably going to Lynch’s Irish Pub in Jacksonville Beach, see you there!

La Quiniela for La Liga, Spain’s Top-Flight Soccer League – Week 34

Hay Liga!!!  Real Madrid have seen their seemingly insurmountable lead of 10 points over their arch-nemesis, Barcelona, dwindle to a wee 4 points, with a Clásico at the Camp Nou coming next weekend.  The remaining Champions League spots remain in play with Valencia, Málaga, Levante and Osasuna fighting for the 3rd and 4th places.  Still lots of excitement and many things to play for. 

Let’s kick this Quiniela off. Remember, its ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw, and ‘2’ for an away win.

1. Athletic (8th) – Mallora (12th): 1

Home victory for the Bilbaínos this weekend.  Things are really convoluted in the middle of the pack with Osasuna 6th on 45 points only 7 points ahead of Real Sociedad at 15th on 38 points.  Mallorca is safe from relegation this season and a mid-table finish will probably suit them just fine.  Athletic, on the other hand, need to stay sharp as they still have some silverware to play for in the Europa League and the Copa del Rey.

2. Zaragoza (18th) – Granada (16th): 1

Zaragoza must win to stay in La Liga.  No victory and their season is most likely over.  A desperate home team for the win here.

3. Getafe (11th) – Sevilla (7th): 2

Michel, Sevilla’s skipper, began his coaching career at Getafe and returns having Sevilla doing plenty of the right things.  It has been a good second half of the season for las sevillistas and I think Michel gets a win at his former club.

4. Levante (5th) – Barcelona (2nd): 1

After 10 consecutive wins in La Liga, Barcelona has drawn within four points of leaders Real Madrid.  Barcelona is doing its best Anton Chigurh impersonation and seems to be intent on tracking Madrid down and killing them at a seedy motel, or something like that….

Anywho, Barcelona looks great, annoyingly great. And impressive as Levante has been to stay so high in the table this season, Barcelona must win to keep the pressure on heading into the Camp Nou showdown with Madrid next weekend.

5. Real Madrid (1st) – Sporting (18th): 1

Real Madrid had better win this one!  Expect more right legged missiles from Christiano Ronaldo like these.  It would be disastrous for Madrid to head into next week’s Clásico with the possibility of Barcelona taking the pole position in La Liga.  Madrid simply needs to keep that 4 point window open and needs to win this weekend at home against a lesser team.

6. Rayo (13th) – Atlético (9th): 2

El ‘Efecto Simeone?’  Well, maybe not so much.  Atlético’s 3 points out of their last six matches is definitely mediocre.  Nevertheless, I’ll take them to win it here.

7. Espanyol (10th) – Valencia (3rd): 2

Graham Hunter wrote a great piece earlier this week over at espn.com/soccer detailing how the fact that Valencia is still playing wonderful football when it probably should have declared bankruptcy and collapsed is a marvel to behold.  I see Valencia finishing in the top four, an awesome feat considering everything the club has gone through in recent years.

8. Betis (14th) – Osasuna (6th): 1

Betis have been undefeated in their last five matches and I see them continuing the trend here with a home win.

9. Málaga (4th) – Real Sociedad (15th): 1

Málaga for the home win, I guess.  On paper, Málaga is the richer, better team, but you just never know with Real Sociedad….

10. Villarreal (17th) – Racing de Santander (20th): 1

Villarreal should win here and they will stay afloat and play top flight football next season (fingers crossed).  In some unfortunate news, New Jersey native Giuseppe Rossi, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament against Real Madrid on October 26, 2011 and had recently returned to the side, re-tore his ACL today in a training session and needs another operation.  Rossi, who had hoped to play with the Italian national side in the European Championships this summer will need to miss the Euros and most likely the start of next season.  Good luck on the recovery Giuseppe!

 By: Ryan Moore

La Quiniela for La Liga, Spain’s Top-Flight Soccer League – Week 31

After a brief reprieve, I’m back for more abuse.  There are only 8 weeks left in La Liga and things are really starting to get interesting.  Racing, Sporting and Zaragoza sit in the 3 relegation spots with 25 points apiece.  Real Sociedad, Betis, Villareal and Granada are not safe yet however, with 33, 32, 31 and 31 points respectively.  I for one am rooting for Villareal to stay up!  Things are even more interesting up top, with Valencia, Málaga, Levante, Osasuna, and Espanyol still in the running for the Champions League spots.

Shall we?  Remember, ‘1’ for an home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.

1. Racing (18th) – Granada (17th): 1

Granada, coming off a 3-0 loss to Sevilla last week, looks to rebound in this game featuring two sides that desperately need points.  Alvaro Cervara, whose team, Betis, drew with Racing last week stated that “we’ve seen a different Racing” and that may hold true down the stretch as Racing tries to avoid relegation.

2.  Sevilla (9th) – Mallorca (13th): X

There is no looking back with 9 games remaining for either of these teams, they are firmly in the middle of the league table and simply need to play decently from here on out to remain in the safety zone.  Mallorca may find things a little easier than last week against Barcelona and both teams get a point.

3. Barcelona (2nd) – Athletic (11th): 1

“Estamos vivos” (We’re alive) is how Gerard Piqué classified Barca’s chances of winning La Liga (who currently sit six points behind leaders, Real Madrid, with an encounter at the Camp Nou looming in a few weeks).  Optimism is to be expected from a fellow whose team has won every competition over the last few years and whose girlfriend looks like this.  Los Cules (Barcelona) will keep the pressure on Madrid with a win.

4. Sporting (19th) – Zaragoza (20th): 1

Home team wins in this battle to avoid relegation.

5. Atlético (8th) – Getafe (10th): 1

“El efecto Simeone” the ‘Simeone effect’ has not been as effective as of late.  Still, I like Atlético at home in the Vicente Calderón and see them getting the points here.

6. Valencia (3rd) – Levante (5th): 1

Although Levante has recently impressed despite its horrid start to the second half of the campaign, I don’t see them holding on for the remaining weeks and making it to Europe.  Derby’s are always somewhat tricky, but Levante have lost the last three in this matchup.  Prove me wrong again Levante!

7. Osasuna (6th) – Real Madrid (1st): 2

Eduardo Alvarez over at ESPN correctly notes that it has been a tough few weeks for ‘los Madridistas’ heading into this game and that Osasuna’s record at the Reyno de Navarra has been impressive.  Nevertheless, Madrid simply has to keep the heat on with Barcelona looking really good and right on their heels.

8. Real Sociedad (14th) – Rayo Vallecano (12th): X

If anyone out there can predict how the enigmatic Real Sociedad will perform in any given matchup please let me know.  I choose a safe draw here.

9. Villarreal (16th) – Espanyol (7th): 1

Villarreal will continue to impress towards the end of the season.  It looks more and more like they will be staying out of the relegation zone and staying top flight for next season. 

10. Málaga (4th) – Betis (15th): 1

Noveau riche Málaga is right where it wants to be in European places.  They are going to fight until the end to stay there and Betis simply doesn’t have the firepower to breakthrough.

By: Ryan Moore