La Quiniela: Barcelona host Atletico Madrid as Los Blancos face Granada

This article was produced in partnership with LigaFever.

It’s been a disjointed few weeks in the Spanish football space, as this season’s bizarre calendar has most of us not really knowing what tournament is being played, and when.

The good news is that, during the next seven weekends, we’ll have our La Liga fix guaranteed.

And we start with a tasty looking weekend, in which Barcelona and Atletico will fight for the key fourth spot, Real Betis and Villarreal will test each other’s good run of form and Real Madrid will try to recover from their Copa del Rey elimination at the hands of the pesky Athletic.

Plus, of course, plenty of other interesting subplots to analyse.

Let’s start. 

Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.

1. Getafe (16th) vs Levante (20th). 4/2, 21:00

Eduardo Alvarez: 1. Our recent track record (Phil’s and myself) isn’t good, but I’ll give my right arm to charity if Getafe don’t win this one easily. Coach Quique Sanchez Flores has turned the hosts around and got some decent business done in the winter transfer window:

Oscar Rodríguez – a set piece master –Borja Mayoral and Okay Yokuslu should help them indeed. And even though the visitors broke their terrible sequence of winless matches a couple of weeks ago, they played their worst match in months right after that victory in their 2-0 home defeat to Cadiz.

Phil Ball: 1: Our track record looks about as impressive as this match, but hey, there’s nothing like dog-eat-dog on a Friday night in the wild streets of Getafe.

I saw the hosts in the flesh a fortnight ago, and they were tediously negative, as though reverting to type. But as Ed says, they’ll have too much for Levante, who are running but have nowhere to hide. I have no reason to disagree with this one.

2. Elche (15th) vs Alavés (19th). 5/2, 14:00

EA: 1. The hosts let striker Lucas Perez go to Cádiz and brought yet another Argentinean, Ezequiel Ponce. I do like this piece of business. They have a lot more than Alavés up front, and the visitors’ new coach Mendilibar needs time to work his magic.

PB: X. Nah. This is classic ‘Mendi’ territory. His first four games in charge have been really tough – two derbies, then Betis away and Barça at home. It’s true Elche have more up front, but Mendilibar will park the bus on the fine turf of the Martinez Valero. Draw.

3. Mallorca (17th) vs Cádiz (18th). 5/2, 16:15

EA: X. Mallorca’s squad is better and deeper, but in the last few matches Cadiz have recovered their fighting spirit and they’re surprisingly hard to play against when they’re like that. Dull draw.

PB : 1. Both knocked out of the cup in midweek, and had to travel, but Cádiz’ ill-tempered defeat at Valencia was an emotional, energy-sapping one. Cádiz are hard to beat, but Mallorca can’t afford to mess up this six-pointer. (Narrow) home win.

4. Celta (12th) vs Rayo Vallecano (8th): 5/2, 18:30

EA: 1. Celta are finally showing some of the talent they possess, while, just like Phil said in our last Quiniela, the well-coached but painfully limited Rayo have to regress to the mean at some point.

Mind you, I see Celta finishing strongly in this second half of the season and even challenging for a Europa League spot.

PB: 1. Have to agree on this one. The other obvious reason for a home win is that Celta will be more rested. Celta’s home record sucks, but of the three wins they’ve managed, two of them have been in their last two home games, and their draw at Sevilla shows what they can do. They’ll finish above Rayo and win this one.

5. Osasuna (11th) vs Sevilla (2nd). 5/2, 21:00

EA: 2. Neither are in great shape, but as usual Sevilla have done a couple of great transactions that should help them in the short term. Martial looks like what they were missing up front. Osasuna (2W/5D/4L) haven’t been solid at home this season, and Sevilla (5W/4D/2L) are solid travellers.

PB: 1 Sevilla won 5 games on the trot, all by a single goal, and then drew their last two and lost the infamous cup game to Betis. Not only am I beginning to dislike them, for me they’re showing all the signs of impending implosion. Martial’s a dud (eight goals in his last two seasons) and Osasuna can always bite your bum. Home win.

6. Valencia (10th) vs Real Sociedad (6th). 6/2, 14:00

EA: 1. I’d be shocked if Real Sociedad managed to get a point in Valencia a couple of days after being dismantled by Betis (4-0) at home in the Copa del Rey. The visitors are paying the price of a very busy schedule and terrible luck with injuries. The hosts did well in the transfer window, let’s see how long it takes for Bryan Gil and Illaix Moriba to fit into the team.

PB: 1. I managed to avoid the Betis defeat because of a Covid visitation, generously gifting my tickets to some mates, but I suffered on the sofa. I don’t want to get into the specifics (see Betis game below) but Ed’s right about the damage to morale that this causes.

I know Real Sociedad’s mentality all too well. Bordalas’ beasts are the last side you want to visit three days after a cup nightmare. I wouldn’t even bother turning up. And of course, RS decided not to take Bryan Gil on loan. So he’ll score for Valencia. Home win.

7. Barcelona (5th) vs Atlético de Madrid (4th). 6/2, 16:15

EA: 1. Must watch football indeed. So much drama, so much at stake. Xavi vs Simeone can become the new instance of Menotti vs Bilardo, and this is their first contest. The hosts have been extremely disappointing recently, but at some point something has to click, right?

Don’t like their transfers much, but they have enough resources to make the off-key Atletico of the last few matches suffer at the Camp Nou. If Xavi fails to impress here the tide may turn against him sooner than any of us expected.

PB: X. Menotti v Bilardo eh? Nice. Although Xavi’s not quite so purist and Simeone’s not quite so negative. Discuss. But, this is a fascinating one and difficult to predict. I don’t share the view of Atlético in decline, and the sides that Xavi puts out can look fragile in the face of a more experienced opponent.

Of course, it will be interesting to see if Adama, Ferran Torres and Aubameyang start – assuming they know each other’s names. I’m not sure how it’ill play out, but I can’t see either of them winning.

8. Betis (3rd) vs Villarreal (7th). 6/2, 18:30

EA: 1. Betis are probably the most in shape team in Spain right now, but Villarreal have reacted in an impressive manner. This is a ‘Partidazo’ in its own right. I favour the home side because of their amazing scoring record of late (12 goals in their last three matches). I won’t be surprised if this ends 4-3, 5-4 or similar.

PB: 1. Betis are the best side in Spain at the moment, by a country mile. Villarreal are better than they were, and have three back from AFCON…..and Betis might be tired after Thursday’s trip north, but they’re on such a high that it’s difficult to see anyone coping with them for a few weeks at least.

They got some help from their VAR friends at the Anoeta, but their midfield is simply a thing of beauty. Yes – home win.

9. Real Madrid (1st) vs Granada (14th). 6/2, 18:30

EA: 1. Carletto’s insistence on playing the same 11 players every match reached unprecedented heights on Thursday, when he started four Brazilian players that had taken three flights in the previous 24 hours, one of them an overnight transatlantic from São Paulo – Madrid.

And they were playing Athletic at San Mamés, no less. For all his charm and entertainment in pressers, Ancelotti seems decided to run this team into the ground again, and if he does, they will win in matches like this one vs Granada, but will fail against stronger opposition.

PB: X. Granada are not the side you want to face after the Bilbao game, with everyone knackered and morale creaking slightly. Vinicius is out, and Benzema is a doubt. This one’s a classic draw. I’m half tempted to go for a 2, but I’ll spare Ed the rod.

10. Athletic de Bilbao (9th) vs Espanyol (13th). 7/2, 21:00

EA: 1. This may be a let-down match, especially because of the way Athletic ran against Real Madrid on Thursday. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are exhausted on Monday, but I guess the good feeling of eliminating Real Madrid will keep them going for a few matches. And of course, Espanyol is one of the softest teams around.

PB: X. Exactly, but I’d go further. I think Espanyol will take advantage of the lull. It’s classic Athletic – beat Madrid in an emotional cup night and come horribly down to earth four days later.

Athletic always start slowly and pick up, but there’s a strange inconsistency of their spirit this season, and everything is based on feeling and not football. Espanyol are poor, but they’ll dig in. Draw.

Aggregate results:

Phil Ball: 5/20

Eduardo Alvarez: 6/20

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