La Quiniela: Unai Emery to keep Europa League hopes alive

Written by Eduardo Alvarez and Phil Ball.


Eduardo Alvarez: Well, this is a bizarre weekend indeed. One completely uninteresting match on Saturday and then nine more at the same kick-off time on Sunday. Even though you may think there’s not much at stake anymore, that set of Sunday fixtures shows plenty of promise, as direct rivals will face each other in a handful of games, while in others the relegation drama will reach extremely high levels. I have to say I really like it when all matches are played at once and you turn on the radio to check what’s going on in each stadium. Memories of past times, and one’s getting old… 


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


  1. Espanyol (13th) vs Valencia (10th). 14/5, 18:30

Eduardo Alvarez 1. Both sides quit competing at least two months ago, so this won’t be pretty. The visitors haven’t won in their last eight matches, coincidentally right after they qualified for the Copa del Rey final they ended up losing to Betis. Espanyol have done marginally better during this stretch, so let’s go for the always safe ‘1’. In any case, this is a really tough match to call, as every single player in both squads is already discussing his future next season. Plenty of financial difficulties for both clubs, who will have to sell their most valuable assets. For instance, the talented Carlos Soler (Valencia) seems bound to go to Barcelona, while Raul de Tomás (Espanyol) will probably find a much better team than Espanyol to prove his worth. 

Phil Ball: X. Yes – probably an unhappy game between two currently unhappy clubs, with Espanyol having sacked the manager to boot.  Bordalás is making Sauron-esque noises too, and may retire to Mordor for the summer, back to his Orc factory for a re-think. So yeah – probably no coaches to impress either, so it’s a home win or a draw or an away win – you tell me.  Valencia have Gaya and Guillamon back, so they’ll be able to rough Espanyol up with reasonable efficiency, but I can’t see this petering out into anything other than a draw.   


  1. Celta (11th) vs Elche (14th). 15/5, 19:30

EA: 1. After a season filled with ups and downs, Celta are finishing in top form, led by Iago Aspas who can’t stop scoring. Perhaps this improved Celta means that they’ve finally understood what coach Coudet wants from them, and if that’s the case, they could become a frightening team next season. Elche have simply done the bare minimum to stay up, and will need some new talent in the offseason to avoid the drop next year. In any case, this looks like a clear home win. 

 PB: 1. Elche did well in phases this season, but as Ed suggests, they’re a bit threadbare for a top-flight club, but they’ve got Bigas and Pere Milla back for this game, so they could put up some resistance.  An English-speaking friend did recently ask me about Pedro Bigas, refusing to believe in his surname, but I put him right on the first-syllable stress. Anyway, after that phonetic deviation, I have to agree. Celta are still a bit up and down for me, but Elche are thinking about the summer holidays. Home win.  


  1. Athletic de Bilbao (8th) vs Osasuna (9th). 15/5, 19:30

EA: 2. Not that it will have much impact when all is said and done, but Osasuna would love to defeat Athletic at San Mamés to finish their season with a bang. The bilbaínos won 3-1 in Pamplona in the first half of the season, so the visitors, with nothing at stake, will try to return the favour and keep their chances of finishing ahead Athletic alive until the very last match. Regarding the home side, it’s disappointing that there’s already rumours about coach Marcelino losing his job in the offseason. I can’t see what else a coach could do with this group of players, who barely face internal competition due to their hiring policy, and who have to make do with forwards who can’t score and defenders that lack the talent for the club to move one step further. I’m going to go for the visitors because they look a lot happier with themselves. 

PB: X. I agree again, although the reason for Marcelino’s (possible) departure is the usual one, with the uncertainty of which potential presidential candidate gets the keys to the door and who he’ll want in the job. Marcelino has indeed done a half-decent job, and if they want a Basque in there you’d have wonder who they’re thinking about. Osasuna’s Arrasate perhaps?  He’d fit the bill if he weren’t a Real Sociedad fan, I guess. Whatever, Athletic look tired and a bit uninterested, which is good news for Osasuna. But I’ll go for a draw.  


  1. Atlético de Madrid (3rd) vs Sevilla (4th). 15/5, 19:30

EA: X. Must watch this weekend! The third position at stake, two great tactical teams who haven’t been able to compete as much as I expected, and two coaches who have suffered plenty of fire during the season. What’s not to like about this? Well, neither team is quite fond of attacking, so I guess this could very well finish in a stalemate. That said, beware. Atletico look like they’re on the verge of quite profound personnel changes, and that always takes a toll on the players.  

PB: 1. I think Sevilla have been pretty rubbish since Christmas, as do several others who are now asking for Lope’s head on a silver tray. They’ve drawn their last two home games against the mighty Cádiz and Mallorca, and I don’t think they’re in the right place at the moment to bother Atlético, who are more focused than Ed suggests. I smell a home win.  


  1. Cádiz (17th) vs Real Madrid (1st). 15/5, 19:30

EA: 2. If we have to judge by what happened vs Levante, Real Madrid won’t do any favours to relegation-threatened sides. Carlo Ancelotti is finally rotating, and the team look even more intimidating than when he didn’t. Fresh players wanting to prove their worth and starters playing the 30 final minutes against tiring opposition is a combination that can dismantle average teams. A win for Cadiz would almost mean them staying up, however I can’t see how they’re going to stop Real Madrid’s offense.  

PB: 2. Indeed, and I must say their merciless pummelling of Levante was good to see, if only in that sense.  I saw Cádiz on Thursday night in Anoeta and I thought them disappointing, given their position. Then again, they were playing more openly than they normally do, and it was as if it didn’t suit them. They’ll do the same against RM and get hit hard on the break.  They’ve got to be careful, because Mallorca may well win, but I agree with Ed – away win.   


  1. Getafe (15th) vs Barcelona (2nd). 15/5, 19:30

EA: 1. You may think I’m crazy but I see a Barcelona side dying for the season to finish versus a home side who still need a calming win to breathe. Alba and De Jong forced respective yellow cards to avoid the inconvenient trip to Getafe, and that was the cherry on the cake of a lacklustre, lucky win over Celta. Barcelona have to sell heavy this offseason – not only players, but also business assets like their retail business – so rumours are everywhere, and that never helps. I see a determined Getafe getting an ugly win and a frustrated Xavi conducting Barcelona-DNA tests in the offseason to decide who should stay and who should go. 

PB: X Good analysis re Barça’s last few games, because the good work’s done now and the season-face sort of saved. But I can’t see them lying down too much, and there are plenty to choose from in the squad, among those who are staying.  I’d prefer a draw, because indeed, Getafe still need a point for absolute safety. 


  1. 7. Levante (20th) vs Alavés (19th). 15/5, 19:30

EA: 1. Well, they’re both going down, even though Alaves mathematically still has a chance. It’s quite unlikely, though, and it’s going to become impossible because Levante will win this easily. It’s a pity that these two clubs will lose their Primera status, as both have played consistently despite their slim budgets. The hosts even played with some flair the season before last, and always had Jose Luis Morales as an example of competitiveness, class and devotion to the shirt. Well, he won’t want to say goodbye to La Liga with a loss at home, and that’s going to send Alavés down as well. 

PB: 2. You’re tempted think that Levante won’t be bovvered, but that’s not quite their style. However, this is a golden chance for Alavés and I can’t see them blowing it. I think they’ll try to exploit the loss of morale after the Bernabéu thrashing for the hosts. Away win.   


  1. Mallorca (18th) vs Rayo Vallecano (12th). 15/5, 19:30

EA: 1. Huge favour the calendar pays to Mallorca, who need three points desperately. Here comes Rayo, with all the homework done and dying to go on vacation after an extremely taxing season both on and off the pitch. The hosts are not that talented upfront, but I can’t see them not winning this one. It would be unforgiveable. 

PB: 1. Yep. If they can’t take this gift horse then they deserve to return to Segunda. The calendar keeps throwing these games up and it’s baffling trying to work out who will accompany Levante, but sure – Mallorca will win this one, at least. Whether that keeps them up or not is a moot point.  But if they’re going to take advantage of Cádiz’s game against Madrid, then this one’s indeed a good one for them.  


  1. Betis (5th) vs Granada (16th). 15/5, 19:30

EA: X. The hosts took a few weeks off after their Copa del Rey win, and that has cost them both a Champions League spot and the satisfaction of finishing above Sevilla. No idea which version of Betis will show up on Sunday, but I do know that Aitor Karanka has indeed changed Granada, and has very likely saved them from the drop. A point here will help the visitors very much, and I can’t see how Pellegrini can keep his lot interested in this competition after so many emotions this year.  

PB: 1. Well, Sevilla could still blow it, so surely that’s motivation enough for musho Beti?  I don’t think (see above) that they’ll win at the Wanda, so I reckon Betis will try to keep it going until the end.  They’ve come this far, as it were. Granada aren’t safe yet, but the Karanka effect doesn’t tend to last for long. Home win.  


  1. Villarreal (7th)vs Real Sociedad (6th). 15/5, 19:30

EA: 1. Another must watch, so make sure you have two screens on Sunday. Villarreal still aspire to that sixth spot that would send them to the Europa League next season, and that is exactly the spot Real Sociedad defend right now. I know Phil won’t like this, especially because it’s HIS Real Sociedad vs a Villarreal he does not trust much, but the hosts are in much better shape, they’ve proven they show up when it matters and above all that they can score in bursts, something the visitors have struggled with since their inspirational Oyarzabal got injured. Home win and that sixth spot will only be decided in the very last weekend of the season. 

PB: 1. Well…although this fixture has turned up some odd results in recent years, the hosts are suddenly on a roll at precisely the time you’d have expected them to be flagging. I’d love to disagree with young Ed, but he’s surely right. Real don’t quite have it mentally yet, for this type of game. Le Normand and Isak will be back, and Silva is looking masterful, but yes, it’s going to be on that last match, and Villarreal have to go to Barça. There’s hope for us yet.  


Aggregate results: 


Phil Ball: 62/130 


Eduardo Alvarez: 61/130  

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