Saturday, 17 December 2011

W17 preview

With Barcelona proving they’re the best team in the world by beating
useless sides no-one’s heard of in Japan this week, Real Madrid have
an ideal opportunity to reclaim their 3 point cushion at the top of
the Liga before the winter break. Egos in the Real dressing room are
bruised and battered after last week’s humbling in El Clasico. Despite
the increasing feeling that the power balance may have been shifting
at the top after years of Catalunian dominance, Barca’s 3-1 victory,
and Cristiano Ronaldo’s ineffective display were an all too familiar
return to the status quo. All Real can do in response is do what they
have been doing all season (before last week’s interruption) and win.

Sevilla have been awkward opposition for Los Merengues over the past
few years, having won four of their last six Liga meetings between the
two sides at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium. Saying that, Jose
Mourinho bucked the trend when his side registered a 6-2 thrashing in
this fixture as recently as May this year with Ronaldo scoring four.
This season, Los Blancos have been devastating away from home with 21
goals from 8 games. However they come up against a Sevilla defence
that has looked far more organised this year and put in a magnificent
display to earn a clean sheet at Camp Nou earlier this term.

Real have no new injury worries, with just Ricardo Carvalho out
long-term. Sevilla’s Argentine winger Diego Perrotti is struggling
with a knock. This should be a victory for Real. 3-1 Real, look out
for a vengeful display from Ronaldo.

Third placed Valencia also had a wobble last week when they stopped
playing after 89 minutes and conspired to lose against Real Betis.
This week, It’s a case of “old money” (maybe that should be, “no
money”) versus “new money” as they take on the nouveau riche Malaga.
Los Che need to get back to winning ways with Levante rediscovering
their form and breathing down their necks in fourth place. Unai Emery
welcomed back the classy Ever Banega during the midweek Copa del Rey
visit to Cadiz and the Argentinian schemer could be back in the
starting line-up this weekend. I’ll tip a Valencia win. 2-1 Ones to
watch: Soldado and Tino Costa.

Levante have a tricky visit to Granada but should prevail against the
promoted side who have one of the meanest defences in the Liga. This
is likely to be a low-scoring affair with Aruna Kone the best bet to
nick a goal.

Osasuna have had an excellent start to the season in stark contrast to
Villarreal who they host this weekend. The Pamplonans have been free
scoring and great entertainment value. They welcome back born-again
midfield maestro Raul Garcia this week, and in tandem with attacking
dynamo Alvaro Cejudo, Los Rojillos are more than capable of heaping on
further misery for the Yellow Submarine. 2-0: Ones to watch: Nino,

Espanyol and Sporting Gijon go head to head after both sides recorded
impressive wins last week. Expect a low score draw. Ones to watch:
Romaric (Espanyol), Nacho Novo (Gijon)

Athletic Bilbao take on the struggling Zaragoza at San Mames. This is
an ideal opportunity for Bilbao to get back to winning ways after a
stuttering spell in La Liga. Underachieving wing-wizard Jermaine
Pennant suffered some kind of anterograde amnesia in 2009 after he
signed for Zaragoza: he was always late; forgot where he parked his
car and seemed to lose all footballing ability during his stint on the
continent. A similar collective sickness appears to have gripped a
side who have become totally devoid of talent, ambition or desire and
are now rooted to the foot of the table. Bilbao are without suspended
captain Andani Iraola and Fernando Llorente is a doubt. 3-1 home win.
Ones to watch: Ander Herrera, Toquero, Muniain and Susaesta.

Atletico Madrid come galloping into their home tie with Real Betis off
the back of their triumphant Europa Cup performance in midweek.
Despite the fact their fans hate them, Gregory’s Manzano’s boys love
playing at home and with Falcao, Ada Turan and Diego all starting to
purr, expect another home win. 3-1 Atletico.

On paper, Mallorca versus Getafe may look like the sort of game that
any neutral would rather poke their own eyes out than endure. However,
it excites me, if only because Mallorca are starting to look like they
can win and this could be one of the most one-sided games of the
weekend. Getafe are useless. Victor knows how to score

Racing Santander versus Sociedad is up there in the tedium rankings.
Sociedad keep squeezing out the points and Carlos Vela is starting to
fulfill his potential as the poor man’s Lionel Messi. Racing Santander
can’t excite me unless Kennedy Bakiricoglu is playing, and he’s still
a doubt. A deathly 1-1. Snooze fest

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