Last weekend, Graham predicted the following on the Paddy Power Blog: Atletico (-1) to beat Elche (won), a three-goal win for Real Madrid against Celta (won), Sevilla to beat Rayo (won), and Barca by three against Espanyol… which won. Decent.
Getafe v Barcelona, Saturday 3.00pm
He’s not often praised for it because it raises uncomfortable themes but Gerard Piqué once expressed this phenomenon most honestly and accurately. Without quoting Getafe in particular the Barcelona centre half admitted, at the height of his powers around 2011, that there were times when a match, for club or country, held little appeal. His point was that elite footballers can get so used to the ‘champagne’ moments of testing away matches in Milan or Munich, or to Cup semi finals and finals or to games via which the league title is going to be decided that if it’s a cold midweek evening in a little stadium with very few fans, the pitch is lumpy and it’s a commonplace rival with nothing exotic about them then motivation can be hard to dig out.
The general pattern of Getafe games over the last few seasons has established just that pattern for Barça. If they are concentrating, motivated and determined to win then they’ll score four, five or even six against this unloved suburban Madrid team.
But if the Catalans aren’t quite ‘on it’ then they can easily lose or draw. Evidence is at hand in that Getafe drew 2-2 at the Camp Nou last May, a game which cost the title, and won at home as recently as 2011.
Cosmin Contra [what a fearsome flying wing back he was in his day] has made his team hard to beat but goals are their problem. Abdoul Yoda is their main source of goals but has no previous goal record to speak of across his peripatetic career prior to Getafe. Pablo Sarabia does tend to trouble Barça’s defence. Luis Enrique’s equivalents, Leo Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez, finally all scored in the same game in midweek – something you’d imagine we are about to see happen more regularly. Messi has ten goals and an assist in his last five matches and feels unstoppable.
In terms of the pattern of the game Barcelona have a bad habit of starting slowly, often conceding first, and needing what’s called the ‘remontada’ in Spanish football – a comeback win. It’s not beyond imagination that if Getafe were to take the lead they might damage Barcelona with a draw. But you’d need a creative imagination all the same. Barça to win 3-1 (a 9/1 shot) – Messi, Pedro and Suárez to find the onion bag.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 10, 2014
Ref watch: Vicandi Garrido – one match, one defeat with Barcelona [Celta at home]
Atletico v Villarreal, Sunday 6.00pm
This should be fun. Given Villarreal’s relatively recent emergence as a Spanish power there have only been 26 meetings between the sides but they average over three goals per game in that time.
The Yellow Submarine don’t mind torpedoing the Mattress Makers [Colchoneros] in Madrid every now and then – but they don’t insist on it. Polite. And where the crux of this meeting rests is which of the two sides can best cope with intense midweek football better – a factor which has to favour the Spanish champions.
Atleti may only have drawn 0-0 in the Champions League but it was with Juventus and secured group leadership. Villarreal had the long travel to and from Nicosia, their game was on Thursday night rather than Tuesday and Marcelino chose to use a relatively strong lineup.
That said, Villarreal have rattled in twelve goals in their last five games via seven different scorers – Vietto, Gerard, Uche, Moi Gomez, Cheryshev, Bruno Soriano and Nahuel.
Vital for Atlético to win this one however. Through in Europe, Spanish Supercup holders and the last side to beat Madrid it’s still the case that there’s been a big dip since last season – mostly due to the loss of talent sold in the summer. At this stage a year ago Atleti had won twelve, drawn and lost once each, scored 38 and conceded nine for a goal difference of 29 and 37 points. Now it’s won ten, lost and drawn two each, scored only 27, conceded 12 for a difference of 15 and thirty two points. If that drift continues across the season then the title is out of reach.
Diego Godin and Miranda have formed a solid defensive partnership at Atlético which led them to the La Liga title. pic.twitter.com/52C8iQPSdn
— Final Whistle (@FinalWhistle__) December 8, 2014
Miranda (above) should return and gets the odd set piece goal, Raúl García is due a goal and Antoine Griezmann was rested against Juve so should get significant minutes in this one. 2-1 Atleti for me at 7/1.
Ref watch: Pérez Montero – Eight matches with Atleti, one defeat. Reffed these two sides a couple of seasons ago in a 1-1 draw. Horrible news for Villarreal that it’s Pérez Montero – seven matches and not one win under him. Four defeats, three draws.
Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao, Sunday, 8.00pm
The last time an ex Everton manager was in charge of one of these teams in the Basque derby it was all so different. Howard Kendall coached Athletic Bilbao – now it’s David Moyes with Real Sociedad.
Just to add to the Mersey theme the biggest thorn in Kendall’s side back then was former Liverpool striker John Toshack. In charge of Real Sociedad in those late eighties seasons he constantly found a way to beat Kendall’s Athletic in the derby, home or away.
One famous example was in October 1987 when Toshack’s La Real won 4-1 at Kendall’s Athletic with Manchester City Director of Football Txiki Begiristain and Real Sociedad Director of Football Loren both scoring. But another person Toshack tormented as a predecessor to Moyes at La Real was current Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde. When Toshack returned to run things at the Anoeta for the second [but not last] time he won the first Basque derby after his return, in November 1991.
In that Athletic team was a winger who to this day doesn’t know what it feels like to win at the Anoeta – Valverde. As a player he has three draws and three defeats while as a coach with Valencia, Espanyol or Athletic Bilbao three defeats and two draws [including one for Athletic where his club were two nil up and still lost 3-2]
Result-wise Aritz Aduriz (below, somewhere) is crucial for Athletic. They’ve only scored twice in the 600 minutes they’ve had to play without him this season.
— WorldCup NewsRoom (@WCNewsRoom) November 2, 2014
He should start – but how fit is he? Scattered across both squads there are players who’ve scored in this fixture – Muniain, San José, Toquero, Prieto, Vela, Susaeta, Pardo and Iñigo Martínez. But not one with a big track record of rising to the occasion. Agirretxe is out for La Real, as is Mikel and Zaldúa and they fell apart defensively a week ago in Villarreal.
Winning his derby debut would be like winning the Christmas lottery for the Scot – but a point, rather than the jackpot, looks a better prospect and the draw is 11/5.
Ref watch: Fernández Borbalán – twenty six matches with Athletic, eight wins [two of which in the Basque derby], twelve defeats and five red cards. With La Real 20 matches, only four wins – one of which the 3-1 defeat of Barcelona last season.
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