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Graham Hunter: Barca to run rampant at Levante and Torres to bag you a 7/2 winner

Madrid struggling after a pathetic loss to Atletico, Messi to score at least two and Cholo better call Saul

by Graham Hunter | February 13, 2015

Valencia v Getafe Sunday 11am

Back to beginnings.

Quique Sanchez Flores was not only an aggressive right back for Valencia for nearly 300 games in the 1980’s it was in his single previous season at Getafe coach that he did well enough to earn his shot at coaching Valencia.

That was when Los Che were reigning champions [04/05] and QSF had just been pinched, by Madrid-based Getafe, from the Real Madrid youth coaching system.

His Getafe beat the title-holders [then coached by Claudio Ranieri] at the Coliseum and lost 3-1 at the Mestalla but he’d done enough to inherit when Valencia got shot of the Tinkerman.

QSF only lasted two and a bit seasons but he did precisely what is now demanded of Nuno Espirito Santo – qualify for the Champions League.

Old Quique has football in every corpuscle.

He shares a birthday with Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Carlos Tevez, his dad, Isidro, was a repeat trophy winner with Real Madrid, his Godfather was Alfredo Di Stéfano while he himself won the title with Los Blancos and went to Italia 90 in the Spain squad.

But he’ll be doing damn well to repeat Getafe’s 3-1 win at Valencia last season. They’ve only played at the Mestalla ten times in the league -eight defeats, that one win and a draw.

Quique Sanchez Flores

It’s a sign of the changing times at the Mestalla that only two Valencia players from that rarest of rare defeats last season will start on Sunday [Barragán and Parejo].

Nuno doesn’t fancy the lunchtime kick-off [midday here in Spain] so he fixed a closed-doors friendly against Zenit on Thursday at midday just to practice the ‘feeling’.

Valencia won 1-0 [Parejo scored again] and it looks like they’ll start Alves, Barragán, Mustafi, Otamendi, Gayá; Enzo, Fuego; Piatti, Parejo, Rodrigo DP; Negredo.

Geta did Valencia a huge favour last week, beating Sevilla, I’d expect them to repeat the good feeling this week by losing here.

None of those who’s goals won the first meeting this season [0-3 Valencia] will start: Alcácer, Rodrigo Moreno and André Gomes.

Parejo can’t stop scoring [already the highest total of his career], Negredo owes his boss a goal, Gayá, who’s fllying, is a wee ‘outside’ bet.

Álvaro is QSF’s repeat scorer. Five straight wins at home for Valencia in all comps since November, Getafe’s last Liga away win was in October. Back the home team by two.

Barcelona v Levante Sunday 4pm

Their main striker, David Barral, scores a hat-trick as often as Jose Mourinho admits: ‘You’re right, I was out of order’.

So it’d be nice to try and play-up Levante’s chances.

But I’m not sure that’s realistic. Since losing to Real Sociedad on January 4 Barcelona have played ten, won ten and scored 37.

There are patches of play where they are as electrically quick, as intuitive and as confident as at any time since the peak of the Pep Guardiola era. Not all the time, but regularly.

This season their La Liga goal-ratio is 62:13; historically they’ve played Levante eleven times at the Camp Nou, winning eleven and scoring 41.

So unless something seismic is about to happen let’s assume a home win …okay?

Luis Suarez

Perhaps the art is in determining the margin. Neymar’s rate of goals since losing at the Anoeta is nine in nine matches – but the last three games have seen him fluff really gaping chances, including a penalty against Villarreal in midweek. So do you back his goal-a-game record or feel critical because he’s not been properly clinical?

Messi should get 2+ goals here but thinking about Pedro, Xavi, Rafinha or Rakitic might bear fruit here because Luis Enrique will certainly try to rotate his first-choice XI throughout the match.

As for Suárez he continues unchanged. Exceptional in his team play, bursting with assists but finishing less ruthlessly than he’d like. Barcelona’s most regular score at home to Levante is 5 – perhaps they’ll have to settle for a slightly less impressive result this time?
Suárez, Messi, Pedro and Barral.

Celta Vigo v Atlético Madrid Sunday, 8pm

Talk about some sort of curse. It’s not opening the Tomb of Tutankhamun, or running amok with a jack-hammer in a mirror factory.

But Joaquin Larrivey did his karma some sort of damage when he scored Celta Vigo’s first La Liga winner at the Camp Nou since World War II.

Prior to that historic night last Autumn the big Argentinian had seven goal in ten league games. Rocket-fuelled.

Since then, not one in 649 minutes and ten games. Three and a half horrible months.

Last season he scored against Atleti for Rayo and quite fancies a return date.

“I’m not sure if it’s true to say that I ‘miss’ the glory of scoring so long as the team wins but I’m hungry to start again and it’s a good battle against Godín and Miranda. “They are aggressive, tough and keep their concentration high for the whole game. “It’d be a great way to start another run of goals getting one against them this weekend”.

And he might be worth a look. Atleti are without Koke [injured], Raúl García and Arda Turan. Interestingly, for a centre half, tough-as-teak Godín will play with a broken nose, using a plastic ‘Phantom’ mask.

Can he be as effective, as fearless in every challenge?? Saúl, despite injuring his knee while making the third goal last week, should be good to start. So Cholo Better Call …. oh, you got there already…
Meanwhile El Cholo Simeone has been practicing this week with Mandzukic, Griezmann and Fernando Torres up front.

A statement of intent.

Celta, remarkably, haven’t won at home to Atleti since 2005 – losing 0-1. 1-3 [twice] and 0-2 in the four games since.

Those two sides shared four goals in the first meeting of the season and a result of that order doesn’t look impossible now that Celta, if not Larrivey, have remembered how to score the odd goal.

Look for Torres, Griezmann, Larrivay and Nolito as likely scorers. Good betting.

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