News from Spain: 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 theres 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 whats going on in each stadium. Memories of past times, and ones getting old

Shall we? Remember, its 1 for a home win, X for a draw and 2 for an away win.

Eduardo Alvarez: 1. Both sides quit competing at least two months ago, so this wont be pretty. The visitors havent 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 lets 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 Toms (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. Bordals 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 its a home win or a draw or an away win you tell me. Valencia have Gaya and Guillamon back, so theyll be able to rough Espanyol up with reasonable efficiency, but I cant see this petering out into anything other than a draw.

EA: 1. After a season filled with ups and downs, Celta are finishing in top form, led by Iago Aspas who cant stop scoring. Perhaps this improved Celta means that theyve finally understood what coach Coudet wants from them, and if thats 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, theyre a bit threadbare for a top-flight club, but theyve 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.

EA: 2. Not that it will have much impact when all is said and done, but Osasuna would love to defeat Athletic at San Mams to finish their season with a bang. The bilbanos 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, its disappointing that theres already rumours about coach Marcelino losing his job in the offseason. I cant 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 cant score and defenders that lack the talent for the club to move one step further. Im going to go for the visitors because they look a lot happier with themselves.

PB: X. I agree again, although the reason for Marcelinos (possible) departure is the usual one, with the uncertainty of which potential presidential candidate gets the keys to the door and who hell want in the job. Marcelino has indeed done a half-decent job, and if they want a Basque in there youd have wonder who theyre thinking about. Osasunas Arrasate perhaps? Hed fit the bill if he werent a Real Sociedad fan, I guess. Whatever, Athletic look tired and a bit uninterested, which is good news for Osasuna. But Ill go for a draw.

EA: X. Must watch this weekend! The third position at stake, two great tactical teams who havent been able to compete as much as I expected, and two coaches who have suffered plenty of fire during the season. Whats 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 theyre 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 Lopes head on a silver tray. Theyve drawn their last two home games against the mighty Cdiz and Mallorca, and I dont think theyre in the right place at the moment to bother Atltico, who are more focused than Ed suggests. I smell a home win.

EA: 2. If we have to judge by what happened vs Levante, Real Madrid wont do any favours to relegation-threatened sides. Carlo Ancelotti is finally rotating, and the team look even more intimidating than when he didnt. 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 cant see how theyre going to stop Real Madrids offense.

PB: 2. Indeed, and I must say their merciless pummelling of Levante was good to see, if only in that sense. I saw Cdiz 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 didnt suit them. Theyll do the same against RM and get hit hard on the break. Theyve got to be careful, because Mallorca may well win, but I agree with Ed away win.

EA: 1. You may think Im 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 Baras last few games, because the good works done now and the season-face sort of saved. But I cant see them lying down too much, and there are plenty to choose from in the squad, among those who are staying. Id prefer a draw, because indeed, Getafe still need a point for absolute safety.

EA: 1. Well, theyre both going down, even though Alaves mathematically still has a chance. Its quite unlikely, though, and its going to become impossible because Levante will win this easily. Its 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 wont want to say goodbye to La Liga with a loss at home, and thats going to send Alavs down as well.

PB: 2. Youre tempted think that Levante wont be bovvered, but thats not quite their style. However, this is a golden chance for Alavs and I cant see them blowing it. I think theyll try to exploit the loss of morale after the Bernabu thrashing for the hosts. Away win.

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 cant see them not winning this one. It would be unforgiveable.

PB: 1. Yep. If they cant take this gift horse then they deserve to return to Segunda. The calendar keeps throwing these games up and its 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 theyre going to take advantage of Cdizs game against Madrid, then this ones indeed a good one for them.

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 cant 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 thats motivation enough for musho Beti? I dont think (see above) that theyll win at the Wanda, so I reckon Betis will try to keep it going until the end. Theyve come this far, as it were. Granada arent safe yet, but the Karanka effect doesnt tend to last for long. Home win.

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 wont like this, especially because its HIS Real Sociedad vs a Villarreal he does not trust much, but the hosts are in much better shape, theyve 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. Wellalthough this fixture has turned up some odd results in recent years, the hosts are suddenly on a roll at precisely the time youd have expected them to be flagging. Id love to disagree with young Ed, but hes surely right. Real dont quite have it mentally yet, for this type of game. Le Normand and Isak will be back, and Silva is looking masterful, but yes, its going to be on that last match, and Villarreal have to go to Bara. Theres hope for us yet.

Aggregate results:

Phil Ball: 62/130

Eduardo Alvarez: 61/130

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