• Friday, 29 January 2010

    La Liga round 20

    Espanyol v Athletic
    Sporting v Barcelona
    Deportivo v Real Madrid
    Tenerife v Zaragoza
    Villarreal v Osasuna
    Valladolid v Almeria
    Getafe v Racing
    Xerez v Mallorca
    Atlético v Málaga
    Sevilla v Valencia

    Cristiano Ronaldo picked up a two-match ban for breaking Patrick Mtiglia's nose with his forearm last week. Naturally the Portuguese has copped his punishment like a man, grateful to only get two games as in the Premier League it would have been three, minimum. Err, no. Whining to Madrid's chief propagandists, AS, he claimed the ban to be "excessive". El Real duly appealed and lost. Ronaldo now misses this week's game against Depor and next week against Espanyol. Mtiglia, meanwhile, is set to miss the next six weeks.

    Depor sit fifth, a little way back from the top three, but can succeed against narrow sides like Real. I'd stop short of tipping a win for them, but I fancy them to get a result. Barca, meanwhile, are in Gijon and if you can even get odds quoted for an away win, they won't be very long. It's surely a question of how many. Barca have dismantled many sides with much more pedigree than Sporting already this season and will do so again. Probably here.

    Top game of the week is Valencia's trip to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville. The home side need a win to peg Los Che back in the race for Champions League places. Indeed, since the end of this season's Champions League group stage, Sevilla have gone backwards. That's been in the absence of the injured Luis Fabiano and the internationally occupied Fredi Kanouté. The latter is back after the Africa Cup of Nations where, surprisingly, he was left on the bench for a make-or-break game for Mali. Bizarre. No wonder they didn't break any pots. Valencia are going supremely well, scoring goals from all over. When the likes of David Albelda and Carlos Marchena are in the goals, you have few worries.

    Xerez look doomed and high-flying Mallorca can hammer in nail number 20 into that relegation coffin this week. The next six above them are all well and truly in the relegation battle. Zaragoza are stinking the league up with their current form and go to Tenerife this week who are one place and three points above them and there's another six-pointer between Almería and Valladolid. Espanyol are still right in the mire and have a home game against Athletic who can do anything on any given day. At home, Espanyol will fancy it. If nothing else this week, these games should at least give a slightly clearer picture of who lies where.

    Finally, there are three mid-table scraps with Villareal and Atlético both at home as they continue to resurrect what looked to be forlorn seasons early on. They face Osasuna and Málaga respectively. Getafe look to keep up their pursuit of European football at home to Sergio Canales-inspired Racing.

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