Players to Watch:
Alvaro Negredo-The former Real Madrid (B team product and native) and Almeria man seems to have found a home with Sevilla. He scored a brilliant goal in a resilient effort to beat the Zaragozanos in the Romareda this past weekend. He’s climbing the scoring leaders chart with 5 goals and was asked to join the national team last year. With all the strikers in Sevilla, it’s sometimes hard for him to get minutes but he seems to be making the most of them lately. Keep an eye on the “La fiera de Vallecas” (or the beast of Vallecas).
Alberto Botia-The Sporting Gijon central back and Spanish national U-21 star got his start in the Barcelona Youth System. However, most Barcelona players aren’t dirty, many thing Botia may be an exception. The 21yr old Valenciano (Castellon) has 5 yellow cards and 1 red on his record to date. After starting most of last year up in Asturias on loan, he decided to fully join Sporting in a four-year deal, even though Barcelona made sure to write into the contract that they can still exercise a buy-back clause for the first three, if they so desire. He shouldn’t have to take anyone down this weekend against lowly Osasuna.
Juan Mata-The Castilla y Leon man who now makes his living playing with Valencia has been known as somewhat of a passmaster this year tallying 4 assists and being a key part of Valencia’s hot start. He’s been a nice player for Del Bosque in some occasional national team call ups after his earlier years in the Real Madrid system. His winger abilities will be on exhibition this weekend in a vital match against Villarreal.
Impact Foreign Player of the Week:
Kalu Uche-The Nigerian national teamer who got his start in the Polish league but has spent the last 5 years down in the deserts of southern Spain needs to have a big game this weekend. The Almerians welcome Barca back into the Juegos Mediterráneos this weekend followed by a trip to the Mestalla next weekend. Since coming back from an early season injury, Uche seems to have found his form and will need to find some quality shot opportunities, if this match is to be competitive.
Hot Team: Espanyol
How did Espanyol sneak into 6th place with 19pts? No one really knows. They got crushed by Real Madrid and Villarreal towards the beginning of the season but have quietly crept up in the table. They are lead by Osvaldo the Argentine and good friend/former teammate of manager Pochettino.
Cold Team: Almeria
They lead the league in draws. However, this is not a good statistic since almost all of their draws are against weaker opponents. They are also tied with Zaragoza for the lowest amount of victories (with one). And now Barca comes to town. Manager Juanma Lillo (Pep Guardiola’s mentor) is off to a rough start even though he came in halfway through last season for sacked Hugo Sanchez and did a phenomenal job. After securing a 13th place finish last season, he must help his team quickly rise from the relegation zone or else he may be looking for a new spot next year.
A Few Predictions (using the Quiniela Format):
Almeria v. Barcelona: 2
Real Madrid v. Atletico Bilbao: 1
Sevilla v. Mallorca: 2
Getafe v. Zaragoza: 2
Villarreal v. Valencia: 1
Trainer to Watch: Mauricio Pochettino
Even though Espanyol’s all time leading scorer, Raul Tamudo, left after this past season, he’s still rocking the peritquitos leadership seat alongside his star player and compatriot, Osvaldo. After two middle of the table finishes, Pochettino has found a groove as a manager after spending two different stints with the club as a player. Hercules heads into the Cornellá – El Prat this weekend which should bring a nice little match and I don’t foresee any problems for the Catalan club as long as Trezeguet is held in check.
Match of the Week: Villarreal v. Valencia
The last 18 matches have resulted in almost equal results. Villarreal holds a slight edge winning the last 9 and they sit 3rd and 4th respectively in the table. For the classic Valencian battle, I’ll take the yellow submarine looking to rebound after losing a tough one last weekend in the Nou Camp.
About the Author
Written by Timothy Ashe Jr.
Tim was born and raised in Downers Grove, IL (a suburb of Chicago). He graduated with a degree in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign and also holds University English Language Excellence certificates. He's fluent in Spanish and teaches both English and Spanish in his spare time. He's a Real Madrid and Chicago Fire aficionado and is partial towards the EPL and LFP. His hope is that the game of soccer can continue to grow in the U.S.A. and for our men's national team to eventually win the World Cup.