Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno
On some level, it's nice to think that, when all is said and done, after years of institutional change, coaching shifts, player movement and general upheaval, Real Madrid is still made up of the same dysfunctional leadership that characterized much of its' years in the 21st century.
Say what you will about Real Madrid under Florentino Pérez (and there really is a lot to say), but one set of words that won't cross your lips are "boring" or any variant thereof. A fantastic businessman, Pérez is a perfectionist with a deep-seated sense that if Madrid isn't playing better than every other team all the time always forever then there's something horribly wrong with the world.
This has lead him to some memorable catastrophes--including, I think, the firing of highly-lauded coach Vicente del Bosque in 2003 (after he won the Liga). I'm not sure if that's what's in the making in the current leadership meltdown--I try hard not to believe anything that is reported in the gossip rag tabloids that give journalism a bad name (you know who you are, and yes, you really do suck that much). But if there's any truth in the stories that have been pouring out of the Bernabéu in recent days, then Madrid is clearly back to being "the crisis club" (a phrase that I use to describe the way that the press and the leadership tended to react whenever anything went wrong in the mid-aughts).
I find some comfort in all of this. With the European economy perched on the brink of collapse, with the future of Spanish football in doubt due to monetary troubles, and with all the other myriad of problems causing uncertainty throughout the world, in some way it's nice to know that, at least in a few offices overlooking the Castellana, it's still the same old story.
Friday, December 7
(21:30 CET, 3:30 PM EST)
Unfortunately, this column is running after this game began, but if you happen to read it in the next 30 or so minutes, you might be able to catch the second half. Espanyol is winning, I think. Seriously, go turn it on.
Saturday, December 8
Real Sociedad vs. Getafe
(16:00 CET, 10:00 AM EST)
You know, I really didn't think that this game would be pitting the 6th place side (Getafe) against the 9th place side (Real) this late in the year.
Pick: 1-0 to la Real.
Malaga vs. Granada
(18:00 CET, 12:00 PM EST)
Things aren't looking good for second-to-last place Granada, though they could make up some ground by taking a point from Málaga--at the end of the year teams rise and fall because of the points that they snag against teams they shouldn't beat.
Pick: 2-1 to Málaga.
Valladolid vs. Real Madrid
(20:00 CET, 2:00 PM EST)
I know that Valladolid is good, and I've been a huge fan of theirs all year. But can they really unseat a Real Madrid team that will be gunning to get their play back on to the front page? I'm not so sure.
Pick: 1-3 to Madrid.
(22:00 CET, 4:00 PM EST)
Don't look now but Valencia is in 12th place. They've been a weird team all season, and I really don't know what to make of them--which is pretty much par for the course with this squad. I don't imagine they'll stay in 12th; but I'm also not sure they're going to be able to run all the way up to Champions League consideration again.
Pick: 1-2 to Valencia.
Sunday, December 9
(12:00 CET, 6:00 AM EST)
Mallorca are staring at the wrong side of the relegation battle right now, and I don't see much hope in sight unless they can begin to string things together. Don't get me wrong--they're not going down. I just mean they won't be anywhere near the top half of the table this season.
Pick: 2-1 to Levante.
(17:00 CET, 11:00 AM EST)
The fact that, conceivably, Athletic Bilbao could drop into the relegation zone with a loss combined with a couple well-placed wins shows us just how far they've fallen. Yes, I imagine they'll charge back to avoid a relegation battle; no, they are no longer a real factor this season.
Atletico Madrid vs. Deportivo
(19:00 CET, 1:00 PM EST)
Despite Atleti's demoralizing loss to Real Madrid last weekend--the same old story...--they still have arguably the best striker in the world on their roster. So I don't imagine them having too much of a problem with Depor. But I've been wrong about Atleti before.
Pick: 2-1 to Atleti.
Real Betis vs. Barcelona
(21:00 CET, 3:00 PM EST)
Can Betis pull off the rare Real Madrid-Barcelona sweep? Doubtful.
Pick: 1-3 to Barça.
Monday, December 10
(21:00 CET, 3:00 PM EST)
The fact that Zaragoza isn't in the relegation battle (at the moment) warms my cold soul; the fact that Rayo aren't quite in European contention makes me depressed--I'd love to see Madrid's poor suburb host a UEFA game. There was a dream that was Vallecas...
Pick: 1-0 to Rayo.