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La Liga Picks: Jornada 10

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Match-round previews for Jornada 10 in Spain.

Denis Doyle

DEPORTIVO DE LA CORUNA over Getafe

After their draw against Espanyol, Fernández' side are now unbeaten in their last two, and have a chance to extend that streak against a Getafe side who've only won once in eight matches at Riazor since 2004. Pablo Insua, Depor's young 21 year-old defender, was immense against Espanyol, and looks to be coming into his own in his first Primera season. On Monday Insua received  LFP's "Best Defender" award for Liga Adelante. This was a fully deserving achievement for Insua who, despite his youth, commanded Depor's back-line with the authority of a veteran, helping the Galicians finish with the second-best defensive record in all of Segunda. It is somewhat baffling then (I say "somewhat" because of the politicized nature of the RFEF) that Insua has failed to receive an Under-21 call-up. While this negligence of Lopetegui, and now Albert Celades, shouldn't be ignored, I think most fans of Spanish football can acknowledge that Insua, if for nothing else, is destined for Super Depor-like glory.

Deportivo de La Coruña 1 Getafe 0

GRANADA draw with Real Madrid

While it may seem like I'm catering to the readers of this blog, there is quite the strong argument to make that Real Madrid won't be able to leave Cármenes with three points. In their last seven meetings at Granada's home ground, Los Blancos have only won three times, and never by a margin of more than one goal. If you recall, the Andaluz side actually beat Real Madrid 1-0 just one season ago thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo own goal. While Caparrós' side aren't playing well right now, having gone winless in their last five, they are decently talented, just in a poor run of form. Don't be surprised to see a lethargic Madrid team, still hungover post-Clásico, barely limp their way out of this. This is a classic "trap game" of which Carlo Ancelotti better be prepared for.

Granada 1 Real Madrid 1

ATLETICO DE MADRID over Córdoba

Córdoba fans have waited 40 years for a return to the top-flight, but it's been quite the arduous start for a club perhaps keen to restore their 1960's glory. With five draws and four defeats, they're the only club in the Primera yet to register a win. Last season, Almería went 10 matches before recording their first win, but played some half-decent football, which likely factored into the club's decision to retain Francisco. Córdoba, contrarily, have yet to show they belong in the Spanish first division, reverting to largely negative tactics and an over-dependence on Fede Cartabia. While they have only one loss in their last three, new manager Miroslav Djukic should be keen to record that coveted three points with matches against Deportivo and Elche in the coming weeks.

Atlético de Madrid 2 Córdoba 0

BARCELONA over Celta de Vigo

In Luis Enrique's first game against his former club, the Galician side may have Andreu Fontàs back, as he made Berizzo's 19-man squad to travel to Barcelona. The former La Masia defender has been out of action since Jornada 7, but has firmly established himself as one of the most under-appreciated center-backs in La Liga. If Fontàs is not cleared, Sergi Gómez is likely to take his spot, a former Barcelona canterano himself. Coming off a disappointing result in El Clásico, I expect the Catalans to be back to their best. This is a very, very good Celta team, however, of which Enrique knows better than anyone. Celta's front three (Nolito, Fabian Orellana, and Joaquín Larrivey) have accounted for 14 of the team's 16 goals this season. Nolito, in particular, has been immense. With five goals and four assists, only Messi (14) has combined for more among players with at least two assists. I made what could still be a foot-in-mouth comment last season when I tipped Celta as potential Europa League contenders. But they haven't missed a beat under Berizzo, who as a Marcelo Bielsa disciple himself, has done a phenomenal job to continue the work of Luis Enrique.

Barcelona 2 Celta de Vigo 1

REAL SOCIEDAD draw with Málaga

The consensus among journalists was that Arrasate would not last beyond Jornada 9 should the the Basque side not pick up a win in Córdoba. But despite their draw, in which Real Sociedad conceded a gut-wrenching injury-time equalizer, Arrasate has been retained as manager. David Zurutuza shed some light on the situation in which he informed at a presser that La Real's board approached the players about the possibility of removing Arrasate. Due to what they perceived as an "inconvenient time," and in acknowledgement of their own culpability, the players decided against it. Whether Arrasate survives the Lorenzo Juarros axe or not, he should be thankful that his players seem to be in overwhelming support of  him. One could surmise, however, that is in large part due to Arrasate's history at Zubieta, and the personal bond he's developed with these players. Whatever the case, a match against Málaga presents a difficult task, as the Andaluz side have won three straight, and generally play well up in Basque Country. Zurutuza's revelations have made me feel slightly empathetic, but it's hard to imagine Juarros will allow such low-level mediocrity to continue.

Real Sociedad 2 Málaga 2

ATHLETIC CLUB draw with Sevilla

At this point, I think Athletic's entire season rests upon Valverde's assessment of how to use Oscar De Marcos, and the tradeoffs that come with using him as a mediapunta, instead of right-back. The number "10" role is, of course, De Marcos' most natural position, but has been forced into right-back due to Andoli Iraola's inability to play regular minutes. I've long contested that Iraola has been one of the most under-valued players in Spain since his Primera debut in 2003. But at 32 years-old, the Usurbil-born defender simply doesn't have the legs to feature regularly, forcing Valverde's hand to use De Marcos in defense. De Marcos' versatility is of great value to Valverde, and has adapted extraordinarily well in his new position, but with Athletic's struggles in central midfield, the pros and cons of how to use De Marcos must be weighed.

In Athletic's last three matches (including Champion's League), they've recorded two wins and one draw. Not coincidentally, De Marcos has featured as a "10" in all three of these matches (albeit twice in a second-half adjustment made by Valverde), and Athletic immediately reaped the rewards. There is a reason Athletic's board pushed for a right-back this summer, and though they've failed to acquire one, Valverde might just have to absorb that deficiency, else Athletic risk a continuation of their poor form.

Athletic Club 1 Sevilla 1

VILLARREAL draw with Valencia

With Dani Parejo out for 4-6 weeks with a hamstring injury, Nuno now faces the task of rallying a resurgent Valencia without their team captain. Valencia's own regional version of El Clásico should prove a worthy test, as Los Che haven't won at El Madrigal since 2007, and have only won four times in 18 matches overall up in Castelló. Both of these sides prefer to play fast, counter-based football. But despite averaging 14 shots per game (5th-best in La Liga), Marcelino's have struggled to score at home, just mustering six goals in four matches (four of which came against Rayo Vallecano). How Villarreal's attackers fair against Valencia'a newfound defensive solidity will be key. Only Barcelona (3) and Atlético (7) have conceded less, but with Parejo's absence in midfield, Valencia could become vulnerable in the middle-third, of which Villarreal's transition attackers will be keen to exploit. I like a draw here as I'm unsure how Valencia will cope without Parejo, but this should be an entertaining encounter, and probably the most intriguing match-up of Jornada 10.

Villarreal 1 Valencia 1

LEVANTE draw with Almería

Both of these sides have only one point in their last three matches. While Almería have gotten off to a better start than last season (in which their first win came in Jornada 10), they would do well to obtain a positive result to avoid a further descent into relegation territory. A key match-up here could be Édgar Méndez vs. Pedro López. The latter hasn't exactly stood out this season, which doesn't bode well for Levante fans, as Edgar is in top form, and has arguably been Francisco's best player this season. The 23 year-old winger has had loan spells at Jaén and Tenerife since joining Almería's reserve team in 2012, but is proving to be a key player in Francisco's counter-based attack. In fact, Ernesto Valverde opted to play De Marcos at right-back last week (despite his positive performances as attacking midfielder) just in order to contain the Canary Island revelation. Every season there's a player who makes the step up from Segunda to have a decisive impact (see Vitolo last season). In the early-going, that player has undoubtedly been Édgar Méndez.

Levante 0 Almería 0

ELCHE over Espanyol

Everything here points to a draw, but Escribá's side are in desperate need of a win. Winless in their last six, Elche sit in 19th place on five points. While I think sporting director Víctor Orta did a half-decent job this summer, Elche still suffer from major limitations. Surprisingly, Elche have conceded the second most goals in the Primera, a shocking decline from what was one of the most effective defenses in Spain last season. New signing Pedro Mosquera has been an apt replacement for the Rubén Pérez-Javi Márquez rotation, but Elche have failed to replace their tough-tackling defensive midfielder, Carlos Sánchez. If Escribá can't find solidity in this position, the team will continue to suffer. I like a win here only if out of desperation.

Elche 1 Espanyol 0

RAYO VALLECANO over Eibar

As with many of Rayo's mid or bottom-table opponents, Eibar play what you could call anti-Jémez football. It's always fascinating to watch Rayo because of the contrast of systems on display. The Vallecas-based side could be without Alberto Bueno, who's struggling to recover from a sprained ankle, and of which would be a major blow to Paco Jémez. Roberto Trashorras, not wrongly, receives most of the accolades as Rayo's deep-lying playmaker. But Bueno's role at the mediapunta position is vital to Rayo's final-third play, which often lacks decisiveness. Whether Bueno plays or not, look for Eibar to sit deep and squeeze Rayo's attackers into a congested central area. If Trashorras can effectively distribute wide, and shift Eibar's defense, Rayo have a good chance to come out of this with three points. Or they will self-destruct, which is just as likely...

Rayo Vallecano 2 Eibar 0