Xerez v Real Madrid, La Liga, February 13, 2010
They may have been dumped out the cup by amateur side Alcoron, but if Xerez manage to pull off the unthinkable and actually defeat Real Madrid then this match could go down as the biggest failure of Los Blancos season so far. (A halftime/full time prediction of a Draw/Real Madrid is priced at 7/2.)
There is far more separating Xerez and Real Madrid than the massive 39 point gap between the bottom club in La Liga and the perennial title challengers. These are two clubs heading in completely different directions and founded on completely different principles. Aside from being in the same division this rare season, there are virtually no parallels between the two clubs. Put simply, the surprise is not that Xerez are bottom of the first division – the surprise is that they are in the first division at all.
At the start of last season Xerez , who had finished 14th in the previous campaign, had one target: survival. Instead, the coach Esteban Vigo performed a miracle, winning the second division title and lifting his side into a new life for which they were wholly under-prepared to tackle. So bad was Xerez’s off-the-field situation, that at the start of the current campaign the club only had 12 first team squad players.
Xerez went about swelling there squad, but they did so without spending a dime. And it has showed all season, which they have won just twice in 21 matches, whilst succumbing to 14 top flight defeats. (Xerez are 11/1 to keep a clean sheet.)
Prior to reaching the Spanish top flight, Xerez’s star player was left-winger Momo. Putting Momo’s talent’s into perspective though, the 27-year-old Spaniard had only ever scored four career goals before last season, when he got 17, and this season he has yet to find the target in 15 league outings.
Fairing slightly better with two goals to his name this season (being a sixth of Xerez’s overall goal tally) is 32-year-old playmaker Antonito. Although blessed with the ability to pull off the outrageous, Antonito has failed to prove himself week in, week out.
Without doubt though, Xerez’s two star players this term have been forward Mario Bermejo and winger Carlos Calvo. (Xerez are 19/1 to win both halves.)
Bermejo, who has netted a club high four goals this term, is a fast and skilful forward who offers the main out-ball for Xerez. Carlos Calvo offers support for his striker from the right wing, where he can hurt teams with his pace and dribbling ability., and the 24-year-old has been in decent scoring form of late bagging a brace in the victory against Mallorca last weekend while also getting on the scoresheet at Valencia last month.
While Xerez have grouped together a squad on a breadline budget, Real Madrid welcome back Cristaino Ronaldo this weekend – the 80 million pound man whose transfer fee alone dwarfs the expenditure of Xerez’s entire 24-man club. (Real are 5/4 to win both halves.)
Ronaldo returns after a two-match suspension picked up for stray elbow against Malaga, and his return is welcomed news for coach Manuel Pellegrini after news broke this week that Frenchman Karim Benzema has fallen foul of a left-leg injury that will effectively rule him out of action for a week.
With Benzema out, Real are likely to field a front three of Ronaldo, Kaka and frontman Gonzalo Higuian – the Argentine having scored as many goals on his lonesome as the whole Xerez team have contributed this season. That means club captain Raul could once again find himself on the sidelines, with rumours circling that the Real legend could be on his to the New York Red Bulls as he considers ending his career in the MLS. (Real are 5/7 to score in both halves.)
When these two sides last met at the start of the season Real walked away with an easy 5-nil victory. While such a heavy scoreline cannot be predicted twice (under 2.5 goal at 7/5, over at 5/7), Real are undoubtedly huge favourites to win at a canter once more as they should coast to a comfortable three points.
101gg predicts: Xerez 0 – Real Madrid 3 (9/1)
Full match odds here.