It was the annual event of Barcelona’ season – the game they always dread and the one which has often determined their fates in previous years. I refer to the visit to Anoeta in San Sebastián, effected on Sunday night to close the 19th week, save Monday night’s game at Betis. Many a culé crisis has traced its roots to Anoeta, and Barça had not won there in the league since Real Sociedad returned from their Second Division exile in 2010, picking up two draws and five defeats. No other stadium has treated them so meanly. And it gets worse. Thirteen of Barça’s current squad had never won in Anoeta, and Luis Suarez had never scored there. Time to wipe the slate clean then, and discourage any thoughts that Atlético Madrid might have been harbouring on Saturday night, as they walked off the pitch at Eibar with a useful 0-1 win under their belts. We can forget about Real Madrid for a while, and let them stew in their own little crisis, as they hang on grimly to 4th place. There are other matters to talk about first. Continue reading “Barça bonanza”
Preview of La Liga’s 19th week
I’m sure we all agree: one of the most frustrating aspects of modern football is the development of a generation of players and coaches trained to say absolutely nothing during an interview. Able to speak like politicians, they avoid anything remotely similar to uttering a real opinion about other teams, teammates, coaches and anything that could somehow get them into trouble. Continue reading “Speak up”
It’s been a pretty intense return from the Christmas break, with Coutinho arriving late down the chimney and Diego Costa starting both where he left off, and how he intends to go on. You can’t keep a good man down. Nevertheless, pride of place this weekend goes to the irrepressible Joaquin, who when he eventually retires will become a stand-up comedian of some stature. Betis’ finest son has long been a breath of fresh air in the stifling world of tight-lipped correctness that accompanies most professional footballers’ press conferences, fearful as they are of upsetting their sponsors or of saying anything that might vaguely be of interest. And whilst Joaquin may never be invited to address the Oxford Union, his post-match statement after his team’s bonkers 3-5 win in the Seville derby is already Spanish literary legend. Continue reading “Costa – intense espresso”
Valverde and Zidane made the difference in El Clasico
After a few days packed with overreactions to the Madrid-Barça, it’s time to cut through the clutter and see what’s next for both clubs. Granted that the following reflections have matured as my closest relatives and friends kept filling my glass with top-quality wines and spirits – pretty much any wine that you drink with someone you love improves immensely –, so some of these comments might belong to different phases of the drunken state. In any case, I do believe that the effect of the alcohol has enrichened the depth of these thoughts, rather than the opposite.
So you’re looking for deep analysis and insights regarding the clásico? Look no further. The most significant aspect to emerge from Saturday’s clásico, in case it wasn’t obvious, is that Real Madrid have clearly made a mistake signing Kepa from Athletic Bilbao. Dani Carvajal should have told Zidane before about his hidden skills, since the information would have saved the club the 20 million euros they’ve already invested in the Basque keeper. Pics by courtesy of TF.
Preview of La Liga’s 17th round of fixtures
In his last column, Phil commented how odd this round of fixtures is. Indeed, the first match is to be played on Tuesday and the last on Saturday, which makes for a very long “weekend”.
That said, it’s a cracking set of matches: the 17th round includes El Clasico, the Galician derby, the “other” Madrid – Barcelona derby between Atletico and Espanyol, the Valencian Community derby between Valencia and Villarreal, two duels involving Sevilla teams and Basque teams, a relegation thriller with Malaga visiting Alaves… Continue reading “Gluttony before Christmas”
Phil Ball reviews the weekend in La Liga
It’s a cold and contemplative Sunday afternoon in Spain, with La Liga games still to be played before the night closes around us – particularly Barcelona v Deportivo, and although thoughts are dwelling on the clásico in a week’s time, everyone seems to be wetting themselves about Manchester City. On my morning wander down the street for the papers, a barfly acquaintance stopped me to enquire about my view of Guardiola’s side, but I was unable to oblige with much intelligent comment because his dog wouldn’t stop barking at me. Later, as I sipped my morning ‘Texan’ (Americano with a tiny drop of cold milk) in the local bar, two men were animatedly chatting about City (their goals against Tottenham had just appeared on the TV above them) and then on returning home, I clicked onto the BBC football site to witness Alan Shearer declaring that they could be one of the best teams of all time. Well – I’ll bow to Shearer’s playing record, but I’ve never been quite so convinced of his punditry, and by this time I would not have been surprised had my long-departed mother telepathically contacted me to inform me that Man City were the best she’d seen, from the world beyond. Continue reading “Something special for Christmas”