Of Rats and Ants

Let’s begin with a rant, which is always a jolly good way to end the weekend.  The word ‘rant’ contains a rat and an ant, the former perhaps characterising the two teams from Madrid who decided not to play this weekend, and the latter the obedient non-thinking workers of La Liga who would prefer not to upset the more powerful members of the nest. 

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Matchday 9

I must confess I’m quite enjoying Luis Enrique’s Spain. I know, I am a Real Madrid supporter and should be outraged because the opinionated Asturiano is not keen on our top-level Spanish talent: Nacho, Lucas Vazquez, Asensio, Isco… In addition to that, word has it that Lucho is selecting players represented by some close friends of his, which according to some is the only reason why Gavi, for instance, made the last list.

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Entertaining, but not painless

Is this the LaLiga we expected?

LaLiga is quickly becoming all that we expected before this season started. The theoretical top three (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico) struggle to win theoretically winnable matches, whereas the following group of teams (Real Sociedad, as well as Sevilla and Villarreal, who both have a game in hand) have quickly become potential contenders for the title. On top of that, a couple of nice surprises in the form of Osasuna and Rayo occupy Europa League spots, while Athletic, Valencia and Betis have shown promising glimpses of what they could become if they achieved some sort of consistency.

However, there’s a slightly disappointing touch to the whole thing so far, as though watching the bigger teams play terrible football took some brilliance out of the increased competitiveness of the tournament.

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Matchday 7

Koeman’s bed & breakfast, and stateless sheriffs

Three things are inevitable this weekend:  I’ll forget where I’ve put my underpants, the cock will crow at the onset of dawn, and Barcelona will win at Atlético. You may scoff at the latter, but both Eduardo and myself agree on the inevitability of this result, which means that you’ll get at least one correct on this weekend’s quiniela

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Matchday 6

Can Koeman win?

Assume you’re Ronald Koeman. You’ve lost your best player the very last day of the transfer window, and he wasn’t just a great player. Messi is arguably the most influential playmaker in decades, which is important because the rest of the team had grown accustomed to playing FOR him, to following his flow. It’s not like losing a fantastic centre-forward or an insistent full back. Barcelona’s approach to playing football during the last decade was Messi, what he wanted to do or could do, much more than it was Guardiola, Cruyff or positional play.

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Vinny, Benz and the Barça blues

Rockin’ and a rollin’ with the new twins of mayhem, Real Madrid lead the table and it ain’t even autumn. Wake me up, when September ends. Vinny and Benz, the fashionable couple of football now, have for some reason struck up a partnership that will either prove to be a devastating argument for the white ones’ title prospects or an excellent way of hiding the other deficiencies that exist in the squad, exacerbated further by Carvajal joining the limp-master Bale in Madrid’s dry-dock. 

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Matchday 5

Get ready for a few upsets

The weekend after a set of fixtures in the European competitions is always ripe for upsets. And if you throw in the fact that the traditional top three (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico) haven’t looked themselves since the season started, this could be the first matchday in which all three fail to win their games. That is indeed a rare combination, however one which this column believes will happen several times this campaign.

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Beach Wisdom

It was Monday night and I’d just nipped down to the beach for a cooling dip, as you do.  It’d been a muggy day in San Sebastián and I’d been suffering a bit in the office all day.  The good thing about going for a swim early evening is that most of the day-trippers have gone home, and I can usually count on bumping into a sort of mate of mine, an ex-pro neighbour who played for several top-flight clubs but who has been retired for a while now, living the life of Riley as an agent.   Good bloke though, and always up for a natter.  Sure enough, he emerged from the sea five minutes after me and we had a drying-down chat in the fading bronze light of the beach.  

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Matchday 4

Bye, European Glory

One used to think that the balance of power in LaLiga was not good for the tournament itself, but great for European competitions. Let me explain: three top teams (Barcelona, Real Madrid and yes, Atletico as long as Simeone is their coach), five or six middle class who can compete with anyone on a given day (Sevilla, Villarreal, Athletic, Real Sociedad, Valencia and perhaps even Betis) and then the remaining teams who struggle to survive and get a famous win every once in a while. Three clear tiers with obvious consequences for the competition in Spain and the chances to challenge for a European title.

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Happy with Mbappé?

Before we get onto the minor stuff – Messi, Mbappé, Memphis, let me just tell you about my weekend.  Live football is good, particularly after pandemic-based confinements, and so like many other dysfunctional members of my species I’m trying to attend as much as possible.  As Stephen Fry said of religion, ‘It’s what some people do with their madness’.  My madness is more ball than Bible-based, and my pilgrimage sites tend to involve terracing.  Which is why people should never get married on Saturdays.  Why Saturdays, ffs? The wedding reception I was invited to unfortunately coincided with Real Sociedad v Levante on Saturday, meaning that another lucky madman got my seat (I gave it to him, in a Christian act of altruism) but it really isn’t good enough.  Why can’t people have wedding receptions on a Thursday night?  They would then only coincide with the Europa League, and the loss would be of little consequence.   Propose this soon to your local MP. You know it makes sense.

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