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.
To be fair, the weekend’s 1-2 win at Valencia was both brave and unexpected, especially given the fact that the Bordalás bats had their tails up and flapping, and had also scored first. They were also the better side for most of the game leading up to their 65th minute goal, but Vinny’s new-found ability to shoot and get a decent deflection worked again, followed by a rather more splendid cross onto Benz’s shoulder which was always destined for the onion bag. But apart from their splendid goalkeeper, do Real Madrid actually possess a defence? The philosophical debate will take place before Christmas at the Oxford Union. Will Valencia recover from this wee set-back? The consensus seems to be yes – if they can get Soler back soon enough and keep Guedes interested.
And what of Barcelona’s slogan, as they are less fond of declaring – ‘more than a club’ or the modern representation of a clusterfuck? Whilst the latter condition remains intact, teams like Granada – up to now down on their luck but made of reasonably tough stuff – can travel to the Camp Nou and garner some points. You could see it coming (so did Ed Álvarez), even before the line-up was announced with the great pretender Coutinho on from the start and Sergi Roberto there to support him in a desert of non-definition. No Pedri no party? Possibly, although young Gavi looks half-decent. Depay’s ok, but he sort of puts his head down and runs. Not sure he’s a build-up man. And it’s always a bad sign when Piqué turns centre-forward. Ah….Messi, Griezmann, Súarez…..their ghosts troop past Koeman’s empty stare, like Macbeth in the fog, on the blasted heath. Good job that the witches conjured up Araujo’s equaliser in the 90th minute, or it might have been worse.
Is that Laporta’s dagger I see before me? Whatever – they travel to Cádiz on Thursday, where they will find a yellow bus parked on the pitch, most of its chassis in the penalty area. They may not find a way through, and to drop further points in such a fixture would have the faithful erupting like a La Palma volcano. We shall see, although is the glass half-full? They still haven’t lost (in the league).
Two teams who would be happy to benefit from the (apparent) fragility of the big two were in Anoeta on Sunday, as were 24,000 fans and me. You can hear all about it on the following link, and if you just want to skip the rest (although Robbie Dunne’s interesting take on Rayo is worth a listen) go to 29.30 and take it from there.
Sevilla and Real Sociedad finished 4th and 5th respectively last season, and most punters put them there or thereabouts for this. In theory I agree, although Sevilla have a historical tendency to confound or run out of oxygen, just when you think they’re getting to the summit, and Real Sociedad have a squad of young bucks who are getting a bit harder-bitten, but who still might be too green to make the jump to the Champs League, although their general quality and attractive play suggest they might. The fact that they always seem to have half a dozen of their best players on the injury-list doesn’t help though, and the locals are beginning to question the policies of their medical team – but meanwhile they cope, despite losing the excellent Isaak half-way through the first half. Less rested than Sevilla after only getting back from a bruising and ebullient performance at PSV on Thursday night (in the Europa League), they looked a lot better than the visitors for 45 minutes, but unfortunately missed a penalty and had to settle for a 0-0 draw. Oyarzabal is one of the best takers, but Bono is one of the best stoppers. There you go. Sevilla improved after the break, on the back of a bollocking from Lopetegui (actually a Real Sociedad fan and big mates with Imanol) but with the quality and relative experience oozing through their ranks, you’d think they’d put up a better display against eight kids from the youth team – good though those kids are. Oh – and Mikel Merino’s back on form. Is he the best left-footed mid in Spain? With apologies to Sergio Canales, yes.
Whilst on the topic, one of Real Sociedad’s defenders dropped his sweaty shirt onto my washing-line the other day. He lives in the penthouse flat (he can afford it) and I live some floors below at the cheaper end of the vertical – but we share an internal washing-line space. Interested by this gift from the heavens, and particularly focused on the fact that it was really stinky (why did he bring it home?) I took some silly twitter-fodder selfies with it and settled down to lunch, intending to return it to him after eating. Alas, the bell rang, I opened the door, and there he was. Apparently a man of few words, he simply cocked up an eyelid, Ancelotti-like, to which I replied ‘I’ll get it – hang on’. Handing him the treasured item, I added sheepishly (in Spanish) ‘I was going to bring it up to you’ upon which he gave me a look that vaguely suggested that he thought I was telling him a porky and that I’d planned to hang onto it and snort its armpits for evermore. Ah – pro footballers! Don’t get too close to them. It can be a disappointing experience.
What more to report, in this relative shorty? Well, Atlético still haven’t got their furnaces burning, drawing 0-0 at home to Athletic in a game they could easily have lost, but they sit second, a point above Valencia and Sociedad. As Eduardo pointed out in his preview, they seem to have more riches in their squad than ever, and yet Simeone doesn’t seem to know what to do with them, which configuration to settle on. But they ‘re always going to be tough to beat. One wouldn’t underestimate them. One never does. Griezmann has not been welcomed home however, and it remains to be seen whether this will affect him. Griezmann’s problem is not a lack of talent but rather a lack of emotional intelligence. Like James Rodriguez, everywhere he goes he seems to end up pissing people off. You’d think he’d have noticed by now. He should have stayed at Real Sociedad, where they’d sort of forgiven him for his dalliance with Atlético…and then he finally went. Then at Atlético he flirted with Barça, turned them down then finally went. Now he’s gone back (to be fair, through force of circumstance) but he can hardly be surprised at the reception. I wonder if he washes his shirt?
Rayo Vallecano were the team of the week, stuffing the struggling Getafe 3-0 and seeing the old warrior Radamel Falcao score on his home debut. He kissed the shirt, but sort of missed the badge (watch it again), but he’ll get more practice at connecting properly, no doubt. Meanwhile the Rayo faithful boo their president and are torn between boycotting their loved ones and turning up to see the great man in the twilight of his salary-reduced days. A tricky dilemma indeed, but they deserve better than the dodgy Martín Presa. What is it about Rayo and presidents? Whatever – they visit an unbeaten Athletic on Tuesday (there’s a full programme this week), so that’ll make men of ‘em. Oh, and Alavés lost again. Things ain’t looking good Vitoria way.
Anyway, as Dylan the rabbit used to say, time for bed. If you understand that reference you’re far too old.