It’s one of those sandwich weeks, stuffed between the two chewy pieces of Champions League bread, Iker Casillas’ heart-attack, Xavi’s retirement and Messi’s official deification by the international press – to which the aficionados and sages of LaLiga respond ‘Eh? He does that every week, and actually he didn’t play particularly well against Liverpool’ – not forgetting Valencia of course, their defeat at Arsenal and the bad behaviour of some of their numbskull followers – please note the use of the quantifier ‘some’.
So we have a champion in the top flight (Barcelona), and another closing on the title in the Second Division (Osasuna). With three games left to play, the Catalans and reigning champions decided to get the league business out of the way by defeating Levante 1-0 at home, Leo Messi once again the chief executor/executioner in the 62nd minute just as the visitors were beginning to get a little awkward. We might still be waiting had Morales’ shot not bounced off the post in the 89th minute – another example of Barcelona’s lucky-charm season but also an indication of how they tend to make their own fortune, of how they tend to take their own chances cleanly and not leave much to random chance. They host Liverpool on Wednesday in what should be an extraordinary occasion, possibly en route to a treble. Oh, and their women’s team beat Bayern to get into their first ever final of the Champions League too. Continue reading “Champions”
After Man Utd’s 4-0 defeat at Everton on Sunday, their newish coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, declared that it wasn’t enough to have loads of talent. What he wanted was for the players to ‘run more’. Everton had collectively run 8 kms more, so the statistic would seem to make sense, but Olly obviously hadn’t been doing his homework. According to a recent study of the Spanish top flight, he who runs less laughs longest, as it were. It’s the kind of annoying tweet that people would put onto Twitter to garner a few more followers (I know – I’ve done the same), with the obvious dangler question being, ‘Try to guess which team has run the most this season and which team has run the least?’ Continue reading “He who runs less laughs longest”
‘Twas a weekend of derbies, and Liga Fever was physically present at one of them. I have to report that the Real Sociedad v Eibar game was a dull affair (1-1) and that Eibar were by far the better side, but Real Sociedad were suffering once again from the absence of four key senior players, and maybe hoping a little too much from some of the young kids who were replacing them. Eibar have some experienced and canny players, and it showed. It’s something of a myth that they’re merely a huff and puff side. Nothing of the sort. They have some players who are not afraid to mix it (Escalante, for example) but Orellana remains an exquisite player (when he’s in the mood) and Marc Cucurella from Barça B looks the business. If Barcelona aren’t to fish him back for next season, then he won’t be short of suitors. Continue reading “Derbies and stuff”
What is it that gives some teams that annoying ability to score late on, to come back at the death when all seems…well, dead? Barcelona have had this particular ability for some time now, demonstrating it during a quite amazing game in midweek at Villarreal where they turned around a 4-2 deficit in added time to draw 4-4, and persisting against Atlético in Saturday’s crucial game until the 85th minute, then scoring again immediately afterwards. The great Liverpool side of the 1980s had this as part of their repertoire too, and sometimes it’s difficult to analyse exactly how it works. Continue reading “Late-show stoppers”
The famous exam question says ‘Compare and Contrast’ but we all know the chasm under the bridge that separates the land of Real Madrid from Planet Huesca. Sunday’s visit to the Bernabéu was their first in 59 years as a professional club, with the most recent precedent of Burgos winning in the Bernabéu on their first visit, back in 1990. 2,000 fans decided to go along, despite the game being scheduled as the ‘partidazo’ that closes the week and is played at 20.45 in the evening. But as Sir Mick once said, catch your dreams before they slip away. Huesca are bottom, rather as they expected to be, but with Villarreal losing at Celta (after being 0-2 up) the final safety position was still at a possible, but not very probable seven points. Whatever, enjoy the status of top flight while you can, and meanwhile, try to upset the merengue cart. Continue reading “View from a bar”
It’s one of those weekends that doesn’t bode well and which promises a hangover – in the collective national sense because only one of Spain’s teams is in the draw for the Champions League quarter-finals. Let’s overlook the fact that a decent wedge of Barça’s supporters are in favour of their own Republic and just underline the fact that the 28th week of LaLiga will be played out in the shadow of the unfortunate and unusual reality of a slim presence in Europe, and that maybe only Barcelona will begin their game (at Betis) with a smile. The two V’s (Valencia and Villarreal) continue in the Europa League, but even in that context there was Spanish tragedy, with Sevilla knocked out in extra-time in Prague. Continue reading “Hungover”