Almost over, bar the shouting

‘twas the penultimate game of the season, with everyone kicking off at 18.30 on Sunday – and ‘twas fun for some, less for others.  This particular week of the league season is always the toughest, because at the nether end of the table there is usually a single side left who can still escape relegation and two sides who can be sucked into it, whilst up top the 4th Champions League spot tends to be the main focus.  The trap-door opens or the dreams are quashed. Continue reading “Almost over, bar the shouting”

Strikers’ time

“They play like this [like a small team], that’s why they’re down [in the standings]”, were the bitter words of Mr Enrique Setién, coach of Real Betis Balompié, after his team were handed their backsides by Leganes back in February. That 3-0 victory took Leganes only three points below Betis, but Setién paid no attention to that fact and went on to say that if Leganes decided to attempt a ball possession approach like his inspiring, innovative, ground-breaking Betis (the adjectives are mine), they would miserably fail. Continue reading “Strikers’ time”

Champions

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”

He who runs less laughs longest

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”

Derbies and stuff

‘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”

Late-show stoppers

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”

View from a bar

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”

Messi steals the show

Summary of the weekend in LaLiga

Plenty of narratives could have become the centre of this article in an eventful weekend of Spanish football, but I wisely chose to start writing after the end of the last match. Barcelona were due at Betis in the Sunday evening Partidazo, and after Setien’s team win in the Camp Nou a few months ago, it was easy to expect a serious, determined perhaps vengeful performance by Messi & co. If Barcelona needed some extra motivation, on Saturday Atletico had lost in Bilbao, which meant that a victory of the Azulgrana in Sevilla could also give them a 10-point advantage with 10 matches left. Continue reading “Messi steals the show”

The Horny Zombies of Getafe

There are some nice images from this weekend’s action in Spain.  I particularly like the one of Alaves’ Takashi Inui  (‘Taka’ to his friends) being hugged at the end of the game by his ex-team-mates from Eibar, even though he’d just scored against them and celebrated the goal,  breaking the unspoken Spanish law which states: ‘Thou shalt not celebrate a goal against thy ex-team-mates unless thou hast not played for said team for some time and/or thou hast left in a cloud of pissed-offness’.  Inui, polite to a fault as the Japanese tend to be, begged for forgiveness after the game but decided not to commit suicide on his ceremonial sword – possibly because the result was 1-1 but also because his departure from Eibar to Betis at the end of last season was conducted in perfectly amicable circumstances. In fact Inui failed miserably at Betis, despite the fact that his style of play suited theirs, clearly one of the reasons  why Quique Setién fancied him, only to subsequently leave him rotting on the bench. Continue reading “The Horny Zombies of Getafe”

All you need is hope and love

There’s plenty to talk about this weekend, although many columns have already been filled regarding the ‘clásico week’.  The problem, however, with too much focus on the terrible twins is that it can detract from other worthy stuff in Spain, of which there was plenty at the weekend. Continue reading “All you need is hope and love”