I’m not quite sure where to start tonight, at Lugo or in the Bernabéu. Oh alright then, let’s go over to the White House, where the present occupants are all smiling again after stuffing ‘Doctor Deportivo’ 7-1 (thus called for their so-called ‘aspirin effect’ on suffering teams). Continue reading “White-House press briefing”
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”
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”
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.
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”
Some young players have a special gift for announcing their presence to the football world. Dani Raba, hitherto a player floating quietly on the margins of Villarreal’s first team, decided on Sunday night to leave his calling card in the possession of Sergi Busquets, and the rest, as they say…..could be history. Up to that point in the 60th minute of the game at La Ceramica, Villarreal were beginning to struggle a little and the sand of the game might have slipped through their fingers anyway, but as Busquets flew, so did the home side’s chances of taking anything from the game. Twelve minutes later, Luis Suarez scored the inevitable, followed ten minutes later by the even more inevitable second from Messi. A third successive game without a win would have left Barcelona’s flank more vulnerable, especially with the clásico now visible on the horizon. As it stands, despite Raba’s contribution, the league is still alive.
Phil Ball analyses the weekend in La Liga.
Maybe it’s because my kids are away at university now and I’ve got too much time on my hands, but I’ve been watching a lot of old footy-related stuff on Youtube recently, and it’s always educational. And some of the stuff I’ve seen this past week fits nicely with some of the themes that have some up during this latest weekend in Spain. Continue reading “Poor pitches, combi players and the rabbit’s tail”
It was as an interesting weekend in La Liga, and not simply because Valencia were playing Barcelona. One of the side-shows at the fair was Villarreal v Sevilla, important for its Europa League implications next season perhaps, but also because at this stage of the campaign a possible defeat for Barcelona was destined to give hope to the winners elsewhere. Sevilla’s thermo-nuclear comeback against Liverpool in midweek, after trailing 0-3 at the break, put one in mind of Liverpool’s own similar feat in the Champions League in 2005 in Istanbul, except that was in a final , of course. Continue reading “Ghost goal keeps La Liga alive”
Who would have thought, dear readers – who would have thought that we would be looking at Sunday November 26th as the decisive date on the La Liga calendar? And just in case you’re not with me yet, at 20.45 on that same evening, Valencia entertain Barcelona in a game that may have more significance than the clásico that follows it a month later, on Saturday December 23 in the Bernabéu – the day before Santa starts checking that his sleigh is airworthy. Can anything have more significance than the clásico? It would appear to be the case this season, especially after the events of this weekend.
I’d just got back from the Basque derby between Real Sociedad and Eibar, jumping off the late bus with my neighbour and scout Vicente Biurrun into the fangs of a howling gale. Biurrun is an ex-professional – and suitably prepared for inclement weather as all good goalies are, he’d opened his brolly into the gale and beckoned me into its protection, but the wind got the better of the situation and almost wrenched it out of his large keeper’s hands. Biurrun packed in the game in 1995, the year my son was born, a year that produced an extraordinary crop of midfield players in the Gipuzkoa region of the Basque Country, several of whom are now playing at the top level. Another of this crop had just made his debut, coming on for Eibar in the 60th minute, replacing Kike with the score at 3-0 to Sociedad. Continue reading “Emotional Rescue”