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”
It may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not: the future of this La Liga season depends on a single match to be played on Sunday evening. Barcelona visit Valencia with a four-point advantage over the Ches and a 10-point lead over both Real Madrid and Atletico. If Barcelona win, it’s hard to imagine the chain of negative results that would see them lose the title. That sounds even more difficult when, with the exception of the somewhat inexperienced Valencia, the remaining candidates look far from their best shape, and therefore unlikely to start a running streak of wins that would put pressure on the Azulgranas. Continue reading “Valencia, the last obstacle between Barcelona and the title”
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.
The derby exemplified quite well why these two Madrid teams sit 10 points behind leaders Barcelona. Neither Real Madrid nor Atletico can score like they did in previous seasons, and that without major changes to their starting line-up in the summer. Their lack of goals has to do with the shape of their starters, although in the case of Real Madrid some may point to the reduced attacking alternatives from the bench now that Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez have left.
But the fact is that the same Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema that so well interpreted the service that Real Madrid’s midfield provided last season, and the same Antoine Griezmann who looked omnipresent in the final third for Atleti just a few months ago, now look completely disconnected from the rest of their teams, unable to find an opening in 90 minutes. Continue reading “Barcelona win the Madrid derby”
I don’t dislike international breaks one bit, especially when World Cup spots are at stake. Although the bunch of nil-nils was a bit disappointing, we got to see some feel-good stories and a few shocks, such as the Italian disaster. However, I’ll admit that these breaks do alter the pace of the national tournaments quite a bit and all they imply: analyses, gossip, team’s form, certain La Liga blog… Continue reading “A desperate Madrid derby”
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”
If we analyse the three matches Real Madrid played last week — Girona, Tottenham Hotspurs, UD Las Palmas –, only two Real Madrid starters looked in decent shape. In this case, “shape” includes not only their level of fitness, but also the amount of focus they put on the game itself and their level of motivation. Continue reading “Headed for a mediocre season?”