A jolly good game

Giving referee Hernández Hernández the clásico was a bit like expecting Neville Chamberlain to sort out the mess in Europe, circa 1938, but at least it guaranteed some extra entertainment.  It makes you wonder what criteria the refereeing committee consult for this kind of occasion, but at least we were spared Mateu Lahoz, busy flexing his cheek-whistling muscles for Russia.  Continue reading “A jolly good game”

Derbies and Clásico

Preview of La Liga’s 36th week

There’s pretty much nothing left to play for in La Liga. The winner, the Champions League spots, the Europa League spots and the relegated sides won’t change much from now until the end of the season. But there’s more than rankings in football, right? Pride, bragging rights, TV money… Continue reading “Derbies and Clásico”

Headed for another classic

Preview of Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich

Last week, Zidane faced a real dilemma when considering his team’s starting line-up for Munich. This week, a couple of injuries have reduced his options, and therefore one can guess his formation at the Santiago Bernabeu with a very small margin of error. Continue reading “Headed for another classic”

Barcelona win La Liga… and lose Iniesta

Preview of La Liga’s 35th week

I know well I’m the Latin half of this blog, and therefore I should defend logic such as “The ref must adapt his decisions to the moment of match, the behavior of the teams and the specific players” or “That team deserved to get to extra time, so why blowing the whistle for that late, late penalty against them”, or even “How can you show two yellows to the same player in the first nine minutes of a match?”. Continue reading “Barcelona win La Liga… and lose Iniesta”

Zidane’s dilemma

Another Champions League semifinals, another meeting between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Both clubs have already played 24 times in the top continental tournament, but it never gets old. So far, 12 wins for Bayern, 10 for Real Madrid and only two draws. Similarly to any other major derby, the specific circumstances of each team don’t really matter: when they play each other, nothing is off the cards.

There’s plenty of angles to discuss this matchup. An obvious one is James Rodriguez, who went from supersub under Zidane to outstanding starter under Heynckes, who is finally getting the most out of the gifted Colombian. The Germans’ need for revenge must also be part of any preview about this fixture, as Real Madrid have won at the Alliance in their last two visits, one of them in stunning fashion (4-0) back in 2014, when no other than Pep Guardiola occupied Bayern’s bench.

However, the main running subplot in this column’s humble opinion is Zidane’s dilemma regarding his tactical formation / starting xi to face the in-shape Germans. Continue reading “Zidane’s dilemma”

Annual anthem-whistling

It’s been a hectic football-full week.  I got back to Spain from Moscow in the early hours of Thursday morning but awoke from slumbers 16 hours later to effect a quick motorbike trip to Anoeta to see Real Sociedad aggressively annihilate Atlético Madrid and become the first side to score three against them in a league game this season.

Three days later, with a much-changed side, Real Sociedad lost to relegated Málaga without committing a single foul – the first time this has happened in La Liga since 2003.  To  continue the Russian theme – it’s Tolstoy football – war then peace.  Then came Saturday night and the King’s Cup Final, the annual attempt by the Spanish authorities to find some musicians who can play the national anthem, preceded by the ministerial letter to TVE1, Spain’s main public channel, to remind them to turn down the volume during the ritual whistling of the monarchy – this year King Felipe VI in the Willy Wonka Metropolitano stadium, the ground of the team (Atlético) that he allegedly supports.  I hope he was watching the 3-0 defeat on the telly last Thursday, assuming they can afford the subscription at the palace. Continue reading “Annual anthem-whistling”