Matchday 13

Xavi comes back home

Xavi is back!

Let that sink in.

Xavi. Is. Back.

This is great news. We get to add a new romantic element to all the existing narrative about Barcelona’s thoroughbred DNA, Cruyff, Pep, Dream Teams, heritage, percentage possession wins, positional football… Now Xavi’s comeback from his long exile suffering in Qatar also becomes a part of the story.

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Looks like fun

In late August, many of us thought this would eventually become a fun season and it does seem as though the entertainment will last… unless you’re a Barcelona fan. Well, even if you support the Azulgrana you can’t say they’re boring, but there’s indeed plenty of room for improvement and good news in general.

The fact is that Real Sociedad lead the standings – and have done so for the last three matches –, that there are five teams separated by four points, and that the three successful winners of the title in the last 18 seasons (Valencia was the last club not named Real Madrid, Barcelona or Atletico de Madrid able to conquer LaLiga) – look hesitant and interestingly inconsistent.

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Your own personal quiniela (someone to hear your prayers)

Jornada 12

This is going to have to be a quickie, said the actor to the whomsoever.  That’s because I’m in a hotel room in Tallin (Estonia) and they’re going to kick me out in about an hour.  Don’t worry – there’s no actor in the room, but a sleepy Whatsapp from Eduardo as I munched on my brekkies this morning was pleading with me to do this….so I will, before the flight to Spain this afternoon.

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Huffin’ and puffin’

That was the weekend that was, although the Camp Nou clásico turned out to be something of a damp squib – not that anyone was complaining to the wild west in Madrid.  Barcelona huffed and puffed but they never really blew Madrid’s house down, and by the time Agüero had scored his first for the hosts in his first clásico, the dice had settled.   Madrid stay second, a point shy of Real Sociedad (more of them in a moment) and can be pleased with the way they coped with Koeman’s predictable tactics. 

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Matchday 10

Barcelona: too much responsibility on the shoulders of the young?

No digression today. There’s a Barça Madrid this weekend! And even if it’s never an easy call, it’s hard to remember a moment as lopsided as this. Barcelona do look like a club on the brink of implosion: the financial situation, the coach’s relationship with the fans, the stadium falling apart, the request for additional credit to build a new stadium when it’s already hard making ends meet with the current debt. And yet, there’s still a handful of young players wearing the Azulgrana who could make this a hard outing for Real Madrid…

Shall we? Let’s start. Remember, it’s ‘1’ for a home win, ‘X’ for a draw and ‘2’ for an away win.

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Of Rats and Ants

Let’s begin with a rant, which is always a jolly good way to end the weekend.  The word ‘rant’ contains a rat and an ant, the former perhaps characterising the two teams from Madrid who decided not to play this weekend, and the latter the obedient non-thinking workers of La Liga who would prefer not to upset the more powerful members of the nest. 

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Matchday 9

I must confess I’m quite enjoying Luis Enrique’s Spain. I know, I am a Real Madrid supporter and should be outraged because the opinionated Asturiano is not keen on our top-level Spanish talent: Nacho, Lucas Vazquez, Asensio, Isco… In addition to that, word has it that Lucho is selecting players represented by some close friends of his, which according to some is the only reason why Gavi, for instance, made the last list.

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Entertaining, but not painless

Is this the LaLiga we expected?

LaLiga is quickly becoming all that we expected before this season started. The theoretical top three (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico) struggle to win theoretically winnable matches, whereas the following group of teams (Real Sociedad, as well as Sevilla and Villarreal, who both have a game in hand) have quickly become potential contenders for the title. On top of that, a couple of nice surprises in the form of Osasuna and Rayo occupy Europa League spots, while Athletic, Valencia and Betis have shown promising glimpses of what they could become if they achieved some sort of consistency.

However, there’s a slightly disappointing touch to the whole thing so far, as though watching the bigger teams play terrible football took some brilliance out of the increased competitiveness of the tournament.

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Matchday 7

Koeman’s bed & breakfast, and stateless sheriffs

Three things are inevitable this weekend:  I’ll forget where I’ve put my underpants, the cock will crow at the onset of dawn, and Barcelona will win at Atlético. You may scoff at the latter, but both Eduardo and myself agree on the inevitability of this result, which means that you’ll get at least one correct on this weekend’s quiniela

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Matchday 6

Can Koeman win?

Assume you’re Ronald Koeman. You’ve lost your best player the very last day of the transfer window, and he wasn’t just a great player. Messi is arguably the most influential playmaker in decades, which is important because the rest of the team had grown accustomed to playing FOR him, to following his flow. It’s not like losing a fantastic centre-forward or an insistent full back. Barcelona’s approach to playing football during the last decade was Messi, what he wanted to do or could do, much more than it was Guardiola, Cruyff or positional play.

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