Gluttony before Christmas

Preview of La Liga’s 17th round of fixtures

In his last column, Phil commented how odd this round of fixtures is. Indeed, the first match is to be played on Tuesday and the last on Saturday, which makes for a very long “weekend”.

That said, it’s a cracking set of matches: the 17th round includes El Clasico, the Galician derby, the “other” Madrid – Barcelona derby between Atletico and Espanyol, the Valencian Community derby between Valencia and Villarreal, two duels involving Sevilla teams and Basque teams, a relegation thriller with Malaga visiting Alaves… Continue reading “Gluttony before Christmas”

Something special for Christmas

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”

We need you, Basques

Preview of La Liga’s 16th week

derby vasco

With the obvious depressing state of Basque football, the fight over a top six finish in La Liga seems already settled for the rest of the season. Unless something shocking happens in the next couple of months, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Villarreal, Valencia and Atlético de Madrid will end the tournament in spots that give access to European football next season, while the rest of the clubs will have to fight to avoid relegation or die of boredom in mid table.  Continue reading “We need you, Basques”

Life in La Liga yet

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.

laliga-villarreal-barcelona-0-2-expulsion-dani-raba-1512946138108

Continue reading “Life in La Liga yet”

The Champions Club

Preview of La Liga’s 15th week

Last Tuesday, the coolest wife on earth had her birthday. Her present, received with utter happiness, was a short trip to Barcelona and a couple of tickets to see Lionel Messi live at ‘his’ own stadium.

Lio Camp Nou
Priceless

Initially disappointed because her idol was on the bench, she – plus the rest of the Camp Nou, and even the languid Sporting de Portugal – lit up when the diminutive playmaker joined the match in the second half. Despite the cold evening, the experience was well worth the trip. Watching Messi get the ball in a dangerous area and feel the whole stadium contain their breath simultaneously in anticipation is one of those precious little things that every football fan enjoys, no matter which team they support.

Continue reading “The Champions Club”

Poor pitches, combi players and the rabbit’s tail

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”