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.Continue reading “Matchday 9”
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.Continue reading “Matchday 6”
Get ready for a few upsets
The weekend after a set of fixtures in the European competitions is always ripe for upsets. And if you throw in the fact that the traditional top three (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico) haven’t looked themselves since the season started, this could be the first matchday in which all three fail to win their games. That is indeed a rare combination, however one which this column believes will happen several times this campaign.Continue reading “Matchday 5”
Bye, European Glory
One used to think that the balance of power in LaLiga was not good for the tournament itself, but great for European competitions. Let me explain: three top teams (Barcelona, Real Madrid and yes, Atletico as long as Simeone is their coach), five or six middle class who can compete with anyone on a given day (Sevilla, Villarreal, Athletic, Real Sociedad, Valencia and perhaps even Betis) and then the remaining teams who struggle to survive and get a famous win every once in a while. Three clear tiers with obvious consequences for the competition in Spain and the chances to challenge for a European title.Continue reading “Matchday 4”
When cachet still matters
And we’re back! Yes, a certain transfer market move by Real Madrid you’ve probably heard of may have a lot to do with my recent awakening from hibernation, but the fact is that the whole sequence of signings, farewells and the drama they’ve brought in the last few weeks makes it almost impossible for me to keep watching and not to write about it.
Review of La Liga’s 29th week
Every major – and probably minor – city in Spain has its own party week. Based on similar excuses, such as its patron saint or the anniversary of its foundation, mayors spend tons of cash to organise huge celebrations. Working becomes impossible, with the main streets packed with locals and visitors, and the beer flowing like wine. Continue reading “Fallas weekend”
Preview of La Liga’s 28th week
Since Neymar left Barcelona, Ernesto Valverde has progressively evolved towards a 4-4-2 formation that now seems untouchable, with Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets in the centre of midfield. Azulgrana purists complain around the world, shaking their heads in disbelief, but the team defends better than many of its previous versions, and its results are impeccable so far.
Preview of La Liga’s 19th week
I’m sure we all agree: one of the most frustrating aspects of modern football is the development of a generation of players and coaches trained to say absolutely nothing during an interview. Able to speak like politicians, they avoid anything remotely similar to uttering a real opinion about other teams, teammates, coaches and anything that could somehow get them into trouble. Continue reading “Speak up”
Valverde and Zidane made the difference in El Clasico
After a few days packed with overreactions to the Madrid-Barça, it’s time to cut through the clutter and see what’s next for both clubs. Granted that the following reflections have matured as my closest relatives and friends kept filling my glass with top-quality wines and spirits – pretty much any wine that you drink with someone you love improves immensely –, so some of these comments might belong to different phases of the drunken state. In any case, I do believe that the effect of the alcohol has enrichened the depth of these thoughts, rather than the opposite.
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”