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”
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.
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.
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”
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”
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.
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.
After a shambolic midweek performance by several sides, only 12 La Liga teams will be included in the pool for the last-16 round of the Copa del Rey. Athletic de Bilbao and Real Sociedad managed to lose at home to Third Division sides and crashed out of the tournament in embarrassing fashion. Betis lost 5-3 to Cadiz at their own stadium and were also eliminated. Continue reading “Copa del Rey virus”
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”
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”