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”
Right before another international break, La Liga offers a somewhat underwhelming picture: an unassailable leader; a mild fight over Champions League spots; few real candidates to compete for Europa League positions; and a crystal clear bottom-three.
If we have to judge by their performance in Girona, Real Madrid seem determined to abandon all hopes of retaining their La Liga crown well before Christmas. Of course, there’s still plenty of tournament ahead, including two head-to-head matches against leaders Barcelona, but for lack of a better description, Zinedine Zidane’s team looks almost bored with the competition this season. Continue reading “Time for Zidane to step up”
Earlier this week, Tottenham Hotspurs’ coach Mauricio Pochettino said that “Our objective is to try to win the Premier League and the Champions League. For me, two real trophies”.
This column wholeheartedly agrees with Pochettino’s ambition. We only want to write about real trophies too. In the middle of the week, this scribe successfully avoided the temptation of jotting down a few lines about the Copa del Rey: nothing more boring than its two-legged, extremely uneven early stages. Continue reading “Real trophies”
For many of us, football takes up an inordinate amount of space and time in our lives. We devote hours and days to following news, watching matches and analysing results, no matter whether it is midweek or weekend, day or night, South American qualifiers for the World Cup or a Premier League match between two struggling sides on a rainy night, perhaps in Stoke.
However, sometimes real life yells out, shows you its uglier face, takes that mental space back and sends football back to what it should be: fantastic entertainment that deserves our attention only every once in a while. Continue reading “La Liga to the rescue”