Back to the 4-4-2

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.

raki busy
Two DMs playing for Barcelona? Who said Jehovah?

Continue reading “Back to the 4-4-2”

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”

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

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”

Valencia, the last obstacle between Barcelona and the title

Get ready for great Sunday action

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”

Boring Liga?


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.

Is the tournament becoming boring? Continue reading “Boring Liga?”

Michel, male manipulation, and bonkers Betis…..


Funny guy, José Miguel González Martín del Campo – better known as Michel and currently on most betting slips as the next coach who will be drawing unemployment benefit in Spain.  Well, he probably doesn’t need to draw his next wage slip from the state, having been employed for the last seven months by Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani, who’s not without a penny or two. But he’s entitled to, if he wants. He’s signed a contract until June 2018, so there’ll be a decent whack of severance pay if he’s shown the door after the team’s latest 0-2 defeat at home to the mighty Leganés.  Then again, one should not poke fun at the visitors, the victory being their third away from home this season, giving them a possible sniff of Europe and sixth place in the league as I tap at the keyboards on Sunday night. Continue reading “Michel, male manipulation, and bonkers Betis…..”