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.
If you follow La Liga, during the week you’ve probably read a few comments about the death of Enrique Castro, ‘Quini’, a Spanish football legend who played for Sporting de Gijón and Barcelona in the 70s and 80s. He’s one of the first Barcelona players I can remember as a kid, a fast and skilled striker who always looked a bit too old to perform as well as he did on the pitch. Continue reading “Barcelona and Atleti play for the title”
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.
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”