Morbo Minute–Levante LeapFrog the Big Two

See what I did there?

What a weekend.  Although I didn’t see as much as I would have liked, between highlights and match reports, you would almost think there was healthy competition in the league instead of the doom and gloom that has been going on for the last year and a half (Scotland 2.0, Two Table League, why are they even playing these matches, etc.)

Sid Lowe put Sevilla goalkeeper Javi Vargas in the spotlight after his heroic performance against FCB in a 0-0 draw.  A late bloomer, playing only his 49th league match at the age of 29.  Never give up I suppose.

La Liga Loca made a note that Espanyol notched their second straight victory, which has got them climbing up the table (8th before the midweek matches).  He also mentioned that the Racing Santander owner is being investigated by Interpol, which raised my eyebrows.  Interpol started the inquiry of Ahsan Ali Syed following complaints of alleged financial cheating and breach of promise in various deals made through his firm Western Gulf Advisory.  Yikes.

Phil Ball moved from his discussion of the media punta last week to the technically adept center backs like Mascherano, Pique and Sergio Ramos (when he plays there for Real Madrid), and how this position is reshaping the Spanish game.  As he went to the drab draw between Real Sociedad and Getafe, there wasn’t much else to talk about.

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As for the Big Two . . .

Madridista Mac reviewed Real Madrid’s imperious performance against the nouveau riche club of Malaga.  Mourinho slightly changed the tactics of Los Merengues, with his squad passing more on the counter instead of depending on CR7’s pace and moving the line very high up the pitch to nullify Joaquin and Cazorla.  The result was 45 minutes of incisive, razor sharp attacking which netted four goals.  Real Madrid are now in second with el clasico only about 45 days away.

As for FC Barcelona, I read the reviews at Total Barca and Barca Offside.  I don’t understand the 3-4-3 with Adriano on the wing.  Seems like they beat Villarreal with it and it became the new thing, yet whenever they use it now, they struggle and have to revert to the 4-3-3 (Valencia and Sevilla as examples).  Pep is always trying to find permutations so that the squad does not become stale or predictable, so if they are not going to alter their system for anyone, then see it out and do it.  Some of it is based on injuries, but with Mascherano stepping up as a center back, they can run a 4-3-3 and get it done.  Again, it comes down to the finishing.  I’m gathering stats, but basically FCB has 70-75% of the possession but have been hit and miss in terms of goals.  If a goalkeeper is hot in the case of the Sevilla, then what do they do?    Messi has scored a ton of goals, but he has off days and I really feel that Villa should be scoring more.  He wastes a lot of chances, when he is not offside.

I watched Barca control the game against Granada Tuesday afternoon, and if not for a stunning Xavi free kick, the Blaugrana would have gone scoreless for the second straight match, and that was against a relegation candidate with only 10 men for half an hour.  As for their eternal rival, they play Villarreal Wednesday afternoon, then a couple more patsies.  After the international break, their schedule goes Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Gijon, Barca, Sevilla.   That will tell us a little more about Los Blancos and where the title might end up.

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Standings after 8 matches:

  P W D L GD PTS
Levante 8 6 2 0 11 20
Real Madrid 8 6 1 1 22 19
Barcelona 8 5 3 0 22 18
Sevilla 8 4 4 0 4 16
Valencia 8 4 3 1 3 15
Málaga 8 4 1 3 -1 13
Betis 8 4 0 4 -3 12
Espanyol 8 4 0 4 -4 12
Atlético 8 2 4 2 2 10
Osasuna 8 2 4 2 -6 10
Athletic 8 2 3 3 0 9
Mallorca 8 2 3 3 -2 9
Rayo 8 2 3 3 -3 9
R Zaragoza 8 2 3 3 -7 9
R Sociedad 8 2 2 4 -3 8
Villarreal 8 1 4 3 -7 7
Getafe 8 1 3 4 -4 6
Granada 8 1 2 5 -8 5
Sporting 8 1 1 6 -7 4
Racing 8 0 4 4 -9 4

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In other news . . .

Alex Grant at El Centrocampista took a look at the average ages of the top three, which made for some interesting reading.

  • Levante:  30.63 (including a defensive line of Ballasteros, Juanfran, Javi Venta and Nano, who are all above 30)
  • Real Madrid: 25.27 (Mourinho’s emphasis on quick, counter attacking football has seen an influx of youth and pace into the Bernabeu.)
  • Barcelona:  26.45

I came across this little tidbit at adifferentliga.  As one of the editors of VillarrealUSA posted: Garrido did not force Santi Cazorla to leave, place us in the Group of Death, and ask our best players to disappear. I have plenty of disagreements with Garrido, but hardly anyone is on form right now. Look in the mirror, boys.

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Podcasts

Graham Hunter was on Off the Ball last Thursday and talked about the fitness of Iniesta and Puyol at FCB.  He had some interesting comments as these influential players try to stay on the pitch and off the training table.

Fernando Palomo of ESPN Deportes was on ForzaFutbol to discuss his path in the media industry, which was fascinating.  Then they moved on to discuss La Liga and how to fix the league, a constant topic this season.  Again, even TV money distribution was discussed as well as announcing the match schedule farther in advance.  As for the Big Two, Palomo made this comment: FCB games are better, bordering on art, but Real Madrid games are more entertaining, which I thought was kind of interesting.  The tiki taka of FCB is amazing but can alternate between boring as they crush an opponent with a hat full of goals or frustrating as the goals will not come no matter how much possession they have.

Sid Lowe was on Beyond the Pitch.  He covered a lot of ground as usual:

  • There is still fallout from the Laudrup leaving Real Mallorca.
  • Villarreal and their emotional state.
  •          Can they pick themselves up after a devastating loss to Manchester City?
  •          Can they hold on to players in the next two transfer windows?
  • TV money and eroding fan support were discussed.  This, coupled with the impending financial crisis in Europe, means the next one to three years could be dicey for La Liga in terms of revenue.
  • Bielsea’s progress at Athletic Bilbao was brought up.
  • The competition between Ozil and Kaka at Real Madrid was talked about.

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Isaiah from Barcelona Football Blog posted on the soccernet.com blog about the problems facing La Liga, in particular the beatings some of the teams have taken at the hands of FCB and Real Madrid.  A couple of weeks ago, I asked the same question on my blog about Barcelona in particular.  For the Racing/FCB game, I didn’t even make an effort to watch the game live or on replay. Instead I waited for Levante v Malaga on Sunday for my La Liga game that weekend.

The only reason to watch Racing/FCB match was that it was after an international break, where the Blaugrana usually struggle. Unless FCB are playing a real team (Real Madrid, or Valencia (best game of season so far) or Villarreal, who are down this year) or a supposed pretender (Malaga or Levante possibly) then the result is almost assured.

As for the league in general, there are compelling games, you just have to hunt them down—Basque derby, Valencian derbies, relegation battles (already).  If you want to watch Real Madrid or FCB, watch them in the Champions League; then you will see them tested (sometimes).

Of course, as soon as I say this, they struggle away to Gijon and then Sevilla go to the Nou Camp and get a draw, Barcelona’s third of the season.  The problem for the champions this season is turning their dominance into goals.  They routinely have 65 to 75% but they have only turned this into thrashings 4 times out of their 8 matches thus far.  When FCB and Real Madrid hit the high notes, the gap is evident and marked, but so far this season, teams that are organized, fit and a little bit lucky can get something from Pep’s Team.  Just something to think about.

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OK.  Think that’s enough.  Enjoy the midweek games, then a full slate on the weekend, highlighted by, well just watch the games.  Maybe a slumping Malaga against a rising Espanyol on Sunday might make for compelling television.

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    • Samuel Long
    • October 26th, 2011

    A comment from the Arsenal Facebook page: “Barca are getting too many injuries this season! Looks like it is the Cesc curse!”

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