Morbo Minute–Regular Service is Resumed

There were midweek games last week.  I struggled through Granada v FCB.  The Blaugrana were sluggish and only prevailed on a wonderful free kick by Xavi.  Elisa at Forza Futbol suggested fatigue, and she might be on to something.  I will mention some other factors later as well.  I also caught Atletico Madrid’s trip to San Mames.  After a balanced first half with a slight edge to the hosts, Los Leones came to life right from the second half whistle and were rewarded with two quick goals from Llorente (he was almost subbed in the first half) 20 minutes into the half.  Atletico had no reply and were overwhelmed for the rest of the match losing 3-0.

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As for this weekend. . .

Levante finally lost, and now Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are back on top, the positions they will finish the season.  As for the Granotes, the feel good story from Valencia, their story will now be whether they will remain in the top half of the table or begin their inexorable shame spiral down the table a la Hull City in 2008/09.

FCB were back among the goals.  Watching the highlights, the Blaugrana rang rings around Mallorca scoring what looked like simple goals but had everything to do with movement, finishing and composure.  As for Real Madrid, they got an early goal against Real Sociedad and ground out the result, which should put them in good stead as they mount their challenge against the champions.

Sid Lowe wrote his eulogy for the Expendables of Levante after they suffered their first loss of the season and fell to third in the table.  For the first quarter of the season, they were THE story of the league, but now their time is up, and everyone can go back to ramping up for el clasico and who will win the Pichichi race between Messi and CR7.

Phil Ball wrote a great piece this week, tying in a youth coaching experience to the Real Sociedad v Real Madrid game. He argues that the Txuri-urdin should have gone for it, or at least not have parked the bus so obviously and awkwardly from a personnel perspective.  Nice thought but I point him to Espnayol last year at the Nou Camp or even this year v Real Madrid to a certain extent.  If you poke the bear, you will not win.  The only two teams that have stood up to Barcelona toe to toe last year were Valencia and Villarreal, and only because they had the pace and technical ability to do so.  This year if you do that to Real Madrid they will eat you alive.

Staying with Los Merengues, Madridista Mac had another excellent review of the Real Madrid game and weaved in some very telling statements concerning the current squad and their eternal enemy.  Besides breaking down Mourinho’s tactics, including player movements and team goals (especially scoring first which has served as a tremendous platform for Los Merengues this season) thus far this season and how Real Sociedad was able to frustrate them for long stretches, he laid out how to win the real goal—the league:

Now all we need to do is to keep piling the points on -especially as the cules struggle with injuries, fatigue and possibly form issues. If we can head into the December clasico with a comfy lead (at least 4 points), it will allow us the advantage of playing without fear of losing and only the objective of winning. Win that, and they face their annual January fitness blues (recovering from the Club World Cup) further behind us and that just might be the cushion we need to win La Liga.

Alex Grant at El Centrocampista took a couple of minutes to remind everyone that even though Real Madrid are off to fantastic start, hitting the high notes with the usual suspects plus Coentrao and even Kaka, they still have Nuri Sahin on the bench, who has yet to make an appearance this season.  I hope he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle like Granero and Canales and Gago.  Easy to say be patient but look around.  Can he really wait until next summer’s pre-season to stake his claim?  Interesting to see how this shakes out.

As for the Blaugrana, Kxevin at Barcelona Football Blog summarized everything over the last week perfectly.  Messi and the team had been off in the last couple of matches but they managed to find the next gear against an opponent who was useless and normal service was resumed.  He also mentioned a source of concern for me, which is Villa’s lack of finishing lately.  Hopefully it is just a blip and he starts finding the back of the next towards the end of the month and heading into December (ie AC Milan and Real Madrid).  He also highlights Pep bringing along the next generation: Thiago, Cuenca and Deulofeu.  Remember a couple of years ago, no one knew who Pedro was and in 24 months he won everything two or three times at club level and was on the Spanish World Cup squad.  Injuries are a concern and that is why La Masia must continue to churn out ready made replacements.

Sid Lowe commented on the Guardian’s Football Weekly that Guardiola is concerned about the physical condition of the squad, the thinness of the squad and the Puyol/Pique partnership, considering that neither have been fit this season and it affects how the team plays from intensity to possession.

Maxwell at SpanishFootball.info chimed in on the lack of goals at FCB.  He pinpoints their policy of possession and that they must perform at a very high level to turn this into dominance.  Teams the were able to attack them (Valencia) or stay well organized and a little lucky (AC Milan and Sevilla) are able to blunt the attack and get something out of the match.  However, if FCB are all on song, then the opponent will have to be extremely fortunate to walk away with anything but a thrashing and that is the drama of the season.  Can Barcelona hit top gear every match?  That’s what it will take to win the league this year because Real Madrid have the hunger, the frustration and the right tactical framework to regain the title.  Game on!!

Finally, thoughts have to go out to the Yellow Submarine.  The guys at VillarrealUSA.com posted this injury list:

  • Cani – Sprain to the right internal ligament – OUT 6 weeks
  • Marco Ruben – strained left adductor – OUT for City, doubtful for Espanyol (Sunday)
  • Camuñas – bruised right fibula – Doubtful for City
  • Marcos Senna – left hamstring – will be rested for City & Espanyol to be back after the FIFA break
  • Plus Rossi could be out for up to six months

OUCH!!

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There are great English language podcasts out there.  Here are a couple I listened to this week:

Forza Futbol had Jorge Zuazola on from the Spanish Leadership.  He was a great interview with several strong opinions:

  • Who will be on the Spanish National Team at Euro 2012?  He feels that Torres and Llorente could be on the outside looking in.
  • Zuazola gave this thoughts on the state of the league and said that fans won’t change, meaning they like supporting their local team and the Big Two.  It is not in the Big Two’s interest to divvy up the pie equally, which means, I add editorially, they will fight to keep the status quo so that they keep the rest of the league down and keep their advantage over other European sides.  He also mentioned that, in his opinion, the club team of choice has switched from Real Madrid to FC Barcelona.
  • Zuazola also brought up the US National Team.  He doesn’t think Klinsi will succeed and wanted to use the Spanish model to move the US forward.

SpanishFootball.info put up their latest pod and gave their thoughts on the everyone’s surprise package Levante.  The panel also discussed Sevilla’s early start, including their unbeaten run, the draw against FCB, and keeping several clean sheets.  Finally, they looked at Villarreal’s disappointing season thus far and wondered if the finger should be pointed at Garrido.  They also isolated the team’s lack of movement and fluidity and Nilmar’s injury.

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Finally, looking ahead to Round 11, there are some intruiging clashes.  In particular I would interested in seeing Betis (in absolute free fall) against Malaga and Espanyol v Villarreal.  Unfortunately these are not on US TV or legal internet services.  Here is what I found.  (All Times EST).  Bilbao hosting FCB looks tasty, and I’m hoping to watch Levante v Valencia before LSU/Alabama.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2011

1:00 ET           Mallorca            v          Sevilla FC                  GOL TV              

3:00 ET           Real Betis         v          Málaga             

5:00 ET           Levante            v          Valencia                    ESPN3                     

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2011

6:00 ET           Real Madrid       v          Osasuna                  GOL TV (replayed at 9:30am)             

10:00 ET         Granada            v          Racing Santander                     

10:00 ET         Real Zaragoza   v          Sporting Gijon          ESPN3    

12:00 ET         Espanyol           v          Villarreal                       

12:00 ET         Rayo Vallecano v          Real Sociedad              

2:00 ET           Athletic Bilbao   v          Barcelona           ESPN3            

4:00 ET           Getafe               v          Atlético Madrid         GOL TV    

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