Morbo Minute–The Evil Empire marches on

Week 13 produced some great games and important results, but basically this was the week that the Big Two cut the rest of the league adrift.  Valencia are now four points down to FCB and seven behind Real Madrid.  Any drama is over for a third challenger.  As for results, Real Madrid passed their first test, away to Valencia; Athletic Bilbao are unbeaten in their last 11 in all competitions; Atletico Madrid survived against early leaders Levante; Gijon won three vital points in their bid for survival; and Malaga got back on track with a win in the Monday match. For a brief overview of all the matches from the last round, check out A Different Liga.

In addition, Phil Ball expanded on the weaving of football and Spanish politics from his book Morbo in his weekly column for soccernet.com.  I don’t pretend to understand everything, but based on what I read, these two things cannot be separated and they color the league as a whole.  He gave some quick comments on the big match between Valencia and Real Madrid; commented on the Jedi like nature of Messi; and made brief mention of the bizarre circumstances at the Granada and Mallorca game (assistant referee was hit by an umbrella and the game halted).

La Liga Loca praised Real Madrid, Messi, Athletic Bilbao and Soldado while putting the fork in both Seville teams.

—————

Saturday provided me with a triple header of footy, which I started with Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund match before diving into La Liga.

FC Barcelona 4  Real Zaragoza 0

A game after the International Break and we all know what that means for the Blaugrana. A struggle. Due to injury and squad rotation, Pep started Cuenca, Messi and Alexis up top. FCB were in control from the off, with chance after chance, but the Blaugrana were not quite sharp enough, as Fabregas played in Messi, who couldn’t quite reach the cross, and Puyol missed a header.  On 18′ Xavi whipped in a free kick that Piqué nodded home. The Zaragoza goalkeeper was busy saving several chances from Messi and Alexis, and Messi finally put some distance between FCB and the visitors as he hung around in their defense and Fabregas played him in to put FCB up 2-0.  The halftime whistle came with Zaragoza having one chance on goal and offering very little going forward.

To be honest, I skipped the second half.  I had a late night before, had been raking leaves all morning, and, with the game in hand, wanted to be fresh for Valencia/Real Madrid.  I followed the game on twitter and took a nap while the one way traffic continued, with Puyol adding a third and Villa a fourth.  Next up is AC Milan on Wednesday.

Total Barca was pleased with FCB’s performance on Saturday, noting their intensity after an International Break.  While they started fast and kept the hammer down, it was their finishing that led to the easy victory because the Zaragoza keeper played well and kept them in it for a while.  Total Barca did note that:

This game proved that international breaks will not always affect our team so drastically; in fact, Guardiola was able to manage his players in a very balanced way so none of them would be too exhausted for Wednesday’s Champions League match. Overall, another vital three points were collected without compromising the strength of the team – a pretty successful outing, especially after an international break.

Kxevin at Barcelona Football Blog was bored with the game like me.  Once FCB get the first, unless the opponent has a way to fight back, it’s a long afternoon/evening of chasing the ghosts.  And when the Blaugrana are sharp (not razor sharp against Zaragoza it has to be said) then the viewer is just waiting for another manita.  His ratings were interesting.  Totally agree that Sanchez has been average since joining the squad.  I’m holding judgment until a run of games or his role is defined.  Perhaps impact sub.  As for using Cuenca instead of Pedro, I disagree.  The sooner he plays, the sooner FCB hit top gear.  Maxwell and the midfielders did have a good match, and this was a perfect opportunity for Keita, who once again showed his value to the squad.

As I was putting this post together, I came across some intriguing comments from Guillem Balague about David Villa’s future at FCB.  He usually gets it right and his statements, combined with supposed tension between Villa and Messi reported before the Break, makes his exit (to England) seem more and more likely.

Valencia 2  Real Madrid 3

Valencia came out with a lot of pressure and energy and put Los Blancos on the back foot at the start.  Ozil was not the same on the right and what chances were created fell to Khedira because of his advanced role, but he is not necessarily a finisher. Real Madrid came into the match and a momentary lapse gave Los Merengues the advantage at halftime.  Physical play and crunching tackles were at the forefront as the second half opened, and it looked like the match was descending into a rough and tumble, white knuckle 1-0 until Ramos knocked in a header, which kicked off the contest.  Soldado then responded with a fantastic finish after a scramble.  With the hosts on the up, another mistake set them back as Alves went on a walkabout and CR7 punished him. When all was almost lost, Soldado ghosted in to make it 3-2 after great work from Pablo Hernandez.  A frenetic finish saw a denied equalizer after a correct offside decision, the cross bar rattled and then a questionable handball on the ensuing melee in the box. The Real Madrid players celebrated as if they had won the league, and this huge win has the whites with the momentum.

Madridista Mac seemed proud of Los Merengues performance against Valencia.  With many things stacked against them—injuries, tactics, hostile environment—Real Madrid responded with a hard fought win.  It was not their best match of the season, but this is how league titles are won.  His breakdown of the tactics and formations for both sides revealed what I was not able to see during the match, namely that Marcelo was shut down, and are worth a read after this compelling encounter.

Sid Lowe dove into the controversy that surrounded the final moments of the Valencia v Real Madrid match.  Depending on who you read and what you watch, your opinion on what Higuain did on the ground will be shaped.  To be honest, when I watched it I had no idea and then there was one quick replay that was not conclusive.  I moved on but clearly the Spanish press has not.

—————

As for the rest of the league . . .

Los Leones keep roaring, beating Sevilla 2-1 at the Sanchez Pizjuan.  Des Norris at spanishfootball.info gave a quick synopsis.  As La Liga Loca noted in his Monday column, “A good start to the season is fizzling away, with Sevilla now without a victory six matches.”  One of Forza Football’s latest pods focused on Sevilla’s start to the season and how promising it looked.  Two weeks on and dreams of Europe could already by fading.

I wasn’t able to catch Atletico Madrid’s game against Levante, so I read the match review at Atleti Fans.  Los Colchoneros got three vital points before their clash against Real on Saturday.  Levante, on the other hand, are in free fall, and need to pick up points before the Winter Break or they could be in real trouble come spring.  Looks like the pizza and beer has worn off.

—————

Here are some odds and ends about La Liga that I have come across lately . . .

Alex at El Centrocampista reflected on Butragueño’s time at Real Madrid, when he turned the club around, leading them to five straight league titles.  A finisher of the highest order from club and country, he shares more similarities with Messi than with Ronaldo: a winner, enjoyed by friend and foe alike, and a product of the youth system.  Phil Ball argued this week that Benzema is Butragueño’s heir in the white of Real Madrid.

SpanishFootball.info did some statistical analysis of La Liga thus far this season and over the last five years, and came up with a startling conclusion:

So far this season, the average of goals scored is 2.54, and if we don’t take into consideration the usual Barça and Madrid’s thrashings, we get a poor average of 2.19 goals scored in those games between the rest of the teams in the league. A number that would keep away any football fan from watching La Liga.

While La Liga has been having around third in goals per game in the big five leagues, this year they have fallen to fourth, and the author argues that things are not looking better.  Once again, the financial discrepancy between the Big Two and the rest of the league is evident.  Only FCB and Real Madrid can get better, basically buying the other team’s best players, making the strong stronger and the weak weaker.  No wonder that games between teams in the bottom are lucky to have one goal in them.

On a recent Forza Futbol pod, Elisa mentioned that a movie about El Clasico was recently released.  She had a chance to see and did a quick post, which includes a link to buying the film. The trailer is spectacular and I can’t wait to pick up a copy.  Hopefully Santa or one of his underlings will hook me up.

I found this article that Sid Lowe wrote for SI.com about Spain’s friendly with England.  He talked to a bunch of different La Liga coaches who all agreed that, despite defeat, Spain are on the right track.  Lowe mentioned many variables about why Spain lost the match, but focuses more on how Spain can and must change up aspects of their play in order to be successful. Germany has youth, hunger and form and will surely be Spain’s biggest competition come the summer.  Yet if they don’t have the ball how can use these things?  That to me is the story of the Euros.

Advertisements
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: