Morbo Minute–Frogs win, Lions lose, Blaugrana concede?

This weekend was not necessarily dedicated to La Liga, as my post on Monday revealed. Saturday was probably the turning point in this season’s campaign, with Barcelona suffering their first defeat in any competition since April, which puts them six points behind Real Madrid.  Sunday was an action packed day, with lots of goals and shock results.  I’ll get to  everything in good time.

Real Madrid 4  Atletico Madrid 1

An early turnover from Los Blancos led to the opening goal from the visitors, and, for a brief moment, the twitter was abuzz with the possibility of an actual game.  Then Benzema was taken out by Courtois, who received a straight red; CR7 converted to equalize; and basically the game was over.  Atletico survived until halftime but an early surge from Ronaldo found Di Maria who made no mistake and Real cruised from there.  The third came from a comedy of errors as an Atletico defender hit his clearance into Higuain who walked it in to make it 3-1.  Then a second red card (Godin), which was harsh in my opinion, and subsequent closed the scoring.  Atletico were the source of their demise (as usual) and Real Madrid stay on top.

Sid Lowe right after the game for the Guardian.

Forza Futbol had some Atleti fans in preparation for the derby, and they were pretty down on the team, figuring they would score but lose.  With Falcao out and the squad having a huge inferiority complex, only one outcome could be forseen.  Elisa called them realists, which I guess is true, but assuming your team has no chance going into a big game is kind of sad.

Derek from Atletico Fans posted this match review.  Seems like the decision to remove Diego may have changed the game more than the loss of the goal keeper.  At the time it made sense to me.  The Brazilian was already on a yellow, and I didn’t figure he would have the fitness to make up for being a man down.  But without him, Real Madrid were in complete control, and Atleti had no thrust in the attack.

For the Real Madrid perspective I read Madridista Mac, who saw Real Madrid stick with their standard formation this year (4-2-3-1) and remain composed despite Atleti trying to wind them up.  He also mentioned the substitution of Diego:

If there is to be one person in your team who is supposed to get you out of such a hole, it would have to be your coach. Manzano’s reaction however sped up the Snowball Effect for his team to go on a tailspin: by choosing to remove Diego to send in Asenjo for the Red-Carded Courtois. It wasn’t so much as about removing the Brazilian per se, but actually removing the tactical component he introduced to the game that bothered Real Madrid the most: the marking of Xabi Alonso. Diego was not only taken off, but Atleti’s tactical function of marking Alonso had also been taken off (instead of being re-assigned to another guy). Xabi Alonso would then have the entire game at the palm of his hand, helping Real Madrid to a cool 60+% possession.

As you would expect, he is excited about already being six points over Barca.  He notes that if the Blaugrana don’t win the first el clasico, they will have to start mounting a challenge right after the winter break, which will be tough as the Copa del Rey will be in full swing, and games will be coming thick and fast leading into the resumption of the Champions League.

Getafe 1  FC Barcelona 0

Let the score soak in.  Now let this soak in: the Blaugrana are now six points behind Real Madrid.  Some FCB fans are trying to put a good face on the situation.  But let’s face it.  The league is gone.  Sure FCB could win both el clasicos, match Real Madrid’s league results and win the league.  Face facts.  Real are doing what FCB did last year—going on a long winning streak that creates the necessary gap to make up for dropped points.

FCB played well, keeping possession and creating chances, but they did not have the edge necessary to beat a team content and constructed to defend, and only when they went a goal down did they show an uptick in urgency.  This result sees their unbeaten run in all competitions come to a screeching halt.  Here is my tweet after the game: All good things must come to an end. #FCB lose. Lose a game & maybe the league. Still three more trophies to fight for. #ViscaBarca  They may not match the Dream Team (four straight league titles) but there is still plenty to play for, which will add to the legend of this team.

Euler at Barcelona Football Blog put things in perspective:

The team is clearly going through difficulties now.  But to say that this is somehow the end – that the season or over because they are six points behind is premature.  Not in November and not with two Clasicos remaining.  This team deserves not only the benefit of the doubt – but our belief.  They’ve earned that.  That is their history.

He also asked a series of questions and reviewing the hunger and work rate of the squad.  It’s important to keep these things in mind when trying to figure out what is going wrong.

In examining the match he noticed what jumped out at me as soon as I turned on the game: lack of movement.  Maybe it was the line up or tired legs or dependence on Xavi and Messi, but the team (in those horrible mint green kits) just stood around waiting for something to happen, which allowed Getafe to do their job even more efficiently.  In the end, the Blaugrana ran out of time and luck.

MegRyan at Total Barca was critical of the team’s performance (lack of movement, urgency and finishing) against the “Burger Kings” but soliders on.  Again, a better fan than me, and certainly more positive:

FC Barcelona lost. One could argue that the last time the team lost was also under the same referee, Fernando Teixeira. One could say the team was tired after an exhausting, but triumphant, Champions League group win. One could reason that the team was just, simply, unlucky. Valid arguments, but in the end, the team performed poorly. The players rested on their laurels and didn’t really feel the urge to win until they went behind with just a few minutes left. Getafe may not have “deserved” the three points either, since Barcelona did have 70% of possession, but the Burger Kings from start to finish wanted to win – and that was the difference.

More importantly than the team’s performance was that of the fans. For those saying that La Liga is over, that six points is an insurmountable gap, that Real Madrid should already begin celebrating, you are wrong. It is only November, and odds like this have been overcome before. Is it a setback? Yes. Does it signal that the team needs to perform better? Of course. But as culés, it is necessary to support the team no matter what, win or lose. It is all right to be disappointed, to be frustrated, but to be defeatist? Unacceptable.

Pull together. We celebrate together. We commiserate together. We are més que un club. Do not ever forget that.

The other score from Saturday:

Rayo Vallecano                     1-2         Valencia

I didn’t catch any of the games on Sunday, but fortunately Spanish Football did.

Real Betis                               2-3          Real Sociedad

Real Betis, who opened the season with four straight victories, slumped to a 3-2 home defeat against Real Sociedad.  After their fantastic start, they have picked up one point of the last 27 possible and have fallen to 14th place.

And if you haven’t seen Martinez’s winner, check this out.

Levante                                  4-0          Sporting Gijon

Espanyol                                1-2           Osasuna

Mallorca                                 2-1           Racing Santander

Athletic Bilbao                        0-1            Granada

Match review from A Different Liga

Athletic Bilbao’s unbeaten run in all competitions came to an end, with Granada securing three vital points at San Mames.  One thing I forgot to post last week was Sid Lowe on the historic appearance of Jonas Ramalho for Athletic Bilbao against Sevilla.  Why?  He is the first black player to play for Los Leones in their 100+ year history.  Doctor Sid takes a look at the Basque only policy.  Here’s a snippet:

There are two basic criteria that define whether or not a player can play for Athletic now. One is nationality, with all that entails. Ander Herrera was brought up in Zaragoza and began his career with their youth system but was born in Vizcaya. And though it has not always been the case, Athletic now assume the suitability of all those from the seven Basque provinces, whether by birth, parentage or upbringing. The other is footballing formation. Athletic’s policy states — except that it doesn’t “state” at all, of course — that players are eligible if they are Basque and/or formed as footballers in the Basque Country.

Real Zaragoza                        0-1          Sevilla FC

As for Monday, here is the result and a review from Olly Dawes at El Centrocampista.

Málaga                                   2-1          Villarreal

I wanted to see Cazorla against his former team but was at a work site all day.  Malaga continue to creep up the table.  I’m not sure if they have enough to make the Champions League spots but surely they have enough for the Europa League.

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For further insight into La Liga, I turned to the three wise men . . .

Sid Lowe gave his opinion on the mounting crisis at FCB and the Blaugrana’s chances of overcoming their deficit to Real Madrid, while weaving the political history of Spain into the ups and downs of the Big Two.  One day I’m going to try to get my head around all of the political machinations of this country.  Won’t be today.

Phil Ball watched the Madrid Derby from the comfort of the bar, where the bartender was something of a prophet, predicting a 4-1 scoreline once Adrian put the visitors ahead.  He also gave some quick comments on the Real Betis/Real Sociedad including that fantastic goal from Martinez.  Finally, although the league is shit, at least it is somewhat interesting: Levante’s story, Valencia staying up at the top despite their financial concerns; resurgent Bilbao; and Osasuna in the top half.

La Liga Loca gave a shoutout to Valencia striker Jonas while criticizing Di Maria’s antics and Espanyol’s shocking performance against Osasuna (via his friend Paul).

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Podcasts

I subscribed to the La Liga Weekly podcast from Sky Sports with Andy May and Sid Lowe.  Quality.

Beyond the Pitch had Jonathan de Guzman on to discuss his difficult first season at Villarreal.

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Articles

Graham Hunter took a look at the challenges for the big name coaches in Spain: Vicente Del Bosque, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.  With Barca’s recent set back and the energy required to reach the stratospheric heights of the last couple of years, it’s hard to see Pep staying on.  Del Bosque should retire if they win the Euros.  Probably should leave even if they don’t.  As for the Special One, if he wins the lot, I could see him bolting; otherwise he would probably give it one more try before moving on.

Eduardo Alvarez took an interesting angle when looking at players in La Liga, breaking them down into categories: Global Icons, Hired Guns,  Globetrotters, Club Players, Prodigal Sons, and Comets.  Fun read and fun trying to put different players at different clubs into different categories.

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Current table:

P W D L GD PTS
Real Madrid 13 11 1 1 36 34
Barcelona 13 8 4 1 31 28
Valencia 13 8 3 2 8 27
Levante 13 8 2 3 11 26
Málaga 13 7 2 4 1 23
Sevilla 13 5 6 2 3 21
Osasuna 13 4 6 3 -9 18
Athletic 13 4 5 4 3 17
Espanyol 13 5 2 6 -5 17
Rayo 13 4 4 5 0 16
Atlético 13 4 4 5 -2 16
Villarreal 13 3 5 5 -8 14
Getafe 13 3 4 6 -5 13
Betis 13 4 1 8 -7 13
Mallorca 12 3 4 5 -7 13
Granada 12 3 3 6 -7 12
R Sociedad 13 3 3 7 -8 12
Sporting 13 3 3 7 -9 12
R Zaragoza 13 2 4 7 -15 10
Racing 13 1 6 6 -11 9
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