Morbo Minute–Ramping up for the Spanish Old Firm Derby

The weekend before el clasico was relatively muted.  The Big Two took care of business, with Valencia grabbing a late winner to maintain third place. Bilbao dropped more points and Malaga was shocked by the Blue and Whites of Real Sociedad.  The first manager in Spain left his post the same week the first manager in England was fired. (I’m am idiot.  Laudrup left earlier in the season.)

Sid Lowe reflected on the clusterfuck that is Racing Santander.  It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century, a club could have an absent owner, no president, a three person head coach and be completely in debt yet continue to play and even win a game.  Racing’s 1-0 victory over disappointing Villarreal may be the last points they earn this season and maybe as a club as they move closer and closer to non-existence.  Gone are the days of Salva, who dominated my homemade greatest goal tapes at the turn of the century.

In case you didn’t know, I love Phil Ball’s writing, and this week’s column for Soccernet is a perfect example of why.  He took a random schoolboy event and linked it to Real Sociedad’s stunning victory over Malaga and the upcoming el clasico.  Everyone can guess what’s going to happen at the Bernabeu and no one really knows, but the reason we care is because:

But what interested me, in my seven-year-old sort of way, had been the emotions unleashed by my spontaneous action. The near-death experience, far from putting me off the beautiful game, actually had the opposite effect. If scoring a goal could get you so much attention – albeit 50% unwanted – then maybe there was something worth investigating in this football business. I never looked back. I wanted to experience the rush of emotion that the bigger kids were getting, seemingly on a regular basis. It looked like a good alternative to playing marbles.

La Liga Loca joined Phil Ball in praising Angel Di Maria.  I am interested to see how the Argentinian fares Saturday.  It may be that his performance, probably against Abidal, determines the fate of the match. In other news, Soldado keeps scoring, Granada keeps earning points and Betis keeps their improbable slide going (now one point in their last 30).

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Results

SATURDAY

Racing Santander        1-0       Villarreal

Sporting Gijon              0-3       Real Madrid

Didn’t read the review at Real Madrid Football Blog, but I can sum it up–Los Blancos dominated another opponent and come into el clasico full of confidence and sharpness.

Barcelona                        5-0       Levante

I watched this game live on Saturday.  Another home match, another shoutout, another manita.

Levante were humbled into submission, with the organization and hard work seen previously almost non-existent as FCB put them to the sword with their movement and precision.  The Blaugrana started with a 3-4-3 and were sharp from the off, with good movement but lacking the final ball. Levante were asking questions with Kone and Valdo troubling the high line after quick and direct counters.  I was a little concerned that the second goal for the Blaugrana was from a free kick, which has become a source of goals rather than the run of play.  Those concerns were alleviated later in the match.  Not much more to report here.

Kxvein at Barcelona Football Blog felt that the increased level of movement from the side, along with a good amount of aggression and width led to the dismantling of the Levante.  Have to agree.  These three things will be needed on Saturday, as I feel that Real Madrid will play at a very high level (physically, technically, and tactically) that will require maximum efforts from FCB.

Lee Roden made some interesting comments after the FCB thrashing of Levante.  In essence, FCB really used the width of the field (something they failed to do against Getafe) and Fabregas’ role in the team cannot be underestimated.  Just like the Spanish National team, how does Fabregaas get on the field?  In the 3-4-3 fine, but in the usual 4-3-3, I don’t see him getting into the midfield, and I’m not sure he is most effective up top.  Pep will have some tough choices for el clasico.

Valencia                      2-1       Espanyol

Here is the match recap from A Different Liga.

SUNDAY

El Centrocampista summed up the Sunday matches, which saw Atletico maintain their unbeaten home record but according to the post, They have only picked up a paltry one point from six away games so far—ouch; Malaga miss out on more vital points in a loss to Real Sociedad; Osasuna continue their good run of form; Athletic Bilbao only picked up one point after qualifying as group winners in the Europa League; and Granada defeated bottom of the table Real Zaragoza.

Atlético Madrid         3-1       Rayo Vallecano

Real Sociedad             3-2       Málaga  

There was ludicrous defending from Real Sociedad for Malaga’s 2nd.  Almost as bad as Malaga’s away kit.  Blech.  Then the Blue and White’s rescured the points with an acrobatic effort from Vela and sublime finish from Diego Ifran.

Osasuna                        2-1       Real Betis

Mallorca                       1-1       Athletic Bilbao

Granada                        1-0       Real Zaragoza

MONDAY

Sevilla FC                     3-0      Getafe

Match report from SpanishFootball.info.

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Articles

This article at El Centrocampisa grabbed my attention, and it seems like Falcao is off to a great start for Atleti.  It made me wonder what are the best signings this year in La Liga.  Sanchez for Barca?  Jury is still out.  Real Madrid’s signings are still fitting into the team.  I think Contreao has provided options for Los Merengues, which will be important in the spring as they fight on three fronts.  Piatti for Valencia?  When I’ve seen him, it’s been as an impact sub.  Anybody at Malaga.  Ummmm, not really.

David at SpanishFootball.info took a look at managers on the hot seat.  With Cuper doing the generous thing and leaving Racing without compensation, it is time to figure out who might be next.  Pepe Mel at Betis has to be the leading candidate with the team in severe decline after a dream start.  Manzano at Atleti might not be far behind.  Seems that the fans are not convinced, despite qualification for the knockout of the Europa League and being in the top half of the table.

After reading Madridista Mac’s pre-El Clasico post, I got even more fired up for the game on Saturday.  He is balanced, fair and cogent, stating the case for why Madrid can win while trying to keep fans’ feet on the ground who think that victory is a certainty.  Definitely give it a read before the big game.

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Podcasts

The guys at La Liga Weekly discussed the victories for the Big Two and gave an early preview of el clasico, which Sid feels FCB are obliged to win due to the circumstances.  They also mentioned the fading of Villarreal from Champions League contender to the last European place contender (or worse) as the financial and technical resources dry up.

Graham Hunter did a short piece for Revista on the decline of Real Zaragoza.

Guillem Balague and the gang gave their comments ahead of the big game on Revista.  Should be a compelling match.

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Standings

I’ll address those after the fall out from El Clasico.  The league ould be done and dusted or there could be a real fight on our hands.  Also, there will be some key fixtures that will shape the middle of the table.

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