Morbo Minute–New Year, Mixed Results
This was the round of the new managers as three new gaffers attempted to turn the fortunes around of their respective clubs and were underwhelming to say the least.
Simeone at Atleti led out his charges away to Malaga in the last game on Saturday. Sid Lowe gave his two cents on Simeone’s appointment at Atleti, stating that while El Cholo may have a history with the club, he alone cannot turn the club around. But it will be fascinating to watch him try. His presence was not enough as Los Colchoneros could only get a 0-0 draw. Spanish Football gave a quick recap of the game. Derek at Atleticofans.com was happy with a clean sheet and a point away from home for Atleti. Big game against Villarreal next week at the Calderon.
Earlier in the day, Jimenez traveled with Zaragoza to Racing for a true six pointer and fell by a single goal. I cut them adrift awhile ago and I don’t think a new manager is going to change anything.
David Redshaw at A Different Liga summed up the rest of the Saturday’s action, which were light on goals except for Real Madrid and Granada.
Speaking of Los Merengues, Kaushik (@_kaushik7) at Real Madrid Football Blog examined a slightly weakened Real team who dismantled poor Granada. Twitter was abuzz with praise for Varane after the match and Kaushik joined in. With Carvalho on the way out, it looks like Varane will provide long term cover for Pepe and Sergio Ramos. I guess Lass has become the new right back of the Evil Empire. He does well there when I’ve seen him but will he be up to scratch against top flight Champions League competition? Real are now five points up and assuming they don’t get too fatigued during their cup run, I can see them pulling away by late March.
On Sunday, former Spanish goalkeeper Molina took charge at the Madrigal. The Yellow Submarine could only manage a draw after throwing away a 2-0 lead, and the result leaves them in the relegation places.
Villarreal 2 Valencia 2
In the lead up to this match I saw that Marcos Senna was starting for Villarreal, which I thought was a surprise. Haven’t seen him much this season, either on the field or on the team sheet. Again Pablo was on the bench for Valencia as Emery went with Alba and Feghouli out wide.
An entertaining first half came to an end with the hosts up 2-1. Valencia had a positive start early but was lacking the final ball. Villarreal opened the scoring on 14’ after a mix up in the Valencian rearguard. Rueben did a quick combo with Nilmar and kept his composure to finish. Again Valencia had more of the ball but the hosts won a free kick that was whipped in and headed home by Frankie Hejduk’s younger brother (Gonzalo)—2-0 to the Yellow Submarine. With their slick play frustrated, defender Miguel airmailed a ball into the area which found the head of Feghouli, so Los Che went into the break only down 2-1. Seemed like Borja was not seeing much of the ball in first half from his left interior position, and I was interested to see if Molina would change this in the second half.
The second half involved both sides going end to end, when they weren’t fouling each other, with Valencia having the better of exchanges. Emery brought on Pablo, Aduriz and Costa in search of equalizer while Molina took off Gonzalo and Cani for two younger players (Castellani and Lejeune) to keep things fresh. Nilmar came off with five minutes to go and should have been taken off sooner, not really getting into the match. Villarreal were close to three vital points but Valencia equalized as Aduriz made the most of his opportunity. Zapata made a hash of the clearance and the striker passed it in to the far corner.
Villarreal did well with their opportunities in the first half, but Valencia actually tried to win the game so fair play to them. With the draw and Racing’s win on Saturday, the Yellow Submarine are officially in the relegation zone. Molina’s Job #1: Avoid Relegation.
For a Villarreal perspective I visited VillarrealUSA.com where Siempre_riquelme looked back at the Valencian Derby, and took positives from Molina’s first game, but I can’t really agree with his statement: A decent result on paper, but blowing a two-goal lead at home is painful. Particularly against your bitter rivals, whom you outclassed on the day. Valencia were on top for long stretches and Villarreal rarely threatened, Borja’s fierce shot being the exception.
Speaking of throwing away a lead, Espanyol pegged back FCB in the final match of Sunday’s action. I was not able to watch the game but followed proceedings on the twitter and on the soccernet gamecast during church and gasped when I read Espanyol equalized. The Blaugrana were not able to score again and now Real have a five point advantage. The momentum of the Clasico is gone and the engraver may be able to start working on the La Liga trophy.
Kari at Barcelona Football Blog recapped the Catalan Derby with passion and analysis and love and hope as FCB dropped points against their rivals. I really enjoyed this post as she praised Espanyol for dictating the game instead of letting the Blaugrana just passing them into submission. She is optimistic that Los Merengues can still be caught. I’m not.
Sid Lowe explained that Espanyol’s draw with FCB was part of the narrative between the neighbors. It is Los Pericos not Real Madrid who have taken the most points from the Blaugrana in the Pep era. Yes there was a penalty shout but these things happen and now FCB must hope Real Madrid regress if they hope to catch them. Sid also mentioned the fight or rather lack of for the last Champions League spot: This weekend only one of the top 10 won – Real Madrid. No one wants to take the fourth place, which looks set to be one of the cheapest Champions League slots there’s been.
La Liga Loca echoed a theme that I have come across, which is that Benzema has completely transformed his play, his attitude and fans’ appreciation in year. Betis seem to be off the slide, with three wins on the bounce, as they head into the Nou Camp. His comments about Sevilla’s Marcelino were interesting as well:
The Sevilla manager’s instincts are always to avoid defeat rather than go for the win, and this is costing Marcelino’s men badly, with the club now on a run of three league defeats. In the final half an hour, Sevilla showed how well they can go forward when two strikers are played after the introduction of Freddie Kanouté, but it was too little, too late.
Phil Ball put Diego Simeone’s return to Atleti into context as the former hard man returns to manage the team he lead to League and Cup Double in 1996. Simeone displayed other parts of the game during his playing career, and the hope is that he can turn the ship around in the capital and return the club to their rightful place, which is in the broad shadow of the Big Two.
Olly Dawes sifted through some the transfer possibilities for this window. I was intrigued by Guardado to Valencia. Think that would be an excellent move, especially if they lose Alba over the summer. Saviola to Granada kinda blew my mind. Talk about the penthouse to the outhouse. I’m also interested to see who Malaga get to continue their project.
David Cartlidge at SpanishFootball.info looked at some transfer options as well, with the Big Two relatively quiet. Sevilla were also discussed with Caceres possibly off to Juve (NICE!!).
Forza Football had a highly entertaining and informative pod about Barcelona’s other team, Espanyol. Mark, Nick (aka @PERICOZ), and Mando (@espanyolUSA) talked the club ahead of the big game against FC Barcelona. The gang appreciates the club trying to be fiscally responsible but hopes to hold on to some of their good talent. The panel also backed Pochettino and feel he needs to stay on no matter what, including relegation. They were also pretty positive in their predictions, seeing a tight game, which turned out to be pretty close to what happened.
Andy May and Sid Lowe on Sky’s La Liga Weekly discussed Barca’s draw at Espanyol and how this affects the title chase and RealMadrid’s ability to change gears against Granada, with Benzema and Varane playing well. Andy interviewed Malaga defender Kris Stadsgaard and asked about the form of the team and his possible exit from the squad in this transfer window. Sid examined the rest of the pack, including Molina taking charge of Villarreal; Sevilla, who added Reyes; and possible transfers.
After doing my reading, I really regret missing the Catalan Derby. I planned to watch the replay but time got away and then it was on to the Copa and the next round of games is almost up on us. The 3:30pm EST time start is tough for me, and guess what, FCB play Betis this Sunday at 3:30.
Some other games I’m hoping to catch this weekend (all time EST):
12:00p Sevilla v Espanyol
6:00a Atletico de Madrid v Villarreal
12:00p Athletic Bilbao v Levante
3:30p FC Barcelona v Betis