Morbo Minute–Halfway to finding out who will finish Fourth

With family and work responsibilities, plus an Epic Sunday in the EPL, I didn’t get to see much of La Liga this weekend, only catching the second half of Barcelona’s demolition of Malaga.

Saturday

In checking the scores and reports  Espanyol picked up three easy points, against Granada, which cost Fabri his job; Racing’s mini-revival may be over after suffering a home defeat to Getafe; the Sevilla Derby ended all square, which helps neither team and probably can’t help Marcelino’s position as manager of the Rojiblancos.  Simeone’s Atleti have not conceded a goal since he took over and maybe he really can turn things around in the capital.

Sunday

I noticed that Valencia drew with Osasuna, and Los Che need to be careful to not get sucked into the race for fourth; Mallorca pulled even with Rayo after beating them 1-0 in Madrid; and basically no one has anything good to say about the scoreless game between Levante and Real Zaragoza.

As for the Big Two . . .

Kari at Barcelona Football Blog thought that Barcelona’s 4-1 win at Malaga was their best away match of the season thus far, largely thanks to Victor Valdes (for saving the proverbial bacon in the first half) and to Messi (for being Messi).  I watched bits and pieces of the second half, in between beers and conversations on the EPL games, when the game was in control.  Good to see FCB back among the goals on the road.

Mike Barnes at A Different Liga examined Malaga in the wake of another defeat.  Seems like I have seen a lot of these posts on different sites lately.  Pellegrini demands change the headlines read, yet nothing really happens.  Performances don’t improve, new players do not come in, Ruud still plays.

To further complicate issues, David Redshaw posted that Malaga will not be able transfer players due to a LFP ban.  I haven’t been able to corroborate this, but if this is true, that can’t be good for the image of the club and their goals for this season.  (Note, Andy May tweeted that Malaga has stated it was an administration error and they do not have financial problems.)

Real Madrid went down early to Athletic Bilbao, but eventually turned things around with two second half penalties (not the most definitive PK’s ever called) to win 4-1 in the last game of the day.

I appreciate Madridista Mac’s analysis of Real Madrid.  In the aftermath of another Clasico loss, he does not abandon ship but does what Real does: they pick themselves up, make a tweak or seven, and go out and win another match.  FC Barcelona are the exception for Los Merengues as he puts it, but the team continues to march forward.

Jonny Mullins gave a quick tactical breakdown of the match at SpanishFootball.info, focusing on both teams close combination passing and movement and the lack of pressure from each side. Bilbao were eventually undone by the two penalties, which caused them get stretched and led to the fourth goal.

Monday

Villarreal won three vital points after a 3-0 defeat of Sporting Gijon. (Reuben’s goal even made US ESPN’s Top Plays.)  Gijon falls back into the relegation zone while the Yellow Submarine sit just outside thanks to their superior goal differential.

—————-

Articles

Graham Hunter examined how Pepe fits (or rather doesn’t fit) into Real Madrid’s plans for victory on the field and in the public arena, as Los Blancos fell again to FC Barcelona in the first leg of the Copa.

Sid Lowe gave his two cents about the apparent furor in the Real Madrid dressing room.    I think it will blow over in time, especially if Real create a shockwave and beat FCB at the Camp Nou in the Copa.  Otherwise, results will keep coming, Los Blancos should progress in the Champions League and there is possible silverware at the end of the season.

Miguel Delaney chimed on the recent feud between Mourinho and his players.  He argues that roles of Real Madrid and Barcelona have flipped in that FCB are stable, with a clear purpose, while Real are in constant crisis, trying to buy players and changing coaches in a quest for success.  Makes for interesting reading.

Phil Ball ranked each team based on their position at the halfway point.  Levante are 1 (no issues) and Valencia are 20 (namely because they are simply the third best team in Spain and that’s where Los Che sit).  Positions 2 through 19 might surprise you.

La Liga Loca classified the Best and Worst of the last round, with praise for Real Madrid’s attacking lineup and Simeone’s tightening up of Atleti at the back.  In his criticisms, he picked out Malaga, who “have now slipped back to tenth place, are without a win in six and that must be putting Manuel Pellegrini and his project under pressure despite constant claims of patience.”

Richard Thorburn looked at La Liga players off to the African Cup of Nations and how their absences may affect the squads they left.  Teams at the bottom could be most affected.

—————-

Podcasts

One of Forza Futbol’s latest pods discussed statistics in La Liga with Javier Hernandez (@JavierJotah).  He explained what he looks for in stats at each position and how players are stacking up this year.  Interesting stuff especially in a league where players and teams don’t necessarily fit into neatly defined boxes.

Andy and Sid spent a lot of time on La Liga Weekly looking ahead to the second leg of FC Barcelona and Madrid but did squeeze in some thoughts on the race for European places and which clubs might get them.

Also, the SpanishFootball.info pod is back up.  Make sure to look for it.

—————-

So here are the standings at the halfway point.  Really hoping that Bilbao can make a push for fourth.  Would really like to see them in the Champions League next year.  If Malaga don’t improve their form, they may slide into the relegation battle instead of pushing on for a European place.  Here’s hoping the Villarreal can escape the tractor beam of relegation.

Real Madrid

19

16

1

2

49

49

Barcelona

19

13

5

1

47

44

Valencia

19

10

5

4

9

35

Levante

19

9

4

6

3

31

Espanyol

19

8

4

7

0

28

Osasuna

19

6

9

4

-9

27

Athletic

19

6

8

5

4

26

Atlético

19

7

5

7

3

26

Sevilla

19

6

8

5

0

26

Málaga

19

7

4

8

-6

25

Getafe

19

6

6

7

-5

24

Betis

19

7

2

10

-5

23

Rayo

19

6

4

9

-7

22

Mallorca

19

5

7

7

-7

22

R Sociedad

19

5

6

8

-10

21

Racing

19

4

8

7

-8

20

Villarreal

19

4

7

8

-10

19

Granada

19

5

4

10

-14

19

Sporting

19

5

3

11

-15

18

R Zaragoza

19

2

6

11

-19

12

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