Morbo Minute–The Lions Lose and The Frogs Stay Strong
After 27 rounds, six points separate third and fourth place and six points separate fourth from eleventh as the race for European places heats up. Down at the bottom the Yellow Submarine hope to avoid sinking into the Segunda as they have gone to their third manager this season, Lotina.
Sevilla 0 FC Barcelona 2
Barcelona got some sad this week as Eric Abidal is on the shelf for a while as his need for a liver transplant has superseded his desire to play football. The Blaugrana took the field with a strong side, with Adriano coming in for Abi and Masch in for Puyol. For Sevilla, Negredo was on the bench, and Janusz on ESPN was all over Michel for picking a center midfield pairing of Medel and Rakitic instead of Medel and Trochowski.
Before I share some thoughts on the match, I have to mention the Oscar Meyer Hot Dog dugouts. What the hell was that? Have to say that America is spreading poor eating habits like nobody’s business. I refer you Burger King at Getafe and Pizza Hut formerly at Fulham I think. Just waiting for the McDonald’s golden arches to appear on a soccer kit in the near future.
Plus, in case you hadn’t read or heard, you can purchase a small photo of yourself on the back of the Sevilla shirt on match days, you and several thousand other supporters. I have no idea how this is going, but if one of my favorite teams offered up this scheme, I don’t think I would pony up for it. (And neither would Paul at Uni-Watch.com)
Anyway, the visitors were all over the place in the first, not pressuring as a unit, not closing down the ball, and not really worrying Barcelona. Alves was able to burst forward from the back several times without any opposition, and the chances were coming for FCB as Adriano had a shot deflected over the bar, and Pedro had a breakaway saved. Xavi opened the scoring with a wonderful free kick after Adriano had been fouled just outside the box. Maybe the keeper could have done better but the captain on the night set the stage for three points. FCB started moving through the gears and several half chances were denied until Iniesta laid off for Messi who nutmegged a defender then chipped the keeper, a goal that was sick and wrong. Halftime came with Sevilla asking a couple of questions (or Pique screwing up: yellow card, letting Manu sneak in for a header and generally playing poorly), but Kanoute was dropping way too deep, and Reyes and Navas were non-factors. Yet FCB could have still extended their lead had it not been for Palop
Sevilla came out of blocks quickly in the second half with the team pressure more organized. The hosts had a penalty shout as Pedro tangled with Reyes, and it probably should have been given. Los Rojiblanco’s high pressure made FCB uncomfortable and kept the game choppy for the visitors, who I felt could have been a little more direct in transition. Too many times a sideways or backwards pass was made instead of really trying to rip open the defense. Easy for me to say. FCB eventually regained control and were busy tiki tika-ing the hosts to death but with 25 minutes left, Manu just missed after fantastic work. Messi was pretty subdued in the second half and suddenly ripped open the hosts’ rearguard but Iniesta’s chip went just wide. Sanchez got some minutes in the end, which was nice to see, and right away Pedro played him in, but Palop denied the Chilean.
Eventually the Blaugrana ran out the clock, and I’m glad they grabbed those goals in the first half, because they definitely took the foot of the gas in second half. Maybe they could have stepped it back up, as Sevilla was up for in it the second half, and, if Manu could have finished, the last 20 minutes could have haven interesting.
Meg Ryan at Total Barca tried to put the victory into perspective due to the news of Abidal. Barcelona controlled the match, gained another points, and maintained pressure on the Evil Empire, but their thoughts are with the Frenchman.
Kari at Barcelona Football Blog took some time to explore the nature of Sergi Busquets and his role on the current Barcelona team. Funny and insightful, her fake interview looks at the player that everyone loves to hate, including cules.
I came across this stat from Graham Hunter while reading this week: Before Guardiola took over, Messi scored 16 in 40 games. In the years from summer 2008, he has scored 38 in 51, 47 in 53, and now 53 in 55. Wow.
I went up to the pub on Sunday with the plan of watching Athletic Bilbao against Valencia but once Aaron (@MidMichiganUtd) and I got talking about future watch parties and what we wanted to do going forward, I really didn’t see much of the match. I did happen to see the shambolic opener that Soldado put away, and it looked like Bilbao came out with higher intensity in the second half, but the equalizer didn’t follow. Missed the second goal and the third, which I thought was a harsh penalty that Soldado converted for his hat trick, put the match to bed. A disappointing result for Los Leones, especially as they fight for fourth place, but Valenica created some breathing space between themselves and Malaga and Levante.
John Pelini summarized and broke down the game for El Centrocampista. The game was closely contested with the major battle being fought in midfield. Los Leones really missed Llorente, and while Bielsa tried moving Muniain around, nothing would come off. Soldado was the difference for an organized visiting team as he finished the few chances created for Los Che.
As for Real Madrid, I checked in on the Real Madrid/Malaga game from time to time on twitter. Once I saw that the hosts had gone 1-0 I figured they would add another goal or two and maintain their 10 point lead. But I checked one more time just before my indoor soccer game and saw that Cazorla had equalized. Yes the lead is now down to eight points and gives faint hope to some that FCB are back in the race, but what a result for Malaga. They are in fifth with a huge result and momentum on their in the race for fourth. Levante have not fallen down the table as most predicted, but can they really hold off a team rounding into form with all that money behind them? Watch this space.
Madridista Mac was back at Real Madrid Football Blog to recap the draw with Malaga, which saw a couple of trends from Los Merengues: conceding a late goal and not quite making it through all of the gears. Mac looked back at the last couple of games—narrow wins with less than impressive performances—and all the points collected. This puts the club in a good position in the league as they face a tough run-in with games away to Osasuna, Bilbao and FCB and a home game against Valencia. This must be balanced with the Champions League with APOEL looking straightforward but a very challenging semi (possibly) with Bayern awaits.
Phil Ball witnessed a strange week in Spain with uncharacteristic gestures of sportsmanship and humanity as the Bilbao fans applauded Giggs and Rooney of Manchester United and Real Madrid players wore shirts of support for Muamba and Abidal. Add this to Torres scoring finally (and being trumped by Soldado), Levante staying in fourth, and Real Madrid finally dropping points, and it was a strange week indeed.
Sid Lowe examined the troubling situation at Villarreal as the money is gone, players are on the way out (Cazorla last summer, Rossi this summer), and form is fading (they have earned only one point from the last fifteen). It would be easy to write that Levante sank the Yellow Submarine, but the ship has been sinking for quite awhile. A mini revival gave them hope but dropped points have put them squarely in the crosshairs of relegation, with Molina sacked just months after being appointed. Their journey could be at an end in a couple of weeks.
Tim Stannard (@LaLigaLoca) gave his comments on Villarreal in a season that has seen them go fourth from top to fourth from bottom. Losing Cazorla and Capdevila and Rossi and replacing them with Zapata and De Guzman did not help Garrido, while Molina was not able to stem the tide either, probably not being the right hire either. Tim states their predicament as follows: Villarreal’s current problems are silly defensive mistakes at key times and a problem with concentration and application in certain games.
In other news . . .
Sid Lowe sought context and clarity in the debate between the EPL and La Liga, citing the success and progress of the Spanish teams over the last couple of years as reasons why the leagues are not that far apart. He mentioned the progress of Spanish teams in the Europa League yet let’s face it, English teams don’t take it seriously. But focusing on Barca and Madrid, which dominate Spain both financially and competitively, these two teams are far ahead on the former front with FCB dominating the second.
A friend sent met this article which I couldn’t believe. I put it out on my twitter feed and sent a message to Phil Schoen directly, with no response. I guess I don’t mind if GolTV doesn’t carry the matches as long as the commentary is in English (what now for Ray Hudson) and the feed is HD. Any info from readers is appreciated.
Elisa and Mando chatted with Lee and Liam from El Centrocampista about issues facing La Liga—the separation of the Big Two from the rest of the league and refereeing being at the forefront—and touching on the Spanish National Team at the upcoming Euros. Listen to the after pod chat for the plight of Elisa trying to get tickets to Bilbao’s key fixtures against Manchester United and Valencia.
Ravi from Forza Futbol sat down with Gabe from Managing Madrid to discuss things going in the capital. Among the items they touched on—the most influential player at the club this season; the future of the Big Two, with Gabe making the point that teams will rise up (Sevilla, Villarreal, etc.) but they can’t make any mistakes plus Real Madrid and FCB can buy their best players; the future of Mourinho, will he stay or go?; and the run-in to this season as Los Merengues close in the league title and the Champions League looms large.