Morbo Minute–Sevilla Surrender

Have to say that the La Liga season has been very compelling in the early stages, with a couple of surprise teams at the top (Mallorca and Valladolid) and lots of goals each weekend.

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Sevilla 2  FC Barcelona 3

After watching three EPL games, I picked up my son and headed to the pub for one more game.  Between getting him fed, keeping him occupied and peeking at the MSU/OSU football game, I didn’t take any notes.  Then I got home and got caught up in family activities.  The following day was church stuff and a soccer game and I didn’t even write down thoughts about the game.  48 hours I still can’t believe the Blaugrana won that match.

FCB played well but there is definite room for improvement.  Though Pedro was excellent again, Sanchez is still not firing and Song had a below par game.  Alba did well after his layoff and he’ll be key as Adriano recovers.  Sevilla was well organized and confident, taking the fantastic result against Real Madrid and building on it.  When Negredo skinned Song early in the second half and chipped Valdes, I admit my head sunk.  My pessimistic nature took over and I saw three dropped points at the Sanchez Pizjuan with El Clasico looming.  Eight points down to two in a matter of moments.

All credit to Sevilla.  As they had done a couple of rounds ago against Los Blancos, they sat in, absorbed the pressure and then attacked Barca, with Navas eventually finding the ball.  I thought Rakitic had a great game, covering tons of ground and making good passes.  Palop was in fine form as yet another goalkeeper rose to the occasion.

But then . . . But then what?  The referee?  Substitutions?  Fatigue?  All of the above?  Cesc channeled his inner Rivaldo to get Medel sent off.  There’s no doubt about that.  From there Sevilla still almost held on but Barca would not be denied as Fabregas scored his second and then Villa won the match in the dying moments.

FCB have a 100% record yet there is a sense that they are paper champions.  Between the injuries, form that has been less than spectacular, a tough midweek game against Benfica and Real’s need to win, this weekend’s match against could go very wrong.  Right now I would take a draw.  Maintain the gap, get players back, make it to the winter break with a five to six point lead.  We’ll see Sunday.

Kxevin was recovering from the match as well in his post for Barcelona Football Blog.  Thrilled with the three points, he saw a team full of hunger, who refused to lose a match despite the deficit.  He was also pleased that others stepped up to score the goals, with Messi the provider rather than the savior.  His player ratings were interesting as well, with poor marks given to Alves, Messi and Sanchez, but he was pleased with Busquets, Alba and the manager, who made the right substitutions to get the team back into the match and win, rather than settle for a draw.

Sid Lowe found the “comeback of champions” breathless as the pace and intensity game never dropped.  Praise was given to Michel’s Sevilla but in the end Barca won the day and maintained their lead over Real Madrid.  (Yes I know that Atleti are only two points behind, but they have to prove that they can go the distance.)  Doctor Sid produced a stat during his column: Half of their 24 goals this season have arrived in the last 15 minutes, after he has made substitutions.  Lack of fitness and squad depth were big factors in last season’s shortcomings, and hopefully Tito is turning the corner.

Chalk on the Boots put together a very insightful post after the match, identifying several key items for both teams.  He identified Sevilla’s organization and willingness to defend resolutely and then attack with intelligence, although he does worry about fatigue at the end of matches for Trochowski and Rakitic, who do a lot of running.  He commended Michel for his lineup and substitutions and felt that Los Rojiblancos would have gotten at least a draw had Medel not been sent off.  As for FCB, he focused on Messi’s move to a false 10 rather than a false.  This was also mentioned by Kxevin at Barcelona Football Blog.  Chalk expressed it as follows:

Messi moves deeper now into a classic No10 position on the pitch and is more or less laterally aligned with the most advanced of Barcelona’s midfielders. Last night this was Cesc. With Xavi operating slightly deeper alongside Busquets, it’s not unusual to see the two wide players being positioned furthest forward. In this respect, Barcelona often now resemble a loose 4-2-2-2.

While Barca dominated possession, their slow transition allowed Sevilla to recover their shape and clog the midfield.  Finally, he noted that the Blaugrana are trying more crosses (not favorable due to size and congestion of the penalty area) and more direct distribution from Valdes.

A fantastic post with lots of good info and things to consider.

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Articles and Podcasts

Phil Ball had a wonderful time at the Basque Derby as Real Sociedad ran out 2-0 winners.  His column examined the current issues and context of the neighboring clubs.  Real Sociedad are flying high at home with a group of young players that are raising eyebrows, led by Griezmann.  Didn’t realize he was French.  As for Bilbao, Llorente’s position is, in the words of John Terry, untenable.  A substitute these days for a club that is a shadow of the glorious team that ran out last year.  The result leaves Los Leones in 18th while the Txuri-urdin are up to 8th.

Tim Stannard looked ahead to El Clasico for Football 365, taking the view that rather than a battle of heavyweights in yet another game of the century, this match will be between “two sides trying to find their way in la Liga and suffering on-the-pitch problems in Barcelona’s case and all manner of trouble in the dressing room in Real Madrid’s with continued talk of rifts and Mourinho starting to lose his managerial mojo.”  Let the games begin.

On Sky Sports La Liga Extra, Jon Driscoll and Terry Gibson looked at Madrid’s result; FCB’s spirited comeback with the caveat that they are not in “full flight”; Atleti finding a way to win without Falcao; and praise given to Valladolid for their 6-1 thrashing.

It had been a while since I visited Atletico Fans.  I was able to read Martin’s post, which saw a solid performance from Los Colchoneros as they made Raul Garcia’s header stand up for all three points.  Besides Garcia, who is off to a great start this season, special mention was made of Courtois’ efforts between the sticks.  Despite another lackluster second half performance Atleti is in second place ahead of next week’s key clash against Malaga.  A win there, and they can put down a marker as the new third best team in Spain.

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