Posts Tagged ‘ Levante ’

Strip Club–La Liga Kits 2013/14

I have made another attempt to gather all of the La Liga kits into one place.  This season I have modeled my page on Kit Nerd’s posts on EPL and MLS kits.  I have gathered as many images as I could and commented on almost every kit for the upcoming season. There are plenty of great sites that have breakdowns, information and pictures of this season’s kits. Please visit the links for even more info.

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Almería (Courtesy of UD Almeria website)

Home / Away / Third

Almeria-Football-Shirt-13-14

Surprisingly Nike makes the kits of newly promoted Almeria.  Although the club uses templates and previous designs, the range is decent.  The home kit is a very simple shirt of red and white veritcal stripes with a ring collar, red shorts and white socks.  The away kit is almost identical to the Malaga away kit from 2011/12.  The third kit is Nike’s recent V template that began with Manchester United.  A light royal blue is the base of the shirt and socks and is finished off with white shorts.  According to the website this was used last year as well.  Hopefully the rojiblancos stay away from the fuchsia kit as much as possible.

Athletic Bilbao (Courtesy of Football Kit News and Football Fashion)

Home / Away

Bilbao Home Kit 2013 14

Athletic switch to Nike from Umbro this season, and Phil Knight’s men have given Los Leones a nice foundation.  The home strip is relatively standard, with the traditional red and white stripes and black shorts.   The away strip is all royal blue, which I like, but the shirt unfortunately suffers from the Nike sleeve syndrome.

Atlético Madrid (Courtesy of Footy Headlines and Football Fashion)

Home / Away

Atleti head into this campaign with a typical home kit—red and white striped top and blue shorts— with the post from Footy Headlines noting, “The red and the blue are darker than usual to celebrate the Spanish League and Spanish Cup title won in 1965/66.”  As for the away strip, it’s quite different and I’m not familiar with this color palette for Los Colchoneros at all.  Like the pairing of the navy blue and yellow top with the navy blue shorts but not sure how the yellow socks are going to look.

Barcelona (Courtesy of Footy Shirt Culture, Total Barca and Football Fashion)

Home / Away

Barca-kits-2013-14
Quick summary: The Blaugrana and the Swoosh are back on the right track.  The home kit returns to its roots, while the away is a one off historical gesture.  Would have preferred they used the senyera as a third kit, but there’s always next year. Full comments can be found here.

Betis (Courtesy of Football Kit News, Inside Spanish Football and Real Betis Website)

Home / Away / Third

Betiskits

Macron has produced an interesting range of kits for the verdiblancos.  The home shirt is the traditional green and white vertical stripes and removes the solid green block that ran from the chest to shoulders last year.  The away strip swaps white for black and slightly darkens the green, which according to ISF, “is to honour the 100 year anniversary of the club (1914) as we know it today.” The third kit is all sky blue accented by the green and white colors of the club and looks nice.

Celta de Vigo (Courtesy of Footy Headlines and Football Fashion)

Home / AwayThird

adidas - presentacion 01

The Galicians have used a sky blue and black palette to good effect for the upcoming season.  The home shirt is sky blue with black trim along the shoulder and around the neck.  The away top is black with a sky blue design around the neck and shoulders.  Both kits sport a Triskele, which thanks to Wikipedia, I learned is “a motif consisting of three interlocked spirals, or three bent human legs.”  The club also has a third kit that was released early in 2013 which uses the Campeon 13 template by adidas (see Spain’s Confederations Cup shirt).

Elche (Courtesy of Football Kit News and Diario Franjiverde)

Home / Away / Third

elche-cf-2013-2014-kits-9

This team from Valencian Community returns to the top flight for the first time 1988/89.  The kit line is produced by Italian company Acerbis and the range isn’t too bad.  The home kit is very simple white kit trimmed in green.  The away kit uses royal blue and red, which appears to be homage to the team’s badge.  The third kit replaces the white of the home with black and kinda reminds of a Green Lantern uniform.  All of the kits will have a logo at the back of the neck commemorating the club’s 90th anniversary.  Finally, not sure “Have a Nice Day” across the front of your shirt is the way to go.

Espanyol (Courtesy of Football Fashion)

Home / AwayThird

Espanyol 13-14 Kits (2)

The home kit of los pericos is solid, using thicker royal blue and white vertical stripes than usual.  No complaints with this strip.  The other two however are sketchy at best.  The away shirt looks like a t-shirt but creates a nice strip with black shorts and socks.  The third kit almost seems to be trading on the Seattle Sounders designs.  Pics on numerous sites show the entire kit with turquoise shorts, while the socks are turquoise/lime green hooped.  Be interested to see how it translates to HD TV.

Getafe (Courtesy of Football Fashion, Football Kit News and Getafe CF)

Home / Away / Third

New Getafe Kit 13 14

Spanish manufacturer Joma provides the kits for Getafe, who are celebrating ten years in the top flight.  Gone is the Burger King sponsorship in the middle of the shirt, which is sadly missed.  The home and away kits are understated, with a light royal being used for the home uniform and a deep red for the away kit and each shirt is trimmed in gold.  The third strip is a lime green which does not work for me.

Granada (Courtesy of Football Kit News)

Home / Away / Third

Equipacion Granada CF 2014

The Granada kits are made by Spanish sportwear company Luanvi, which I know nothing about.  The range of kits is relatively simple and straightforward, with the home kit using horizontal red and white stripes and blue shorts.  A Spanish club equivalent of the Where’s Waldo USMNT jerseys.  I really like the away kit, which is all white with red and green accents.  The third strip is just ok for me, using a metallic blue with black.  Maybe up close it will appeal to me more.  The goalkeepers have a choice of four different kits, which seems excessive to me.

Got some exclusive content from Heath Chesters who is the Community Manager for club and runs their English twitter account:

The club chose to go for more classic designs this season, hence the simplicity of the styles. More akin to the simple horizontal hoops of the 70’s & 80’s, which is more popular with the fans, than the “barcode” design of last season.

Along with a return to classic design, the club also wanted to recognise the city itself. The white away kit features a green & red trim, which are the colours of the city flag of Granada, whilst the Alhambra stencil on the upper chest is a nice touch, with Granada’s most famous landmark.

The third kit is something a little different for Granada in terms of the choice of colours, but a nice alternative I think.

Finally, I often see a lot of comments regarding Granada having a choice of four goalkeeper kits. Principally it’s to offer the goalkeepers themselves the choice of colours they like. 1st team keeper Roberto traditionally plays in pink, whilst the other three match the preferences of the backup & B team keepers, plus the women’s team keeper.

The women’s team gained promotion to the Primera last season. Their kits are the same design overall, but the shirts are made to fit the female form better, which is another nice feature from Luanvi.

Levante (Courtesy of Football Shirts)

Home / Away / Third

levante

Kelme has released kits for Levante’s upcoming campaign, buidling on last year’s set of kits, and has promoted them using some sort of superhero motif.  Weird but ok. The home kit is screaming Barcelona, even down to the huge bands at the edge of the sleeves, and if it wasn’t for the collar accent, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.  It does look sharp though. The away kit is black with alternating black and grey vertical stripes.  Really like this shirt and it is enhanced by the club crest all in white. The third kit uses a couple of greens going horizontally, with the club colors of red and blue trimming the sleeves.  Again a crest in white accents the kit. I like all three selections and hopefully Los Granotes can bounce back after a disappointing finish last season.

Málaga (Courtesy of Football Kit News and Football Fashion)

Home / Away / Third

malaga

Málaga had a mixed 2012/13 on and off of the field.  Quarter Finalists in the Champions League and a sixth place finish in La Liga, but with players leaving and suspended from Europe for the upcoming season, things are uncertain at best.  However, their kit selection is solid, so they’ve got that going for them.  Navy blue is introduced to the home shirt and is an attractive change and accents the sponsor nicely.  I love the away shirt.  Much like Sevilla’s third kit last year, the navy blue is super sharp and there are almost no distractions.  Nike is providing Los Boquerones with an orange third kit, which is a pleasant choice, better than the lime green of a couple of seasons ago, but the sleeves are a let down in typical Nike style. The post at Football Fashion has the layout of the full kit plus this little tidbit of info:

According to English language website: Málaga Club de Fútbol has chosen an exclusive design by NIKE, coaching sponsor of the Club, with the colours, light blue, navy and white, which will fill every part of La Rosaleda stadium. A new addition this season, is the slogan ‘Coraje y Corazón’ or ‘Courage and Heart’ printed on the back of the shirts, along with the flags of Spain and Andalucía.

Osasuna (Courtesy of Football Shirts, Football Kit News and Footy Headlines)

Home / Away

Osasuna switches to adidas for the upcoming season and the offering from the brand with the three stripes feels very MLS-ish.  The shirt uses the traditional red but the blue trim and collar create a jersey that is right off of the American rack.  It’s fine but the cow part of the sponsor is a little unsettling.  The away strip is some sort of neon green.  The pic in the hallway pregame doesn’t look that great but I found a team pic pregame and the strip looks great in the sunlight, with a bold shirt and black shorts and socks.

Rayo Vallecano (Courtesy of Football Fashion and Football Kit News)

Home / Away / Third

Rayo Away Kit 2013-14

The Rayo Vallecano home shirt is iconic and standard–white base with red sash runninng from right to left.  This year’s is no different, although I feel the diagonal is slightly wider.  The away kit reverses out the white for black and looks sharp as well.  The third strip is awful.  Taking a page from the Norwich City palette, using predominately yellow with neon yellow highlights, and the socks must surely glow in the dark.

Real Madrid (Courtesy of Football Fashion and Real Madrid Shop)

Home / Away / ThirdGK

real madrid h
Adidas introduced orange onto the white shirt of Real Madrid.  Interesting for sure and looks good, especially combined with the charcoal trim.  There are also horizontal pinstripes, which, Football Fashion notes, “presents a pattern of horizontal block building, giving the shirt a different texture and very attractive depending on how the light given.”  Not sure that was necessary but we’ll see. Retro is the theme of the away kit, using an all royal blue strip.  The orange trim is used on this shirt as well.  Found it interesting that Morata was used in the advertising pictures.  Liked his brief appearances last year and hope he gets more of a run this year. The third kit is an “energetic” orange. Could be nice if it comes across on the TV.  Maybe a contrasting short would make strip not so sherbert-ish.  The home goalkeeping kit uses the historical purple to create a dynamic look for Saint Iker (or whoever Carlo decides to play in goal).

Real Sociedad (Courtesy of Football Kit News)

Home / Away

New Real Sociedad Kit 13 14

Real Sociedad surprised many people with a surprise fourth place finish last year.  Their kit launch featured kits with the Champions League logo, even though they will still need to qualify.  Could get awkward if they fall at that important hurdle. For the jerseys themselves, the home kit is tried and true, sky blue and white vertical stripes.  Nike didn’t do anything extravagant here.  The away kit is almost all black.  The top just has the crest and Nike swoosh and what appears to be the Basque flag at the back of the neck.  The shorts have white trim just above the hem on backside.  The socks are topped in white with an angled white design.  Both kits are uncomplicated, which is a minor shock from Nike.  The goalkeeper kit though.  Yeesh.  Some sort of electric pink from head to toe.  Poor guy.

Sevilla (Courtesy of Footy Headlines and Football Fashion)

Home / Away

sevilla-fc-warrior-2013-14-kits-

Warrior enters the La Liga fray this season as Sevilla switches from Umbro to a brand doing almost everything it can to ruin soccer kits (see Liverpool away and third strips for 2013/14). The home shirt is tame, using a white base with red trim and an intriguing collar.  The only really standout item is the diagonal pattern across the chest.  Combine this with a crest referencing the original badge of the team and the strip is actually quite decent. The away kit takes a page from the Liverpool away shirt from 12/13, using some sort of accent that drapes down the neck and shoulders.  The strip is tolerable and definitely not the eye sore associated with the brand.

Valencia (Courtesy of Football Shirt Culture and Football Fashion)

Home / Away / GK

valencia
Football Shirt Culture put together great posts which have pictures showing the dynamic details for Valencia’s home and away kits. The home is the standard white with black and orange accents.  I really like the thin orange collar and narrow bands on the sleeves, but what really sets this shirt apart is the crest.  Similar to what Manchester United did on their away kit last year, the logo removes the senyera colors and all items are laid out in black and white.  The Comunitat Valenciana senyera does make an appearance on the back of the neck.  Combined with black shorts and white socks, this strip is a real winner. As for the away offering, using an orange base, the kit uses black and white accents to great effect.  The collar is half each color, very subtle (similar to Holland’s home kit for World Cup 2010), and a half and half diagonal band across the chest.  Again the regional senyera is at the back of the neck. Would be difficult to go wrong with either of these.

Valladolid (Courtesy of Football Headlines)

Home / Away / GK

Hummel took over the design and production of Valladolid kits for the upcoming season. The home uses very thick purple and white stripes, similar to last year’s offering from Kappa, using a white collar instead of purple.  This is a sharp kit and I really like it due to the different color scheme than most teams. The away kit touches a nerve for me, expanding on the Purple Reign Pain offerings from Nike last year for Porto and Arsenal.  I can’t tell if I like the white trim and accents.  This one may grow on me though. I really wish the goalkeeping shirt was the third shirt because it uses a nice royal blue with white and black accents that really take a plain jersey and make it stand out.  Would have gone with white or matching blue socks rather than the black though.

Villarreal (Courtesy of Football Kit News)

Home / Away

Villarreal Kit 2013 14

The Yellow Submarine return to the top flight and also celebrating their 90th anniversary.  The kits are made by Chinese company Xtep, another company I am not familiar with, and no chances are taken.  The home strip is the standard all yellow with a big collar and some sort of sublmation across the chest.  The away kit uses royal blue from head to toe and looks sharp.  The goalkeeping kits are fine, with green and gray being used.  Hopefully Villarreal can consolidate their place, move up the table and possibly move on to a bigger manufacturer.

Morbo Minute–Manitas All Around

Looking back at La Liga teams in Europe last week. . .

The gang at Forza Futbol pod reviewed an incredible MatchDay 3 for Spanish teams in both competitions.  In the Champions League, FCB snagged all three points at the end; Soldado scored a hat trick for Valencia; Malaga have a 100% record and no goals against; and Real Madrid fell to Borussia Dortmund.  Over in the Europa League, Atletico kept cruising while Levante got three vital points in their campaign.  Poor Athletic lost and only has one point thus far.

Sam Thompson analyzed the Malaga/Milan game for his site TTT Football.  The Spanish side started in a 4-2-3-1 with Joaquin behind Saviola and Isco and Portillo coming inside for combinations and allowing the fullbacks to overlap and provide width.  Milan played an unusual 3-4-3, which defended as a 5-2-3 before becoming 5-4-1 towards the end of the match.  Watching the game, the Italians were constantly pinned back and looked blunt coming forward, with the Spaniards living if lacking the final ball.  Joaquin secured all three points with a difficult effort, having missed a penalty in the first half.

Continuing with Malaga, Graham Hunter wrote a wonderful piece on Los Boquerones as they dismissed Milan and look set to qualify for the knockout stages.  After a summer of disorder and scrambling, the team has stuck together and is reaping the dividends—top of the group and fourth in the league.  How far can they go?

Zonal Marking examined the clash of the Spanish and German champions and called the match more of a “German” game, based around pressing and quick transitions, than a “Spanish” game, which tends to be focused upon ball retention.  And what a match it was.  I told several people after watching it that I felt it was a like a game of FIFA on fast speed.  Eventually Dortmund was able to overwhelm Essien who isn’t a LB by nature, plus he wasn’t assisted by CR7.  A big three points for the Germans which should enable them to qualify for the knockout stages.

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Round Nine

I watched Rayo Vallecano v FCB on Saturday afternoon.  David Villa opened the scoring for the visitors and after a tightly contest affair of about an hour, the Blaugrana took absolute control, eventually winning 5-0.  The hosts went down and responded by pushing forward which left them more and more exposed.  Have to admire the fact that they did go for it but it was all for naught.  Leo Baptistao was starved of service and I didn’t see much in the attack.  As for FCB, I am really starting to wonder about Song and Sanchez.  Song was moved into central midfield to support Cesc and Xavi and seemed to be well placed but I don’t know.  Something is still missing.  As for Sanchez, he is channeling his inner Bojan and trying so hard and not getting the results.  On as a sub to grab an easy goal or two and build his confidence, he went the other direction, making things worse, constantly straying offside and usually picking the wrong pass or not delivering the correct one.  Aggravating to watch.

Kxevin of Barcelona Football Blog is seeing a different squad emerging this season: Those days (tiki taka and endless possession) are gone, replaced by a different kind of match control, in which brilliant players crawl through a sliver that someone leaves, and put the knife in.  He focused on Fabregas, noting his passing, runs and energy but is reserving judgment to see if he can do it the whole season.   In the end, Rayo ran out of steam and were put to the sword.  It happens.

What happened to Los Leones?  Sid Lowe asked that question for his weekly column in the Guardian.  He correctly states that There is little of the intensity, the sense of mission, that there was last season.  In its place a soap opera:

First there was the fight. Then came the failed escape bid, Martínez going to Germany, Fernando Llorente failing to go to Italy. Then the break in. And then the worst part of all: the secret recordings.

Athletic could be following the Yellow Submarine into the Segunda.  Sitting just above the relegation zone, everyone keeps waiting for the run that will take them to safety so the club can rebuild for next season.  It never came for Villarreal. It may not come for Athletic.

Kieran Canning, writing for Football Espana, brought me up to speed on Levante.  After a slow start in the league Los Granotes have won five in a row and have climbed up to sixth, plus they have six points in the Europa League.  Obafemi Martins is scoring for fun right now and maybe the Nigerian has finally found a home.

Madridista Mac examined a possible plan B for Real Madrid.  With a rash of injuries in the defense combined with the loss of Khedira, Mourinho rolled out a variation of the formation he has built in this time there.  Problem: Madrid’s injury problem at fullback created a two-fold problem: less dynamism on attack in the flanks and lack of depth in the midfield muscle department. Solution: put CR7 and Di Maria on their natural sides and put creative, technical players in the middle.  With the wingers stretching the play wide rather drifting centrally, the dynamic players had time and space in the middle to exploit.  As Mac rightly says, The true test will be if we can play such a system successfully against a team with a very good #10 or with the meanest, baddest, nastiest combo of physical midfield destroyers.

Finally, Phil Ball paid homage to the grizzly old veterans bringing their experience to teams around La Liga.  I remember Juanfran and Valeron from my early days watching the league and here they are still getting a game.  Great column for its personal insight and brief history lesson.

Morbo Minute–Part 1 (Game Summaries)

I spent the weekend watching as much La Liga as I could in preparation for an appearance on the Inside Spanish Football Podcast.  With 33 goals in ten matches there was plenty to see–two epic games (Espanyol 3 Athletic 3 and Atletico 4 Rayo 3) that I unfortunately missed; strength sapping heat in several games; and a truly unbelievable performance by Sevilla against the Champions at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

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Malaga 3  Levante 1

The match kicked off with the temperature at 30 degrees C (86 F).  The internet feeds broadcast the game from a wide angle, which gave a feel for shape and formation but hard to see player details, especially in the shaded channel.

Malaga, with some players rested or held out for the Champions League game midweek, played an entertaining first half.  Fluid and aggressive, they deserved their halftime lead.  I could never discern their formation, which is arbitrary to begin with.  Constant changing positions, with Eliseu anchoring the left hand channel and Saviola leading the line.  He scored the opener as he found a pocket of space, something he did for the entire half and was released by Isco.  The goal allowed Malaga to progress through the gears and they really should have added a second as they enjoyed 65% of possession.

Levante had a nice opening spell but resorted to the long ball as they came under more and more pressure, an approach that was not productive.  Felt that Bakero did not see enough of the ball and had a hard time picking out Diop during the match.

The second half started with a bolt from blue.  Malaga went right on the attack, with a player falling down on the by line, and after two seconds, Michel ran at hosts rear guard and slammed a shot past Willy from 25 yards out.  From there Los Granotes played with a little higher line, a little more pressure in the Malaga defensive third, and a little tighter between the lines.  Eventually Malaga regained the lead as Saviola found Joaquin who passed it home.  Both players had solid games, with Saviola scoring and setting up a goal in his home debut while Joaquin put in a good shift with very dynamic movement.

The heat caught up with both sides in the second half.  The hosts were not as sharp and lost the rhythm of the first half, with Levante not having enough to push on and equalize again.  Sergio Sanchez received a second yellow four minutes from time, which set up an anxious finish, but the third goal arrived from Malaga as Duda found Portillo after an exhausted Levante team was completely stretched.

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Getafe 1  FCB 4

Checking out the lineup pre-match, I admit I was a bit nervous—no Messi, Alves, Masch, or Villa.  They were all on the bench but Tito (also in the stands) went with Tello, Montoya, and Thiago in the starting lineup.  The first half went as expected, with Getafe compact and looking for the counter, while Barca dominated possession but had difficulty finding a way through.

The game seemed to be heading towards a nervy finish (you know the game where the Blaugrana dominate, don’t get the killer second goal, and then are undone at the end by a defensive miscue), until Messi entered.  Little more drive, little more tension in the Getafe defense.  Pedro earned a penalty, the Argentinean converted, then FCB kicked on.  With the hosts chasing, Messi added another before Villa scored yet another goal in a substitute appearance.  A deflected shot/own goal from substitute gave Getafe mere consolation.

Barcelona were definitely the better team, (when are they not?), but the Azulones might have made it interesting had the penalty not occurred.  Once they went two down, their organization was lost and the belief of another amazing result had gone.  One of the early background stories to this season has been the decline in fan attendance.  I was surprised that the stadium was pretty empty.  One of the great teams of this generation was in town after all.  Jonathan Cordingley commented on this during the podcast.  The Spanish economic troubles combined with much higher ticket prices for the visits by the Big Two has created an environment in which fans just simply won’t go to games.  Yet another issue with the Spanish game.

A couple of things I noticed:

  • Tello is too dependent on what ESPN’s Jack Edwards would refer to as the “speed move” (ie push the ball past and get on the other end).  Strong, smart defenders just block him and that’s that.
  • Cesc is definitely still trying to find his way in the Barca system.  Too often he stands next to Xavi or runs at the back four and stops his run, clogging the penalty area.
  • The first 45 minutes was one of the worst halves I have seen by Busquets.  Positioning was fine but his touches were awful and slowed the team down.
  • Colunga for Getafe was totally disconnected from the rest of the team, but I’m sure this was by design and it paid off with a run Pique that earned a yellow.

Kxevin’s post at BFB was simply phenomenal, comparing and contrasting the lineups and tactics and results of Barca’s last two games—home against Valencia and away to Getafe.  The team is evolving once again as Tito stamps his authority on the squad—more movement, little more conservative on defense, and implanting some sort of squad rotation (although some has been forced on him by injury).  Can the Blaugrana recapture their titles?  Time will tell but they are well on their way.

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Sevilla 1  Real Madrid 0

With FCB winning right before them, Real Madrid knew three points would be needed to stay within touching distance of their rivals, but Piotr Trochowski dented those hopes on 75 seconds, hammering home a corner kick for the hosts.  After that, I didn’t feel there was much from either side, with the game being pretty ugly to watch.  Sevilla fouled RMFC any time an attack started.  (My unscientific calculation was that if Los Blancos completed more than four passes, Sevilla committed a foul.)  On top of that, RMFC were definitely out of sorts, with CR7 barely touching the ball at the time and Ozil not influencing the game.  He was replaced at halftime.

The Real Madrid fan I watched the game with summed up the game with one word—shocked.  Have to agree.  I really thought Los Merengues would score the equalizer, and depending on when that came in match would determine whether they would they win or not.  Mourinho’s subs at the interval made sense, although I would have subbed Benzema for Higuain, who had a bad day.  The buildout up from back to front was fine enough but the interplay and incisiveness up top was lacking. Modric at least got a shot off, wonderfully saved by Palop.  Eventually, Khedira was shuffled out to right back as they chased an equalizer.

As for the winners, Negredo really should have added a second in the last 20 minutes as the visitors chased the game.  Thought Jesus Navas had a solid performance on the wing, while the entire Sevilla defense stayed to their task.  Real Madrid created a couple of chances, but there wasn’t the lack of concentration and the series of mistakes that marked the corresponding fixture last year.

RMFC is up against it, although last year they won 10 in a row before the first league El Clasico and 11 straight after the loss (and didn’t lose again the rest of the season) to create the winning margin.  Mourinho’s men will have to do something similar during this campaign to make up the ground, while slugging it out in a tough UCL group.

Both Madridista Mac from Real Madrid Football Blog and Ireland 26 at Managing Madrid commented on a perceived lack of focus and hunger from Los Blancos.  Goals conceded from set pieces; lack of interplay between key players; responding to overly physical challenges.  These are all contributing to their poor form, and I will be interested to see if the Champions League sharpens them as they try to win La Decima.  It may be that they write off the league and win the Big One as the teams of the last 90’s/early 2000’s did.

Zonal Marking analyzed the game in fine detail, looking at Sevilla’s approach to the game: (a) pressing heavily, (b) marking Alonso and (c) using an extra holding midfielder

which frustrated a below par opponent.  The early goal allowed Sevilla to battle and Real’s lack of sharpness kept them from getting anything from the match.

Finally, Sid Lowe hopes that Sevilla’s stirring victory is not another false dawn but a step back to competition in the Primera.  Many of the stars of the last six to seven years are gone, but Saturday night’s performance showed what this team and that atmosphere can do.  Time will tell.

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Osasuna 1  Real Mallorca 1

Sam Parker, writing for Inside Spanish Football, was concerned for Osasuna after three rounds.  No points and only one goal for did not bode well for Los Rojillos, but there was an energetic start to the match, with both teams playing at a high tempo.  Mallorca pressured the hosts which made for a choppy start, but Osasuna were positive despite not having any points this season.  The first half strategies could be summed up thusly: Osasuna were composed, making the extra pass, while Mallorca were very direct, feeding Nsue and Pereira on the flanks to create havoc.

The pace faded around the half hour mark and was followed by the major incident of the first half—a double red card.  On 33 minutes, the referee showed red cards to Osasuna forward Llorente, who had barely touched the ball, and Mallorca defender Nunes, who had commanded the defense.  Caparros immediately brought on Pedro Tunon Geromel for Alfaro to keep four at the back and go with one up top.

Osasuna went right back to work after the intermission, putting the visitors on the back foot.  Their pressure created turnovers and but they were not nearly sharp enough in the final third, with the final pass almost always lacking.  With just one target player, Mallorca tried to hold on to the ball and let Pereira and Nsue just run at the back four.  Not very successful

The substitutes raised the quality and intensity of the match.  Kike Solar got Mallorca’s attention, finding pockets of space and working hard with his efforts rewarded as he headed in from close range after great service from Lamah.  He also impressed as his long strides and strength gave the visitors fits on the left hand side.  Mallorca almost responded after a free kick went over everyone, skipped off the surface, and the GK deflected onto cross bar.  Joao Victor kept things lively upon his entrance to the game, driving the team forward and hitting the top of the crossbar with an audacious free kick.  The equalizer did come minutes after the opening goal as a corner zipped through the box and Hemed dove to meet it.  There were anxious moments for the visitors as Osasuna pushed for the winner, but the game ended in a stalemate.

Osasuna picked up their first point of the season but will need better quality in the final third to get themselves out of relegation.  As for Mallorca, they were third until Rayo’s game later in the day.

One note, the best player for me was Cejudo for Osasuna.  He got wide, smartly used the ball and combined well on the right hand side with Emiliano Armenteros and the overlapping full back.  Didn’t see much of him in the second half and he was subbed with five minutes to go.

Morbo Minute–Cristiano is sad, Adriano is wonderful, & Falcao is dominating

My coverage of La Liga for Round Three was a series of scheduling screw ups.

Saturday I was just too busy and with a limited selection on US TV, I was out of luck.  Sunday was supposed to be FCB v Valencia at 2pm.  The possibility of an entertaining game and a couple of pints was very enticing but when reviewing the weekend’s fixture and TV grids on Friday, I noticed the match was moved to 4pm EDT on Sunday, which put it in conflict with church.  Blurgh.

Monday was Labor Day so I planned to spend the afternoon watching Real Betis and Atletico Madrid at a bar instead of my usual work M.O.—sneaking a peek on the internet while pretending to work.  Wrong again.  Between Atleti’s participation in the European Super Cup and Monday being a FIFA date, the game was postponed.  (Moved to 9/26.)  How the LFP did not see that coming, I have no idea.  Chelsea already solved their problem, moving the Reading fixture up to the opening week of the season.

So my viewing was relegated to catching the highlights on various websites.  Quickly commenting on a couple of matches: What a goal by Adriano for Barcelona!  Made up for a poor performance in the Super Cup second leg.  The pitch at La Romareda looked awful for Zaragoza’s loss to Malaga.  The match day attendance continues to be an issue, especially at Estadio Anoeta where there were very few in the stands for Mallorca’s win over Real Sociedad.

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Articles and Pods

Sid Lowe did his weekly post for the Guardian a day late last week due to the Atletico/Athletic game not being played until 11pm local time on Monday (8/27) night.  His comments were tinged with doom as Bilbao were run off the field and Bielsa in dire straights.  Martinez has finally been sold to Bayern while Llorente remains on the team, but not on the field.  Los Leones victory in round three got them off the bottom of the table and time will tell if they can turn it around this season.

Staying with Atletico, I finally got around to reading La Liga Loca’s preseason thoughts on Atleti, which were optimistic and have been rewarded with four points out of six (away draw to Levante and a 4-0 thumping of Athletic) and a 4-1 thrashing of Chelsea in the European Super Cup.  To be honest with all of the changes in the last 12 months, I’m not too familiar with the side but know that historically promise and usually fail to deliver.

Phil Ball got caught up in Falcao Fever as the Colombian put on a show in the European Super Cup.  He then moved on to address CR7’s supposed “sad”ness at Real Madrid after a weekend where he scored twice to get Los Merengues their first league victory of the season.

Liam Morgan gave his early thoughts on Levante for Inside Spanish Football, and I agree with him that the Europa League draw could have been much worse.  A huge comeback against Espanyol earned them all three points in the last round and could get Los Granotes back on track.

Back to Sid.  His post this week centered on Caparros at Real Mallorca.  Los Bermellones went top of the table for a minute over the weekend.  While they may not stay there, Caparros will do everything he can to make sure that his team have a chance at survival in La Primera.

Meg Ryan summed up the Barcelona/Valencia game for Total Barca, which saw FCB in control but failing to put Los Che to the sword.  For a Valencia perspective, I visited SlickR at Club Valencia CF, who acknowledged that FCB were superior but he sees hope for the rest of the season, as Valencia have played the Big Two already, both away, which I had not considered.  But he is concerned about the condition of the defense and the form of Guardado, although he is hoping that the return of Gago will help give cohesion to the team.

Madridista Mac turned in a fantastic post for the Real Madrid Football Blog in the wake of three points and Ronaldo’s shenanigans.  He focused his match comments on the midfield, examining what Modric brings to the squad and the possibility of a healthy Essien for Los Blancos.  As a fan of the EPL, the thought of both of them hitting the heights is a frightening prospect.  Mac then turned his attention to CR7’s post game pout and looked at possible reasons: money and institutional support.  The media machine has almost two weeks to go crazy with this and I’m interested to see where things stand at kickoff for round four.

Along those lines, Graham Hunter gave his opinion on Ronaldo’s antics as the superstar angles for a new deal.  He then moved on to Isco’s great start to the season at Malaga and how smaller clubs can catch lightning in a bottle every once in a while with extended scouting and shrewd deals (see Villarreal and Sevilla from the middle of last decade).

As for podcasts, Sid Lowe was on Beyond the Pitch to talk about La Liga.  He and Anto covered a ton of ground including the issues facing Athletic and Malaga, the upcoming campaigns for the Big Two, the TV money distribution, and the exit of players from the league.

The panel on the Inside Spanish Football pod touched on a lackluster performance by Real Madrid, Sevilla’s penalty kick woes and the parity of the league outside the Big Two, among other topics.  Plus Jonathan gave some betting tips to think about for the upcoming season.

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Transfer stuff

The transfer window closed, and to be honest I was so overwhelmed with players changing squads in England, I didn’t have a real good feel for what happened in Spain.

Some transactions that did catch my eye:

  • American Carlos Bocanegra escaped Rangers and moved to Racing Santander.
  • Giovanni dos Santos continues his footballing odyssey and moved to Real Mallorca.
  • Michael Essien moved to Real Madrid.  Could be great coverage for Mourinho if he can stay healthy.
  • Roque Santa Cruz stayed in Spain, moving to Malaga.

Zonal Marking looked at the Modric and Song signings for the Big Two, with Modric giving Mou options while hopefully Song gives FCB some teeth in midfield.

Finally, James Burn looked at some of the big signings in La Liga this offseason for Inside Spanish Football.  He heaped praise on Barca for getting Song and Alba, Valencia for adding Pereira and Canales (although his time might have passed), and Granada for picking up Iriney and Torje.

Morbo Minute–Frogs fall to the Anchovies and Messi scored again

The last round saw lost points on several fronts as Valencia, Bilbao and Villarreal dropped vital points towards their respective goals. The Big Two continued their match towards 90+ points, while the relegation fight remains unsettled.

I was able to catch two games live last weekend. One I should have skipped (Malaga v Levante) and the other was just a footballing masterclass (Racing v FC Barcelona).

Malaga 1 Levante 0

So I spent the first half wondering which game was worse, this one or Everton v Spurs. I decided that this game was because at least there were chances in the EPL game. This game followed the template of the first meeting—Malaga enjoying possession but not really asking the questions. Los Granotes kept 10 men behind the ball and really made the intricate passing of Cazorla and Toulalan and Isco problematic. The service from wide areas was poor so the visitors were able to say compact. The best chance was a serve from the right channel that a Levante defender almost put in their own net.

A couple of tactical notes. Levante really made a point of double teaming Joaquin in the right hand channel, yet Malaga kept playing there. Literally in the first 15-20 minutes, the hosts never played to the left despite the space being available. Isco flashed in and out of the match; I felt Cazorla should have been on the ball more; I thought Welington had a decent game; as for Toulalan, have to say he had a great match, breaking up attacks and starting moves for the hosts.

Rondon finally scored one of the billion chances in front of goal, but I’m not even sure he got the final touch. Anyway, really couldn’t figure out Malaga’s strategy after that. They didn’t tika taka the visitors to death, nor did they step on their throat. They continued to dribble into pressure, turn the ball over and hope that Levante turned gave it back on the fourth or fifth pass instead of the second or third pass like the first half. Levante almost had a chance to equalize with about 20 minutes to go but Kone could not meet a fine cross. There was also a free kick with 10 minutes to go which bamboozled the defense and only a timely intervention by Willy kept the hosts in the lead.

Malaga are now in fourth and, with Bilbao losing the late Sunday match, maybe Los Boquerones can actually meet their goal of qualifying for the Champions League.

John Pelini recapped the match at El Centrocampista. I valued the second set of eyes and he saw many of the same things as me, although he mentioned many more chances for Levante in the second half as the visitors searched for an equalizer. He gave his man of the match to Toulalan, which I agreed with.

Mike Barnes summed up the game at A Different Liga, pointing out Malaga’s rise to fourth has due to a fine run of form—12 points from their last 15. Didn’t realize it had been that good. He also mentioned that Pellegrini has mixed veteran experience and youth, although there are still plenty of younger players that could make their mark.

Racing Santander 0 FC Barcelona 2

FCB has struggled on the road this season and Pep set out his squad in a nominal 3-3-4, with Cesc and Messi flanked by Cuenca and Pedro. As the half progressed, Busquets played his hybrid CM/CB position.

Racing were clearly determined to park the bus and get stuck in. This mentality, combined with a dodgy surface, caused the Blaugrana to struggle in the opening exchanges, with even Xavi looking a little off. But slowly the visitors came into the match and finally made the breakthrough on 28 minutes as Messi scored after Xavi flicked the ball into space and Cesc smashed it across the goal box.

After the half, FCB kept the hosts on the rack, and only the goalkeeper and some unfortunate touches kept the match close. The turning point of the match came when Mario saved Cuenca’s fine effort. Cesc touched the rebound past Cisma, who took the Spaniard down. Even after a couple of viewings, I’m still not sure it was a penalty. Messi tucked it away and that was that. FCB had two more moves of real quality and precision that deserved goal, but the game petered out, with the Blaugrana relaxing and allowing Racing to create a couple of half chances. The visitors could have added a third through Messi, Pedro and Tello but no dice. All in all a comfortable win that saw Pedro and Masch have good matches, hopefully providing the needed depth as the Champions League looms large.

Meg Ryan’s match review put things in perspective: While miracles may still happen and the league could still be won, Spanish competition has become more of an exhibition for the blaugrana. A delightful exhibition at that. The league is over but the Blaugrana still play a beautiful brand of football, which overcame a cynical Racing team on Sunday afternoon. Each match is a chance to bask in their glory as they prepare to defend their Champions League title.

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Articles

Bassam at Real Madrid Football Blog praised Real Betis for their effort and organization in a narrow defeat to Real Madrid. Los Merengues were off kilter, especially in the back, and the hosts exploited this to create a competitive match. Maybe Madrid were looking ahead to the Champions League game.

Last week I presented differing points of view on Emery’s future at Valencia and Sid Lowe discussed the same topic in his weekly column. Have they hit the glass ceiling? Has Emery’s influence worn off? Can this team do better? Sid presents many of the factors affecting Valencia at the moment. Without a splash of cash I don’t see much changing.

Speaking of Valencia, Elisa from Forza Futbol is in Spain and saw first hand Valencia’s collapse against Mallorca, giving praise to Caparros as he tries to save the islanders from relegation. Make sure to check out their site this month for first hand accounts of game and goings-on.

Phil Ball weighed in on the greatest ever debate, as Messi had an amazing week. He correctly points out that perceptions of the little Argentinean are skewed by tons of footage, the age in which he plays and stylistic tastes, but already he has to be in the conversation.

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Podcasts

In a second interview from the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Ravi from Forza Futbol talked to Alexi Lalas about several topics. The former US international discussed the progess of the MLS over the last ten years, the upcoming Euros, CR7 v Messi, and the nature of being a manager instead of a coach.

On the Sky Sports La Liga Weekly pod, Andy and Sid looked back on the results of the Big Two, how La Liga compares to the rest of Europe, Bilbao’s slip up against Osasuna, and Gijon’s chances for survival.

Morbo Minute–Copa Letdown

After the drama of the cup, I was let down in the league.  FCB and Real Madrid survived scares in their race for the title, while the chasing pack continue to stumble over themselves.  At the bottom, Real Zaragoza are all but done, while Villarreal is truly in the relegation mire, with Racing escaping for the time being.

Saturday

Sevilla 0  Espanyol 0

I looked forward to this game after watching drama filled cup ties involving these teams in midweek, and apparently the excitement tanks could not be refilled.  Sevilla were knocked out by Valencia on away goals after winning 2-1 at the Sanchez Pijuan.  Espanyol got a late goal to win 4-2 and progress 5-4 against Cordoba.

Sevilla were in charge but both teams made a sloppy start.  Reyes, based on my viewing had a free role behind Negredo as Navas and Manu looked to occupy the wings.  But Espanyol were compact and Sevilla had a hard time picking their way through.  Turns out that was the theme of the game.  Sevilla couldn’t score and Espanyol couldn’t attack.  The Rojiblancos had several half chances that went begging, while Los Pericos would play up to Thievy, who was active but had horrible first touches before finally being subbed.

The game was not much of a spectacle, and I kept the bartender busy getting me more beers until we finally switched to the Spurs/Wolves replay. Sharing the points helps neither team, as Sevilla remains in a funk.  Espanyol might slowly be turning things around after a slow start, with their league form improving and still having a chance to progress in the Copa del Rey.

Madridista Mac returned to savor a Real Madrid victory borne of courage, grit and determination rather than slick, efficient domination. Mourinho made wholesale changes (similar to the ones in the second half of the first leg against Malaga in the Cup) and Los Merengues hammered the islanders into submission. For seventy minutes, the door was open for FCB but Higuain and Callejon and the rest slammed it shut.

Sunday

I wasn’t able to get up for the 6am EST kickoff of Atletico Madrid against Villarreal, despite this being a key match for each team and their new managers.

Derek at Atleticofans.com was pretty happy with Atleti’s performance, with their pressing taking the Yellow Submarine out of the game. Sounds like Falcao, Diego and Arda Turan had good matches and Los Colchoneros will look to build on this result as they try to climb up the table.

For a Villarreal perspective, I visited VillarrealUSA.com, where Allen was not so positive, calling this “as poor as a performance as I’ve seen from Villarreal in the league in a long while.” With the midfield doing very little in front of the backline, it was only a matter of time before Atleti scored. Allen also mentioned the lack of depth, which hurt them all over the field. Before the season I thought Atletico might go down, but it turns out that The Yellow Submarine are the ones in real trouble.

Athletic Bilbao 3 Levante 0

Bilbao continued their great run of form—only one loss in their last ten competitive matches, (PSG in a Europa League game) and unbeaten in last five league games (2 wins and 3 draws).  Los Leones dominated the first half with several great chances and finally broke through as Amorebieta headed in from 12 yards from a corner.  The hosts searched for a second, and it finally came five minutes from the half as Oscar tortured his defender before floating a cross over the keeper for Llorente to head in.

Levante’s form, particularly away from home, has not been spectacular. Since beating Real Sociedad in late October, Los Granotes have only won two of their last eight league matches, suffering five defeats in that time, including the last four away.  They tried to insert some attacking thrust at the interval, subbing out Nano for Valdo, and the visitors were a little more threatening in the second stanza, but Bilbao could have easily added a third or fourth, with several slick moves that didn’t come off.

San Jose added a third at the end after Juanfran had been sent off.  His absence from the post on the ensuing corner and poor marking allowed the defender to head home.  Bilbao deserved the win but two of the goals came from corners, which Levante didn’t deal with at all.  Muniain had another fantastic game and Javi Martinez was particularly impressive defensively and starting attacks out of the back.  Los Leones will need more results like this if they hope to qualify for Europe.

Malaga’s inconsistent season continues as they suffered a late goal against Gijon to lost 2-1, which puts them in eighth place. Mike Barnes at A Different Liga commented on the match, with rumors surrounding several transfer targets but so far it only looks like Kameni is signing. Ruud is not the answer up top and the defense is old and creaky. European qualification will be a tooth and nail affair as no team seems able to assert themselves.

Meg Ryan at Total Barca reviewed a match that saw the best and worst of the FC Barcelona this season—a sizzling start with early goals, complacency in the middle, and a furious finish that, this time, earned results. I was not able to see the game but in watching an extended highlights package, Betis were carved open but created plenty of chances themselves. Another reason to think that Real Madrid might finish on top of the league this season.

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Sid Lowe examined the Diego Simeone’s first home game in charge, a 3-0 drubbing of the Yellow Submarine. A popular choice of the fans, he will provide unity and a link to the past, until the results go against him.

Phil Ball lamented possible “spectacle-fatigue” as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona clash in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. He also scanned the table and identified the battles going on under the Big Two—the fight for fourth and the race to avoid relegation—with this spring surely filled with drama until the last day.

La Liga Loca picked out Racing (unbeaten since Cuper left and out of the relegation zone) and Callejon for praise while identifying that Sevilla and Malaga are in trouble and Valencia have a lack of attacking depth.

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Articles

Admittedly, I don’t know much about Real Zaragoza, and every time I read something about them it has something to do with their finances tanking and the club being run poorly. Liam’s post about the club addresses both, with several board administrators resigning, a new coach in place after a hiring fiasco, and players’ wages not being paid. All of this on top of being rock bottom in the league.

Build it and they will come. Hardly, Spanish stadia expert Chris Clements wrote a piece on Sevilla’s Olympic Stadium, Estadio La Cartuja, built in the late 90’s for attempted 2004 and 2008 Olympics bids which has sat largely dormant since then. A fantastic venue for athletics but not so good for footy. Shame really.

Graham Hunter raised questions about Di Maria’s pay packet ahead of the Cup clash between the Big Two. Surely this season he has earned himself a raise, playing well on the wing, creating several chances in the middle against Sevilla, and getting rid of the unsavory part of his game.

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Pods

Allen from VillarrealUSA.com was on the Forza Football pod to discuss Villarreal, the finances of the league, third party ownership, and Valencia’s deal to move forward with the new Mestalla.  Informative and entertaining as always.

Sid Lowe and Andy May recapped the weekend’s action on Sky’s La Liga Weekly and looked ahead to the Clasico clashes in the Copa.  Injuries, form and desire will impact these games.

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.