Posts Tagged ‘ Real Sociedad ’

Morbo Minute–Back to Work

La Liga returned from the Winter Break and the goals were plentiful. Again no scoreless draws, with a crazy game at the Bernabeu, a thrashing at the Nou Camp, a dramatic turnaround at Los Carmenes (Granada) and three points for Depor under new manager Domingos Paciencia.

After Round 18’s results, a greater net has been cast around relegation candidates as six teams are within four points of each other at the bottom.  This aspect of the league will probably be the story of the season along Levante’s quest to return to Europe.

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FC Barcelona 4  Espanyol 0

Before we get talking about the game, (not much to say), glad to see that Alves and Alba found their razors over the festive period.  Cesc, however, was still doing the quasi-beard thing and I’m still looking for confirmation that he got a new tattoo on his elbow.

The first half was a feast of attacking play as Barca put their city rivals to the sword in under 30 minutes.  Los Pericos came out in a narrow 4-1-4-1 with Forlin shielding the backline.  The visitors conceded width allowing Iniesta to hang on Barca’s left hand fringe ready to attack.  Espanyol’s central players switched off and allowed Xavi to walk in and turn in Iniesta’s cross to open the game. From there, Pedro scored two (hopefully getting him back on track) before Messi converted a dodgy penalty.

After that, tactics and the result went out the window.  Espanyol had very little to offer and FCB tried for 40+ minutes to get Pedro his hat trick, which went unfulfilled due to two very tight offside calls.  The defeat was Aguirre’s first in charge of Espanyol and keeps them firmly in the relegation battle.  As for the Blaugrana, they continue their record setting season thus far.  Dropped points are on the horizon but for now they are out of sight.

Kxevin of Barcelona Football Blog worried about this match, identifying the possible ingredients for failure: holiday break, resurgent opponent with something to play for, rust.  In the end Barca overwhelmed their opponents, putting them under pressure from the first moment to the last.  The second half, as he rightly noted, was a testament to this team’s hunger and desire.  With the match all but over, every turnover was immediately challenged, Valdes kept a clean sheet with a big save and the search for another goal continued.  Kxevin encourages everyone to keep watching, to keep admiring, to keep appreciating.

Chalk on the Boots focused on the passing of Busquets and the movement of the Barca players in the demolition of Espanyol.  Iniesta and Fabregas interchanged on the left, supported by Alba, while Pedro cut in from the right, all the while Messi drifted around the field.  At its peak, the dynamism was breathtaking.  Add to this a poor effort from the opponent, which he also touched on, and you get Sunday’s scoreline.

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Podcast, Articles, and Kits

Inside Spanish Football produced a winter break podcast, which broke down the season month by month.  Then the panel shared their moments of the season thus far.  Definitely worth a listen as it put the opening months in perspective and set the stage for the rest of the season.

Phil Ball returned to Spain just in time to stop by the pub for Real Sociedad’s visit to the Bernabeu.  Mourinho went with Adan again only for the young keeper to be sent off and replaced by Saint Iker.  Prieto’s hat-trick was not enough as the hosts survived with a makeshift defense (Arbeloa, Varane, Carvalho and Essien) and playing with 10 men for 80+ minutes.

I was able to catch the last nine minutes plus injury time so I missed all off the goals.  Prieto’s finishes were nice but a lot of attention was given to Ronaldo’s free kick.  It was well struck but the goalkeeper really should have done better.  Any touch by Bravo and the shot would have been saved.

Los Merengues gained two points on Atleti to cut the gap to five, but alarm bells must be going off in the defense.  Real Madrid has given up 20 goals this season, conceding 10 in last four games.  They now turn their focus to the return Copa match against Celta.  Down 2-1, Real Madrid will need to put their internal conflicts behind them in order to progress.

Sid Lowe also examined the Real Madrid/Real Sociedad game for his weekly column, noting the special circumstances with which Iker Casillas arrived on the scene over 10 years ago: coming on as substitute in the European Cup Final and taking over for Canizares before the World Cup after the Valencia keeper injured himself just before the tournament.  Since then Saint Iker has been an institution and Mourinho has been playing with fire by demoting him to the bench, and the Special One looks to burn all of his bridges before exiting the capital.

Kaushik took over for Madridista Mac at Real Madrid Football Blog, lauding the midfield performance of Alonso and Khedira and giving special praise to CR7, who was captain for the match.  This game also saw the return of Higuain, giving Los Blancos much need depth as they fight on three fronts.

For the other side of the capital, Martin Rosenow recapped the game for Atletico Fans and saw Los Colchoneros give up a late equalizer away to Mallorca.  The visitors were without Miranda, Turan and Falcao, and manager Diego Simeone was pleased with his team’s performance, which including fine efforts from Diego Costa, Koke, Tiago and goalscorer Raul Garcia.  Atleti should progress in the Copa and then get back at it against Zaragoza on the weekend.

Tim Stannard commented on the return of La Liga for Football365.  Besides Barca’s destruction and Real’s crazy victory, he looked at Atleti’s possible prospects next season without Falcao and Turan and Betis’ continued success before concluding with Depor’s vital three points.

Garreth Nunn did a La Liga Top 11 for 2012 for Forza Futbol, with one small tweak—no Real Madrid or FC Barcelona players.  He has a much better grasp of the league than I do, so his picks made sense to me.  Imagine his proposed midfield—Joaquin, Isco, Benat and Turan. Wow!  I would have gone with Leo Baptistao up top instead of Vela but not sure how the young Brazilian striker did in the second of half of the 2011/12 campaign.

Peter Alegi turned me on to Spanish Football Tales, a blog that looks at snippets from the history of the Spanish league.  I read a post called the Tenerife Leagues, which saw Real Madrid surrender the league title to FC Barcelona two seasons (91/92 and 92/93) in a row against Tenerife in the most dramatic circumstances.  Nice slice of history and shows how narrow the margins of victory were for Cruyff’s Dream Team.

A Football Report released their best of football writing of 2012, broken into the following categories: Most Compelling, Most Creative, Best Research, and Best Storytelling.  The list is overwhelming and not sure when I’ll find time to go through it, but I clicked on Brian Phillips’ eulogy for Pep Guardiola from last spring as he examined the “cocoon of silence” created in a world of noise and hype and tension.  Not only did Pep fashion a team that was pleasing to the eye, but the players performed with a joy and a spirit that was captivating.  Eventually Mourinho came in and upset the balance, yet for a short period the Blaugrana were the greatest show on Earth and under Tito Vilanova they are returning to those levels.

Many times I have stressed that this cycle will end and hopefully everyone can enjoy this moment now instead of waiting for time to pass and being forced to remember, to put it back together.  It’s happening, right now. We are in the midst of a glorious epoch in footballing history.  Take a second to let it wash over you because it will be gone soon enough.

Couple of kit related items:

Tom Conn reported on Inside Spanish Football that Atletico have finally secured a shirt sponsor—Chinese communications brand, Huawei.  The company has partnered with the club in the past but now look to go full time.  Currently Los Colchoneros have Azerbaijan: Land of Fire across their chest.

According to Football Fashion, Celta Vigo will be changing kit manufacturer’s next season, switching from Li-Ning to adidas.  The brand with the three stripes is already getting a jump on proceedings and released a special kit that the club will wear against Real Madrid during the second leg of the Copa del Rey.

Morbo Minute–Power Struggle

Due to traveling and family commitments, I missed Round 17, and there were goals aplenty with only one game having a solitary goal.  The rest were filled with goals aplenty, including a fantastic winner by Bentiez of Granada to secure three vital points, along with some shocking results.  Barcelona remain atop the table and Espanyol are unbeaten since Aguirre took over.  I caught up on the events by watching highlights and reading articles.  The league is now off until January 4th.

Valencia entered the Christmas break on a high note, with a 4-2 home win against Getafe.  SlickR of Club Valencia reported that Soldado got proceedings of to a great start with an early goal and Valencia controlled much of the first half, going into halftime with a 3-1 lead.  However missed chances and more pressure from the visitors saw the momentum change, and Getafe nearly came all the way back before succumbing to an injury time goal.  SlickR’s player ratings saw a mixed bag of performances as Los Che need to improve in the second half to improve their position in the league.

Lucas Navarrete lamented the lack of firepower and defensive solidity for Managing Madrid as Real Madrid slumped to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Malaga.  Mourinho used his substitutes to try and turn and match around but the changes did not have the same effect as the Real Valladolid match.  In the background was the fact that Casillas was benched.  Still have not read a definitive reason but have seen squad rotation and possible outing of a mole thrown about.

Phil Ball focused on the long line of Real Madrid legends (indiscutible or unquestioned), as a way to frame the dropping of Casillas against Malaga.  Mourinho continues to test the limits of his power and this decision was another example.  He moved on to the victors of the match and their upcoming battle against UEFA to answer the federation’s charges.  Finally there was a little Champions League discussion before looking at the bottom of the table.

Levon strayed from the typical match report—key moments, storylines and tactics—for Barcelona Football Blog and instead looked at some of the critical moments thus far this season.  One of his recurring themes was that despite the amazing haul of points thus far, there is room for improvement throughout the team: forwards (besides Messi) could start scoring; the midfield could get some quality depth; and the defense could get healthy and organized.  The run-in for 2013 could see the crowing of another glorious side or the exposure of deficiencies in the squad.  Cannot wait for it to unfold.

Malaga had an unbelievable 2012: qualified for the Champions League; then had a meltdown in the summer and sold/lost some of their best players; regrouped for the Champions League and won the group; and finished up the year by beating Real Madrid.  Sid Lowe examined the last twelve months for Pellegrini’s men and looked ahead to 2013, including sanctions handed down by UEFA which could see Los Boqueneros banned from European competition in 2013/14.

Inside Spanish Football posted their five best goals from La Liga teams in 2012.  Tough to pick out and several great goals this season were left off (Messi’s against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup for one).  Have to say that Benzema’s was quite nice, but would have to give it Falcao, as he destroyed Bilbao in the Europa League Final.

Finally, a couple of kit notes.  Real Sociedad recognized their loyal fan base by having the names of selected season ticket holders screened onto the front of their shirts for their game for their match against Sevilla.  Pretty cool.  Speaking of Los Rojiblancos, Sevilla’s kit will be manufactured by Warrior Sports next season, as the American company looked to increase their brand identity in Europe.  With Liverpool on the books and a possible deal with Roma ahead, the sports company is planning to make inroads into La Liga.  Hopefully their Spanish kits are better than their English ones, as the Liverpool second and third kits leaving something to be desired.

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Table

Barcelona 17 16 1 0 38 49
Atletico 17 13 1 3 20 40
Real Madrid 17 10 3 4 24 33
Malaga 17 9 4 4 16 31
Betis 17 9 1 7 -2 28
Levante 17 8 3 6 -3 27
R Sociedad 17 7 4 6 4 25
Rayo 17 8 1 8 -10 25
Valencia 17 7 3 7 -3 24
Getafe 17 7 3 7 -4 24
Valladolid 17 6 4 7 2 22
R Zaragoza 17 7 1 9 -4 22
Athletic 17 6 3 8 -13 21
Sevilla 17 5 4 8 -4 19
Granada 17 4 4 9 -12 16
Mallorca 17 4 4 9 -13 16
Celta Vigo 17 4 3 10 -6 15
Espanyol 17 3 6 8 -7 15
Osasuna 17 3 5 9 -5 14
Deportivo 17 2 6 9 -18 12

Morbo Minute–Round 11

Another great week of La Liga action with plenty of goals and talking points.  Not much changed at the top of the table but things are getting very nervy at the bottom with Galician sides perilously close to dropping back down.

Malaga 1  Real Sociedad 2

Malaga, who qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League midweek, began the match with a strong lineup. Real Sociedad were without Griezmann but stacked the team with players ready to put in a shift.  The first half was full of energy but lacking in quality.  Carlos Vela gave the visitors a dream start and then the team defended with men behind the ball in central positions.  They appeared to concede the width which frustrated the hosts in two ways: key players could not get on the ball in the congestion and attackers converged on top of the box and could not connect the final pass to create an opportunity.  But an equalizer did not come as the Real Sociedad did not clear a corner and Saviola danced through and smashed the ball home.

Xavi Prieto put the visitors back in front 15 minutes into the second half as the ball deflected into his path off of Onyewu (making his first start in La Liga and trying to get his career back on track) and the captain dribbled around Willy to score.  Santa Cruz came on for Portillo as Malaga looked to get back in the game.  However Malaga were lucky to have 11 players on the field as Iturra could have received several yellows in a short period but escaped with only one booking.  At this point the visitors were playing with almost six at the back and Los Boquerones were not able to ask the right questions.  If anything they regressed and did not create enough opportunities to trouble them, with Isco’s attempt the only one I can remember.

Real Sociedad climbed out of the bottom to twelfth while Malaga remained in fifth as the Betis defeat kept them within touching distance of fourth place.

On a side note, I loved the kits in this game.  Real Sociedad looked very Dutch with their bright orange tops and socks with black shorts while Malaga mimicked Argentina with the light blue and white vertical stripes.

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Articles and Podcasts

Last season it seemed as every other article was about the financial chasm growing between the Big Two and the rest of the league.  Tim Stannard compared the so called problems of FCB and Real Madrid with the real financial and sporting crises faced by Depor and Osasuna.  Both of these teams have had moderate success in the recent past but money talks and these clubs are getting more and more quiet.

As for this season, there have been two stories: Atleti’s fantastic start fueled by Falcao’s exploits and the Real Madrid cantera crisis.  Sid Lowe touched on the latter after giving the literal blow by blow account of soggy, physical, dramatic Levante/Real Madrid encounter.

Phil Ball showcased some of the players at the twilight of their careers a couple of weeks ago.  This week he looked at some future stars and how things have turned out for them—Canales and Krkic (not well); Isco and Ander (going from strength to strength); Muniain and Ruben Pardo (jury still out).  Part of the conundrum is how to bring them through.  Too early, burnout and injury; too late, career stalls or develops too late.  For every Messi and Raul, dozens never quite make it.

Javier Hernandez identified some of the best players in La Liga thus far based on statistics for El Centrocampista.  Outside the top three (Messi, Cristiano and El Tigre) there were some surprises.  Malaga had two players in the list—goalkeeper Willy and defender Demichelis.  Javier also mentioned Leo from Rayo (no real surprise) as well as Joaquin and Pizzi, with being very influential in creating goal scoring opportunities.  One player that he mentioned was Oscar Gonzalez of Valladolid.  Honestly I don’t think I’ve seen a Valladolid game yet this season so I need to get on that.  Anyway, check it out and see if you agree.

Ravi and Elisa of Forza Futbol reviewed a week of ups and downs for Spanish teams in Europe.  For FCB, they wondered if the weakness of the league is catching up to them.  I don’t think so.  If anything, most teams have prepared the Blaugrana for the defensive wall they faced in Scotland but few teams were as organized in both defense and attack as Celtic.  Plus it is hard to hit the heights so often as last year made painfully obvious.  Los Blancos ran into a tough match up in Borussia Dortmund, as the Germans speed, technical ability and youth combined with Real’s injuries has led to the dropped points.  As for Valencia, DDay is next week against Bayern Munich at the Mestalla, and Malaga are through after getting a draw at San Siro.  In the Europa League, two of the three teams have a real shot at progressing with Athletic all but out.  However that’s probably for the best.

I love the Barcelona Football Blog.  Their posts are consistently passionate, insightful and wonderful to read.  A recent post on the state of the Blaugrana defense was fantastic.  The moderators examined why Barca have been giving up so many goals this season and their reasoning looks at all factors: injuries (especially to Abidal), lack of height, the approach of other teams, and a lack of complementing players. I really enjoy writing like this, writing that digs down into an issue as opposed to the crisis/record/glory of the day.

Madridista Mac saw EPL veterans Essian, Alonso and Ronaldo lead Los Merengues over Levante in a game worthy of lower division English football.  Additional praise was given to Callejon, given a rare start due to the injuries, and Mac didn’t pull any punches when it came to Albiol and Di Maria.  Of course most of the coverage went to Morata who scored the winner.  This led to Mac’s breakdown of Mourinho’s comments on the cantera and what it means for the club.  This will probably die down in a couple of weeks but it does make you wonder if the club are re-examining their youth policy.

Finally, Sid Lowe was on Beyond the Pitch to discuss La Liga.  The Doctor started with FCB.  This team doesn’t quite have the control of the Pep teams.  He used the word negligence and this negligence concedes corners and free kicks that they don’t deal with all that well. The importance of Busquets was also touched on, as was the signing of Song, which didn’t really address the issue the Barca are facing.  As for Real Madrid, the winning for club and country has possibly taken the edge off and a lack of concentration may be responsible for many of the goals.  Plus there may be a tacit prioritization of the Champions League over La Liga this season.  Sid mentioned that bridging the gap between defense and attack could be Los Blancos’ biggest tactical shortcoming this season. They moved on to discuss Malaga’s amazing run thus far lead by Pellegrini.  Of course Atleti’s great start was mentioned spearheaded by the goals of Falcao and the focus of Simeone.  Sid and Anto wrapped up by looking at the situations at Athletic Bilbao and Real Oviedo.

Morbo Minute–La Liga is Rubbish

The big La Liga talking point during the International Break was the TV contract and the state of the league.  Sevilla President Del Nido held a summit of the other 18 top flight teams, with attendance being mixed.  Forza Futbol put together a roll call on their website.  Barca and Real Madrid have made some concessions but there is a sense that more is needed if the league as a whole to improve.  Every sight I visited gave some sort of opinion about the current state of the league, what they think of the non-powerful clubs and what might happen in the future.

Barcelona Football Blog commented that on the current TV $ brouhaha.  The author concedes that Del Nido is on to something and that the financing and competitiveness of the league needs to improve so that all benefit, even the Big Two.

Doctor Sid took a couple of views over the last 7 to 10 days.  Early in the International Week he looked at the possible crossroads ahead for the league and the Big Two.  It may come to point where a breakaway league may be the only option.

After all the hubbub of Round 2 and the possible mirage that the league isn’t just the Big Two, he tried to put things in perspective.

However, Phil Ball at Soccernet took a rather contrarian view to the shouts of equality.  He even criticized Barcelona’s playing style.  HERETIC!!!

As for the games . . .

Real Sociedad v FCB

Going into the weekend, Lee Roden at EL CENTROCAMPISTA wondered if FCB would use 3-4-3 again.    I watched a replay of the match knowing the result (2-2) but had to see it for myself.  FCB got two early goals, which were well constructed, but these papered over the cracks of turnovers, especially out of the back, and a lack of sharpness. Last season they did not step on the throat of their opponents, and this happened again, with the Blaugrana taking the foot off gas after getting off to the fast start.

In the second half, a great effort and intense pressure from Real Sociedad created the first goal, then a brainfart by Villa led to second.  From then on, Real Sociedad believed and gave Barcelona everything they could handle.  Even the introduction of Messi could not save the Blaugrana.  Strange game like the end of last year.  Barca in control up 1-0, then goal, then PK, down 2-1 and first loss in over 30 league games.  Very odd game.

@BarcaTheOffside posted shortly after the game: Barça have only won 7 of their last 22 Liga matches after international break. (via @2010MisterChip)  Ouch.

Just a quick note on Real Sociedad, didn’t see much of Griezmann but thought Xabi Prieto was lively.  Took players on and set up first goal.

Bassam at Real Madrid Football Blog wrote about the third striker Los Merengues still hasn’t been signed.  Doesn’t look like it matters as they recovered from a brief scare from Getafe to win 4-2.

I also watched the Valencia v Atletico Madrid replay.  I felt Valencia was grinding, not spectacular but solid.  Los Che had some moments with decent interplay and really getting the fullbacks involved, but it seems as if Soldado spurns a lot of chances to get his goals.

As for Atleti, they have a good base going forward.  They could use a little more width, but Adrian looked like quality. Los Colchoneros had few chances but the ones they had were quite dangerous.

Overall, a decent match with end to end action.  Thought the two sets of defenders were less than convincing.

Some odds and ends . . .

The gang at Forza Futbol broke down La Liga transfers in several ways.  Very interesting to see in the information graphically, plus who was doing most of the spending.

Sam Hughes at EL CENTROCAMPISTA shed some light on the legacy of Fred Pentland.  Great little history lesson.

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So this week is European action.  Check out my extensive and in-depth preview if you haven’t already.  Looking forward to matches this weekend, which I will again miss because I say yes instead of no.