Posts Tagged ‘ Sevilla ’

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)

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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–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–Who’s Finishing Second?

Larry Bird arrogantly asked the locker room before 1988 NBA Three Point Contest–Who’s finishing second? Barcelona can simply look at the table after 16 matches and ask the same question.  Round 16 started slowly and was fairly muted on Monday in terms of goals, but in the middle were two fascinating games—Real Madrid v Espanyol and FC Barcelona v Atletico Madrid—which produced drama and astonishing goals.  More on that shortly.

Thus far a couple of tiers have emerged in the table: Barca alone at the top, with the Madrid teams below them; then the contenders for fourth including Malaga, Betis, Levante and Getafe; the middle of the table sees seven teams separated by three points from 8th to 14th; finally there is the relegation zone with six teams under threat.   One more round before the holidays could change all that, but the teams are at the bottom are in real danger, with goals at a premium.

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Sevilla 0  Malaga 2

John Pelini analyzed Malaga’s tactics through the first half of season for El Centrocampista.  Los Boquerones have been lining up in a 4-2-3-1 with full backs supporting the attack from wide positions.  Two holding midfielders control the central part of the field and supply the ball to a fluid attacking group that interchanges positions and likes to combine through the final third.  They have been able to turn some of their dominance into goals and results this season as they have progressed to the knockout stage of the Champions League and headed into the Sevilla match tied with Betis in fourth place.

I anticipated this contest as Sevilla needed three points to keep pushing up the table while Malaga looked to consolidate fourth place.  The first half was lacking in excitement, even with the hosts’ energetic start.  Negredo hit the post early and was a strong physical presence up top against Welington and Demichelis (no place for Onyewu, even on the bench).  Navas was active but had a hard time getting on the ball.  Defensively, the Rojiblancos were organized as they tried to keep track of the varied attack from the visitors.

As for Malaga, they were able to bring a little balance back to the match but lacked thrust in the final third. The attacking players interchanged positions in an attempt to create spaces and mismatches but Joaquin did not see much of the ball and Santa Cruz lacked the activity to cause much trouble.  How does RSC fit into this team?  Malaga don’t cross for him, preferring to keep the ball on the ground, and he doesn’t seem to show for the ball.  RSC was always a half step behind and had two chances in the match that a poacher or striker in a rich vein of form would have finished off. Anyway, Los Boquerones struggled to switch the point of attack from right to left, leaving Eliseu forlorn figure in the left hand channel.  The back line was strong after the opening scare as Negredo’s influence faded.

Demichelis opened the scoring on 48th minute as his hopeful header floated into the far post to give the visitors the lead. The method of the goal was surprising, because up until that point set pieces had rarely threatened the hosts’ goal. The corner kick appeared to be slightly overhit but the Argentinean center back somehow scored. Later Willy made a hash of cross and Rakitic went down as Camacho tried to clear.  Not sure if it was a penalty.  Maybe on a different day.

Malaga finally got separation on 70 minutes as Joaquin made a lung bursting run through the middle and was awkwardly taken down by Fazio, who earned a red card and a penalty for the opponents.  The move was set up by RSC’s run wide (an example of what I would like to see) and then the Spanish winger filled space down the middle.  Eliseu (surprise choice) stepped up and buried it, giving the visitors a commanding 2-0 lead with 20 minutes to go. Saviola immediately came on for Joaquin who had worked his socks off.  The game tailed off and Malaga are in fourth, ahead of Betis on goal difference, while Sevilla are 13th, now behind Bilbao, who are finding points.  Expected a better match, or at least a better performance from Sevilla.

Paul Wilkes analyzed the game for La Liga UK.  In the end, Sevilla paid the price for squandering the chances of the first half.  Michel’s double substitution early in the second half was blunted as Rakitic went off injured and Fazio was sent off, leaving the manager with no additional subs to get back into the match.  One thing Paul noticed was Demichelis moving into a defensive mid position in the second half.  To be honest I missed that.  Pellegrini’s men withstood an early battering and managed to capitalize on their few opportunities to secure three points on the road.

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FC Barcelona 4  Atletico Madrid 1

As Morrissey says, stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before.  Opponent gives FCB fits for a while but eventually capitulates.  Atleti played a brilliant first half, toning down the physical approach used in the derby.  They added a layer of intelligent and swift counterattacks, which saw them isolate mismatches between the forwards and the Blaugrana rearguard.

Playing a narrow, compact 4-4-2, they frustrated Barca for over thirty minutes, with the hosts barely getting a sniff of goal while El Tigre got closer and closer.  Los Colchoneros took a deserved lead but Adriano pegged the visitors back with a stunning effort and proved his worth yet again.  In a team full of stars, the Brazilian has scored vital goal (six this season, including the solitary goal against Valencia), played all across the back and provided energy and width and competence in every match.  Busquets’ goal was so composed it makes you wonder what he can’t do. . . besides chase down Falcao on a breakaway.  (Sidenote: again Barca has gone with direct corners, which resulted in another goal.  Will be interesting to see if they use that tacitc in the knockout rounds of Europe where they will encounter bigger, stronger teams.)  That goal turned the match as FCB came out full of confidence in the second half and proceeded to pass Atleti into submission.  Messi’s sumptuous finish finally gave the cules some breathing room and from there it was something of an exhibition.

Atleti were second best, and that’s because they are the third best team in the league.  Maybe if Falcao had been more clinical in the opening exchanges, the game might have gone differently.  But he didn’t.  They are worthy of the “best of the rest” this season, a spot occupied lately by Valencia, but they simply can’t compete.  Starved of the oxygen needed to burn against a great team, the legs finally went as they couldn’t tackle what they couldn’t catch and couldn’t attack without having the ball.

I simply hope that FCB win the lot.  The league is over.  Barring a catastrophic injury to Messi, this team will cross the line early and regain one of their crowns.  The question remains as to whether they can retain the Copa and reclaim the Champions League.

Kxevin posted on Barca’s victory for Barcelona Football Blog while nursing an ankle injury, which was a result of celebrating Adriano’s golazo.  He commented that Atleti did everything they had to yet were still down 2-1 at halftime.  Why?  He sees the difference in the Blaugrana this year thusly:

Last season, you could give Guardiola’s Barça the ball, like a plaything with which to amuse a child. They would pass it around, make wondrous things with it, but you would mostly be okay as long as you retained your shape and didn’t do anything silly. Give Vilanova’s Barça the ball, and it will kill you, because it is impatient. It shoots from distance, it rushes the box, it eschews the magic of tika-taka for one dude saying to the others, “Watch this!” And the longer Vilanova’s Barça has the ball, the more likely it will kill you with a moment of magic.

He does remain readers that Barca hasn’t won anything yet but if the team continues their wondrous passing and maintains a ruthless attitude, it’s only a matter of time.

Martin Rosenow, writing for Atleti Fans, saw Simeone’s troops tease fans before succumbing to a deeper and more clinical Barcelona team.  Still as Martin points out, having a chance to finish with 40 points before Christmas as opposed to the 19 last year is nothing to gripe about

Zonal Marking saw Simeone’s 4-4-1-1 keep a relatively passive Barca at bay and made the point that perhaps Atleti scored “too early” and FCB had time and motivation to move through the gears.  Looking at Barca’s goals– the first goal was long-distance scorcher, the second was from a set-piece and the fourth from an inexplicable defensive mistake—there may be a case that the visitors could have a better shot at the Calderon in May.

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Articles

I caught the second half of 2-2 draw between Real Madrid and Espanyol at the Bernabeu.  Ireland 26 of Managing Madrid saw the hosts dominate large portions of the match but still share the points.  Callejon started up top with CR7, Modric and Ozil behind him, but Mourinho brought in di Maria at the start of the second half as Los Blancos reverted to a more traditional line up.  Madrid battered Espanyol for most of the second stanza but failed to capitalize after Coentrao’s go ahead goal.  I thought Ozil had a fantastic second 45 minutes, as he drifted from the middle to the right, which created space for others to run into.

Mando (The Ball is Flat) saw Los Pericos grab a late point at the Bernabeu as Real Madrid conceded on yet another set piece.  He makes the point that Mourinho doesn’t quite have the loyalty that he had at his former teams, and while I agree to a certain extent, Chelsea got off to a slow start during the 2007/08 season, which saw Abramovich get rid of the Special One.  Mourinho’s schtick wears thin with everyone, and this will definitely be his last season in the capital.  The question now is: will he make it to the end of the season?  As for Espanyol, another point towards safety for Aguirre’s men.

Sid Lowe reported on fantastic match that saw Barca all but seal the league as it was the tiger versus the flea, and the flea prevailed again.  Barca continue to make the amazing ordinary—controlling games with metronomic passing and scoring astonishing goals.  The result leaves Real Madrid clutching at the cups as Mourinho searches for La Decima to add to his legacy before exiting for the next challenge.

Phil Ball focused his attention on the game between Mallorca and Bilbao, which saw the hosts slump to another defeat.  Phil put Los Bermellones’ run in perspective: Mallorca have now gone 11 league games without a win (two points from 33), plus three cup matches either drawn or lost. Aduriz, a former Mallorca player, scored the goal against Caparros, former Bilbao boss, as these two teams appear to be headed in different directions.

Frank Tigani drilled down into Mallorca’s poor run for Football Espana.  The goals of Tomer Hemed have dried up, leaving Mallorca with no punch as goals are shipped at the other end.  14 goals in 16 matches have seen them slip into the relegation zone, and Caparros has gone from a possible contract extension to the chopping block.  The islanders have a fight on their hands entering the New Year.

Looking ahead to the January transfer window, Francesc discussed Barca’s current strategy—promote from within—for ESPN FC.  Still feel they lack depth at center back unless they plan to play Bartra more in the second half of the season.  Further injuries to Pique and Puyol will put a possible dream season at risk.  Other than that, Xavi and Tello have signed until the 2016, which does two things: for Xavi, it keeps the midfield maestro part of the club to educate his successors; for Tello it gives the predators hovering around the player a number from which to negotiate.  The young forward is in a tough situation.  FCB will probably continue to play Sanchez because of the money spent, which reduces Tello’s chances for minutes.  Add to that the Villa factor and it’s hard to see how Tello gets on the field.  If Villa is unhappy, ship him off and get Tello on the field and by this time in 2013, FCB should make a decision.

Morbo Minute–El Tigre Strikes

Another weekend of goals in Spain.  The league continues to provide entertainment and storylines in the early going—Falcao, Malaga, the fall of Bilbao, last minute winners.  Only one scoreless draw (Osasuna v Betis) among numerous goalfests.

Jaws must have hit the floor like mine upon seeing Depor 4 FC Barcelona 5.  Even after watching the highlights I was in shock.  Kxevin of the Barcelona Football Blog was still shaking in his post match analysis, which saw the Blaugrana dominate then capitulate then regulate.  He focused on the breakdowns that led to each goal, “born of bad luck and collective failure”, but the team responded against an inspired opponent in a formidable atmosphere.  He touched on the fact that the aura is gone, fading as familiarity and pride and time takes its toll, which will make their fight to reclaim their trophies that much harder.

El Tigre stole the thunder for this round, scoring a late free kick to secure all three points for Atleti and keep them at the top of the table with the Blaugrana.  Sid Lowe focused on Falcao’s amazing run—10 goals in 10 games—in addition to the Colombian’s goal, his first free kick goal as a professional.  Besides recounting his rise from Argentina to Portugal to Spain, Doctor Sid unleashed the stat attack:

  • Falcao has now scored in every game since 24 August, finding the net 16 times in his last 10.
  • At a goal every 60.44 minutes he has a better goals per minute ratio than Messi (61.09) and Ronaldo (78).
  • Take his goals out and Atlético would drop 10 points.

Right now, Los Colchoneros seem to be a sure bet for third in the league.  As for being a true title challenger, we will have to wait and see after their games away at FCB and Real Madrid in December.

Phil Ball went to the Anoeta to see Falcao with his own eyes and almost missed the game winner in order to make the train home.  His comments on the player were complementary but not effusive, and he mentioned that every time the Colombian touched the ball, the crowd, and the defenders for that matter, got anxious.

Staying with Atleti, Mina Rzouki profiled Diego Simeone for Football Espana.  The Argentinean manager has turned things around in the capital over the last 10 months, focusing on each player maximizing their strengths, efforts and tactical awareness for the good of the team.  Right now his approach is paying dividends but it still remains to be seen if he can do it for the long haul as his previous tenures have lasted around a year at most.

Right before the Real Madrid game kicked off, I checked twitter to see how Mourinho handled the many injuries in defense. To my surprise, I saw Kaka, Ozil and Modric all on the team sheet from the off, with a defense of Ramos, Pepe, Varane, and Essien as emergency left back.  Madridista Mac examined the midfield experiment (which only lasted a half) and its impact on the game and on the team.  (Mostly that they missed Khedira most of all.)  Los Blancos won 2-0 and now look ahead to a tough game in Dortmund.

Another exciting game that I missed was Valencia against Athletic Bilbao.  This fixture is typically on my viewing schedule, as it usually showcases the best of the rest and a team for the future.  This year, Valencia has gotten off to rough start, far from the top of the table, with Los Leones in a total funk, which sees them trending towards a relegation fight come the spring rather than challenging for European spots.

Chalk on the Boots shared his observations on the match at El Centrocampista.  He felt that Athletic had one of their best performances of the season, led by Arduiz’s activity and Herrara’s composure.  Unfortunately, once Herrara was sent off, the visitors sat too deep and were undone by late goals.  As for Los Che, the team has struggled this season under Pellegrino, with the absences of Alba and Banega being prominent.  Banega came on for the last 15 minutes so his addition may prompt a turn in fortunes.

John Pelini analyzed the last match of Round 8—Sevilla v Mallorca—for El Centrocampista. Sevilla dominated large portions of the match in terms of possession but found themselves behind for about 20 minutes.  Negredo headed into the level the score on 55’ and from there, Los Rojiblancos took control and secured all three points.  John focused on the 4-3-3 of the hosts against the 4-4-2 of the islanders.  Mallorca conceded the width but Sevilla has pretty good wingers and a strong target man, which proved to be the visitors undoing.

Tough news for Sevilla this week as midfielder Piotr Trochowski, scorer of goals against Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, is out for the season after having knee surgery.  He will be missed as they push for European places.

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Articles and Podcast

Nick Punal looked at every aspect of Espanyol for Forza Futbol.  In a comprehensive post he broke down each part of the club from the players to the coach to the fans to the board to the cantera.  Several key players were sold or loaned out in the offseason and have not been replaced with sufficient quality.  Add to that defensive lapses (see Levante and Athletic Bilbao), a cantera cupboard that is looking a little bare and no money to sign top players, things are looking grim for Los Pericos. They picked up their first points of the season but still have a long way to go to survive.

Is Kaka back?  Frank Tigani asked that question on El Centrocampista.  Cast out by Mourinho, the Brazilian has worked his way back into contention for club and country.  His future at Madrid is uncertain with Modric’s purchase and perhaps a move in January is in the cards.  As for the Selecao, it appears as if the door is open for his participation in the run up for World Cup 2014.  It would be nice to see one last burst before he heads into the sunset.

Elisa and Ravi of Forza Futbol recapped Spain’s performance during the international break, which saw La Furia Roja destroy Belarus but stumble against France.  Perhaps it was fatigue or taking the proverbial foot of the pedal or personnel choices (forced and unforced) that allowed the points to slip away. From there they moved on to discuss La Liga, in particular Valencia and Sevilla’s financial problems, which may see Champions League qualification as a must, and David Villa’s future for both club and country.  They wrapped up looking at Spaniards abroad, especially in the EPL.

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.

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.

Strip Club–Best (and Worst) of 2012/13

The new campaign is upon us, which means the release of new jerseys.  I have already done posts for FC Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventus, and now it’s time for the rest of Europe.

Starting in England . . . for a one stop shop of this year’ EPL kits, visit this link at Mao Football.  He has put quite a page together.

A couple of kits jump out at me.

The short sleeve jersey from Arsenal is horrendous and caused me to start the twitter hashtag: #StoptheSleeve.  Over the last couple of years, NIKE has gone with thick bands, first at the bottom of the sleeve and now narrower, multiple bands across players’ biceps.  However the long sleeve version isn’t too bad, sort of like the new US home kit.  As for the away kit, NIKE launched the Purple Reign campaign that I have co-opted into #PurpleReignPain.  Absolutely horrendous.  Can’t believe the Gunners have to wear those.

Keeping with purple, Liverpool’s new shirt manufacturers Warrior have launched a third kit that is laughable.  A purple chest with white sleeves, this is a kit that is doomed to the dustbin of history.  A solid home kit and an away kit that I am withholding judgment on are completely undermined by this piece of shit.

Across the boarder, Rangers are struggling everywhere but their kit.  This offering from Umbro is quite amazing and I love the old school look, with the sponsor getting out of the way.

rangers-home-shirt-2012-13

Moving to the continent. . .

Inter and NIKE went way off the reservation with the away kit and may be facing some major blowback from the fans.  Don’t know what could have caused them to move away from the typical white kit or maybe something blue.  Red top is a very dicey decision.

inter-milan-away-shirt-2012-13

Again NIKE is going to get some flak from me, this time on the Porto Home and Away Kits.  Porto’s home jersey is very simple: blue and white stripes.  Can be narrow or a little thicker.  Think Juventus except black instead of blue and Italian instead of Portuguese.  So what does the American sports manufacturer do?  This:

porto-home-shirt-2012-13

Combining navy #StoptheSleeve’s with a ridiculously wide white stripe, this jersey is all kinds of wrong.  Until you consider the away kit. . .

Further #PurpleReignPain.

Moving on to Spain.  I have collected almost every kit here.  So far my favorite is the Sevilla third kit.  The all navy blue strip is marked by a white collar and looks pretty sharp.  The worst kit in Spain is the away strip from Segunda side Recreativo Huelva.  Might be the worst kit ever.

Finally, I will wrap up with Germany.  I have not found the Bayern home kit, but their second and third strips leave a little to be desired.  Then there is this offering from FC St. Pauli, playing in the second tier of German football.  Guess Cleveland Browns fans have a natural partner in German soccer.  The real winners in the Bundesliga are Borussia Dortmund.  Not only are they the reigning domestic Double winners, but they have a full range of dynamic kits, with the home kit modeled by Roman Weidenfeller’s girlfriend, Lisa Rossbach.

dortumnd 12 13

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

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Here are a list of sites to find your favorite team and see what are designs are out there:

Football Fashion

Beautiful Gear

Football Kit News

Mao Football

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I know I have missed tons of stuff out there on the interwebs, so I would love to hear your best and worst.  Feel free to comment below or hit me up on twitter or facebook.

Morbo Minute–The Lions Lose and The Frogs Stay Strong

After 27 rounds, six points separate third and fourth place and six points separate fourth from eleventh as the race for European places heats up.  Down at the bottom the Yellow Submarine hope to avoid sinking into the Segunda as they have gone to their third manager this season, Lotina.

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Sevilla 0  FC Barcelona 2

Barcelona got some sad this week as Eric Abidal is on the shelf for a while as his need for a liver transplant has superseded his desire to play football.  The Blaugrana took the field with a strong side, with Adriano coming in for Abi and Masch in for Puyol.  For Sevilla, Negredo was on the bench, and Janusz on ESPN was all over Michel for picking a center midfield pairing of Medel and Rakitic instead of Medel and Trochowski.

Before I share some thoughts on the match, I have to mention the Oscar Meyer Hot Dog dugouts.  What the hell was that?  Have to say that America is spreading poor eating habits like nobody’s business. I refer you Burger King at Getafe and Pizza Hut formerly at Fulham I think.  Just waiting for the McDonald’s golden arches to appear on a soccer kit in the near future.

Plus, in case you hadn’t read or heard, you can purchase a small photo of yourself on the back of the Sevilla shirt on match days, you and several thousand other supporters.  I have no idea how this is going, but if one of my favorite teams offered up this scheme, I don’t think I would pony up for it.  (And neither would Paul at Uni-Watch.com)

Anyway, the visitors were all over the place in the first, not pressuring as a unit, not closing down the ball, and not really worrying Barcelona.  Alves was able to burst forward from the back several times without any opposition, and the chances were coming for FCB as Adriano had a shot deflected over the bar, and Pedro had a breakaway saved.  Xavi opened the scoring with a wonderful free kick after Adriano had been fouled just outside the box.  Maybe the keeper could have done better but the captain on the night set the stage for three points.  FCB started moving through the gears and several half chances were denied until Iniesta laid off for Messi who nutmegged a defender then chipped the keeper, a goal that was sick and wrong.  Halftime came with Sevilla asking a couple of questions (or Pique screwing up: yellow card, letting Manu sneak in for a header and generally playing poorly), but Kanoute was dropping way too deep, and Reyes and Navas were non-factors. Yet FCB could have still extended their lead had it not been for Palop

Sevilla came out of blocks quickly in the second half with the team pressure more organized. The hosts had a penalty shout as Pedro tangled with Reyes, and it probably should have been given.  Los Rojiblanco’s high pressure made FCB uncomfortable and kept the game choppy for the visitors, who I felt could have been a little more direct in transition.  Too many times a sideways or backwards pass was made instead of really trying to rip open the defense.  Easy for me to say.  FCB eventually regained control and were busy tiki tika-ing the hosts to death but with 25 minutes left, Manu just missed after fantastic work.  Messi was pretty subdued in the second half and suddenly ripped open the hosts’ rearguard but Iniesta’s chip went just wide.  Sanchez got some minutes in the end, which was nice to see, and right away Pedro played him in, but Palop denied the Chilean.

Eventually the Blaugrana ran out the clock, and I’m glad they grabbed those goals in the first half, because they definitely took the foot of the gas in second half.  Maybe they could have stepped it back up, as Sevilla was up for in it the second half, and, if Manu could have finished, the last 20 minutes could have haven interesting.

Meg Ryan at Total Barca tried to put the victory into perspective due to the news of Abidal.  Barcelona controlled the match, gained another points, and maintained pressure on the Evil Empire, but their thoughts are with the Frenchman.

Kari at Barcelona Football Blog took some time to explore the nature of Sergi Busquets and his role on the current Barcelona team.  Funny and insightful, her fake interview looks at the player that everyone loves to hate, including cules.

I came across this stat from Graham Hunter while reading this week: Before Guardiola took over, Messi scored 16 in 40 games. In the years from summer 2008, he has scored 38 in 51, 47 in 53, and now 53 in 55. Wow.

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I went up to the pub on Sunday with the plan of watching Athletic Bilbao against Valencia but once Aaron (@MidMichiganUtd) and I got talking about future watch parties and what we wanted to do going forward, I really didn’t see much of the match.  I did happen to see the shambolic opener that Soldado put away, and it looked like Bilbao came out with higher intensity in the second half, but the equalizer didn’t follow.  Missed the second goal and the third, which I thought was a harsh penalty that Soldado converted for his hat trick, put the match to bed.  A disappointing result for Los Leones, especially as they fight for fourth place, but Valenica created some breathing space between themselves and Malaga and Levante.

John Pelini summarized and broke down the game for El Centrocampista.  The game was closely contested with the major battle being fought in midfield.  Los Leones really missed Llorente, and while Bielsa tried moving Muniain around, nothing would come off.   Soldado was the difference for an organized visiting team as he finished the few chances created for Los Che.

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As for Real Madrid, I checked in on the Real Madrid/Malaga game from time to time on twitter.  Once I saw that the hosts had gone 1-0 I figured they would add another goal or two and maintain their 10 point lead.  But I checked one more time just before my indoor soccer game and saw that Cazorla had equalized.  Yes the lead is now down to eight points and gives faint hope to some that FCB are back in the race, but what a result for Malaga.  They are in fifth with a huge result and momentum on their in the race for fourth.  Levante have not fallen down the table as most predicted, but can they really hold off a team rounding into form with all that money behind them?  Watch this space.

Madridista Mac was back at Real Madrid Football Blog to recap the draw with Malaga, which saw a couple of trends from Los Merengues: conceding a late goal and not quite making it through all of the gears.  Mac looked back at the last couple of games—narrow wins with less than impressive performances—and all the points collected.  This puts the club in a good position in the league as they face a tough run-in with games away to Osasuna, Bilbao and FCB and a home game against Valencia.  This must be balanced with the Champions League with APOEL looking straightforward but a very challenging semi (possibly) with Bayern awaits.

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Articles

Phil Ball witnessed a strange week in Spain with uncharacteristic gestures of sportsmanship and humanity as the Bilbao fans applauded Giggs and Rooney of Manchester United and Real Madrid players wore shirts of support for Muamba and Abidal.  Add this to Torres scoring finally (and being trumped by Soldado), Levante staying in fourth, and Real Madrid finally dropping points, and it was a strange week indeed.

Sid Lowe examined the troubling situation at Villarreal as the money is gone, players are on the way out (Cazorla last summer, Rossi this summer), and form is fading (they have earned only one point from the last fifteen).  It would be easy to write that Levante sank the Yellow Submarine, but the ship has been sinking for quite awhile.  A mini revival gave them hope but dropped points have put them squarely in the crosshairs of relegation, with Molina sacked just months after being appointed.  Their journey could be at an end in a couple of weeks.

Tim Stannard (@LaLigaLoca) gave his comments on Villarreal in a season that has seen them go fourth from top to fourth from bottom.  Losing Cazorla and Capdevila and Rossi and replacing them with Zapata and De Guzman did not help Garrido, while Molina was not able to stem the tide either, probably not being the right hire either.  Tim states their predicament as follows: Villarreal’s current problems are silly defensive mistakes at key times and a problem with concentration and application in certain games.

In other news . . .

Sid Lowe sought context and clarity in the debate between the EPL and La Liga, citing the success and progress of the Spanish teams over the last couple of years as reasons why the leagues are not that far apart.  He mentioned the progress of Spanish teams in the Europa League yet let’s face it, English teams don’t take it seriously.  But focusing on Barca and Madrid, which dominate Spain both financially and competitively, these two teams are far ahead on the former front with FCB dominating the second.

A friend sent met this article which I couldn’t believe.  I put it out on my twitter feed and sent a message to Phil Schoen directly, with no response.  I guess I don’t mind if GolTV doesn’t carry the matches as long as the commentary is in English (what now for Ray Hudson) and the feed is HD.  Any info from readers is appreciated.

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Pods

Elisa and Mando chatted with Lee and Liam from El Centrocampista about issues facing La Liga—the separation of the Big Two from the rest of the league and refereeing being at the forefront—and touching on the Spanish National Team at the upcoming Euros.  Listen to the after pod chat for the plight of Elisa trying to get tickets to Bilbao’s key fixtures against Manchester United and Valencia.

Ravi from Forza Futbol sat down with Gabe from Managing Madrid to discuss things going in the capital.  Among the items they touched on—the most influential player at the club this season; the future of the Big Two, with Gabe making the point that teams will rise up (Sevilla, Villarreal, etc.) but they can’t make any mistakes plus Real Madrid and FCB can buy their best players; the future of Mourinho, will he stay or go?; and the run-in to this season as Los Merengues close in the league title and the Champions League looms large.

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–Sevilla Smashed and Malaga Driven Batty

A Different Liga wrote a quick summary of Round 17.  The results of the last round of 2011 are below with quick comments from yours truly.

SATURDAY

Mallorca 1-2 Getafe

All the goals came in the first half and Getafe earned the victory.  Don’t know enough about either team to guess at their chances for survival in the second half of the season.

Sporting Gijon 1-2 Espanyol

Sounds like the visitors won an entertaining match at El Molinón, with Sergio Garcia scoring the winner moving Espanyol in to the top half of the table.  Sporting are in the last relegation spot and may need a miracle like a couple of years to go to keep their Primera spot.

Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Real Zaragoza

I don’t know who the Mexican National Team coach is but he should be worried because Aguirre is on his way out at Zaragoza.  Los Blanquillos could not capitalize on a man advantage and fell to Los Leones when Toquero scored late on.

Sevilla 2-6 Real Madrid

Headed up to my favorite pub to catch this match.  I hadn’t seen Sevilla yet this season and wanted to see how the Evil Empire would react to being slapped around by Barcelona.

As the match started, I noticed that there was no Ozil, which was fine, but it seemed as if Di Maria was playing the attacking midfield role, with Callejon on the right. Before I could sort that out, I ran into an acquaintance at the bar, so I totally missed the opening exchanges and looked up to see CR7 slot the ball home.  The replays revealed a delicious ball from Di Maria, who it turned out, really was playing in the middle of the attacking three in midfield.

Sevilla responded well and were denied by St Iker and poor finishing.  They didn’t capitalize when Real Madrid were on the back foot and were punished as Di Maria floated a ball which Callejon dummied and the ball the trickled into the net.  I’m not giving the spiky haired attacker credit no matter what the official scorer might say.  Anyway, the result was me getting my fork out and putting it in Los Rojiblancos because they were done.  The home side were in shock and CR7 hit a 30 yard bomb to make it 3-0 and the game became a training session.  Even Pepe’s sending off couldn’t make a difference, and I called to my friend to tell him to not even bother coming out for the second half, which I spent answering emails, scanning the twitter and calling my best friend, a MUFC supporter, to figure what’s going on with the Red Devils.

Don’t have much to offer in terms of analysis.  My interest was piqued by the use of Di Maria.  I tweeted during the match: So Jose, you’ve got millions of monetary units wrapped u in a #10 & you play di Maria there instead. Experiment or revolution?  and Hope Kaka kept his house in Milan.  I like the change but why do it one game before the break?  Seems like you would introduce it after the break when you’ve had some time to work on it.  It does give Real Madrid a ton of options, but I’m not sure that’s what they need.  We’ll see if Mou continues with this in January.

SUNDAY

Atletico Madrid 0-2 Real Betis

Looks like Manzano will be out of work as 2012 begins as Atleti suffered their first home defeat of the year.  Betis hope that they can turn their form around after the break and stop their free fall down the table.

A Different Liga reported on Tuesday that former Atleti player Diego Simone may be in the frame for the job.  Seems like he has mixed results as a manager.

Granada 2-1 Levante

Granada got another three vital points in their survival push as they are halfway to safety at the break.  As for Levante, more dropped points and only the inconsistency of the group under them is keeping them in fourth.

I did a little research on their form.  Their unbeaten start to the season ended on October 30 with a loss to Osasuna.  Since then Los Granotes have lost three of their five games.  The fixture list after the break isn’t horrible Real Mallorca at home, Athletic Bilbao away and Real Zaragoza at home.  Maybe they can stay up there.

Osasuna 2-1 Villarreal

Two teams heading in different directions?  Osasuna have climbed to fifth and the Yellow Submarine are just outside the drop.

Racing Santander 0-0 Real Sociedad

I’ll take the word of SpanishFootball.info:

Racing Santander and Real Sociedad played out a dull, inspiring draw that helps neither side in their quest to pull away from the relegation zone. Both sides seemed nervous throughout, unwilling to make a mistake that would allow the other in, as both coaches made sure their sides showed more caution than creativity.

Valencia 2-0 Malaga

Coming into the match, a win for Los Che would consolidate their place in third (read first of the losers) while a Malaga victory would take them up to fifth just two points behind Levante, who lost again.

There was good early pressure from the hosts as they looked to put the visitors on the back foot.  Emery made a couple of changes to the line-up.  He welcomed back Banega back from injury and moved Feghouli inside to get Miguel forward from the back. Los Che played with Mathieu and Alba doubled up on the left hand side, with Alba looking to be more advanced to me.  Here’s a question: Where is Pablo?  Haven’t seen him play or on the team sheet in a while.  (Came on as sub with 12 minutes  to go.)

As for Malaga, Rondon led the line with Juanmi behind him, and I didn’t see much from Cazorla.  Slowly Malaga came into the  match with Joaquin and Juanmi getting involved, and, as Malaga grew in confidence, the game really opened up, with Joaquin feeling the good feeling and causing the Valencia rearguard all kinds of fits.  Let me just say that Malaga away kit is truly horrific.  Phil Schoen called them magenta.  I don’t want to get my color wheel out but I don’t think that’s magenta.  And the black shoulder things make it worse.

Valencia made the breakthrough shortly before halftime, with Soldado keeping his great run going.  The Valencian midfield turned Malaga over, fed the ball to Jonas, who split open the Malaga rearguard (with a pass that rivaled Di Maria’s the night before) and Bradley Cooper Soldado walked around Willy to score.

In response, Isco and Joaquin switched sides and Isco took his turn running at the hosts defense.  Halftime came with Malaga asking the right questions but not finding the answers.  The average position on soccernet showed Malaga only having Monreal on the left hand side, which surprised me because it seemed like that’s where the visitors had some success.  As for Valencia, it showed them playing almost a  2-5-2-1 with both backs very high and lots of numbers in the midfield.

The second half continued to be open and Malaga had a  four on two off a Valencia corner, which resulted in almost nothing.  They got a corner but it should have been a real chance.  Just after the half hour mark, Jordi Alba embarrassed an exposed DiMichelis and whipped in a fantastic cross that Soldado volleyed home for a lovely goal.

Pellegrini’s substiutions were not very inspired.  Seba Fernandez and Duda in for Rondon and Isco respectively.  Maybe Isco was tiring but I would not have minded seeing him continue to go at Valencia.  As for Seba in for Rondon, just one more ineffective striker for another. Malaga had a couple of half chances to make it interesting, but Diego Alves kept a clean sheet.

All in all, a nice victory for Los Che.  Little shaky at times but their cohesiveness and class proved the difference.  As for Malaga, feel like the Champions League is slipping farther and farther away.  Pellegrini still has a lot of work to do, and they still have to play FCB twice, and while Levante may fall, Osasuna and Sevilla may yet hold Malaga off.

Omar at VCF Central summed it up: Soldado’s clinical finishing was the difference in the clash. Malaga caused problems but had trouble breaking down the Valencia rearguard and then couldn’t finish the chances when they did.

Mike Barnes at A Different Liga analyzed Malaga’s season thus far after the match against Levante.  Not sure what Pellegrini and Co are selling but I’m not buying.

“I am satisfied with our level of play, but that has not been reflected in our results or our position,” he said. “I would have liked to finish the year higher up. The table is very tight and we must continue working, but now we’re looking to go as far as possible in the Copa.”

I’ve watched Los Boquerones a couple of times this season and, until Sunday, had been less than impressed.  Their “level of play” is not going to get them into the European spots and they will need more than a striker to turn things around.  That being said, I thought Joaquin was particularly good against Valencia, rolling back the years and causing constant turmoil for Los Che.  If Isco can match that on the opposite side, then Cazorla should be a little more joy in the middle.  In the back, DiMichelis is a joke, especially when isolated one on one.

Maybe a cup run would make up for their inconsistent league form, but if they continue their horrible run away from home, then I’m not sure how far they’ll get.

———–

Doctor Sid examined the usual frustrating, underwhelming and ultimately meaningless Atleti situation.  Manzano has been undermined from the start, with the results not really following and now the team will have a new coach shortly whose job will probably be to keep them from the burgeoning relegation battle rather than a push for European place.

Phil Ball took the temperature of La Liga heading into the break.  The Big Two are in charge but there are several stories percolating just below the surface: Valencia’s consolidation of third; Levante’s decent start; Atleti’s consistent implosion; Osasuna getting beat 15-1 on aggregate by the FCB and Real yet in fifth place; Villarreal’s horror show; and the congestion at the bottom.

La Liga Loca gave a quick nod to the Evil Empire and then moved on to plucky little teams spread throughout the table—Osasuna and Betis—and the teams in complete disarray—Sporting, Atleti and Zaragoza.

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Articles

Connor  (@_ConnorAndrews) gave a quick history on the Yellow Submarine and how their current performance is affecting the club.  With their loss to Osasuna, they are mired in a relegation battle without major weapons, and while they may survive, things may actually get worse next season.  The loss of Villarreal would be a blow to the Primera but encapsulates the crisis in the league—teams dependent on owner infused money; teams dependent on European money; and clubs forced to sell key players that keep them from developing a solid team to contend at home and abroad.

Looks like Valencia will continue to strengthen their defense, as soccernet is reporting that van der Wiel is moving to Valencia from Ajax.  Of course does this mean that Alba is on the way out?

Heath Chesters at El Centrocampista wrote a quick piece on Guilherme Siqueira who is doing great things at Granada as a left back.  Maybe one to keep an eye on.

Sam (@SamIanHughes), another writer at El Centrocampista looked into the future of the Blaugrana and told his readers about Sergi Samper, a youth team prospect that has real potential to play in the midfield.  Sam warns of like for like replacement, but speaks of Samper’s vision, range of passing and positioning.  It could be Sergi, Oriol Romeu and another anchoring the midfield in a couple of years.

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Podcasts

The guys at Forza Futbol had Vaishali Bhardwaj (@VaiBhardwaj) on to discuss a wide range of topics from the English view of La Liga, Spanish players in the EPL, and the striker possibilities for La Furia Roja, which seems to be the second most consistent story this season beyond the gulf in the TV contracts between the Big Two and everyone one.

Graham Hunter did a piece about Athletic Bilbao, which featured their English roots, San Mames, and background for Pichichi and Zarra awards.

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So here is the table as La Liga heads into the break.  From Atletico on down, it is a crap shoot as to will join Zaragoza in the Segunda next year.  Barca are six points off last year’s total, with several away draws being the culprit.  Real Madrid look strong and their focus will be on building a cushion before the next clasico.

Real Madrid 16 13 1 2 41 40
Barcelona 16 11 4 1 42 37
Valencia 16 10 3 3 10 33
Levante 16 9 2 5 6 29
Osasuna 16 6 7 3 -7 25
Sevilla 16 6 6 4 1 24
Málaga 16 7 3 6 -2 24
Espanyol 16 7 2 7 -3 23
Athletic 16 5 7 4 4 22
Atlético 16 5 4 7 -4 19
Betis 16 6 1 9 -5 19
Getafe 16 5 4 7 -6 19
Granada 16 5 4 7 -6 19
Mallorca 16 4 6 6 -7 18
R Sociedad 16 4 5 7 -7 17
Rayo 16 4 4 8 -8 16
Villarreal 16 3 6 7 -10 15
Sporting 16 4 3 9 -11 15
Racing 16 2 8 6 -10 14
R Zaragoza 16 2 4 10 -18 10