La Liga 2022/23 All Out of Palancas

rguilmar

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I'd add that Villa have the 7th highest wage bill in the EPL. If Emery thinks he can get them to compete for a European place, then it's a reasonable gamble considering he's almost certainly going to make a lot more money at Villa.
I guess it comes down to expectation for me. Wage bills matter to a degree but many clubs with lots of money waste it. Does Villa have the talent? I honestly don’t watch enough EPL to answer that. If he’s expected to qualify for Europe, well…

Man City
Liverpool
Arsenal
Tottenham
Chelsea
Man United
Newcastle

Not great. There are also several decently run clubs with lower wage bills like Brighton out there. The rumor is that he was moving on from Villarreal after this season anyways, so maybe he saw this as his best chance at EPL success? Or maybe he saw the writing on the wall for Villarreal. Other teams are circling for their top young talent (Danjuma, Foyth, etc) and the rest of the team is aging.




Hey -- what's going on with this law? I've read things like La Liga will be reduced to 16 teams, that Barcelona and Real Madrid are throwing their weight around, that the other teams are threatening a strike.
I’ve heard some rumors but nothing from a journalist I trust.
 

rguilmar

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Anyways Quique Setien was hired to replace Emery at Villarreal. I liked his Betis teams though he is probably best remembered for his short stint at Barca (including their 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Bayern). The players and his preferred tactics seem to be a good fit. Not a bad fallback option for Villarreal IMO
 

bosox4283

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Anyways Quique Setien was hired to replace Emery at Villarreal. I liked his Betis teams though he is probably best remembered for his short stint at Barca (including their 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Bayern). The players and his preferred tactics seem to be a good fit. Not a bad fallback option for Villarreal IMO
I'm constantly both surprised and confused why there only seem to be like 5-10 coaches who either (1) get opportunities or (2) are good at coaching. It must be much, much harder than I imagine to coach successfully at this level.
 

rguilmar

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What a disappointing Champions League year for Atletico. But it may be for the best. Atleti can point to the lack of Champions League revenue to sell a few players, reinvest these dollars, and use the core of promising young players to give the team a spark next year.
I tend to agree. I know Atleti are getting results in La Liga but with inconsistent performances. Either they perform better and continue to get results or they keep playing like they have been and the wins will dry up. I think this team is what it is though, and a freshening up of the squad is what’s needed. Given the option of a Time Machine, I’m sure they would’ve sold Joao Felix to Man Utd last time around, but there will still be teams looking to sign him with Newcastle and other Uber rich teams likely on speed dial.

Atleti do own two of the best loaned players in La Liga right now; Rodrigo Riquelme at Girona and Samuel Lino at Valencia. Adding them next season and losing some high wage earners- say, Felix and Carrasco- could help free up some money to address CB and other positions of need. Just find a few more deals like Reinildo (seriously, $3 million for that talent?!?) and they will be fine.
 

rguilmar

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What a week to be an Atletico Madrid fan. First getting bounced out of the Champions League the way they did (missed PK, rebound off the crossbar, next rebound blocked by the original PK taker, all at the death) only to be followed up by a loss at Cadiz. Cadiz went up 2-0. Then Joao Felix entered the game and scored two to tie it up, I think the second was in the 88th minute. He then barely misses a header in added time. Of course, Cadiz end up scoring with the last kick of the ball in the 98th minute. In short, I’m sorry Bosox. Hell of a few days.

Beyond that, Girona got a shock draw at Real Madrid. Barca got a late Lewa goal to win at Valencia. Sevilla are back to how they were to start the season (poor). They haven’t won a game at home yet and are in the relegation zone. Betis topped Real Sociedad in a feisty game in San Sebastián. Juan Cruz got the winner. He’s a shifty, super technical winger who started the year at the Betis B team and earned a place on the big squad by scoring the winner against the Sevilla B team. Athletic Club beat Villarreal who will take some time adjusting to Setien ball. Bilbao could’ve scored three or four more tbh.

Next weekend is the big one, Sevilla at Betis. The Benito Villamarín is always rocking, doubly so at night, and especially for El Gran Derbi.
 

Zososoxfan

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What a week to be an Atletico Madrid fan. First getting bounced out of the Champions League the way they did (missed PK, rebound off the crossbar, next rebound blocked by the original PK taker, all at the death) only to be followed up by a loss at Cadiz. Cadiz went up 2-0. Then Joao Felix entered the game and scored two to tie it up, I think the second was in the 88th minute. He then barely misses a header in added time. Of course, Cadiz end up scoring with the last kick of the ball in the 98th minute. In short, I’m sorry Bosox. Hell of a few days.

Beyond that, Girona got a shock draw at Real Madrid. Barca got a late Lewa goal to win at Valencia. Sevilla are back to how they were to start the season (poor). They haven’t won a game at home yet and are in the relegation zone. Betis topped Real Sociedad in a feisty game in San Sebastián. Juan Cruz got the winner. He’s a shifty, super technical winger who started the year at the Betis B team and earned a place on the big squad by scoring the winner against the Sevilla B team. Athletic Club beat Villarreal who will take some time adjusting to Setien ball. Bilbao could’ve scored three or four more tbh.

Next weekend is the big one, Sevilla at Betis. The Benito Villamarín is always rocking, doubly so at night, and especially for El Gran Derbi.
Sevilla are in the relegation zone ATM, and it's not clear it's going to get better. This is Betis' best chance to wreck their rivals in some time.
 

rguilmar

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Sevilla are in the relegation zone ATM, and it's not clear it's going to get better. This is Betis' best chance to wreck their rivals in some time.
I've been growing into a bit of a closet Betico over the years because they're generally fun to watch and their fans are a bit loco. Sevilla have had the upper hand for a while, especially during that decade or so where they won like every other Europa League. I've been down on Sevilla all season and high on Betis, and the results so far have backed that up. That being said, I fully expect Sevilla to somehow win this one just because strange things happen in derbies, the spotlight will be on this game, and, well, Manque Pierda.
 

rguilmar

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That was a wild Gran Derbi, and in some ways totally expected. Two clubs with two of the most attractive styles in La Liga and it was an absolute slugfest. Betis went up a man and a goal at home only to have two of their more influential players, Borja “El Panda” Iglesias and Fekir, get red carded. The Fekir red felt a little unlucky, mostly because his elbow would normally hit the waist of the opponent, except that the defender in this case was the diminutive Papu Gomez, so it caught Gomez in the eye. Sevilla got the equalizer through Gudelj, maybe the most unlikely goal scorer on the pitch, who hit an absolute cannon foutside the box. He could easily have had two more, a volley off the bar and a top class save by Claudio Bravo at the death, which would have given Sevilla an unlikely win.

This Derby has always had a reputation of being kind of a jovial competition between city rivals. It’s had a pretty violent streak though, and not just limited to Juan de Ramos getting knocked out by a projectile thrown by Betis fans, followed by the fans blocking an ambulance from getting to the Sevilla manager. I had forgotten about their cup tie last year being suspended after Joan Jordan was hit by a flag pole, which I guess explains why he was mercilessly whistled every time he touched the ball this weekend. At any rate, it’s an energetic game and always fun to watch.

Just started watching the Rayo-Real game. Not sure how it turns out but 30 minutes in and Rayo have the lead. Next match day starts tomorrow, last games before the World Cup break.
 

Zososoxfan

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That was a wild Gran Derbi, and in some ways totally expected. Two clubs with two of the most attractive styles in La Liga and it was an absolute slugfest. Betis went up a man and a goal at home only to have two of their more influential players, Borja “El Panda” Iglesias and Fekir, get red carded. The Fekir red felt a little unlucky, mostly because his elbow would normally hit the waist of the opponent, except that the defender in this case was the diminutive Papu Gomez, so it caught Gomez in the eye. Sevilla got the equalizer through Gudelj, maybe the most unlikely goal scorer on the pitch, who hit an absolute cannon foutside the box. He could easily have had two more, a volley off the bar and a top class save by Claudio Bravo at the death, which would have given Sevilla an unlikely win.

This Derby has always had a reputation of being kind of a jovial competition between city rivals. It’s had a pretty violent streak though, and not just limited to Juan de Ramos getting knocked out by a projectile thrown by Betis fans, followed by the fans blocking an ambulance from getting to the Sevilla manager. I had forgotten about their cup tie last year being suspended after Joan Jordan was hit by a flag pole, which I guess explains why he was mercilessly whistled every time he touched the ball this weekend. At any rate, it’s an energetic game and always fun to watch.

Just started watching the Rayo-Real game. Not sure how it turns out but 30 minutes in and Rayo have the lead. Next match day starts tomorrow, last games before the World Cup break.
It has a lovely ending ;)
 

Zososoxfan

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Barca currently in the middle of a brutal match against 5th place Osasuna. Osasuna scored first off a corner, but then Lewa got a second yellow in the first half. Pedri equalized early in the 2nd half and that's where we stand nearing the hour mark.
 

rguilmar

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It has a lovely ending ;)
Yeah it did. Rayo have taken points against some big clubs this season. Isi has had some gems in those games and I think people are starting to get an appreciation for him. Apparently there is a video out there of Valverde’s missed shot that went out of the stadium bouncing into someone’s house. I haven’t seen it yet.

Barca currently in the middle of a brutal match against 5th place Osasuna. Osasuna scored first off a corner, but then Lewa got a second yellow in the first half. Pedri equalized early in the 2nd half and that's where we stand nearing the hour mark.
I haven’t caught the entirety of this one yet, but what were your thoughts on Osasuna? There are a lot of fun teams in La Liga this year, but Osasuna are high on the list for me. Chimy Avila is moving up my rankings of favorite players to watch too.
 

Zososoxfan

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Yeah it did. Rayo have taken points against some big clubs this season. Isi has had some gems in those games and I think people are starting to get an appreciation for him. Apparently there is a video out there of Valverde’s missed shot that went out of the stadium bouncing into someone’s house. I haven’t seen it yet.


I haven’t caught the entirety of this one yet, but what were your thoughts on Osasuna? There are a lot of fun teams in La Liga this year, but Osasuna are high on the list for me. Chimy Avila is moving up my rankings of favorite players to watch too.
Can't say I watched the match closely unfortunately. I did think Raphinha's goal was incredible though! Terrific long ball by FDJ and amazing awareness from Raph to see the keeper off his line.
 

rguilmar

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Taking a break from work, I put on the Sevilla-Real Sociedad match which has been a wild one so far. It’s 2-1 at the half. Sevilla got two red cards for dangerous tackles. The first looked more accidental, the second was an awful challenge. Sorloth got the first goal for Sociedad with a very classy chip. Bryce Mendez, a massive signing, got the second by essentially nutmegging teammate David Silva on the shot. Down two men, Sevilla got one back. If Real Sociedad get one or two more though, things can get really ugly for Sevilla in front of their home fans. A win La Real will see them jump temporarily up to third place and possibly see Sevilla in the relegation zone by the World Cup break.
 

rguilmar

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La Liga kicks back off on Thursday with some very fun looking matchups. Athletic Club visit Betis on Thursday and Sevilla go to Vigo on Friday. There some derbies too, specifically the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol, and Villareal opening up their new stadium against rival Valencia. There is a must watch Basque-ish derby between Real Sociedad and Osasuna and a not-so-must-watch Andalusian clash between Cadiz and Almeria.

R.D.T. aka Raul de Tomas has been training with Rayo and it will be interesting to see what he can add. He's a great goal scorer but is consistently at odds with his club. Given Spain's difficulty scoring at the World Cup, you have to wonder if R.D.T. might have helped the squad had he actually been playing. Isco and Sevilla have agreed to part ways. It will be interesting to see where he ends up, but I find it shocking that he's still only 30. There is still some good soccer left in those legs. As far as Sevilla goes, they need to make some moves this January. It's such an obviously poorly built team which is so weird because the club has been known for having such well built squads. They are currently in the relegation zone and have zero home wins.

A lot of La Liga players went deep into the World Cup, including 15 who suited up for the final (obviously not all of them played), so it will be interesting to see how they are managed in the next few weeks. At the top, it is Barcelona just ahead of Real Madrid in what is a two horse race (sigh).
 

rguilmar

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Criticisms of Lahoz will likely not be dying down after his refereeing in the Barcelona Derby. Just like in the World Cup, he’s lost control of the match.

He’s generally slower to hand out cards, but when he gets going he really gives them out. Three players sent off so far. I’m not even saying the reds were unfair but they resulted from a referee losing control of a Derby.

Edit: only two reds now, one for Barca and one for Espanyol. Cabrera was shown a straight red for what was probably a yellow card offense, which would have been his second yellow. Of course, the red was taken away after review and cannot be downgraded to a yellow so Cabrera survived.
 

rguilmar

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It was a pretty wild weekend in La Liga with lots of talking points, but the moment of the match day for me was the embrace between Real Sociedad manager Imanol Alguacil and star winger Mikel Oyarzabal as Oyarzabal was getting ready to sub on in La Real's 2-0 home win over Osasuna. Oyarzabal had a rough knee injury last April and has missed nine months, including the World Cup. Most people agree he would have made the Spain squad. The manager and the player more or less rose through the ranks at Sociedad together. Both have probably outgrown the club more or less, and theoretically could move on to get paid more money elsewhere. Alguacil is local from the Gipuzkoa province in the Basque region where San Sebastian (home of La Real) is located. The fans raised a massive tifo of him prior to the game and he's a local legend. He's among the most sought after managers in Spain. Oyarzabal is also a local kid from Gipuzkoa. While Sociedad have other great players, Mikel Merino, Martin Zubamendi, and Robin Le Normand among them, Oyarzabal is the star of the club. While both men could leave the club, it's not out of the question that they both remain there throughout their respective careers. Sociedad have developed a massive degree of loyalty to the club among players and staff, though you wonder how much the beaches and food of San Sebastian play a role in that.

The club deserves a ton of credit here. They currently sit in third place, albeit well behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. They got to that position without Oyarzabal. Over the summer they sold Alexander Isak for that insane fee, as well as Willian Jose to Betis. They used the funds to bring in Umar Sadiq (injured) as the replacement for Isak, along with Brais Mendes, Momo Cho, and Take Kubo. Mendes might be the best buy so far this season as the midfielder leads the team in goals and has been playing fantastic. Kubo looks like a different player out there and now is a total bargain. I love what I see out of Cho, who is also just back from injury. He's still a little raw, but he's got a ton of talent, he's 18 and he's getting starts for the 3rd place team in La Liga, at least until Oyarzabal is fully fit. I'm pretty sure he's still England-eligible, which could add to his hypothetical price tag. Sociedad also brought Sorloth back on loan, and he's been more than adequate replacing Sadiq. On top of all this, they saved 27 million Euros. The team's entire payroll is 31 million Euros. San Sebastian is a small city, about the size of Worcester, with other decent sized clubs nearby, like Eibar. There's not a massive population to draw from. It's not quite Villareal level (I'm sure I'll get to them later this week), but it's damn impressive. I wouldn't complain if they returned to the Champions League next season.
 

rguilmar

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Just some general observations from MD 15:
  • Mateu Lahoz ended 2022 on a bad note. First the debacle at the World Cup followed by some questionable decisions in the Barcelona derby. I wonder if your opinion of him has changed @Zososoxfan? To be fair, he has a reputation for letting the players play and not handing out cards that often. But he lost control of both of these matches. At one point in Barcelona only 39 seconds of actual soccer were played (give or take) during a ten minute span as he doled out several cards and had a VAR review of on them eat of clock time. He keeps getting top matches, which leads me to believe that whatever metrics the referee's association uses to rank officials rates him highly.
  • Sevilla still stink. They have plenty of talent, but it's just not the right blend of players. Too many good but aging MFs, lots of quality wingers and full backs, but nobody who can score or play CB. It's a recipe for a lot of frustrating performances with lots of possession, few chances created, and giving up goals against the run of play. They're still too good to be relegated but they had better start playing like it. Celta played them off the pitch in the first half and Sevilla were lucky to get a draw.
  • I'm still not sure what to make of this Villareal team. They can be fun to watch, but they don't really feel like a Setien team yet and are not super convincing. That being said, I am thrilled that they are back at home following the recent renovations to La Ceramica, which will forever be El Madrigal to me. Surprisingly they actually decreased the capacity of the stadium while upgrading the amenities and views. More than half the town can fit in the stadium though, so maybe it's not that surprising. I've enjoyed watching the development of Samuel Chukwueze who had a really nice goal in the derby win over Valencia.
  • The Betis-Athletic game did not live up to its potential. Betis should always get night games at home though. Night games tend to be pretty festive events in La Liga, but it's on another level at the Benito Villamarin. Perhaps Luiz Henrique had a breakout game too. He came over from Brazil and was thrown right into the squad. He's big, he's fast, and he's got tons of raw talent. He just needs to put it all together with any degree of consistency. If he plays like he did against Athletic Club, he's going to cause problems for defenses across La Liga, especially when Fekir and Canales are on the pitch with him.
 

bosox4283

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I was able to watch Atletico-Barcelona today, and I wish that I hadn't been able to watch.

At this point, I have serious doubts about Simeone's ability to fix this time. Sure, the team is not great and has certain flaws, but I have no idea why Simeone approached this match against Barca as if Messi, Iniesta, Xavi (the player), young Busquets, Ronaldihno, Suarez, and Lewandowski were all on the pitch. Simeone either overthinks or obsesses with a trash style of football. Either way, I have concerns that Simeone has the right mindset for football in 2023.

I'm coming to this conclusion because, while this Barcelona side is good, there's no reason to enter the match with excessive reverence that ends up translating into fear on the pitch. Unsurprisingly, Simeone's defensive tactics -- keeping his line far back, not pressing, and waiting for the counter -- give Barca the early momentum, which led to the early goal. Once Simeone fixed his tactics, Atletico looked much, much better.
 

Zososoxfan

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I was able to watch Atletico-Barcelona today, and I wish that I hadn't been able to watch.

At this point, I have serious doubts about Simeone's ability to fix this time. Sure, the team is not great and has certain flaws, but I have no idea why Simeone approached this match against Barca as if Messi, Iniesta, Xavi (the player), young Busquets, Ronaldihno, Suarez, and Lewandowski were all on the pitch. Simeone either overthinks or obsesses with a trash style of football. Either way, I have concerns that Simeone has the right mindset for football in 2023.

I'm coming to this conclusion because, while this Barcelona side is good, there's no reason to enter the match with excessive reverence that ends up translating into fear on the pitch. Unsurprisingly, Simeone's defensive tactics -- keeping his line far back, not pressing, and waiting for the counter -- give Barca the early momentum, which led to the early goal. Once Simeone fixed his tactics, Atletico looked much, much better.
The bigger indictment here is that he did so without starting De Paul!
 

rguilmar

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I thought Atleti looked good for the last 70 or so minutes. Those first twenty though were pretty bad. Cholo got the tactics wrong to start but after the goal they looked good and seemed to have some of that bite back that they had been lacking.

That Madrid-Villareal game was a fun one to watch. Villarreal probably deserved to win by more, and you can see the Setien tweaks taking effect. If this is the true Yellow Submarine we see for the rest of the season then I think they’ll be in good shape. Betis-Rayo was also highly entertaining. Pelligrini summarized it well when he said that both teams like to attack, have quality in the attack, and prefer not to defend. The result is an entertaining game, and there is still plenty of room aboard the Luis Henrique bandwagon. He wouldn’t be the first player to have a nice run of form before falling back to earth, but it’s two good games in a row.

On the flip side, Vini Jr was once again the target of racist chants at Valladolid last weekend. He’s rightly frustrated by it, and when he called La Liga out for not seeming to address the situation, La Liga President Javier Tebas shot back that he needed to “be better informed” about what La Liga is doing. It seems like La Liga’s response has been to gather info and pass it along to other entities to handle. Otherwise they wait for it all to blow over. They leave it up to clubs to address on their own. I know some clubs have banned individuals from the stadium, but more needs to be done.
 
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rguilmar

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Rumors are flying that this will be the final season for Diego Simeone at Atleti. I’ll honestly miss him if that’s the case. I wonder who will hire him next. I’ve heard that he would like to go to Italy, but his wages are insanely high.
 

allstonite

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Not Liga but anybody watching this Barca Bettis cup match? I just saw 2 of the prettiest goals (1 each way) in the first period of extra time. Now 2-2 very fun game
 

nayrbrey

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Not Liga but anybody watching this Barca Bettis cup match? I just saw 2 of the prettiest goals (1 each way) in the first period of extra time. Now 2-2 very fun game
Yeah that back heel touch for the Betis goal was beautiful.
I was trying to figure out why this game was sparsely attended, turns out the cup semis and final are being held in Saudi Arabia.
 

allstonite

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Yeah that back heel touch for the Betis goal was beautiful.
I was trying to figure out why this game was sparsely attended, turns out the cup semis and final are being held in Saudi Arabia.
Yeah this is a great match and it sounds like my cousins high school games. That back heel was phenomenal. Bounced it perfectly between the defender’s knees and over the keeper’s shoulder
 

rguilmar

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Yeah that back heel touch for the Betis goal was beautiful.
I was trying to figure out why this game was sparsely attended, turns out the cup semis and final are being held in Saudi Arabia.
It’s been held in Saudi Arabia the last couple of years since the change in format I believe. Anything to line Gerard Pique’s pockets. We get another Clasico out of it, but it would’ve been nice to see either Betis or Valencia sneak through. Both had a shot.

The Madrid-Valencia match wasn’t super entertaining, but as a USMNT fan it was good to see Musah play decently well against a team like Madrid. He wasn’t great by any stretch, but any time Valencia were able to get ahold of the match, he was the change-of-pace player who tried to actually make things happen, usually after a series of lateral and back passes by Valencia that only Sebastian Lletget would’ve been proud of. The Barca-Betis game was much more entertaining, even though both semis ended in penalties. Still plenty of room aboard the Luis Henrique hype train, but it’s filling up. Three games in a row where he put in MotM performances.

This final will certainly draw attention away from the big game of the weekend as Real Sociedad and Athletic Club will battle it out for the title of King of the North. The Derbi Vasco will probably be seen as a pintxo to El Clasico’s paella.
 

rguilmar

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Thanks for that additional detail @rguilmar, as always follow the $$$$$. I actually think I’m going to start following this Betis team, I was impressed with how they played today.
Betis are a great team to follow. I consider myself sort of a closet Bético after I more or less renounced Barca a couple of years ago. It’s the way they play and the passion of their fans.

If you don’t have too much exposure to them, check out their Derby Days episode and Once in a Lifetime episode. Cliff note version though:
They’re a very popular team in Spain, and most people root for them as their “second team” even if they’re not Béticos.
The fans are known for being a little wild. Or just sheer crazy.
They don’t usually win and are kind of the “lovable losers” of Spain.

Be careful though. Going down the Betis path can lead to a lot of suffering. Some great times, for sure, but definitely some pain.
 

rguilmar

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Proper Basque derby going on right now. La Real lead 2-1 at the half. Three well taken goals, the gem of which is Take Kubo’s where he nutmegged the last defender before calmly beating Spain’s #1.

Sure, lots of hustle and hard tackling, but also lots of really nice soccer so far.
 

rguilmar

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Barca won the Super Copa with a convincing 3-1 victory over Real Madrid. Barcelona looked good and Madrid looked very, very bad. Lots of mistakes by a Madrid team that we expect to not beat themselves. Don’t look now, but it looks like the Barca gamble might pay off. Sure, the Champions League didn’t work out, but a few more trophies are still in play. If they can just refrain a bit and stay calm over the next few transfer windows, the financial ship might be righted. Huge “if” though. Gavi is showing that he is really, really good. The goal and assists were great, but that edge he brings is what I love about him. He needs to not lose control of himself, but he definitely gets under the skin of opponents. This time it was Dani Ceballos who lost his head, cementing himself as the “least popular soccer player in Catalunya” by pulling Gavi’s hair. It’s a title I’m sure Ceballos would love though.

I didn’t think I would ever like this Super Copa format, but I kind of enjoy it and the final feels more like a trophy is at stake than the preseason league winner vs cup winner game. I just wish it wasn’t held in Saudi Arabia. I forget who said it, but someone came up with the idea of rotating it through different Spanish cities, which would be cool. Contract with the Kingdom runs through 2029 though.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barca won the Super Copa with a convincing 3-1 victory over Real Madrid. Barcelona looked good and Madrid looked very, very bad. Lots of mistakes by a Madrid team that we expect to not beat themselves. Don’t look now, but it looks like the Barca gamble might pay off. Sure, the Champions League didn’t work out, but a few more trophies are still in play. If they can just refrain a bit and stay calm over the next few transfer windows, the financial ship might be righted. Huge “if” though. Gavi is showing that he is really, really good. The goal and assists were great, but that edge he brings is what I love about him. He needs to not lose control of himself, but he definitely gets under the skin of opponents. This time it was Dani Ceballos who lost his head, cementing himself as the “least popular soccer player in Catalunya” by pulling Gavi’s hair. It’s a title I’m sure Ceballos would love though.

I didn’t think I would ever like this Super Copa format, but I kind of enjoy it and the final feels more like a trophy is at stake than the preseason league winner vs cup winner game. I just wish it wasn’t held in Saudi Arabia. I forget who said it, but someone came up with the idea of rotating it through different Spanish cities, which would be cool. Contract with the Kingdom runs through 2029 though.
I love the bolded idea, but gross--2029 is a loooooong way away.

We also need to talk about Balde who looked pretty bad in Qatar and didn't look great in the first couple of post-WC matches either. He looks ready now, and that's huge. It was also big for Xavi to drop Raphinha and essentially play 4 in the midfield, with Busi, FDJ, Pedri, and Gavi.
 

Zososoxfan

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I'm gonna post about Copa del Rey here because we're halfway thru the season and we have 2 pages [insert shruggie emoji].

I'm surprised Barca are starting Lewa alongside a fully B squad against 3rd division Ceuta. Such a dramatic B squad is hilarious because you also have Kessie out there (rumored to be heading to Inter), and young players like Pablo Torre. I believe Barca lodged a complaint and tried to get this match moved because Ceuta's home ground is small and may lack the standards for a primera side, but they're very much there. Ceuta looks like a third division team--one of their players tried to chip Pena from 40 yards out and put it into touch lol.
 

rguilmar

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I'm gonna post about Copa del Rey here because we're halfway thru the season and we have 2 pages [insert shruggie emoji].

I'm surprised Barca are starting Lewa alongside a fully B squad against 3rd division Ceuta. Such a dramatic B squad is hilarious because you also have Kessie out there (rumored to be heading to Inter), and young players like Pablo Torre. I believe Barca lodged a complaint and tried to get this match moved because Ceuta's home ground is small and may lack the standards for a primera side, but they're very much there. Ceuta looks like a third division team--one of their players tried to chip Pena from 40 yards out and put it into touch lol.
Maybe next season we should just have a general Spanish soccer thread as a catch all of La Liga, Copa del Rey, Super Copa, and the Europa League (one commentator joked that there are more Spanish teams left in the continental competition than in the Copa del Rey).

I think Real Madrid had lodged a similar complaint in the last round. The entire Cup structure is set up that way though as it essentially puts the top teams away at the lowest level teams to give the host an awesome gate receipt. These third division teams are stuck in Spanish soccer purgatory so any little splash of cash helps.

It’s on to the quarterfinals with no Cinderella unless you count Sevilla. It was fun to see a game at El Molinón. Gijón have been absent from La Liga for so long that I forgot how great of an atmosphere they have even though they got thrashed by Valencia. Betis are out so there will be no repeat
 

Zososoxfan

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CDR QF draw (home team listed first):

Sociedad-Barca
A Madrid-R Madrid
Athletic-Valencia
Sevilla-Osasuna

Osasuna is the only club who hasn't previously won the CDR.

The Liga table sits as follows:

1. Barca
2. Real
3. Sociedad
4. Atleti
...
7. Osasuna
8. Athletic
...
12. Valencia
...
19. Sevilla (!)

Still can't believe Sevilla are sitting in relegation. It's not nearly as good of a squad as recent years, but they still have players like Acuna, Montiel, El-Nesyri, and Bono. Sampaoli has cost himself a lot of money between his disaster stints at the Argentina NT and now Sevilla. Maybe Ocampos coming back will help a bit. Can a side win the CDR still get relegated?!??
 

rguilmar

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Madrid won, but Villareal looked dominant in the first half. Madrid have some real holes in their team right now.

Sevilla have looked bad enough to be relegated to be honest. They have way too much talent to go down. Beyond the players mentioned, they have Papu Gomez, Alex Telles, Fernando, Ivan Rakitic, Joan Jordan, Thomas Delaney, Tecatito, Eric Lamela, Jesus Navas, and Adnan Januzaj. The problem is that they are just so badly constructed. They are old in CM. They are loaded in fullbacks and wingers, but lack CB and strikers.

At this point last season, Sevilla were gearing up for a title challenge. They looked like the only real challengers to Madrid but seemed to forget how to score in the second half of the season (they still haven't remembered). A lot of folks accurately predicted Lopetegui getting canned because the fans had turned against him and the team was due for a step back. But sheesh, they look awful right now.
 

rguilmar

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In what normally would not be noteworthy, Sevilla beat Cadiz 1-0 thanks to a late PK by Rakitic. But this isn't a normal season, so it was one of the bigger results of the weekend and the win lifts Sevilla out of the relegation zone. Sevilla supporter groups protested before and after the match pretty vocally as they want the current board out. The opposition is being led by former club president Jose Maria del Nido who spent time in jail for fraud and embezzlement. His son Adrian is on the current board and has a prominent role, so Sunday dinners at the del Nido household must be fun.

The big games were Basque-Madrid games. Real Sociedad again looked really, really good in Vallecas against Rayo. It is a tough place to get a result (ask Real Madrid) and a tough team to beat (ask Barcelona), and La Real did it in style. Real Madrid won in the most Real Madrid way, sitting back and taking their chances against Athletic Club in the Lion's Den of Bilbao. The atmosphere was electric. The Spanish Football Podcast guys were saying that this is the game that Bilbao fans want to win more than anything else, including the Basque Derby. The two clubs couldn't be more different. The team most identified with the central government in Spain versus the club with the most separatist fans. The club of Galacticos who can buy anyone in the world versus the club who can only draw from the 2.1 million people of the Basque region. Athletic Club played well, but Madrid did what Madrid always does.
 

speedracer

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Still can't believe Sevilla are sitting in relegation. It's not nearly as good of a squad as recent years, but they still have players like Acuna, Montiel, El-Nesyri, and Bono. Sampaoli has cost himself a lot of money between his disaster stints at the Argentina NT and now Sevilla. Maybe Ocampos coming back will help a bit. Can a side win the CDR still get relegated?!??
Wigan won the FA cup and dropped in the same year IIRC.
 

rguilmar

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Copa del Rey today. Barca are taking this pretty seriously putting out basically their strongest possible lineup (obviously open for debate) against Real Sociedad. Interesting in that both teams will go with 4 man midfields.

Osasuna and Sevilla kick off later this afternoon in another fun looking game.
 

Zososoxfan

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Copa del Rey today. Barca are taking this pretty seriously putting out basically their strongest possible lineup (obviously open for debate) against Real Sociedad. Interesting in that both teams will go with 4 man midfields.

Osasuna and Sevilla kick off later this afternoon in another fun looking game.
I'm surprised that Barca went full strength too. They play Girona on Saturday who aren't quite as strong as last year, but they do sit midtable. I do think Lewa is still serving a suspension so he makes sense, but for the rest of the squad to start it makes me think that Xavi is prioritizing all the hardware he can get this season since they're out of UCL. I have to imagine that UEL is more lucrative than CDR, but Barca might have a weird priority on CDR.

Pretty bad call IMO that led to a yellow card on the field issued to Sociedad being modified to a straight red upon VAR. The stomp was bad and it did come after a hard takeout slide by Busi, but because of that I didn't think it should be a red. At a minimum, Busi should also be on a yellow.

I haven't watched closely but Barca do seem to be playing well and putting the screws on Sociedad. That being said, MATS did well to save a rocket from close range to clang off the crossbar.
 

rguilmar

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I'm surprised that Barca went full strength too. They play Girona on Saturday who aren't quite as strong as last year, but they do sit midtable. I do think Lewa is still serving a suspension so he makes sense, but for the rest of the squad to start it makes me think that Xavi is prioritizing all the hardware he can get this season since they're out of UCL. I have to imagine that UEL is more lucrative than CDR, but Barca might have a weird priority on CDR.

Pretty bad call IMO that led to a yellow card on the field issued to Sociedad being modified to a straight red upon VAR. The stomp was bad and it did come after a hard takeout slide by Busi, but because of that I didn't think it should be a red. At a minimum, Busi should also be on a yellow.

I haven't watched closely but Barca do seem to be playing well and putting the screws on Sociedad. That being said, MATS did well to save a rocket from close range to clang off the crossbar.
It’s probably a combination of things. Xavi just won his first trophy and can probably taste this one too. Barca probably needs deep runs in the Europa League and Copa del Rey to make up for the lost Champions League money. Getting to the final gives the culés a chance to boo the king. And the Copa del Rey is really important to Spanish teams. Just watch the final few minutes at El Sadar to see how important it is to players and fans.

The Osasuna-Sevilla game was super entertaining. Both teams really went for it. For about ten minutes Osasuna had Moi Gomez, Abde, Chimy Ávila, Rubén Garcia, and Aimar on the field together, which is about as nifty and aggressive of a front five as there is in Spain. Of course Osasuna scored. Then it became the Morocco show- Bono with some incredible saves, En-Nesyri with the tying goal at the death for Sevilla, and Abde with the winner in extra time.

Valencia-Athletic Club and the Madrid Derby are today. With Barca and Osasuna already through, if Bilbao and Real Madrid win, the last four standing will also be the four member owned clubs in Spain.
 

rguilmar

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I haven’t seen the entirety of the Madrid Derby yet but that same old issue has reared its ugly head, this time in the form of a mannequin of Vini Jr hanging from a bridge with a sign saying “Madrid Hates Real”.

I’m generally opposed to punishing the many because of the actions of a few, but something has to be done about Frente Atlético. They’re a noted far right group of ultras who have been behind multiple incidents of racism, this season mostly aimed at Vini Jr. La Liga and Atlético have given whatever evidence they have to the authorities who have more or less decided not to punish the ultras. Aren’t we at the point where Atleti need to be playing in front of an empty stadium?

Atletico are not the only team in Spain with far right ultras, nor are these ultras representative of the Atletico fan base as a whole, but Frente Atletico are notorious for their extremism. It feels like they’ve gone unpunished for so long in terms of their racist chants that they feel emboldened. I understand we are unlikely to change the minds of Frente Atletico members with any form of punishment, but I saw large numbers of Atleti fans making monkey chants at Vini Jr during the “playing the monkey” game earlier this season, kids among them, and these are the people who need to know that this behavior is unacceptable. So punish them all.

In short, ban Frente Atletico (again) and publicly ban any other individual involved. Force Atleti to play in front of empty stadiums for several games. Hurt the club and the fans where it matters most. I hope Vini scores against Atleti and dances, and I find myself rooting for Real Madrid today. Something must be done!
 

rguilmar

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Iñaki Williams’ amazing record streak of 251 consecutive games played in La Liga for Athletic Bilbao came to an end today as he was left off the roster entirely.
 

Zososoxfan

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Iñaki Williams’ amazing record streak of 251 consecutive games played in La Liga for Athletic Bilbao came to an end today as he was left off the roster entirely.
I can't remember the club, but there were rumors that Bilbao and buyer club had come to terms but Inaki rejected the move. Shocker, but I think it was an EPL club. Inaki is a terrific player and I love watching him. Getting to see him play with his brother is also pretty nifty.
 

rguilmar

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I can't remember the club, but there were rumors that Bilbao and buyer club had come to terms but Inaki rejected the move. Shocker, but I think it was an EPL club. Inaki is a terrific player and I love watching him. Getting to see him play with his brother is also pretty nifty.
He wouldn’t be the first Athletic player to do so. I remember Chelsea going hard after Munían I think years ago and he turned them down. Bilbao have plenty of money and offer competitive wages. It’s not that they don’t sell players, because they obviously do, it’s just that they can usually extract a premium transfer fee and the players themselves tend to want to stay at Athletic Club for personal, family, and often financial reasons. It’s a much bigger club than most people realize. They’re just limited in how they can use their resources.

And you’re right when it comes to Iñaki. He more or less played the father figure to his younger brother, so it’s even less likely he’d want to leave Bilbao. I always wondered how much of a connection the Williams brothers have felt to the Basque region given the more socially conservative reputation of the region, but I’ve never heard any criticism from them either.
 

wonderland

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He wouldn’t be the first Athletic player to do so. I remember Chelsea going hard after Munían I think years ago and he turned them down. Bilbao have plenty of money and offer competitive wages. It’s not that they don’t sell players, because they obviously do, it’s just that they can usually extract a premium transfer fee and the players themselves tend to want to stay at Athletic Club for personal, family, and often financial reasons. It’s a much bigger club than most people realize. They’re just limited in how they can use their resources.

And you’re right when it comes to Iñaki. He more or less played the father figure to his younger brother, so it’s even less likely he’d want to leave Bilbao. I always wondered how much of a connection the Williams brothers have felt to the Basque region given the more socially conservative reputation of the region, but I’ve never heard any criticism from them either.
To that last point, I was wondering if/how perception of Iñaki changed in the region after he switched to Ghana. Were most people understanding (his one chance at the WC) or the opposite?
 

rguilmar

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To that last point, I was wondering if/how perception of Iñaki changed in the region after he switched to Ghana. Were most people understanding (his one chance at the WC) or the opposite?
This is just a guess based on the few Basques I know, but I expect that they don’t really care. Many don’t consider themselves Spanish and view Athletic Club, not La Roja, as their national team. Bilbao supporters often boo and whistle at the national anthem and at the King of Spain. Many are indifferent to Spain while others flat out reject Spanish sovereignty.