Return of the Galácticos? Spanish Fútbol 23-24

Zososoxfan

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Glass half full: Lewa scored twice and Barcelona have won games that title winners need to win. They’re only two points behind Real Madrid, actually closing the gap a bit, and have been dealing with an injury crisis. The kids have looked really good, and Ferran Torres has reawakened a bit and scored some important goals while Lewa sorted things out. And Gavi is a tough SOB.

Glass half empty: Barca have looked very pedestrian. Alaves scored about twenty seconds into the game this weekend, and Barca started the game with the ball. Midweek Barca lost to Shakhtar Donetsk (who don’t play at home for obvious reasons) in the Champions League. Last weekend Barcelona won but were thoroughly outplayed by Real Sociedad. Since their back-to-back manitos in mid-September they haven’t beaten an opponent by more than one goal, a run of 11 games, and they looked damn lucky several times (see Glass Half Full).
Totally fair read of the situation. The goal conceded against Alaves was pretty dumb, as they tried some kind of kickoff set play that resulted in Araujo getting far upfield, and it looks like he's pretty scared to open up his hammy so he couldn't track back quickly enough, and when he did he sauntered centrally because he's a CB, and then Alaves did well to take advantage and score. The other key part of that play was that Gundo had the ball with no pressure in the middle and lost it, and that's what set Alaves off on the break. I think Gundo is a good player to have on the bench, but I've been underwhelmed by him this season. He's not part of the best XI, and that's why FDJ's injury has been the silent killer for this team. Getting Pedri back hopefully means that Gundo can sit for a few matches because he's not up to the standard. I don't think Oriol is the longterm Busi answer, but he's the closest thing Barca have to a DMF metronome, and he's decently defensively stout. When he's the rock at the base of MF, it allows FDJ to play all over the place and for Pedri to find the pockets of space and be creative. That in turn allows Xavi to use Gavi in a more limited role and everyone else slots properly into place. Without FDJ and Pedri though, Gundo had to take on more responsibility and has looked worse. Same could be said for Gavi, but Gavi's highs are higher than Gundo's and his lows aren't as low. It sounds like FDJ is almost back though, and that's welcome news.

The other thing that was very noticeable about the backline was just how overmatched Kounde was against Samu. Now, Samu is a big boi but once Xavi pushed Araujo centrally and moved Kounde out wide things got a lot calmer.

While I really like Felix's game, he wasn't at his sharpest yesterday and I have to say I'm very happy with Barca's depth. Yes, they still need to figure out their best XI when everyone's healthy, but that hasn't been a problem for much of the season. More importantly, Barca have 5 attackers now that can all reasonably play in any match (Felix, Lewa, Ferran, Raph, and Lamine). Lamine looks like big boy futbol has finally caught up to him, and I expect that we'll see him start on the bench for next couple of matches now that Raph is getting healthy. Ferran is kind of like the super sub at this point, as he's the best backup to Lewa through the middle. Raph also got some run subbing for Fermin as the inside 8, but that seems like a temporary fix until FDJ gets back. Because when FDJ gets back, I don't know what the XI is, although the return to the box MF is the first thing I'd try again:

Felix-Lewa
Pedri-Gavi
FDJ-Oriol
Balde-Christensen-Araujo-Cancelo

One last comment--I can't say enough good things about Cancelo. I think he's just a brilliant player. He's everything you want in an attacking fullback, and he could really be the linchpin that puts this team over the top if they get healthy and cruising.
 

sdiaz1

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Apr 17, 2013
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I honestly can't think of a team that has been as snake bit with injuries as Real Madrid has been this season. This international break has seen injuries sustained by Camavinga and Vini Jr that will leave both out of action for over 2 Months. This of course goes with the lengthy injuries already sustained by Courtois, Tchoumani, Militao, Guler (who has yet to make an appearance).

Practically half the starting 11 have seen lengthy injuries and the Midseason break is still 6 weeks away.
 

rguilmar

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Barcelona weathered an injury crisis earlier and now have lost Gavi presumably for the season with an ACL injury. He’s arguably the club’s most important and irreplaceable player, or maybe just behind Lewa and MATS. Real Madrid’s crisis is worse than Barca’s though.

People were already noting Girona’s advantage in not having European games but overlooked the impact of international breaks and their impact on bigger clubs. Even before the break people were already saying the “L” word in relation to Girona.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2023/nov/13/girona-and-their-boy-from-the-barrio-hit-new-heights-on-top-of-la-liga
 

sdiaz1

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Apr 17, 2013
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I had not seen the Gavi injury, remarkably I decided that watching Spain leisurely beat Georgia was worth missing.

At least Vini got injured in a real international match and not some glorified friendly masquerading as competitive international football. The Euro qualifiers are such a joke and cash grab. Players in the top level really need some protection. Why can't the minnows play against each other for the right to lose against the Ukraine's and Switzerland's of the Euro Cup?
 

Zososoxfan

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Barcelona weathered an injury crisis earlier and now have lost Gavi presumably for the season with an ACL injury. He’s arguably the club’s most important and irreplaceable player, or maybe just behind Lewa and MATS. Real Madrid’s crisis is worse than Barca’s though.

People were already noting Girona’s advantage in not having European games but overlooked the impact of international breaks and their impact on bigger clubs. Even before the break people were already saying the “L” word in relation to Girona.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2023/nov/13/girona-and-their-boy-from-the-barrio-hit-new-heights-on-top-of-la-liga
The Gavi injury is brutal, but I don't think he's the club's most important or irreplaceable player. Frankly, I don't know that the club has one, as almost every key position is capably backed up. MATS is excellent, but Pena is solid. Araujo would possibly be my shout for most important player, but they have Christensen, Kounde, and Martinez behind, very good. The FBs don't have a lot of cover, but those are positions that take the team from very good to world class. Cancelo is pretty darn close to the top of the most important list. FDJ's absence has been pretty damn notable. Hard to tease his absence from Pedri's, but both of those guys are very key players. Gundogan is a good backup, but I've been underwhelmed. Oriol is underrated IMO, and he can certainly hold down DMF for extended periods. Lewa is world class, but Ferran is off to a great start this season and I don't fret when he's the starting forward. Raph, Felix, and Lamine are all good options on the wings. And then you have Fermin starting to knock on the door, and perhaps another youngster or two breaks through (Guiu, etc.).
 

rguilmar

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The Gavi injury is brutal, but I don't think he's the club's most important or irreplaceable player. Frankly, I don't know that the club has one, as almost every key position is capably backed up. MATS is excellent, but Pena is solid. Araujo would possibly be my shout for most important player, but they have Christensen, Kounde, and Martinez behind, very good. The FBs don't have a lot of cover, but those are positions that take the team from very good to world class. Cancelo is pretty darn close to the top of the most important list. FDJ's absence has been pretty damn notable. Hard to tease his absence from Pedri's, but both of those guys are very key players. Gundogan is a good backup, but I've been underwhelmed. Oriol is underrated IMO, and he can certainly hold down DMF for extended periods. Lewa is world class, but Ferran is off to a great start this season and I don't fret when he's the starting forward. Raph, Felix, and Lamine are all good options on the wings. And then you have Fermin starting to knock on the door, and perhaps another youngster or two breaks through (Guiu, etc.).
I don't necessarily disagree with anything you wrote. I'm thinking more along the lines of things that players do or attributes that they have that aren't as easily replaced. So for Gavi, he's a really gifted and nifty player, but so are pretty much all of the Barcelona players. It's the grit and toughness that he brings that I think Barcelona will really miss. Whoever starts in place of him will not bring it like Gavi does. Part of me is just super defensive about the player because I think a lot of Barcelona fans- not you- look at him and think that he isn't as good because his game isn't only about slick passing and tiki taka. He's tough, he initiates the press, he's a pain in the ass to play against. As someone who occasionally is rooting against Barca, it seems like he's the one that does something that leads to the goal. Forcing a bad pass, causing a turnover, and so on, and Barcelona get a goal as a result. Romeu is a tough player too, and can stick a tackle, but Gavi's position up the field and his non-stop effort lead to more goal scoring chances. Barcelona have been really good the last couple of seasons at winning games that maybe they shouldn't, and Gavi doing the dirty work to me is part of the reason (as was MATS goals against versus xGA last season and Lewa's finishing). Barca are letting in more goals and Lewa hasn't scored as much this time around, but they still find ways to win ugly, and I think Gavi doesn't get enough credit for what he does in those games. You watch more of the team than I do and I have a bias towards the player, but I do wonder if he might be thought of more highly if he played for a different club. For what it's worth, I feel his impact on the Spain roster is the same and that the national team will miss his grit just as much as Barca.

You're definitely right in terms of squad construction. They go two deep across the board, and integrating La Masia products is helpful, especially compared to Madrid. If you're looking at the sheer drop in talent and technical quality from the star to their replacement, Cancelo would likely be the answer.
 

Zososoxfan

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I don't necessarily disagree with anything you wrote. I'm thinking more along the lines of things that players do or attributes that they have that aren't as easily replaced. So for Gavi, he's a really gifted and nifty player, but so are pretty much all of the Barcelona players. It's the grit and toughness that he brings that I think Barcelona will really miss. Whoever starts in place of him will not bring it like Gavi does. Part of me is just super defensive about the player because I think a lot of Barcelona fans- not you- look at him and think that he isn't as good because his game isn't only about slick passing and tiki taka. He's tough, he initiates the press, he's a pain in the ass to play against. As someone who occasionally is rooting against Barca, it seems like he's the one that does something that leads to the goal. Forcing a bad pass, causing a turnover, and so on, and Barcelona get a goal as a result. Romeu is a tough player too, and can stick a tackle, but Gavi's position up the field and his non-stop effort lead to more goal scoring chances. Barcelona have been really good the last couple of seasons at winning games that maybe they shouldn't, and Gavi doing the dirty work to me is part of the reason (as was MATS goals against versus xGA last season and Lewa's finishing). Barca are letting in more goals and Lewa hasn't scored as much this time around, but they still find ways to win ugly, and I think Gavi doesn't get enough credit for what he does in those games. You watch more of the team than I do and I have a bias towards the player, but I do wonder if he might be thought of more highly if he played for a different club. For what it's worth, I feel his impact on the Spain roster is the same and that the national team will miss his grit just as much as Barca.

You're definitely right in terms of squad construction. They go two deep across the board, and integrating La Masia products is helpful, especially compared to Madrid. If you're looking at the sheer drop in talent and technical quality from the star to their replacement, Cancelo would likely be the answer.
That's a valid perspective, and quite convincing. Barca was certainly at their best last season and earlier this season in the diamond MF setup, with Oriol at the base, FDJ and Gavi running B2B, and Pedri playing the tip of the spear, so I think that lends credence to your position. The question becomes what's the best 3-man MF Barca can play when everyone's healthy. Is it FDJ-Gavi-Pedri, Oriol-FDJ-Pedri, Oriol-FDJ-Gavi, etc. My guess is that if you HAVE to take off one of the MFs, it's probably Gundogan, then Oriol--not terribly controversial I imagine--but then we're basically asking which of Gavi/Pedri/FDJ is the most indispensable, and since Pedri and FDJ were injured earlier this year, we're about to find out how effective Barca can be without Gavi [insert nervous emoji].
 

bosox4283

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Barca with a strong win against Atletico, and I don't think the 1-0 score reflects how lost Atletico looked for most of the game and how strong Barca was for the first half. I love Simeone and think he has made a tremendous shift this year to play some wonderful offensive football and to allow his players to showcase their skills, but he still gets nervous against Barcelona and reverts back to his old, defense-first self. In the first half, while Barca does deserve a lot of credit, Atletico played a really timid football and basically gave Barcelona the ball and set up the defensive line so far back. For sure, Pedri-FDJ-Gundogan make a solid midfield and players like Cancelo, Felix, and Raphina can be electric -- but I don't think this line-up warrants changing the team's philosophy and not using what has worked this season.

Felix did score a nice little goal, taking advantage of a mistake by Molina and then chipping over Oblak's reach. Seeing this version of Felix does make you wonder why and how he and Simeone couldn't make it work -- they did win one La Liga title together (the COVID year) and Felix put together some really exciting stretches of football, but there was an issue of consistency of effort and commitment to defense and then a good-old-fashioned personality clash. I just hope Felix continues to flourish so Barcelona feels obligated to buy him -- or at least has a competitor to buy him.
 

trs

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Barca with a strong win against Atletico, and I don't think the 1-0 score reflects how lost Atletico looked for most of the game and how strong Barca was for the first half. I love Simeone and think he has made a tremendous shift this year to play some wonderful offensive football and to allow his players to showcase their skills, but he still gets nervous against Barcelona and reverts back to his old, defense-first self. In the first half, while Barca does deserve a lot of credit, Atletico played a really timid football and basically gave Barcelona the ball and set up the defensive line so far back. For sure, Pedri-FDJ-Gundogan make a solid midfield and players like Cancelo, Felix, and Raphina can be electric -- but I don't think this line-up warrants changing the team's philosophy and not using what has worked this season.

Felix did score a nice little goal, taking advantage of a mistake by Molina and then chipping over Oblak's reach. Seeing this version of Felix does make you wonder why and how he and Simeone couldn't make it work -- they did win one La Liga title together (the COVID year) and Felix put together some really exciting stretches of football, but there was an issue of consistency of effort and commitment to defense and then a good-old-fashioned personality clash. I just hope Felix continues to flourish so Barcelona feels obligated to buy him -- or at least has a competitor to buy him.
Agreed with everything here. It's a bit frustrating to see Atleti play down to Barca and Real. They used to have to cheap out victories against both, but honestly this year they're not an underdog against either squad. It's also got to be a bit muscle-confusing to switch styles of play so overtly from game to game. Relying on the counter is fine but refusing to put together more than two touches before frantically kicking it up field makes it impossible to apply any pressure, and Juanfran is not walking through that door to run the ball 60 meters up the right-hand side to find a streaking Costa.
 

rguilmar

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Barca with a strong win against Atletico, and I don't think the 1-0 score reflects how lost Atletico looked for most of the game and how strong Barca was for the first half. I love Simeone and think he has made a tremendous shift this year to play some wonderful offensive football and to allow his players to showcase their skills, but he still gets nervous against Barcelona and reverts back to his old, defense-first self. In the first half, while Barca does deserve a lot of credit, Atletico played a really timid football and basically gave Barcelona the ball and set up the defensive line so far back. For sure, Pedri-FDJ-Gundogan make a solid midfield and players like Cancelo, Felix, and Raphina can be electric -- but I don't think this line-up warrants changing the team's philosophy and not using what has worked this season.

Felix did score a nice little goal, taking advantage of a mistake by Molina and then chipping over Oblak's reach. Seeing this version of Felix does make you wonder why and how he and Simeone couldn't make it work -- they did win one La Liga title together (the COVID year) and Felix put together some really exciting stretches of football, but there was an issue of consistency of effort and commitment to defense and then a good-old-fashioned personality clash. I just hope Felix continues to flourish so Barcelona feels obligated to buy him -- or at least has a competitor to buy him.
Agreed with everything here. It's a bit frustrating to see Atleti play down to Barca and Real. They used to have to cheap out victories against both, but honestly this year they're not an underdog against either squad. It's also got to be a bit muscle-confusing to switch styles of play so overtly from game to game. Relying on the counter is fine but refusing to put together more than two touches before frantically kicking it up field makes it impossible to apply any pressure, and Juanfran is not walking through that door to run the ball 60 meters up the right-hand side to find a streaking Costa.
It looked like this game was all about Joao Felix to me. Much of the usual hoopla before the game was about him, and it seemed like the Atleti players were taking it personally, like they have an actual problem with him as a player and the way he has conducted himself off the field. Barca looked good for the first time since they blew the Clasico (they were very good for the first 60+ minutes). Maybe the second half against Porto finally kicked them into gear. For Atletico, it feels like a missed chance. I still like their talent overall compared to the rest of the league, acknowledging that maybe I discounted how good Joao Cancelo is and how he impacts Barcelona. A year ago Atleti were in really rough shape and I thought Cholo was on his way out the door. But they've been the best team in La Liga since the World Cup, so maybe this is just another blip like the Valencia game. Simeone signed a new contract and took a pay cut. They still have a game in hand and the goal differential on Barcelona. There is a risk that Real Madrid pull away at some point, but they have their own injury issues to deal with.

Real Sociedad continue to impress. They are one of four Spanish teams through to knockout stages of the Champions League and have generally been great to watch. Only Sevilla are eliminated, but I fully expect them to win in Lens and go on to win the Europa League, probably knocking off Betis in the process. Anyways, La Real had four players start in the most recent Spain game, all of them from their academy. Add in fringe internationals like Barrene and Zubeldia, and they are the engine of the national team right now. Umar Sadiq, who they signed as a replacement for Isak and promptly tore his ACL, returned this season and took some time to get up to speed. He got his first goal, and it was a worldie worth the wait. Their the must-watch team in Spain to me, even over Girona or Betis. Sociedad's great rivals Athletic Club Bilbao have been playing great as well, with the Williams brothers on fire. They just walloped Rayo and thankfully Nico signed a new contract. He could have left for a free, but now has a 50 million Euro release clause. Plenty of teams in Europe will be willing to pay that for such a talent, but Athletic will get money and aren't known for keeping players hostage despite their limited pool of players. Plus, they almost always come home.

Real Betis have made no secret that they want to become a fixture at the top of La Liga for years to come. They've also made it clear that they want to get more fans through good deeds. Their stadium redevelopment will be one of the most environmentally friendly in the world- they do wear green of course. They've highlighted the needs of people with disabilities, especially children, throughout the season. Children with disabilities are brought to the Benito Villamarin often, though not advertised unless they accompany the team on the pitch. The Betis anthem, the best in the world and I will not be open to debate on this, is done in sign language. This on top of the usual concert of sorts they put on pregame. Their new 1992 retro kits make it easier for color blind fans to watch the game (I don't know the science behind this). I believe the next game is their annual Christmas gift game where fans litter the field with stuffed animals which are collected and given to children from poorer families in Seville at Christmas who might not otherwise get a gift. The soccer isn't half bad either, and Isco has been a revelation.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsABbFnSOGU
 

rguilmar

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Heck of a weekend for tiny Girona who beat Barcelona 4-2 at Montjuic. It’s looking more and more possible that Girona will finish as the top Catalan team this season, if not top of the table. Speaking of the top of the table, they were helped by Betis who held Real Madrid 1-1 in Seville. That man scored again for Madrid. Ruibal equalized for Betis with a golazo, which balanced out how much he was abused by Rodrygo. It’s a miracle Madrid didn’t score more given how good the Brazilian was. But it was Betis who had the late chances. Isco hit the post in the 90th minute against his former team (Pelligrini would have scored a victory against a club he managed as well). A year ago he was getting choked out by Monchi and on the verge of spending seven months in soccer wilderness. Now he’s the comeback player of the year if such an award exists, reborn at his last club’s greatest rivals. Former Betis player Dani Ceballos got a cameo too and was given the treatment deserving of such a Grade A asshole as Ceballos (opinion of most Catalans at least).

The real story took place in Granada where their match against Athletic Club was suspended when a fan sadly passed away in the stands during the game. Idk if more attention is paid to tragedies or near tragedies in the crowd this year, but it definitely seems like there have been more instances of spectators having massive health scares, at least in Spain.
 

Zososoxfan

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Heck of a weekend for tiny Girona who beat Barcelona 4-2 at Montjuic. It’s looking more and more possible that Girona will finish as the top Catalan team this season, if not top of the table. Speaking of the top of the table, they were helped by Betis who held Real Madrid 1-1 in Seville. That man scored again for Madrid. Ruibal equalized for Betis with a golazo, which balanced out how much he was abused by Rodrygo. It’s a miracle Madrid didn’t score more given how good the Brazilian was. But it was Betis who had the late chances. Isco hit the post in the 90th minute against his former team (Pelligrini would have scored a victory against a club he managed as well). A year ago he was getting choked out by Monchi and on the verge of spending seven months in soccer wilderness. Now he’s the comeback player of the year if such an award exists, reborn at his last club’s greatest rivals. Former Betis player Dani Ceballos got a cameo too and was given the treatment deserving of such a Grade A asshole as Ceballos (opinion of most Catalans at least).

The real story took place in Granada where their match against Athletic Club was suspended when a fan sadly passed away in the stands during the game. Idk if more attention is paid to tragedies or near tragedies in the crowd this year, but it definitely seems like there have been more instances of spectators having massive health scares, at least in Spain.
Girona's win was well deserved too. Nothing flukey about it. Their forward line is really talented and fun to watch, and they have a couple of speedy and tricky players on the wings. All of that and they're also very well-drilled in defense, and shut down space intelligently. It's definitely time for Xavi's seat to start getting warmer--he has a talented squad, even if it has some wonky parts, and the sum isn't adding up like it should.
 

rguilmar

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Woof. Alaba tore his ACL and is out for the season, joining Courtois and Militao.

Sevilla moved on from Diego Alonso. Five managers in less than a season and a half. Maybe, just maybe the problem is roster construction. It’s unbalanced. It’s old. With no European competitions next year, they will be in massive financial trouble even if they survive relegation. The board is in shambles too involved in its own civil war. I don’t know who would want to take this job. Lopetegui is out there but I doubt he wants to go back to where he was chased out of town by the fans after three very successful season. I don’t think Diniz would have any interest either as his system involves a lot of running, and Sevilla is just too old.

Xavi apparently isn’t on the hot seat yet, but it’s only a matter of time unless things change. They just have these long stretches where they don’t play well. He’s just having getting his team to play like he wants them to.

Two of La Liga’s true entertainers (and personal binkies) Betis and Real Sociedad predictably played to a 0-0 draw. Real Madrid currently sit top of the table, at least until Girona play. Overall shitty weekend in La Liga.
 

rguilmar

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I caught the Atlético Madrid- Athletic Bilbao game from the weekend, and man were Athletic good. They looked like the best team in La Liga, and possibly the best Athletic game I’ve ever seen them play. No offense to BoSox but Atleti were never in this game. Obviously Nico Williams is special but I hadn’t noticed how good Iñaki has been. 8 goals and 3 assists so far. Spain might go into the Euros next year wishing they hadn’t let him go so easily. Sancet has taken another leap and will take the role of an aging Muniain. San Mamés is an absolute fortress once again. If it weren’t for Girona (top of the table again) they’d be the feel good story of the season.
 

rguilmar

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The midseason break is here. Real Madrid sit atop La Liga and only lead Girona on GD. My preseason favorites to win it all, Atletico Madrid, have been pretty well cut adrift along with Barcelona. Both clubs probably will be looking to do well in the Spanish Supercopa and the Champions League while not getting passed by the chasing pack (led by Athletic Club). A club I haven't mentioned in positive terms this season is Getafe, but they have done well so far and honestly have kinda been an attacking side of sorts. Of course, there's the whole Mason Greenwood thing and Bordales is still Bordales. They do have a shot at Europe though. Two teams are all but relegated already, Andalucians Almeria and Granada. Celta Vigo currently sit in 18th but you just get the sense that Iago Aspas will save them once again. Cadiz (another Andalucian club), Deportivo Alaves, and Mallorca all seem at risk. Sevilla are still down near the bottom of the table too. Villarreal have had a pretty poor season by their own standards as well.

The Spanish Supercopa is coming up soon. It's a tournament I would prefer not to like given that it is a pure money grab held in Saudi Arabia, but I do enjoy it. The Big Three will all be there, along with Osasuna. The little club from Pamplona of course qualified by making the final of the Copa del Rey last season. Speaking of which, Copa90 recently released a great video about that run to the final. I always enjoy Eli Mengem's videos as they're more about a people and a culture, and how the local club fits in with the people they represent.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okmx5FSVL5Q
 

rguilmar

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Real Betis and their social media department have been busy this week. Johnny Cardoso arrived in Seville with a Home Alone themed announcement video which they followed up with a Simpson video. He'll probably get thrown into the fire earlier than anticipated with Guido Rodriguez's injury. Johnny was likely always viewed as a replacement for Guido, but next season not this January. They also completed a wild bit of business with Barcelona regarding Chadi Riad. Betis signed Riad on loan with an obligation to buy at the end of the season (3.5 million Euros). Barcelona had a buyback option exactly double the Betis purchase price, which they will activate at the end of the season. So Betis will get paid 3.5 million Euros for playing Riad this season. Not too shabby. Today is the equivalent of April's Fools Day in Spain, and Betis tricked their fans by announcing on social media that Joaquin is back! To top it all off, the club signed Isco to a new long-term contract good through 2027. He's been the Isco of old, and this is just great news for the player and the club. the announcement video? Ali G themed.

https://x.com/RealBetis_en/status/1740364509653377434?s=20
 

rguilmar

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La Liga is back today, along with all sorts of off field drama (and I’ll not mention a player currently employed in Paris right now). Jose del Nido is the new President at Sevilla. If you’ve followed La Liga over the last twenty years or so, you’ll know another Jose del Nido was President of Sevilla at the beginning of their glory years. You might also know that he’s a corrupt sob who spent time in jail. And you might also know that he is currently taking Sevilla to court to regain the position. This new del Nido is the son of the former president and his current rival. It’s safe to assume that gifts will not be exchanged between these two on the Día de Los Reyes on Saturday.

A random game today is a Madrid derby between Getafe and Rayo Vallecano. The game will be played at Atleti’s stadium, the Metropolitano. Apparently this is the result of a pitch invasion several years ago at Getafe with the punishment being that they could not play one home game, so Getafe simply moved it to the Metropolitano. Only season ticket holders and 300 Rayo fans can attend, so it will be oddly empty.

Headline games for this game day will be Girona-Atletico Madrid with Sevilla hosting Athletic Club. There is a Basque Derby (Sociedad-Alavés) and an Andalusian derby (Cadiz-Granada) as well.
 

rguilmar

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It was a Copa del Rey weekend. Villarreal and Unionistas are finishing up on Monday (being played right now) because the power went out at Unionistas at full time yesterday. It was the round of 32, draw for the last 16 will be done when the last game wraps up.

Anyways, the rule for the tournament is that lower ranked teams are drawn against higher ranked team with the lower ranked team hosting. That means we end up with tiny clubs like Arandina and Barbastro hosting Real Madrid and Barcelona. It's good to get these smaller clubs an awesome game day attendance. Barcelona again with just a 1 goal victory FWIW. There were some bigger clubs meeting up, like Alaves beating Betis. There were some interesting matches, like Basque club Eibar (with old friend Konrad) hosting rivals Athletic Bilboa. Tenerife got a measure of revenge against bitter rival Las Palmas who knocked them out of the promotion playoffs. The Spanish government usually calls in additional security for any Canary Island derby. Old friend Julian Araujo played and got a red card for sort of head butting an opponent. Anyways, teams start to take the competition more seriously in the next round and the quarterfinals.

Dropping down to the Segunda, which I admittedly haven't seen as much of this season because ESPN is showing fewer games, and it's a cluster in the top half. Nine points separate leaders Leganes and 12th place Elche. There are many notable clubs in that group- Sporting Gijon, Espanyol, Racing Santander, Valladolid, and of course Real Oviedo- but the interesting one is second place Racing de Ferrol, a tiny club known as the Green Devils with a 12,000 person stadium from A Coruna who have never played in La Liga in their 104 years. There is likely to be some regression for them, but if they somehow got promoted it would be one hell of a ride. And what a humiliation for Deportivo who two decades ago were winning La Liga and making the semifinals of the Champions League. Now they're stuck in the third tier in a group led by bitter rival's Celta de Vigo's B team. Imagine if both Galician teams get promoted and Depor remain behind them all? Oof, how the mighty have fallen.
 

rguilmar

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Copa del Rey Octavos draw is out and it is interesting. Two Basque derbies- Athletic Bilbao v. Alavés and Real Sociedad v. Osasuna. Of course that will be trumped by Atletico Madrid-Real Madrid. And of course the matchup that captures the imagination is Unionista, who beat Villarreal on penalties today, hosting Barcelona.

76273
 

sdiaz1

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Copa del Rey Octavos draw is out and it is interesting. Two Basque derbies- Athletic Bilbao v. Alavés and Real Sociedad v. Osasuna. Of course that will be trumped by Atletico Madrid-Real Madrid. And of course the matchup that captures the imagination is Unionista, who beat Villarreal on penalties today, hosting Barcelona.

View attachment 76273

Some fun matchups there for sure.

Personally kooking forward to listening to Xavi complain about poor pitch conditions during his post match interview as he justifies why Barcelona took 73 minutes to put a goal by Unionista.
 

rguilmar

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I had never heard of Unionistas until maybe a year or two ago when they ran into Real Madrid in the Copa. I did some quick Googling and it turns out that they are a relatively new club, created in 2013. They are one of two clubs in Salamanca, both founded the same year when the original Salamanca folded. You might remember them from their La Liga days 20 years ago or so. Their home stadium has a capacity of 5,000. Yes, Barcelona will play at a stadium smaller than many high school stadiums here in the US. Unionistas players were recorded finding out that Barcelona is their next opponent. I always find these reactions fun, like the French team that drew PSG.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV-gmc8TcY4

Some fun matchups there for sure.

Personally kooking forward to listening to Xavi complain about poor pitch conditions during his post match interview as he justifies why Barcelona took 73 minutes to put a goal by Unionista.
I'm getting a little tired of Xavi of complaining about the fields of these lower level teams. It's a built in excuse, and it can hurt his team if they start believing it too. Both teams have to play on the same field, so just go play. Real Madrid have been pretty guilty of this as well. It's starting to come off as these bigger clubs not wanting to risk their valuable assets on less-than-ideal playing surfaces. Not everyone can survive with a billion dollars of debt and do what will likely end up being a billion dollar renovation, Xavi. For a fraction of what Barcelona have spent on bad transfers, they could have resodded every professional field in the country. It looks to me like Unionistas are doing the best they can given their means. I can't recall a kit having so many damn sponsors on it. There must be ten different sponsors on the back of their jerseys alone.

I don't want to bash Barca too much. I grew up rooting for Barcelona, and most of my family lives in Catalunya and are Barca fans. I don't know if it's the players, the coaching staff, or the club itself, but it's been nothing but excuse after excuse for both poor results and worse performances. It's likely a combination of the three. Whatever the case, this team has not played well for a while now, especially given the money they've spent. The players spent the beginning of their "break" on a plane to the US and back for an exhibition so the club could pocket $4 million. There was a time when it felt like they truly were Mes Que Un Club, but something seems rotten now. They look like a club without an identity or a soul, a club that's lost their way. I really wish someone at the club would stand up and say "This is not who we are or who we want to be. We're going to fix that." I honestly don't think it would be the worst thing in the world if Barca somehow miss the Champions League entirely and were forced to do a total reset (I'm off to Barcelona in a week and in no way plan to repeat that sentiment here).
 
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rguilmar

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The Spanish Supercopa just kind of sneaks up on you. The four team tournament kicks off tomorrow with Atletico v. Real Madrid. Osasuna v. Barcelona is on Thursday. Total trophies won:

Real Madrid: 101
Barcelona: 99
Atleti: 33
Osasuna: 0
 

rguilmar

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Heckuva back and forth game between Atleti and Real Madrid. Los Blancos won 5-3 thanks to a Carvajal equalizer in the 85th and two goals in extra time. They’ll play the winner of the Barcelona-Osasuna match tomorrow.

Osasuna will get about $2 million for this tournament with the other clubs getting up to 4x that amount. The other three recognize this injustice and are giving 200k each to Osasuna…
 

rguilmar

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Barcelona beat Osasuna, so we have a Clásico in the SuperCopa final (yawn). They did win by more than one goal for first time in 23 games so that drought is over. Pedri made a difference when he came one.
 

wonderland

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Barcelona beat Osasuna, so we have a Clásico in the SuperCopa final (yawn). They did win by more than one goal for first time in 23 games so that drought is over. Pedri made a difference when he came one.
I’ve very much enjoyed your posts and have learned a lot from you about Spain and La Liga. One question for you: who do you root for? I’ve picked up hints of Betis and you used to like Barca more than you do now.
 

rguilmar

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I’ve very much enjoyed your posts and have learned a lot from you about Spain and La Liga. One question for you: who do you root for? I’ve picked up hints of Betis and you used to like Barca more than you do now.
Betis is my preferred team because their fans won me over. I root for any Spanish team with a good story. My family is from Barcelona and other parts of Catalunya so I definitely grew up with them. I just grew disillusioned with bigger clubs in general, not anything specific to Barcelona. Besides Betis, I root for Real Sociedad , Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna, Rayo, Deportiva A Coruña, and Real Oviedo among others. Give me a good club story and I’ll probably be a fan of that club.
 

sdiaz1

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Huge last minute win for Alaves over fellow Relegation Threatened Sevilla! Rguilmar must be pretty pleased.

Sevilla are now 1 point above the drop with both Celta and Cadiz having a match in hand.
 

rguilmar

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Sevilla have had a 20 year stretch of mocking Betis so a little comeuppance is due. To be fair, if roles were reversed Béticos would be equally unbearable. Seven Europa League titles while Betis spent most of the time mid table.

That being said, if they were to get relegated, I would immediately miss the derby. Watching Sevillistas sweat for a second year is enjoyable though.
 

rguilmar

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Madrid ran all over Barcelona to win the Super Copa 4-1. I’m not a fan of the particulars of the tournament, but the players take it seriously so in some ways it’s an improvement over previous versions. A lot is being made of Barca’s “defense” and their high line. Some regression was due, but they’ve given up more goals at the halfway point than they did over the entirety of last season. To make the facts fit my own narrative, missing Gavi is a huge problem for them. He initiates the press better than anyone, and his absence is making the high line easy pickings for a team like Madrid.

Back in Spain, Athletic topped Real Sociedad in the Basque Derby. Bilbao are in good form and currently in a Champions League spot. Mallorca opened their newly renovated stadium, the most recent in a string of upgraded grounds. Only Rayo Vallecano and Valencia have stadiums that are older, not recently renovated or with renovation plans in the works. They also have arguably the two most unpopular ownership groups. As noted above, Sevilla continue to fall. Villareal isn’t in much better shape but the Andalusian club is once again in serious trouble. They sit 17th having been passed by Celta Vigo (with an Aspas goal) meaning the bottom four clubs all come from Andalucía. La Liga will look a lot different if it loses so many southern teams this season, and at quick glance it doesn’t look like there are any Andalucían teams at all in the Segunda to replace them. Oh, and Betis got a late goal from the resurgent Isco to win it. Lack of fitness has plagued his career but Isco was diving into tackles and tracking back all game long. Johnny did not make his debut. Hopefully next week against Barcelona.
 

rguilmar

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Copa del Rey Round of 16 matches were wrapped up yesterday. The big results were Atletico knocking off Real Madrid, thanks to two extra time goals, and Barcelona beating Unionistas 3-1. The third tier club took the lead in the first half, and it took a 69th minute banger from Kounde to give Barca the lead. I was in Barcelona last night during the game and the city felt pretty indifferent to the team with most people at the bars not paying much attention.

There are only La Liga teams left in the last 8. If you’re looking for a Once in a Lifetime story Girona, Mallorca, and Celta de Vigo remain, Celta getting a nice backheel goal from our boy LDLT. Celta have never won a trophy and it is their 100th year…
 

Zososoxfan

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Copa del Rey Round of 16 matches were wrapped up yesterday. The big results were Atletico knocking off Real Madrid, thanks to two extra time goals, and Barcelona beating Unionistas 3-1. The third tier club took the lead in the first half, and it took a 69th minute banger from Kounde to give Barca the lead. I was in Barcelona last night during the game and the city felt pretty indifferent to the team with most people at the bars not paying much attention.

There are only La Liga teams left in the last 8. If you’re looking for a Once in a Lifetime story Girona, Mallorca, and Celta de Vigo remain, Celta getting a nice backheel goal from our boy LDLT. Celta have never won a trophy and it is their 100th year…
When I was living there, midweek Copa games were an absolute hack of the system. I'd be sitting 5th row of the lower bowl for 5 Euros with a game that kicked off at 21:00. It would get cold, but it didn't matter--I was watching, Ronaldinho, Messi, Deco, etc. I feel like most people don't remember that Messi's "Maradona" goal came in the Copa semis (against Getafe). Being in the house for that was a top 5 sports moment. Everyone just going berserk and being utterly stunned at what just happened.
 

rguilmar

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I always love reading Sid Lowe because of the facts he throws out there. From his recent ESPN article:

“Barcelona have led in minute 75 just three times in 19 LaLiga games this season.”

It’s an amazing stat for a team near the top of the table, and one you’d probably associate with a team near the bottom. Without looking it up, I would bet that Celta de Vigo have led more games at the 75th minute. Now obviously Barca have won more than their fair share of those games, but when people say that Barcelona is getting lucky, that stat is why. Separately he also notes that Unionistas, formed from the ashes of UD Salamanca in 2013, are a fan owned club. I’ve always been under the impression that there were only four member owned clubs left in Spain- Barca, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, and Osasuna- but I guess I forgot that new clubs can be formed in such a way. Anyways, rest of the article is below:

https://www.espn.com/soccer/story/_/id/39344265/why-xavi-once-secure-looks-more-vulnerable-barcelona
 

rguilmar

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Predictably Real Madrid did end up beating Almería with a Carvajal goal in the 99’. A lot of anger over how VAR was used in this one. La Liga is now releasing the audio of the conversations between the match official and the VAR room. The furor seems to be more over the direction that the official in the VAR room is giving the match official in every instance. There were three calls in question and I’d honestly peg all three at 50/50 but all three went Real Madrid’s way. Almería are pissed and they probably have a legit argument.

Barca jumped out to a 2-0 lead at Real Betis which Betis (specifically Isco) came back and tied, only for Joao Felix to ruin my first trip to the Benito Villamarín with the winner. The place was rocking though (quite literally) and USMNT up and comer Johnny had himself a very solid game. Also, Girona absolutely Girona’d Sevilla 5-1.

Elsewhere, Osasuna won with that amazing/lucky goal then got fined by La Liga for the fans chanting “Die Greenwood”. The Pamplona ultras Indar Gorri did not take kindly to the fine. I won’t post their response here, but they were colorful to say the least.
 

rguilmar

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Xavi must be on the hot seat now. Barca trail Real Madrid by 7 points in La Liga and Girona by 8. They were knocked out of the Copa del Rey last night by Athletic Bilbao. They were crushed by Madrid in the SuperCopa. In short, they will likely be trophy-less unless they can win the Champions League. Hell, they might not qualify for next season’s SuperCopa (oh how angry would the Saudis be???).

On the bright side, the kids. 17 year old Hector Fort came on early at Bilbao for the injured Balde and was very solid. Athletic tried to attack him often, even switching Nico Williams over to his side to do so, but he held up fine. 17 year old Pau Cubarsi started at Betis and came on in the second half last night, and did quite well in both games in hostile atmospheres. Early season hero, 18 year old Marc Guiu, made a cameo. But it’s still all about 16 year old Lamine Yamal. Both sets of fans that I spoke to- Betis and Athletic Club- agree that he is the one player who strikes fear into an opponent.

Last night was about Athletic Club at San Mamés though. They played well and were deserving winners, jumping out to a quick lead only for Lewa to “score” (a defender’s clearance ricocheted off him and into the goal) and Yamal to produce a wonderful goal to take the lead. Eventually it went into extra time where Iñaki Williams scored the winner (fresh off a private jet from the AFCON) and Nico clinched it with a beautiful goal of his own. The fans absolutely brought the energy at La Catedral, from the pregame festivities in the streets to the final whistle. Easily the loudest experience of my life.
 

rguilmar

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Copa del Rey semifinal draw is complete. There’s a chance at a Basque Derby in the final. 77226
 

bosox4283

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Of course, I'd like Atletico to win, but I think I'm firmly in the camp of getting an all-Basque final. That would be an electric match, for the soccer and for the history and pride.
 

rguilmar

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Of course, I'd like Atletico to win, but I think I'm firmly in the camp of getting an all-Basque final. That would be an electric match, for the soccer and for the history and pride.
I was at the game at San Mamés on Wednesday. I’ve been to a lot of games in England and especially in Spain, but this was on another level of passion and noise. Sign me up for any game that gets the good people of Bilbao fired up, and Basque derby final would definitely do it.
 

sdiaz1

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It was certainly an eventful week or so in Spain. VAR absurdity, a few really entertaining and fun single elimination Copa Clashes (I was unsure as how I felt about the Copa changing to single elimination matches - but this season really seemed to be a great argument for it- the Derbi and Bilbao v Barcelona matches all had a special feeling that the old format would have blunted).

Really cool that Iñaki and Nico both got on the score sheet with decisive goals in extra time.
 

rguilmar

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Alejandro Hernández Hernández, making you forget about Mateu Lahoz, one VAR review at a time.
 

sdiaz1

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How on earth he was allowed to be in the VAR booth for Sevilla v Atletico was astounding and speaks pretty poorly of La Liga's referre association.
 

rguilmar

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Paraphrasing Sid Lowe from either his podcast or from ESPN, but referee assignments are often made public weeks in advance, and it was already known that Hernandez Hernandez was in the VAR booth for the Sevilla-Atleti match. Removing him would have been seen as a punishment and a tacit admission that the result of the game should be questioned.

I don’t necessarily disagree with the calls themselves. All of them, including the penalty non call at the end of the Sevilla game, are open for interpretation and could go either way. My issue is that none of them clearly show the referee was wrong in the first place and that the call should be overturned. None of them were clear and obvious errors. Yet all of them (three in the Real Madrid game, one in the Atleti game) were overturned. It’s like VAR is re-refereeing the game.

There is the human element to this as well. Hernandez Hernandez is considered the top Spanish referee in the game and is widely respected by other officials. I think the referee in the Real Madrid game is in his first season of La Liga and was doing his tenth game ever in the top flight. Of course he’s going to change his mind when the “revered” top referee questions the initial call.
 

rguilmar

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Villarreal take a 2-0 lead at Barcelona only for Barca to come back and take the lead 3-2, only for Villarreal to fight back for 3-3 then take the lead deep into added time and clinch it 5-3. Absolutely mad game.
 

sdiaz1

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And not shockingly, Xavi has announced his intention to leave managerial post at the end of year.

I never really rated him much as a coach, but it is obvious that the club's problems have little to do with his presence on the bench. I can't imagine who wants the job. Hell I think Rafa Marquez may even think twice before taking the reings
 

bosox4283

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And not shockingly, Xavi has announced his intention to leave managerial post at the end of year.

I never really rated him much as a coach, but it is obvious that the club's problems have little to do with his presence on the bench. I can't imagine who wants the job. Hell I think Rafa Marquez may even think twice before taking the reings
It seems to me that Xavi quickly grew tired of the criticism and the feeling of failure. Are the expectations just off — like, fans are demanding more than the team can give/do now and the goals are too lofty? My take is that it’s a talented roster, perhaps with some aging players and perhaps with some bad injury luck, but Xavi is working through what seems to be a shift from this generation of players to the next while dealing with institutional issues. I don’t know why the bar was set so high or such a toxic atmosphere has been created.
 

rguilmar

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The teams who played in the SuperCopa made up their missed games this week, so all teams have completed 22 game weeks.

Jude Bellingham said that playing at the Bernabeu is like playing at the Coliseum, and he got a chance today to play at the real Coliseum where Madrid beat Getafe in southern Madrid. Madrid fans were chanting "Stay Xavi". Bellingham appeared to drop the "R" word at Mason Greenwood after winning a tackle off of him. Anyways, Madrid are back in the top spot.

Atletico won in the other Madrd derby of the week, beating Rayo 2-1. Memphis has caught fire in front of goal to help Griezmann. Atleti added old Gunner Gabriel this week for free and new boy Arthur Vermeeren got his first start. They've gotten some great minutes out of young guns Samuel Lino, Rodrigo Riquelme, and Pablo Barrios who has been really good of late.

Barcelona beat Osasuna 1-0 in front of a subdued "crowd" (plenty of seats available at Montjuic). Osasuna trimmed a few players off of their wage bill, including personal favorite Chimy Avila who is always on the verge of something amazing or a red card. Avila was sold to Real Betis whose social media team continues their amazing season, this time with a post welcoming Chimy with a South Park Jimmy introduction.

A couple of fun games coming up this weekend. Girona versus Real Sociedad should be a great advertisement for La Liga. Then there is the big Madrid Derby on Sunday.

Editing to add that Getafe are convinced that Bellingham did in fact call Greenwood a r*pist during the game and have reported it to the league.
 
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rguilmar

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Because I love the off-field drama almost as much as I love La Liga…

The Jude Bellingham- Mason Greenwood story has taken on a life of its own, which I suppose isn’t a surprise in a country with four major daily sports newspapers desperate for content and an absurdly obsessive fanbase. ICYMI Bellingham won a tackle against Greenwood and possibly called him a “rapist”. Greenwood has been charged with sexual assault and rape in England, which is why he’s at Getafe in the first place. Getafe have lodged a complaint with La Liga and are seeking a punishment for Bellingham. Getafe fans are up in arms demanding a severe suspension of ten games, with at least one fan going so far as to call Bellingham racist (which is head scratching on multiple levels). Now we potentially have a lip reading specialist coming in to review the video of the insult and determine what was actually said. This whole thing is ludicrous. But I’ll being making some popcorn so I can watch the chaos unfold.
 

sdiaz1

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The most shocking thing about the above is that Getafe apparently has fans...

At this rate Jude may become the most popular player for Real Madrid umongst fans who do not particulary like Real Madrid.

Anyways. I am certainly rooting for an Euskari Copa Final where no fans remain standing for La Marcha. Basque football (even Alaves is what we really want and hope for in contemporary football)
 

rguilmar

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The most shocking thing about the above is that Getafe apparently has fans...

At this rate Jude may become the most popular player for Real Madrid umongst fans who do not particulary like Real Madrid.

Anyways. I am certainly rooting for an Euskari Copa Final where no fans remain standing for La Marcha. Basque football (even Alaves is what we really want and hope for in contemporary football)
Apparently I misspoke about the nature of the fans supporting Greenwood as they are mostly Man U and/or Greenwood fans, almost entirely from Nigeria (unsure why that’s the case). So Getafe might not have fans outside of southern Madrid.

Agree with you about Bellingham and wholeheartedly agree about the Basques. It’s a special place where they support their clubs unlike anywhere else, and very loudly at that. I’ll add Osasuna to your list as Pamplona is very much a Basque city, the historic center of Basque culture, Osasuna is a Basque word, and players born in Pamplona are eligible to play for Athletic Bilbao. The derbies are much more friendly than anywhere else in the world. Fans sit together and chat. No separate entrances or seating. The true vitriol is saved for when Real Madrid visits.
 

sdiaz1

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Fernando Llorente being probably the best example of a player from Pamplona playing for Athletic. Of course that did not end well with him and the club though he was a rather prodigous goal scorer for them.