Return of the Galácticos? Spanish Fútbol 23-24

rguilmar

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Good call. Of the current crop, Nico Williams was also born in Pamplona (Iñaki was born in Bilbao) as the family bounced around the region looking for stability.

While we are on the glory of Bilbao, here are the highlights from last night’s 4-0 win over Mallorca. Some real nifty goals.

View: https://youtu.be/fMb0E_6D5Do?si=fx7RCtTGRkqaMXKb
 
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rguilmar

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Both Madrid and Girona tied, so the gap remains two points ahead of their showdown this weekend at the Bernabéu. Barcelona actually looked good at Alaves, and Atleti have yet another great looking youngster on loan, this time Samu at Alaves (last season Riquelme and Lino were loanees making waves).

But of course the story dominating the headlines, except for referees, is the backside of Lucas Ocampos. Editors are looking for the best way to describe the incident at Vallecas, but the word I’ve seen used most often is “poked”. Ocampos wants the league to treat the incident as “seriously as racism” which is a strange way of putting it given the criticisms of how seriously the league takes racism. Anyways, fans should not be touching players at all or we will go back to the days of fences around the field.
 

rguilmar

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The first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals is in the books. Real Sociedad and Mallorca go to San Sebastián tied 0-0 after a pretty drab game in Mallorca. Athletic Club Bilbao take a 1-0 lead over Atletico Madrid back to La Catedral after a tough, rugged first leg.

We are bidding adios to a few players. Bryan Zaragoza is off to Bayern Munich half a season earlier than expected as the German club needed him to replace the injured Coman. Savio will be joining Manchester City this summer as well. Isco is thankfully staying at Betis but is out for at least a month.

In terms of arrivals, the most spectacular was Iñaki Williams arriving back in Bilbao after Ghana were eliminated at AFCON. Most La Liga fans know of his first trip to Spain when his father and pregnant mother trekked across the Sahara. The most recent trip was surely more comfortable but no less spectacular. One of those butterfly effect stories.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/story/_/id/39445547/williams-wild-journey-afcon-exit-copa-del-rey-semifinal
 

rguilmar

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Good week for Real Madrid. They easily cruised by Girona 4-0 at the Bernabéu. Real Madrid are the only team to beat Girona in La Liga this season, winning 3-0 in Catalunya as well, pretty much highlighting how much better they are than everyone else right now. Barca drew 3-3 with lowly Granada (minus star Bryan Zaragoza) at “home”. Atletico lost 1-0 at resurgent Sevilla with the goal coming from Isaac Romero, an academy player recently promoted from Sevilla’s B team (currently toiling down in the 4th tier).

I know a lot of recognition goes elsewhere in the league, but what Carlo Ancellotti has been doing at Real Madrid is very impressive. One of his biggest successes has been Vini Jr. who has been otherworldly for like the last month. He left talented compatriot Yan Couto literally in tears after the game. Couto is young and will still make a name for himself, possibly at Man City, but he was absolutely annihilated by Vini Jr.

In roster news, Take Kubo has re-upped with Real Sociedad. I don’t think he’s gotten the recognition around the world he deserves, but maybe with a good showing against PSG midweek he will start to get some love. I think the only major piece not locked up in San Sebastián longterm is Mikel Merino who might be looking for a move. German Pezzella is also staying at Real Betis. The World Cup winner had his social media announcement done in a Legend of Zelda style. The team at Betis keeps the hits coming, at least online.
 

sdiaz1

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A pathetic Barcelona get a completely undeserved win over Celta Vigo. They are awarded a freak pen where the foul that awards the pen is on a player whose back is towards goal cutting of an attempted clearance.

Enter Lewandowski with a practically illegally taken pen that is blocked. However the stop, stutter stop pen got the keeper move of his line early. He gets to retake and even more cartonishly stutter stop steps and this time scores.
 

rguilmar

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A pathetic Barcelona get a completely undeserved win over Celta Vigo. They are awarded a freak pen where the foul that awards the pen is on a player whose back is towards goal cutting of an attempted clearance.

Enter Lewandowski with a practically illegally taken pen that is blocked. However the stop, stutter stop pen got the keeper move of his line early. He gets to retake and even more cartonishly stutter stop steps and this time scores.
There is a conspiracy theory in Spain that the Saudis will do anything in their power to get Barcelona into second place, and therefore qualified for the Saudi-hosted Supercopa. As it stands, Real Madrid are 99.9% in, as are two of the Copa del Rey semifinalists: Atletico Madrid, Athletic Club, Real Sociedad, and Mallorca. Girona would get the final spot unless they get passed in La Liga. Best case scenario would be to get Atleti, but that is very unlikely given that they have to win at San Mamés to get to the CDR final. A Basque Derby would be attractive to knowledgeable soccer fans, people who know/appreciate Spanish history, and fans of smaller clubs in La Liga, but the powers that be don’t care about those groups. They want a Clásico and no other teams really matter except for Atleti, but even then as a juxtaposition in style (which they haven’t been for some time tbh). This ending does nothing but to fuel this conspiracy theory.

Celta have had an absurdly unlucky season. Ten losses by one goal. Eight of those came with the winning goal coming after the 80th minute, several deep into stoppage time. They tied two games where they had the lead after the 80th minute. They lost two games where they had the lead after the 80th minute, including where they led Barcelona 2-0. Now this.
 

sdiaz1

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Yeah Celta have played way to well this season to only be 3 points off from the drop. Not saying they should be looking at Europe or anything but they have been better than several of the clubs above them.

Luckily for them, Cadiz have looked absolutely incapable of scoring since September. So they are likely safe for that reason alone.
 

sdiaz1

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As an aside, the promotion playoff picture in the Segunda is looking fascinating. 4 points separate 6th from 11th and only 5 points separate 6th from 1st. Obviously, a lot of football to be played by the end of the match day. But as a person who follows both Asturian teams closely, the B division is proving to be a lot more exciting to follow.

Also Espn+ somehow did not show last week's Asturian derbi live or on replay. They are 0 for 2 this year on that fixture.
 

rguilmar

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Several newspaper jumped the gun with some Hay Liga headlines after Real Madrid dropped points at Vallecas. Girona promptly lost 3-2 at San Mamés to remain six points behind the leaders. It might be fair to question if Girona might be falling off given their back to back losses, but those came at Real Madrid and at Athletic Club, two very difficult away games. La Catedral is even tougher at night when the locals have enough time to get really wound up. It’s amazing how many goals they score early off of mistakes by the visitors during 9 pm kickoffs. San Mamés is an absolute wall of noise. It remains to be seen how many Champions League spots La Liga will get, but I hope Athletic Club can get in. Even if it’s four spots, I wouldn’t put it past Athletic Club to jump ahead of one of the four teams in front of them.
 

sdiaz1

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The "Hay Liga" headlines seemed incredibly premature especially seeing that the match in hand was at San Mames.

Not to take anything away from Girona but I do remember Sid Lowe talking about (I believe on his awesome podcast) that in the second half of the season that they would have a bunch of unpleasant road matches.

If I remember correctly, on the back side of the season they have to travel to San Mames (loss), The Bernebau (loss), Bailados (won)Metropolitano (TBD) and the Mestalla (TBD).

Those are all hard fixtures
 

sdiaz1

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Another week and another 3 points for Real Madrid. They are on track to finish with 95points which would be 6th all time.

Meanwhile at the bottom of the table there was a huge clash in Andalucia between 17th Celta and 18th Cadiz. Celta hit twice against the run of play courtesy of Spanish Legend (I will fight on that) Iago Aspas and some lanky Scandinavian kid. But when you thought Cadiz were out on there way to La Segunda, they trippled their goal tally for the year and leveled up.

I like both clubs and don't want to see either go down but it is looking like neither will be able to catch Mallorca, let alone both. I guess my love for Aspas has me on the Vigo camp.
 

rguilmar

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Another week and another 3 points for Real Madrid. They are on track to finish with 95points which would be 6th all time.

Meanwhile at the bottom of the table there was a huge clash in Andalucia between 17th Celta and 18th Cadiz. Celta hit twice against the run of play courtesy of Spanish Legend (I will fight on that) Iago Aspas and some lanky Scandinavian kid. But when you thought Cadiz were out on there way to La Segunda, they trippled their goal tally for the year and leveled up.

I like both clubs and don't want to see either go down but it is looking like neither will be able to catch Mallorca, let alone both. I guess my love for Aspas has me on the Vigo camp.
No Hay Liga. I share your enthusiasm for Aspas, and he has gotten a lot more recognition both here and across the US since LDLT joined Celta, drawing eyeballs to Galicia. Your lanky Scandinavian Strand Larsen might be their most valuable asset right now, which probably means they sell him to pay the bills unfortunately. That being said, I do hope (and think) that they stay up. Clubs like Celta should be in the top flight. No disrespect to Cadiz who have a wonderful set of fans and what appears to be a great stadium (one of the few La Liga grounds I haven't been to yet but it is kind of out of the way) but La Liga doesn't gain as much from their inclusion. Right now, it would be three Andalucian teams getting relegated.

Barca finally put together a nice game, though I can't understand why Getafe played such a high line. Getafe have been kind of un-Bordales like this season and would be almost likeable except for the whole Mason Greenwood thing and my own lack of desire to go to southern Madrid. How they can bring in Greenwood in the wake of Rubiales controversy and the Alves/Mina trials is beyond me.

Copa semifinal second legs are this week. Real Sociedad host Mallorca tied 0-0 today. Athletic Club host Atletico Madrid leading 1-0 on Thursday. Odds are that we end up with that all Basque final that we want to see, but anything can happen. Real Sociedad in particular have been in a poor run of form, probably stretched too thin by playing in three competitions.
 

rguilmar

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Whelp...

I guess a historic Mallorca title would be fun
Back to back years with a club going for their first ever trophyGotta love the Copa.

I vaguely remember some nice stories about how the people in Palma provide free housing to young foreign players at the club, specifically Samuel Eto’o living with an older couple.

My heart is still with Athletic Club though.

*Mallorca do have a SuperCopa. My bad.
 
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rguilmar

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Golazo for Iñaki on a cross from his brother and San Mamés explodes. 2-0 on aggregate for Athletic Club.

Then Nico scores a much easier one on a cross from his brother. 3-0 Athletic.
 
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bosox4283

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Golazo for Iñaki on a cross from his brother and San Mamés explodes. 2-0 on aggregate for Athletic Club.
Now 3-0. Athletic really can be electric. Atletico is simply not the same without Griezmann -- he's really the engine that drives Atletico and the team drops a few levels without him.
 

trs

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Now 3-0. Athletic really can be electric. Atletico is simply not the same without Griezmann -- he's really the engine that drives Atletico and the team drops a few levels without him.
And the drop is multiplied by the fact that without Griezmann, Correa plays more.

Atletico has been tough to watch tonight. They had some consistent pressure for about for about 10 minutes before the first goal and then it's been erratic passing, hopefully balls, and a lack of marking.
 

bosox4283

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And the drop is multiplied by the fact that without Griezmann, Correa plays more.

Atletico has been tough to watch tonight. They had some consistent pressure for about for about 10 minutes before the first goal and then it's been erratic passing, hopefully balls, and a lack of marking.
Correa is a favorite of mine -- he's quietly accepted his secondary role over many years, has scored some big goals, and sometimes offers a spark of creativity that the team may lack. He's at over 400 appearances for Atletico, which is an impressive feat. At the same time, part of the reason why he's had to quietly accept his secondary role is that he doesn't have skill to play for a bigger club and probably costs too much for another club to want to pay for what he offers. To your point, he's far from the complete player Griezmann is and he's exposed in these big matches.
 
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bosox4283

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Atletico has been tough to watch tonight. They had some consistent pressure for about for about 10 minutes before the first goal and then it's been erratic passing, hopefully balls, and a lack of marking.
Another Athletic goal. Total ass-kicking. Fortunately, work has prevented me from watching this shit show.
 

rguilmar

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Another Athletic goal. Total ass-kicking. Fortunately, work has prevented me from watching this shit show.
It's probably for the best that you missed this one. It was as bad as the Valencia game. It was always going to be an uphill battle getting a result at La Catedral. That place is as loud as it gets for a Copa night game. One of my bigger complaints about ESPN's coverage is how much they mute the sound of the crowd in La Liga (though with Vini Jr. returning to Valencia this weekend, maybe we know why that's the case) because a few of these stadiums are among the loudest places I've ever been.

I agree with you re: Correa. Clubs need players like him. Very good veteran who accepts a backup role.

Atlético might be catching a bit of a break this weekend. They only lead Athletic Club by 3 points in La Liga but Atlético host Betis while Athletic host Barca without a few key players, especially Nico Williams who got a silly second yellow last weekend. Of course Betis steamrolled this Athletic Club team last weekend, so maybe they have a shot at the Metropolitano. Based on what we've seen of late, it is no guarantee that Atleti hold on to fourth place.

Correcting my previous error, Mallorca will be going for their second Copa del Rey. I somehow forgot they won it in 2003. I have no clue how autonomous or Catalan the people of the Balearic Islands consider themselves- I've been to Palma but met more Germans than locals there- yet it's fair to assume that the King Felipe VI will be getting a loud, less-than-warm reception this year at the Copa final.
 
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sdiaz1

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Shit Mallorca have won the Copa before? Totally shocked. Looking forward to watching some of today's match on replay tonight.

Also, Javier Tebas made some incredibly tone deaf statements about Mason Greenwood today. Just in case anyone is looking for a reason to roll their eyes.
 

rguilmar

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Shit Mallorca have won the Copa before? Totally shocked. Looking forward to watching some of today's match on replay tonight.

Also, Javier Tebas made some incredibly tone deaf statements about Mason Greenwood today. Just in case anyone is looking for a reason to roll their eyes.
You could convince me that Tebas is Spanish for tone deaf by now. The old boys network at the top of Spanish soccer continues to be terrible.

Even more surprising than the Mallorca victory is who they defeated, Recreativo de Huelva, the very first professional soccer club in Spain. They currently reside in the 3rd tier of Spanish soccer alongside Mallorca’s local rivals Atletico Baleares and Ibiza, as well as Atleti’s and Real Madrid’s B teams. Former La Liga powerhouse Malaga are in that group too, along with former La Liga clubs Real Murcia and Cordoba.
 

sdiaz1

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After watching today's Copa Semi Final clash, I feel the need to shit Luis Enrique;

How did this guy ever miss out on ever calling Ińaki Williams? Also.why did he never play Aspas?

Enrique is a fetishist and thinks his teams should play like Pep's 2012 Barcelona side.

He aways looked past direct players because they would occasionally loose the ball. However, he never looked at what they create.

Who wants to argue 2018 with me Lol!
 

rguilmar

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The Copa del Rey will have a sixth different winner in the last six years (Valencia, La Real, Barca, Betis, Real Madrid, Mallorca/Athletic). Should Athletic Club win, it would make 12 different winners in the last 24 years. Crazy to think that it’s been 40(!!!!) years since Athletic Club have won the Copa. They have won it 24 times, second most to Barcelona, but not since 1984. Speaking of 40 years, they did win it in 1904, 1944, and 1984 so this tells me that Athletic Club will win the 2024 edition too.
 

rguilmar

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After watching today's Copa Semi Final clash, I feel the need to shit Luis Enrique;

How did this guy ever miss out on ever calling Ińaki Williams? Also.why did he never play Aspas?

Enrique is a fetishist and thinks his teams should play like Pep's 2012 Barcelona side.

He aways looked past direct players because they would occasionally loose the ball. However, he never looked at what they create.

Who wants to argue 2018 with me Lol!
I’m generally of the opinion that system managers, positional play managers, football fetishists, ideologues, or whatever you want to call a manager that prefers to plug players into a system (I’m looking at the USMNT here too) are better suited to manage a club than a national team. They can pick the groceries there, as opposed to a national team where player selection is pretty limited. It’s also why I’d rather not see Pep manage a national team. Aspas is best as a second striker and never fit the Enrique system, so he was left out. I don’t agree with it, but it is what it is.

To be fair(er) to Enrique, I think the problems with La Roja go deeper than the manager. So much of the national soccer identity is built around possession and short passes. The result? They can pass the ball around for 75% of the game, create almost no scoring chances, and lose 1-0 on a quick counter. Spain produces almost no strikers who can score or center backs who can defend. But they produce tons of midfielders and wide players. Plus the psyche of the team seems to be risk-averse. Let’s keep the ball, and not take risks. Players who are creative, take risks and sometimes lose the ball- Nico, Iago and so on- are almost shunned. Honestly, they can be pretty boring to watch outside of a random 7 goal drubbing of Costa Rica. Until Spain changes how they play, they’ll be a good team who might luck into a Nations League but won’t seriously challenge for a real trophy.

Maybe it’s also time to give Ernesto Valverde his due too. He’s top notch no matter what Barcelona fans have to say about him.
 

trs

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Correa is a favorite of mine -- he's quietly accepted his secondary role over many years, has scored some big goals, and sometimes offers a spark of creativity that the team may lack. He's at over 400 appearances for Atletico, which is an impressive feat. At the same time, part of the reason why he's had to quietly accept his secondary role is that he doesn't have skill to play for a bigger club and probably costs too much for another club to want to pay for what he offers. To your point, he's far from the complete player Griezmann is and he's exposed in these big matches.
I think I have soured on Correa from watching too many chances dissolving into him dribbling into defenders 5 meters from the goal.

You're right about his willingness to come on as a secondary player, but wow does he disappear against even mid-table teams. He also scores in bursts, but often in games where we're already up. This year he played well when we needed it earlier in the year, but again it was in a game where we shouldn't have needed much help, against Cadiz. Otherwise he's scored against Las Palmas and Rayo (games we won by a total score of 12-0...), as well as Almeria twice. We've given Almeria 1 of their 9 points all season long.

Anyway, you're right, Correa is the least of our problems right now, and my distaste for him is undoubtedly exaggerated.

The focus now is securing 4th. That should be very feasible given Atletico's schedule from here on out, as long we can break out of our yearly swoon. If Griezmann is back for the Inter fixture, there's a chance against them at home, but Inter are dangerous as hell against a team that needs to score, and that situation doesn't really bring the best out of us.
 

bosox4283

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Anyway, you're right, Correa is the least of our problems right now, and my distaste for him is undoubtedly exaggerated.

The focus now is securing 4th. That should be very feasible given Atletico's schedule from here on out, as long we can break out of our yearly swoon. If Griezmann is back for the Inter fixture, there's a chance against them at home, but Inter are dangerous as hell against a team that needs to score, and that situation doesn't really bring the best out of us.
I forgot that you’re also an Alteti fan.

What is the problem right now? I can’t really figure it out.
 

rguilmar

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I forgot that you’re also an Alteti fan.

What is the problem right now? I can’t really figure it out.
An announcer said something to the effect that they look like a team that’s gotten a little old all together. I don’t buy it across the board but on defense and in the midfield they certainly looked like it.
 

bosox4283

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An announcer said something to the effect that they look like a team that’s gotten a little old all together. I don’t buy it across the board but on defense and in the midfield they certainly looked like it.
There's some truth to the statement about aging, especially within the defense. There's clearly a need to build the next generation of defenders and load up with players within the ages of like 22-26.

- Gimenez is 29 and very often injured (he missed yesterday's game due to injury)
- Azpilicueta is 34 and missed the game due to injury
- Paulista just joined the team from Valencia and is 33
- Savic is 33 and has a newborn at home (good luck sleeping, Stefan!)
- Axel Witsel is playing great but he's 35 and not even a natural defender
- Reinildo is 30 and still working to return to form after an ACL tear

I cannot believe that Mario Hermoso is only 28. He isn't super fast, but he shouldn't be aging rapidly considering his age and no non-Atletico matches to play.

Molina at 25 has no excuse, but perhaps he's logged too many miles with so many matches since the World Cup.
 

rguilmar

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Madness at Mestalla, Mayhem at Mestalla, whatever headline you want to use (Spanish press are going with Scandal). Real Madrid at Valencia was a wild one. The main talking point was the last second non-goal by Jude Bellingham which would have won the game for Madrid. The referee blew his whistle for full time while the corner was in the air so the game ended 2-2. The wild thing is the this same referee did the same thing last season costing Valladolid a win against Sevilla.

It’s still a better talk than last season’s game, which was the Vini Jr. game where he was racially abused. He heard whistles and boos every time he touched it, but as far as I can tell no repeat of the disgusting scene from last season’s game. He did get a goal and did his own Tommie Smith/ John Carlos fist up celebration in front of the stand where he was racially abused.

The place was already going to be loud given that it was Real Madrid and the return of Vinicius. It was the first game after a large fire tore through the city, killing several people and forcing the cancellation of last week’s game. There was a ceremony on the field before the game to honor those who passed and the firefighters and other services involved. Oh, and another protest against the ownership of Peter Lim.
 

trs

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I forgot that you’re also an Alteti fan.

What is the problem right now? I can’t really figure it out.
I honestly haven't watched enough to be able to guess. I think their offense has been helped by Griezmann playing otherworldly and Morata actually doing more than falling over or launching shots 45m over the crossbar. However, when those two aren't on, it seems real tough for Atleti to score.

The "old" observation is probably apt as well. I love Savic, but he seems a step slow and that makes him a liability in multiple ways as he goes into the referee's book enough already without being a step behind on challenges. We'll see, they also seem to rise from the dead quite well - and that's what they need to do to guarantee Champions next year and come back against Inter at home.
 

trs

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Madness at Mestalla, Mayhem at Mestalla, whatever headline you want to use (Spanish press are going with Scandal). Real Madrid at Valencia was a wild one. The main talking point was the last second non-goal by Jude Bellingham which would have won the game for Madrid. The referee blew his whistle for full time while the corner was in the air so the game ended 2-2. The wild thing is the this same referee did the same thing last season costing Valladolid a win against Sevilla.

It’s still a better talk than last season’s game, which was the Vini Jr. game where he was racially abused. He heard whistles and boos every time he touched it, but as far as I can tell no repeat of the disgusting scene from last season’s game. He did get a goal and did his own Tommie Smith/ John Carlos fist up celebration in front of the stand where he was racially abused.

The place was already going to be loud given that it was Real Madrid and the return of Vinicius. It was the first game after a large fire tore through the city, killing several people and forcing the cancellation of last week’s game. There was a ceremony on the field before the game to honor those who passed and the firefighters and other services involved. Oh, and another protest against the ownership of Peter Lim.
Just one minor correction here -- the corner had been played and was punched out by the goalkeeper. The end of this highlight reel shows where the ball went out to (not far) and how it was regained by Real: View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uitbf4C-O1o
. It seems as though the ref had made it clear to the players that the last play of the game would be the corner. He probably should have blown the whistle right after the goalkeeper punched out the corner, instead of waiting until Real recovered the ball. Crazy stuff.
 

rguilmar

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Just one minor correction here -- the corner had been played and was punched out by the goalkeeper. The end of this highlight reel shows where the ball went out to (not far) and how it was regained by Real: View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uitbf4C-O1o
. It seems as though the ref had made it clear to the players that the last play of the game would be the corner. He probably should have blown the whistle right after the goalkeeper punched out the corner, instead of waiting until Real recovered the ball. Crazy stuff.
This is all correct. The ref’s mistake was when he blew the whistle. Either before the corner, after it’s punched out, or after the cross from Brahim. Letting the play go on at all is the problem. Anways, Bellingham got a red for his reaction and now has a two game suspension.

Borja Mayoral is set to have season ending knee surgery. He’s second in La Liga in goals scored and is the leading striker and Spanish goal scorer there. It’s a huge loss for Getafe (nobody cares about that) and for the Spanish national team. Barca had two significant injuries- FDJ and Pedri. De Jong’s injury looked like a soccer injury to me, but the one that concerns me is Pedri. He’s been out for long stretches and this looked like a reinjury. Barca drew 0-0 at San Mamés which I suppose is fine. They just have difficulty with the physicality of the Basque team, even though Atletic Club are coming of that huge midweek win over Atleti.

On the positive side of things, we’ve seen the recent rise of Isaac Romero at Sevilla. He’s a local kid who’s been playing for their B team for a while. At 23 he finally got his shot, and he has three important goals and two assists in six matches. Over at Almería, we’ve seen the return of Luka Romero who made his first appearance years ago at the age of 15. He’s now a grizzled vet at 19. He scored both goals in a 2-2 draw with Atleti recently. Of course, he then suffered an ugly injury by taking his teammates cleat to the face (who was trying to tackle our boy LDLT). Oh, and that Mbappe kid looks like he might be a decent addition to Real Madrid. The wonderful people of San Sebastián aren’t going to enjoy the next decade after what he did yesterday.
 

rguilmar

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Oh dear, Atleti. Los Colchoneros trail 2-0 at Cadiz who sit in the relegation zone with about ten minutes to go plus stoppage time. Their away form has been awful. If they can’t turn this around they might be in serious trouble. Inter midweek the Barcelona at home (and their next two home games will be against Girona and Athletic Club).

I apologize to the Atletico Madrid fans out there. Clearly I cursed you by picking the club to win La Liga.

edit: and hot damn is the second tier at the Nuevo Mirandilla steep. I’ve been to Mestalla a few times which is known for how steep it is, and this looks about the same.
 
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sdiaz1

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How much longer till Griezman is expected back? They have been in awful form without him.
 

bosox4283

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Oh dear, Atleti. Los Colchoneros trail 2-0 at Cadiz who sit in the relegation zone with about ten minutes to go plus stoppage time. Their away form has been awful. If they can’t turn this around they might be in serious trouble. Inter midweek the Barcelona at home (and their next two home games will be against Girona and Athletic Club).

I apologize to the Atletico Madrid fans out there. Clearly I cursed you by picking the club to win La Liga.

edit: and hot damn is the second tier at the Nuevo Mirandilla steep. I’ve been to Mestalla a few times which is known for how steep it is, and this looks about the same.
How much longer till Griezman is expected back? They have been in awful form without him.
It is indeed baffling -- and very frustrating -- that Atletico is so poor away from home. I know that el Metropolitano can be loud and the fans offer tons of energy, but there must be something else going on to explain why Atletico is so shit when on the road. Sigh.

Griezmann is clearly so important to this team. Without him, the team lacks creativity and really falls apart with moving the ball and creating chances. Plus, without Griezmann, there is no natural line-up: the two-striker model with Morata and Memphis widens the gap between midfielders and strikers and playing Llorente and Correa up front with Morata/Memphis means you have two guys up front who are prone to lose a lot of balls and are sort of one-trick ponies (Llorente is speed, Correa is sort of dribbling).

De Paul and Koke have been playing poorly, which is a real problem for this team since there are no back-ups -- Witsel is not quite fast enough to play midfield anymore and the young kid that Atletico bought in the winter transfer window is 18 and needs a lot more time to be able to contribute.
 

rguilmar

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It is indeed baffling -- and very frustrating -- that Atletico is so poor away from home. I know that el Metropolitano can be loud and the fans offer tons of energy, but there must be something else going on to explain why Atletico is so shit when on the road. Sigh.

Griezmann is clearly so important to this team. Without him, the team lacks creativity and really falls apart with moving the ball and creating chances. Plus, without Griezmann, there is no natural line-up: the two-striker model with Morata and Memphis widens the gap between midfielders and strikers and playing Llorente and Correa up front with Morata/Memphis means you have two guys up front who are prone to lose a lot of balls and are sort of one-trick ponies (Llorente is speed, Correa is sort of dribbling).

De Paul and Koke have been playing poorly, which is a real problem for this team since there are no back-ups -- Witsel is not quite fast enough to play midfield anymore and the young kid that Atletico bought in the winter transfer window is 18 and needs a lot more time to be able to contribute.
The Metropolitano is indeed very, very loud, but no louder IMO than Mestalla or the Benito Villamarin or the Sanchez Pizjuan, and probably not as loud as El Sadar or San Mamés*. Separately, while I like the Metropolitano as far as a new stadium goes, I loathe the location.

But I don’t think the energy of their home stadium has such a drastic impact on their away form. I expected a more veteran team to be less prone to playing away from home. It’s really weird to me that they are so great at home (40 out of 42 points in La Liga) and so so poor away (15 out of 42). They look really susceptible to being pressed aggressively.

*I’ve never been to Osasuna but it has a reputation as the loudest in Spain. San Mamés was the single loudest experience of my life (caveat that it was a night Copa del Rey game).
 

sdiaz1

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Apr 17, 2013
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And after 8 months in charge, Rafa is gone at Celta.

Wonder if he continues to be a glutton for punishment and continues to hang around for a few more seasons or if he just bows out. Hard to remember the last spell he had that was a success.
 

rguilmar

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That’s too bad. Celta have generally played good soccer and have been really, really, really unlucky with late goals. Plus de la Torre has improved greatly under Rafa. But they’re in a relegation dogfight and changes must be made. They can’t get relegated in their 100th year, especially with a non-zero chance that their B team wins promotion to the segunda (the B team would be sent back down to the 3rd tier).
 

rguilmar

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Wild start in Pamplona in a rematch of last season’s Copa del Rey final. Osasuna gifted Vini an early goal but tied it up almost immediately, all within the first six months or so. El Sadar is the loudest stadium in La Liga and the crowd is showing why.
 

rguilmar

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Madrid ended up cruising by Osasuna in the end. Now attention turns to a Basque derby, where Bilbao were sleep walking in the first half hour against Alaves. Alaves won a penalty which Spain’s #1 Unai Simón saved leading to an Athletic Club break. Nico Williams, who conceded the penalty, set up Gurutzeta nicely for the first goal. Gurú quickly added a second.

Should Athletic Club hold on, they would jump into 4th, at least temporarily. Atleti host Barcelona in the big game tomorrow. Girona lost earlier, and the chasing pack is creeping closer and closer to the former leaders.
 

rguilmar

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It’s been Barca’s youngsters who have been getting a lot of recognition lately, but gotta give Atletico Madrid credit for starting three of theirs today against Barcelona (Lino, Barrios, Riquelme). No Lamine Yamal who is being rested.

Separately, Almería won their first game today at Las Palmas.
 

rguilmar

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Oh dear. Joao Felix gives Barcelona the lead against his parent club. Atleti fans have been giving it to him every time he touches the ball. In his defense, he really tried not to celebrate.
 

Zososoxfan

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No hay Liga, but still a good test passed for a resurgent Barca against an in form Atleti--well, at least they beat Inter in UCL. Another Barca youngster, Fort, got the start at LB, but I didn't see the match, just highlights. Lewa was in superb form, taking a nifty pass from Gundo, and doing well to create space in the box to square to Felix for the opener. Lewa did even better to take a difficult ball going to his right, and swinging across his body off the post and in for the second. And then he assisted to Fermin for a header for the third. He only has 12 goals this year compared to winning the Pichichi last year, but the guy still has quality coming out of his pores.
 

rguilmar

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No hay Liga, but still a good test passed for a resurgent Barca against an in form Atleti--well, at least they beat Inter in UCL. Another Barca youngster, Fort, got the start at LB, but I didn't see the match, just highlights. Lewa was in superb form, taking a nifty pass from Gundo, and doing well to create space in the box to square to Felix for the opener. Lewa did even better to take a difficult ball going to his right, and swinging across his body off the post and in for the second. And then he assisted to Fermin for a header for the third. He only has 12 goals this year compared to winning the Pichichi last year, but the guy still has quality coming out of his pores.
Barcelona has looked really good the last few games, probably as good or better than at any other time under Xavi. I thought Xavi was incredibly naive when he stepped down and claimed that this move would lift a weight from the team's collective shoulders, but it's starting to look like he might be right. Atleti to my eyes looked spent after the Inter game. It must be insanely frustrating watching the roller coaster that is Atletico Madrid all season long.

Regarding Fort, I have been impressed by his ability to defend. I was at the Copa loss in Bilbao, which was either his debut or his first start. There was a Barca fan named Jordi sitting next to me (long story on how we even got tickets) who either had been following the kid's progression or had some connection to him. He was a pretty hardcore fan, travelling to most away matches (this game kicked off on a Wednesday at 10 pm) and really knowledgeable. It was the loudest experience of my life. Jordi was telling me to watch Fort, that he's very mature, so I paid attention to him more than I usually would. Athletic Club were absolutely going after him, switching Nico to his side at times, and he did not get beat. Not once. He did the same again in this game, meaning he has stood up against top level competition at two of the most intimidating grounds in Spain. I don't know what he will look like long term as an attacking fullback, but for a 17 year old defending the likes of Nico Williams and helping take Molina entirely out of the game, this kid has some serious cajones.

I was also at the first start for Cubarsi at Betis the Sunday before (the debut of Johnny Cardoso too) so clearly I should get some credit for the recent rise of young Barca defenders. I will say that in both cases the home fans were salivating at going after such young defenders, and in both cases the kids stood up extremely well.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barcelona has looked really good the last few games, probably as good or better than at any other time under Xavi. I thought Xavi was incredibly naive when he stepped down and claimed that this move would lift a weight from the team's collective shoulders, but it's starting to look like he might be right. Atleti to my eyes looked spent after the Inter game. It must be insanely frustrating watching the roller coaster that is Atletico Madrid all season long.

Regarding Fort, I have been impressed by his ability to defend. I was at the Copa loss in Bilbao, which was either his debut or his first start. There was a Barca fan named Jordi sitting next to me (long story on how we even got tickets) who either had been following the kid's progression or had some connection to him. He was a pretty hardcore fan, travelling to most away matches (this game kicked off on a Wednesday at 10 pm) and really knowledgeable. It was the loudest experience of my life. Jordi was telling me to watch Fort, that he's very mature, so I paid attention to him more than I usually would. Athletic Club were absolutely going after him, switching Nico to his side at times, and he did not get beat. Not once. He did the same again in this game, meaning he has stood up against top level competition at two of the most intimidating grounds in Spain. I don't know what he will look like long term as an attacking fullback, but for a 17 year old defending the likes of Nico Williams and helping take Molina entirely out of the game, this kid has some serious cajones.

I was also at the first start for Cubarsi at Betis the Sunday before (the debut of Johnny Cardoso too) so clearly I should get some credit for the recent rise of young Barca defenders. I will say that in both cases the home fans were salivating at going after such young defenders, and in both cases the kids stood up extremely well.
I've only seen Cubarsi a few times, but yeah, the kid is impressive. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Fort. If the club get comfortable with him at one of the FB spots, I bet we see either Kounde and/or Balde get sold--to help with the money crisis.

Re Xavi, I don't think it was about players feeling pressure, but rather that Xavi can now do what he actually wants without fear of the board. I don't think it's a coincidence that we've seen the youngsters get a lot of run and Christensen start showing up at DMF once Xavi made his announcement. I don't think it's unusual for management to say, hey play the guys we bought because we need them to establish/keep value, but when that pressure doesn't matter anymore, you definitely roll the dice with the likes of Cubarsi, Fort, Fermin, Guiu, et al with alacrity.
 

rguilmar

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I've only seen Cubarsi a few times, but yeah, the kid is impressive. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Fort. If the club get comfortable with him at one of the FB spots, I bet we see either Kounde and/or Balde get sold--to help with the money crisis.

Re Xavi, I don't think it was about players feeling pressure, but rather that Xavi can now do what he actually wants without fear of the board. I don't think it's a coincidence that we've seen the youngsters get a lot of run and Christensen start showing up at DMF once Xavi made his announcement. I don't think it's unusual for management to say, hey play the guys we bought because we need them to establish/keep value, but when that pressure doesn't matter anymore, you definitely roll the dice with the likes of Cubarsi, Fort, Fermin, Guiu, et al with alacrity.
That's a really interesting way of looking at it, and one I honestly hadn't thought about. I could be taking him too literally sometimes. I remember earlier this season Xavi saying essentially that players got the ball in positions to make plays that he used to make as a player, but that they could not make the same play (paraphrasing of course). I took that to mean "Players are not making the plays that I am putting them in the position to make." Perhaps what he was saying to the board is "That way of playing, the way Barca played when I was a player, will not work. We need to do something different." And now he's sort of unshackled from the past and can set the team up how he wants to? They look so much better now and they don't possess the ball like they used to.

I hope that the club can hang on to the young core of players- Pedri, Gavi, Balde, Fermin, Cubarsi, Fort, Yamal, Guiu, Araujo- and be open to selling literally anyone else at any price. I imagine Saudi clubs will be in the market this summer and rumors are that they will make a move for Raphinha. Dest has recovered value, so he should be easy to sell. Kounde is playing better and might find suitors too. The one older player I would for sure look to on to is MATS. He was pinging the ball around yesterday and made a few world class saves.

The other question which isn't so unspoken right now is: what if Barca finish second in La Liga, win the next Clasico, and get past PSG? Do they look to talk Xavi into staying? I think he feels a sense of betrayal by people on the board and in the media that he expected more support from, but he hasn't 100% closed the door either.