Author Archives | Nico Argentato

A Different Story, La Liga Round 20

La Liga began 2014 with a similar trend as last year: a frenetic pace with two national competitions (La Liga and the Copa del Rey), two European tournaments (the Champions League and the Europa League) and the FIFA match days – all of this just before the start of the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil.

It seems that the most important thing for all La Liga teams is to keep searching for that final objective without sliding into autopilot. This means, playing every match like if it were the last without falling into a repetitive routine. When the goal seems within reach, the hardest thing is to keep up the consistency to continue at the top.

After winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or, Cristiano Ronaldo said: “Every year is a different story, I will not rest on my laurels. I want more, either with Real Madrid or Portugal.”

Real Madrid’s striker is a player who generates either charm or aversion and, so far, the criticism from friends and strangers has not been balanced out. Living with an excessive media exposure is not something that any player can cope with.

Previously, I have thought of Cristiano Ronaldo as a teenager that is always looking for something that he never ends up finding. It now seems that a different story begins. It is not the 2013 Ballon d’Or achievement that leads me to find another point of view but his statement to continue looking for more. This search is complex for two reasons. 1- The results do not always match with the performance (something that now-a-days seems worthless). 2- Criticism and public opinion are always on the agenda.

The physical condition of this player is of the highest level – around round 9 it became known that he even does cryotherapy twice a week to increase his performance. However, this effort always seemed isolated, merely individual (a feature associated with a “galactico”). If his perseverance beyond results and criticism can show us something it’s the maturity of a player that just needs to direct his efforts towards team-work to reach the highest peak.

The difficulty for each team is to sustain itself throughout the 38 rounds of La Liga. During round 20, these were the outstanding matches:

Real Betis 0 – Real Madrid 5: a new chapter for the visiting team that found the key to catch up with the leading teams thanks to the balance that Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric provide in midfield. Will this be the white team’s proven formula for the rest of the season?

Getafe 2 – Real Sociedad 2: before the outburst of the visiting team, led by Carlos Vela, Getafe remained consistent in their search. The performance of the home team did not show any surprises but managed to rescue one point against a team that are above in the standings.

Villarreal 2 – 0 Almeria: the yellow team that were recently promoted to the first division showed an overall growth during 2013, despite coping with a turbulent end of the year. The direction of the team straightens during 2014 with one objective in mind: the 2014-2015 Champions League.

Levante 1 – Barcelona 1: the home team played consistently with one of the most important teams of La Liga. On the other side, Barcelona lacked the subtlety to score a second goal and win the match. The man behind Levante’s simple yet consistent structure is the coach, Joaquin Caparros.

Atletico Madrid 1 – Sevilla 1: Rakitic remains constant as the team’s playmaker and balances out the entire team. A small error from the home team prevents them from being the only leaders of the tournament.

More results from round 20:
Malaga 0 – Valencia 0
Elche 2 – 0 Rayo Vallecano
Granada 0 – 0 Osasuna
Espanyol 1 – 0 Celta de Vigo
Athletic Bilbao 4 – 3 Valladolid

La Liga experiences a new beginning. The challenge is to remain constant until the end.

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Beyond Pairings, La Liga, Round 16

The draw for the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil showed us some interesting hand movements by the FIFA secretary, Jerome Valcke. Abracadabra and the first round of the next World Cup was settled.
Although Diego Maradona will not be one of the protagonists of the 2014 World Cup, he seized the opportunity to publicly join the overrated trend established by world media to give Cristiano Ronaldo the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or.

The Champions League draw for the Round of sixteen included a few footnotes. It is worth noting that the teams from the same country cannot play each other in this round. Another magical pairing will be due for the Quarter-finals.

An early Christmas present for many players that usually stand out as substitutes, the Copa del Rey. In this competition, the two teams in the Andalusian capital continue to show that they can barely cope with one game a week.

Also, let’s not forget Round 16 of La Liga that highlighted tight matches and even results. This can be attributed to the large number of professional competitions at the end of the year 2013 on the first place. Secondly, the large number of international protocol events showcased by world media and that has little to do with football.

Osasuna 2 – Real Madrid 2: the home team is rising up to the challenge set by high expectations. After Osasuna manage to take first points in La Liga from Barcelona, this behaviour repeated with Real Madrid. An attitude that demonstrates that the home team must still face it’s own shadow and try to maintain a spirit that reflects the level of football regardless of the team playing with. Unfortunately, Osasuna does not find the formula to climb higher in the leader board and misses out on opportunities against the weakest teams in La Liga.

Rayo Vallecano 0 – Granada 2: in the fight to avoid relegation, Granada has a clear idea: the commitment of the 11 players who are in the field in defence. Despite the victory, coach Lucas Alcaraz, delivered a phrase worth remembering: “In thirty years, football taught me that the horizon of pessimism and optimism lies within seven days.”

Barcelona 2 – Villarreal 1: a game with little brightness, considering that the two teams play a dynamic football. Villarreal continues to surprise most teams in La Liga, even those that are theoretically superior. Marcelino Garcia Toral’s work has to continue with humility! On the other side, Neymar sealed a perfect week with 5 goals at the Champions League and La Liga.

Real Sociedad 5 – Real Betis 1: Real Sociedad gradually stays within the first teams of La Liga. The team from San Sebastian has the scoring power and acceleration and just needing control during the ninety minutes of every game to balance out each performance.

Sevilla 1 – Athletic Bilbao 1: a game with a lot of friction and inaccuracies. Reality indicates that the home team missed their leader, Rakitic.

Atletico Madrid 3 – Valencia 0: the home coach confirmed that “I want to win and I always want more, in any situation, and I do not like the passiveness nor that the team becomes content with what it has.” As for the visiting team, it was the last game of Miroslav Djukic as coach of Valencia – a club which always demands results in the short and long term.

More results from Round 16:
Levante 2 – Elche 1
Malaga 1 – Getafe 0
Almeria 0 – Espanyol 0
Valladolid 3 – Celta de Vigo 0

Anything else to add? Yes. Beyond pairings, football is still unpredictable.

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Ceteris Paribus, La Liga Round 15

Barcelona’s defeat at the new and already mythical stadium San Mames – where Athletic Bilbao remains undefeated – triggered all sorts of speculations about La Liga.

First, it is now common place to read in mainstream media that Tata Martino is no longer able to pass over the Catalan football legacy to the next generation of fresh players. This obsession for instant success or catastrophic failure leaves no room to see the actual facts which best describe the moderate changes that occur in La Liga. For example, Barcelona has now accumulated 9 injured players and this affects the main backbone of the team. Nonetheless, their distinct football style can still be seen on the football field – regardless of the players. As a result, it is no surprise that a turbulent week followed with negative results. Meanwhile, the team remains at the top of both the Champions League group stage and La Liga.

To back up this argument, just read the comments from the coach of Athletic Bilbao, Ernesto Valverde: “This victory gives us confidence, but we must not adopt an attitude of pride or arrogance.”

So, what really changed in the Spanish football league?

The other two contenders, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid continue to win and are now closer to overcome Barcelona at the general standings. However, this has not yet taken place and cannot be taken for granted when both teams will have a tough Round 16, facing Valencia and visiting Osasuna respectively. Furthermore, even if the two teams from Madrid overtake Barcelona we have to remember that it is still early in La Liga to predict a definite trend.

The title of this article is Ceteris Paribus, a Latin phrase that is commonly used by physicists and economists to explain causal relationships. This time, the scientific experiment is La Liga and the variable under analysis is Barcelona. So, what was the causal effect of Barcelona’s first defeat in the tournament?

(Click the scores to view the highlights!)

Three interesting results from the top to the bottom of La Liga:
Villarreal 1 – Malaga 1
The home team just made it to the first division. They are displaying beautiful collective football. Amidst, a consistent overall performance on the tournament and on the verge of another victory the team from the City of Malaga scored during the last minute of the match. Marcelino Garcia Toral, Villarreal’s coach, literally said after the game that “this point is shit”. Although his team probably deserved to win, it could well be a generous call: stop feeding the mentioned obsession for instant success or catastrophic failure. You’re doing great, just keep steady the course!

Granada 1 – Sevilla 2: the visiting team seem to have found the arguments to pursue better results at La Liga with Rakitic commanding the team as the attacking midfielder. Their coach, Unai Emery, regains support and stated: “It was important to win, although there are a lot of rounds still ahead.”

Real Betis 2 – Rayo Vallecano 2: although this result is not useful for either team, it threw Real Betis deeper into its current crisis. Considering that the performance of the team is not promising at the Europa League and that the last team standing in La Liga, coach Pepe Mel was later dismissed by the owners of the club. This was an almost predictable consequence but one that has no direct influence on the other teams.

After this short analysis of La Liga, I have to conclude that the causal effect of Barcelona losing their first game in the tournament left the other nineteen variables (teams) unaffected or what is the same, Ceteris Paribus.

More results – Round 15
Getafe 1 – Levante 0
Elche 0 – Atletico Madrid 2
Celta 3 – Almeria 1
Real Madrid 4 – Valladolid 0
Espanyol 1 – Real Sociedad 2
Valencia 3 – Osasuna 0
Athletic Bilbao 1 – Barcelona 0

(Click the scores to view the highlights!)

In another language, taking one giant leap from Latin to Rock and Roll, I found out that the facts in La Liga are also explained accurately through the phrase “The Song Remains the Same”. For Led Zeppelin, this was the opening song of their 1973 album “Houses of the Holy” and the title of the live album released later, in 1976. For us, Spanish football league followers, it may well be the immediate reality of La Liga that undergoes slow changes.

Final words that can describe the music in the Spanish football league: the teams can choose to play each game as if it were the last and pursue objectives that allow long term growth or face the intense and overrated journey into instant success or catastrophic failure, like a true Rock and Roll band.

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The Paradigm, La Liga Round 14

The paradigm of La Liga 2013-2014: only three teams are capable of winning. We defined this paradigm more than 3 rounds ago and on round 14 the trend remains strong. Is there something behind this paradigm in the shape of a triangle? The mentioned geometric shape is the basis of ‘Total Football’. Within the field, infinite triangles gave great results to Jack Reynolds, Rinus Michels, Yohan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola. Without going further into this fundamental question, La Liga 2013-2014 is no longer disputed between two teams and this seems to be a bit more fun.

Within this paradigm, there is a very interesting fact: there are at least 47 injured players. This means that there are more than two players injured per team. Therefore, the trend is reinforced by the financial advantage that only three teams that now lead the standings have. It’s a little unfair to compare the financial capacity of Atletico Madrid with Barcelona and Real Madrid. Diego Simeone – one of the coaches that FIFA did not consider for ‘Coach of the Year’ – achieved an unparallel feat that is measurable in financial terms. The cards are now on top of the table! Let’s go to the summary of round 14.

(Click the scores to view the highlights!)

Valladolid 0 – Osasuna 1: the visiting team does not measure their own strengths and weaknesses. However, they managed to win against an opponent with similar characteristics. A key victory to avoid relegation. We insist that Osasuna should try to keep a spirit that reflects the level of play regardless of the team they play with. On the other hand, Valladolid had to score only two goals to win but the most important players were nowhere to be found and the team lost – no excuses.

Barcelona 4 – Granada 0: the absences of Valdes, Alba, Alves, Xavi, Messi and Tello (all of them injured) passed unnoticed. The home team faces its challenges: how to pass over the legacy of a style of football to the next generation of players fresh – we are not discovering anything new. Now, the leader and captain is Iniesta. Interesting fact: Neymar no longer starts as a substitute but ends as a substitute, as he tries to finish the season without injuries!

Real Sociedad 4 – Celta de Vigo 3: Carlos Vela scored four goals for the home team. He showed his forcefulness but, more importantly, he proved to be physically a step above the other 21 players on the field – as he scored 3 goals in the last 30 minutes of the game. Despite the defeat, Celta de Vigo’s coach, Luis Enrique said: “This game has to give us confidence.”

Almeria 0 – Real Madrid 5: yes, it was a great game by the away team! The white team played with the following tactical structure 4-2-3-1. Finally, Xabi Alonso and Aiser Illarramendi balanced the initial line-up with 4 strikers, 4 defenders and a goalkeeper.

Atletico Madrid 7 – Getafe 0: the visiting team had a maximum performance span of 20 minutes and was nonetheless beaten by the team home team. The magical ‘firulete’ or ‘chilena’ from Diego Costa was subjected to the collective effort. Atletico Madrid are delivering their maximum performance in every game and, therefore, impart ‘football respect’: the recognition of the value of each team.

Levante 0 – Villarreal 3: a question for Villarreal in coach: are you implementing the ‘Total Football’ with a team that just made it to the first division? The yellow team played near to the sidelines, opened the game and won against a team that has a solid backbone. At Levante, “… there was effort and solidarity, but also adversity” said coach Joaquin Caparros. Despite facing most of the game with ten men, they remained strong in the challenge for the game. Under these circumstances, this is also the way to face football!

Rayo Vallecano 1 – Espanyol 4: the visiting team came close to the Champions League standings. Then, nearly faced the relegation positions. Now, Espanyol are positioned right in the middle without major concerns. Javier Aguirre, the coach of the most fluctuating team in La Liga, said after the game: “There are always things to do better even if you win.”

Elche 2 – Valencia 1: the visiting team does recover and Miroslav Djukic’s job is now being closely observed. Having said this, Cristian Herrera, one of the Elche players, managed to timely strike the ball on his first official game and he achieved this with the aplomb of a veteran. Congratulations!

Seville 4 – Real Betis 0: the pot calling the kettle black! Sevilla patented the formula that is provided positive results during the last two rounds: Rakitic as attacking midfileder. This formula transforms the home players into a team. In short, Sevilla beat the last team in La Liga – that are also the derby team. Nothing more to add.

Malaga 1 – Athletic Bilbao 2: another success granted to Ernesto Valverde’s intuition. The coach reads the game, adjusts to the circumstances and is, above all, disruptive: he breaks through what is established, he changes the rules of the game, causing a radical change so nothing will be the same again. The tactical change in the second half, Susaeta for Gomez, gave him the result he was looking for: a victory. On the other side, Bernd Schuster must change the formula to win tough games if he wants to continue as the coach of Malaga.

That’s all folks! Below is the incredible list of injured players per team. Before round 15 begins, the intense activity of modern professional football players continues with more Champions League matches. Soon, the Copa del Rey will start. If a manager or coach of a team in La Liga reads this report and needs an extra player, please let me know: I can play in the position that is needed, passing the ball with simple and precise touches and manage to always put the team ahead of me.

Athletic Bilbao: Sola and Balenziaga.
Atletico Madrid: Suarez.
Barcelona: Alba, dos Santos, Messi, Afellay, Valdés, Xavi, Tello and Alves.
Real Betis: Perquis, Rodriguez and Igiebor.
Celta de Vigo: Llorca, Oubiña and Aurtenetxe.
Elche: Gimenez, de Moral and Lomban.
Getafe: Lisandro.
Levante: Pallardo and Rodas.
Malaga: Casado, El Hamdaoui and Santa Cruz.
Osasuna: Sisi and Nino.
Rayo Vallecano: Fernandez, Jose Carlos, Rodriguez and Perea.
Real Madrid: Khedira and Coentrao.
Real Sociedad: Granero, Ifran, Estrada and Elustondo.
Sevilla: Cicinho, Cheryshev and Marin.
Valencia: Guardado.
Valladolid: Victor, Heinz and Oscar.
Villarreal: Gold, Farinos, dos Santos and Costa.

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Spicy Statistics, La Liga Round 13

La Liga shows us that only three teams are able to compete for the top of the leaderboard – Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are separated by only 6 points. So far there are no surprises. Luckily, there is a part of the league table that is still entertaining: the battle for relegation. In the latest positions of the ranking there are 9 teams that are also separated by 6 points!

The word on the street is that La Liga is boring. So, on round thirteen, we take the time to elaborate on the teams that are between the sword and the precipice towards relegation.

(Click the scores to view the highlights!)

Osasuna 0 – Almeria 1: Osasuna are the only ones of all the La Liga teams that have taken away two points from Barcelona. However, the home team must also face it’s own shadow. They should try to maintain a spirit that reflects their level regardless of the opponent. This cannot be capitalised by individual players but must be met through teamwork. Osasuna miss out on opportunities when playing the smaller teams of La Liga. Though it was a surprise from the visiting team that, with a huge effort, they got their third win of the season. Coach Francisco Rodriguez is optimistic and, above all, realistic: “Winning three games is not going to save us”.

Granada 3 – Malaga 1: A hat trick by Youssef El Arabi, the Moroccan forward that has now scored 5 of the 6 goals that the home team have scored in their stadium. Granada highlighted a defensive effort and are now above the group of teams fighting to avoid relegation. Coach Lucas Alcaraz said after the game: “We have to enjoy the moment.” Malaga are within the group of 9 teams that are fighting to avoid the relegation zone. There is a sign however that the balance between their attack and defene is not consistent: thirteen matches played and only thirteen points.

Real Madrid 5 – Real Sociedad 1: the Xabi Alonso effect is clear. When he plays, the home team flies. After he was replaced Real Sociedad got closer in the game though had previously revealed the tactic that every team must apply when playing Real Madrid: cover and press Xabi Alonso. The top scorer or “Pichichi” of La Liga, Cristiano Ronaldo, scored his third hat trick of the season. With both Messi and Diego Costa picking up injuries you wonder whether there’ll be any looking back for Ronaldo now in the race for the Pichichi Trophy. Just for the moment, Real Sociedad are above the group of teams that can fighting to avoid relegation.

Getafe 1 – Elche 1: Pedro Leon (formerly of Real Madrid) remains the key player of the modest but bold Getafe. His past with the white team did not awake enthusiasm: “I hope that you will see me only as Getafe player”. His goal only helped to rescue one point against Elche – another team fighting to leave the group of 9 teams around the relegation zone.

Athletic Bilbao 2 – Levante 1: it’s not the first time that Ernesto Valverde’s team has come back after substitutions have brought in fresh energy during the second half – in round 6 the team achieved a similar victory with the same exact score against Real Betis. The coach also counts with the mystique of the new stadium, San Mames – where the team remains undefeated. Levante could not maintain consistency in a very broad football field but, despite losing the three points in the last few minutes of the game, they are still clear of the bottom half.

Celta de Vigo 0 – Rallo Vallecano 2: the worst visiting team from La Liga 2012-2013 is shaping up as the worst home team during this season – Vigo are the only team in La Liga 2013-2014 that has failed to win a game in their home ground. Rayo Vallecano are one of the two teams that have lost the most games in the La Liga and are looking for the consistency that can take them away from the relegation zone.

Espanyol 1 – Seville 3: Finally Sevilla begin to find a steady course! Coach Unai Emery spent twelve rounds receiving a lot of criticism, barely one or two words of praise and some suggestions from within. Among the most important suggestions, Ivan Rakitic – the leader of the team, asked the coach to play just behind the strikers and this worked. Before a problem, the speed with which a coach accepts change seems to be crucial. Will Sevilla continue in the correct direction playing in the next round with the big derby against Real Betis? Espanyol coach, Javier Aguirre, did not consider the cunning of Seville. After another defeat, his team is “on the ropes and can’t stumble again”.

Valencia 2 – Valladolid 2: Valencia show flashes of football through their source of young players but lack confidence in La Liga. After the game, Miroslav Djukic, Valencia’s coach said: “If you have no balls you cannot play or train in Mestalla Stadium”. Was he referring to Ever Banega – who missed a penalty when the game was tied with no goals and was then substituted early in the second half? Meanwhile, Juan Ignacio Martinez, Valladolid’s coach, lamented that his team has to score 3 goals to win a game and so find themselves near the relegation zone.

Villarreal 1 – Atletico Madrid 1: as in every round of La Liga, Villarreal fought until the last minute of the game to get the best result possible. After a game with two own goals, Diego Simeone made another wise comment and, this time, it was also funny: “we lacked creativity”.

Real Betis 1 – Barcelona 4: no surprises here! The home team is a mystery both in La Liga and in the Europe League. In addition, Real Betis found an inspired Carlos Valdes. If there was every anything negative to say about Barcelona’s play the goalkeeper was mentioned. However, he significantly improved at the right time – when having to renew his contract and when injuries harassed key players like Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi. A sign of forcefulness: Barcelona are winning despite not being at their best. But with Messi picking up a new injury, one which could keep him out for 2 months, teams may have a little extra confidence coming up against them.

The statistics of the most humble teams in La Liga are spicy. Another flavour added to the Spanish football league. Time for the European Championship playoffs next week and time to rest before week 14!

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After Twelve, La Liga Rounds 11 and 12


The current standings of the teams prior to the start of round 13, provides a clear perspective for the future development of La Liga 2013-2014. The trend is clear: there are only three teams that aspire to win title – Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

As Diego Simeone, coach of Atletico Madrid, said: “I am one of those who say that this league is boring, it is a reality.”

After rounds 11 and 12, which took place at an interval of six days, these three teams scored 18 of the 56 goals – over 30% of the goals of the two rounds. Therefore, we can say that every 3 goals in La Liga, 1 goal will be “culé”, “colchonero” or “merengue”!
Luck is forged along the way but there are no coincidences: the coaches of these teams have the highest salaries in La Liga. The amounts received by the three coaches represent exactly 50% of the wages of all coaches of La Liga.

Tata Martino knows that Barcelona are at the top of world football. So his challenge is not to reach a nonexistent higher peak but to stay at the top while all that happens is that time passes by. During the last press conference, after the victory against Milan in the Champions League, he said: “I want to talk about football. I don’t mind criticism as long as it’s about football.”

Atletico Madrid’s coach has a long-term objective: “There is an idea that is not traded, nothing is more important than the team.” Diego Simeone believes that “we must continue with the same humility.” Short-term objectives are unpredictable – as they rely on a football match. The consistency of the team are making them thrive towards a substantial growth.

Carlo Ancelotti is the best-paid coach of La Liga. While Real Madrid aspire to win the title, their course is uncertain. Today’s demanding home crowd has doubts and boos certain players. Soon, it will be clear that the fleeting spirit of the team is the responsibility of the person who manages these football players that don’t seem to complement each other.

There are two teams that, with hard work and a holistic view, display a solid football idea. Unfortunately, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao can only aspire to participate in the next Champions League or Europa League.

Villarreal are establishing in the first division and are no longer a surprise. After making it to the first division, the path was led by coach Marcelino Garcia Toral: “It was not easy because if you do not try very hard you don`t manage to win in the first division.”

Ernesto Valverde has that inner strength that characterizes Athletic Bilbao and the mystique of the new stadium, San Mames – where the team remains undefeated. However, they still don’t show the maturity to live up to the challenge set by the best teams in La Liga. His comfort: understanding the current role of the team. The challenge: to continue working on the pillars of the team to slowly expand the horizon of the club in the long term.

What are the other fifteen teems of La Liga looking forward to?

There are fifteen teams that cannot achieve the dream of winning La Liga. The best for them is not to fall for this illusion but to accept their role in La Liga 2013-2014. The motivation of athletes must be focused on an achievable goal, creating a synergy of efforts consistent with the capabilities of each team.

Levante’s coach, Joaquin Caparros, is developing a system that is based on maintaining invariably five players in the starting line-up. They are the leaders of each line of the team, the team’s backbone. In this way, the team has a defined a system and its style. If they keep this style in time, other players may take part of the backbone of the team within the already defined system and style.

Celta Vigo are finding the strength that sought for so long – 6 goals out of a total of 14 were scored in the last three rounds. The challenge for Luis Enrique, the coach of the team, is to keep forcefully throughout the season.

The Seville team is tough to predict. Most of their hopes fall on the shoulders of Ivan Rakitic. While he is an international and exceptional player, the team coached by Unai Emery must find a consistent structure to help define their way in La Liga.

The new tactical approach of Granada – with all 11 players in the field committed to a defensive effort – is paying off. Lucas Alcaraz’s team accomplishes the goal of staying in the first division. That means the long term and integral growth of the club.

In short, no team should seek to achieve short-term success. The motivation of athletes should be directed towards achievable objectives, creating a synergy of efforts consistent with the capabilities of each team. If efforts are consistent in the long term, the benefit will go beyond just a good result: the total growth of a team. The consequence of taking this approach will surely add variety, grace and even humour to the development of La Liga 2014-2015.

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Just Another Football Match, La Liga Round 10

El Clasico, Barcelona versus Real Madrid, was just another football match. Yet it seems there is more to it than just a simple game where 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and, according to Gary Lineker, there is one team that always wins. But exactly what more is there?

Well, we know that it is one of the oldest derbys in the world – the first match was held in 1902. Yet, some players attempt to shine all their light in this world during the present game. It thus transcends time and, hence the initial statement, it is just another football match. One clear example of what El Clasico can bring out in a football player happened after Karim Benzema entered the field. No Real Madrid fan could be heard at the Nou Camp. Hence, he lacked a burden – that dead weight that is physically visible at the home ground – while stepping in for Bale. During the 27th minute of the second half he smacked the ball really hard, a ball that seemed like a comet full of feelings that he was trying to dodge and redirect into the goal, quickly passing through the resistance caused by thin air but with the anger accumulated during the previous weeks. The corner of the goalmouth bounced that vibration back and in another direction. Thereafter, the player was unable to show that intensity compressed in a split second and sustain Carlo Ancelotti’s only wise move during the whole game. No goal scored; still, it was evidence of and a full glimpse at Karim Benzema’s true character. Indeed, just another football match where the conscience of a large group of observers from around the world placed their eyes and judgement just above of the shoulders of 22 men on the field and a few others on the other side of the white lines.

At that exact moment the Catalan team was winning (by score) but losing their control of the match. It was pretty clear that the players were – and still are – trying to surpass the current and much announced challenge that lies ahead of them: finding variations in their game in order to be less predictable. It is not only a matter of being less forseeable; it goes deeper than just winning the game. The relationship between these football players has been more or less the same for the last 5 years – since Pep Guardiola. What relationship can survive longer on these same exact terms; knowing each other by heart while involved in the same tactical system? Next, there should be a healthy variation in that relationship that ties the players together but, at the same time, invites them to reinvent themselves and continue at the top of world football. Therefore, managers and coaches of Barcelona must anticipate how to pass this beautiful and consequently successful legacy to the next generation of fresh football players. When Real Madrid mastered the pace of the game Tata Martino seemed to decode that hidden message or untamed challenge with enlightening precision. Shouting at the key players of the team, to try to control the ball or to defend while thoroughly using and keeping the ball, did not work. More than important words, distinct actions were needed: in came Alexis to seal the game with a protuberant touch over the keeper – Diego López – and Alexandre Song to match Real Madrid’s possession of the ball. Again, this plain football match – that has its own name preceded by a defined article which helps to enhance its present importance – proved to be more than just a boy’s game.

El Clasico, one of the most studied and rehearsed matches in football history, came to its final score based on the fulfilled potential of the protagonists who had an insightful approach towards the game.

Barcelona 2 – Real Madrid 1 (click the score to view the highlights), in other words, was shaped by the players and staff who assumed their role in history, by the players who also enjoyed the focus of attention from a massive part of the planet during 90 minutes, by those who made the decision to forget all the redundant factors that surround this football match and thought: let’s play like a child who is fully present and desires to surpass its own performance and, thus, overcome the other team; with the conscious spirit that understands each football match as the last but not least. This perspective automatically evokes Neymar’s young and yet professional approach to this game – as he also understands that the fouls vested on his body are just another part of just another football match.

The other details, countless moments that escaped the eyes of millions around the world, will be reminisced in the coming El Clasico films and the vast on-line bootleg tally up. Round 10 was completed by just another 9 football matches:

(Click the scores to view the highlights!)

Rayo Vallecano 0 – Valladolid 3: the visiting team showed a tight order in all its lines throughout the whole game to win with almost no obstacles.

Malaga 0 – Celta de Vigo 5: the forcefulness that the team from Galicia was missing appeared in this match. Five goals in one game and a question for Celta de Vigo’s coach – Luis Enrique: how can the team sustain this one-off achievement and emulate this performance during rest of the season?

Elche 0 – Granada 1: a new tactical approach by Granada – consisting of a defensive commitment between all 11 players in the field – was enough to pacify all of Elche’s attempts at goal.

Levante 3 – Espanyol 0: an early penalty conceded in favour of the home team made the Catalan team unstable, dizzy and, finally, uncompromising during most of the game.

Sevilla 2 – Osasuna 1: Rakitic, the leader of this team, recovered from an injury and led the way through the game. It is hard to predict which track Sevilla are on at the moment as most hopes fall on the shoulders of this individual and outstanding international player.

Villarreal 4 – Valencia 1: no surprises here! Villarreal, enhanced by the spirit of the team that has positioned them amongst the top teams in La Liga, continue to shine in their football while defeating a wondering Valencia that showed no signs of leadership on the field.

Real Sociedad 3 – Almeria 0: second straight win for the home team who were up against the weakest team in La Liga with no victories so far.

Atletico Madrid 5 – Real Betis 0: the home team is showing an overwhelming consistency by overcoming teams with lower, equal and higher – certainly different – demands. The coach of Atletico Madrid – Diego Simeone – sums it up: “I think that the hardest thing in football is to keep the mission, humility and collective effort. When a team achieves this it can make the maximum out of a game played within a team setting”.

Getafe 0 – Athletic Bilbao 1: the visiting team is strong both home and away but still suffers for periods before the end of most matches. However, the team spirit is strong and well placed to cover for the team’s areas of development.

At the end of the day, another round is already here to unfold the simple twists of each football match!

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The Taste of Modern Football – La Liga Round 9

Each round of football in La Liga has a different taste. The essential ingredient is the irregular nature of the competition.

The last round of FIFA world cup qualifiers has allowed the smaller teams of La Liga to accumulate hours of training with its consistent collective outcome.

Click the scores to view the highlights!

Osasuna 0 – Barcelona 0: The last round of international matches enabled the local team to get some rest and face a game with a close-knit block of players. Moreover, the current challenge of the Catalan team is to find variations in their game to be less predictable – reinvent themselves to continue at the top of world football. Due to the exhaustion accumulated by the huge amount of national and international matches, managers and coaches of Barcelona must anticipate how to pass the legacy to the next generation of fresh football players.

Espanyol 1 – Atletico Madrid 0: the Espanyol player, Victor Sanchez, predicted befor the game that the visiting team would have more difficulties facing because they “provide many players for national teams”. Despite the own goal by Atletico Madrid’s keeper – Courtois, the tactical error of the defender and debutant Alderweireld (allowing Espanyol striker to run behind his back and face the goalkeeper one-to-one) originated the mentioned outcome. Given the imminence of the next round of the Champions League, Diego Simeone – coach at Atletico Madrid – added that “losing is part of the game. We have clear what our objectives are: going game by game. This is same the same belief as before (the game)”.

Valladolid 2 – Sevilla 2: within the field, players from Sevilla have ambivalent performances that do not allow the team to define itself. In round 9, the team could not count with their leader, Ivan Rakitic (injured after the FIFA round). The visiting team caused a surprise with a two-goal lead but choked on its own ground and finished the game tied – without being able to identify what is happening.

The impact of the FIFA round of international matches is now clear. Surprisingly, it benefited the smaller teams in La Liga. This is not all: another round of the Champions League and Europa League has already started. Seven Spanish teams will accumulate more time on the field than the other 13 teams in La Liga. The irregular nature of the competition generated more random results all through round 9:

Real Madrid 2 – 0 Malaga: the white team showed an unusual strength to comfortably overcome Malaga, managing to concede only two goals. Angel Di Maria is establishing as the midfield leader and wants this fleeting spirit to endure at Real Madrid.

Valencia 1 – Real Sociedad 2: the visiting team won after eight rounds! Miroslav Djukic’s team does not find a leader and, therefore, cannot have a steady performance.

Granada 0 – Getafe 2: the visiting team coach – Luis Garcia – said that “we have faced stoppages in two different ways […] and then comes a marathon streak with three games in less than six days. Its Crazy”. This time, Getafe was able to overcome the madness and achieved its fourth straight win thanks to the defensive errors of the home team.

Almeria 0 – Rayo Vallecano 1: a game that was rather dull, that was heading to a draw when a free kick from Alejandro Galvez sealed the game. For the home team, the last in the league after nine rounds, it is only worth adding the comments of the coach – Francisco Rodriguez: “We’re screwed, just as all the people who feel something for this team, but we also have to be strong now”.

Real Betis 1 – Elche 2: the visiting coach – Fran Escriba predicted that “we are very concerned to win in Seville”. His preparation paid off as they also had the advantage that the local team is uncompromising – both in La Liga and in the Europa League.

Celta de Vigo 0 – Levante 1: Joaquin Caparros, Levante’s coach invariably maintains five players on the team. They are the towering players of every line – goal, defense, midfield and attack. The backbone of the team is made up by the players Keylor, Navarro, Diop and Ruben. Without any further ado before this solid team structure, Diop – the midfield leader – was the one who scored the final goal.

Athletic Bilbao 2 – Villarreal 0: the home team did not lose one game since they play at the new ‘San Mames’ stadium! The coach – Ernesto Valverde – said after the game: “We gave solid image”. In addition, the player of Athletic Bilbao – Mikel Rico – led the team with a protuberant level of football.

Round 9 showed us random results that we tried to analyze beforehand but under no circumstance we could predict. Now, we can state that the volatility of the competition will surely generate more diversity between the predictions and the results of round 10. A round that will have an outstanding game: the Spanish derby between Barcelona and Real Madrid, ‘El Clasico’. Is anyone encouraged to place a bet on the outcome of round 10? One suggestion to influence your decisions: wait for the end of the current round of the Champions League and Europa League matches!

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Enjoying the Moment – La Liga Round 8

After eight rounds, the Spanish First Division Football League is attractive and abundant.
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Posted in Almería, Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Celta Vigo, Elche, Espanyol, Getafe, Granada, Latest News, Levante, Málaga, Osasuna, Rayo Vallecano, Real Betis, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Valencia, Valladolid, Villarreal0 Comments

Maximum Performance – La Liga Round 7

La Liga football teams overcame an endurance test: they played three games over the last ten days. In addition, seven First Division teams must keep the intense pace during the international competitions: the Europa League and the Champions League.
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Posted in Almería, Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Celta Vigo, Elche, Espanyol, Getafe, Granada, Latest News, Levante, Málaga, Osasuna, Rayo Vallecano, Real Betis, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Valencia, Valladolid, Villarreal0 Comments

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