Category Archives: La Liga

Notes from a spaced out soccer fan, Feb. 22

By Jonathan Gold

(Note: I have officially banned myself from writing about Arsenal – Orient on the advice of my physician. I have absolutely nothing to say about a team that can go toe-to-toe with the best in the world one day and then draw with Leyton goddamn Orient, or why so many good players at Arsenal are out of form or…takes drugs)

Aah, fine. Away we go.

SPAIN

The mighty Sid Lowe over at the Guardian thinks the goal scored by goalkeeper (!) Dani Aranzubia to rescue a point for incredibly dull relegation candidates Deportivo is the biggest story of the La Liga weekend, and he might be right. It was the first scored by a goalkeeper from open play in the history of the league, after all. Personally, I like his name enough that I’ve been going around saying “Arrrranzubia!” to friends and co-workers and that’s the extent my my interest in the matter. Hats off to him, though, big goal.

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Notes from a spaced-out soccer fan, January edition

By Jonathan Gold

SPAIN

It doesn’t speak particularly highly of Emanuel Adebayor’s progress as a player since joining City a couple seasons ago that they could only even hope to get 15 million pounds out of Real Madrid, a club not known for its fiduciary restraint. And they probably won’t even get that, of course, given that the extent of The Special One’s ambitions in his boardroom battle with Jorge Valdano are just to get an extra striker for the rest of the season.

Why on earth would Madrid want to exercise that option, anyway? Who wants a fifteen-million-pound overgrown baby and noted malcontent in a locker room that already includes Cristiano Ronaldo?

Elsewhere, Valencia won a truly wacky contest against Malaga 4-3, and Real Madrid and Barca are close to a completely unexpected meeting in the finals of the Copa del Rey after both teams won the first legs of their semi-final matches.

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A fool's guide to an unpredictable weekend across Europe (except for Spain)

By Jonathan Gold

Manchester United’s completely unpredictable 1-0 win over Liverpool – sorry Kevin – and Spurs’ similarly shocking triumph over mighty Charlton were FA Cup fixtures reminding us of how dire the competition can be, but there were a couple of real surprises this weekend in the oldest cup tournament in the world.

Arsenal 1 – 1 Leeds United

While it’s not, you know, outside the realm of possibility for Arsenal to be stumped by lower-level opposition who outwork it and close down aggressively, the Gunners have been on a roll of late, after an important win over Chelsea and a disappointing draw with Manchester City that they nonetheless dominated utterly. However, Leeds led for much of the second half and were denied the win only by a very late penalty from Fabregas.

Manchester City 2 – 2 Leicester City

Anytime the lower-league club pulls it out over a top-flight competitor – particularly one whose team cost approximately 963 times more than the opposition – it’s fun to watch. And, somewhat surprisingly for a game involving Manchester City, it actually was a good one to watch, as Leicester leapt on City’s pallid defense, scoring in the first minute and pulling level again midway through the second half. For a team full of wildly expensive defenders and defensive midfielders, City really was shocking at the back and could easily have lost.

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The World's Best Play for Barcelona; Xavi Tops the List

Barcelona midfielder Xavi has been a remarkable career at the Camp Nou, and it is about time he be rewarded for his play by winning the Ballon d'Or as the best soccer player in the world. (Courtesy of Wikicommons)

By Kevin Koczwara

Barcelona plays soccer the right way, and they do it with a style no other team can copy. The Catalan club may be “more than a club” to the people of Barcelona in a historical and social sense, but for the rest of the soccer loving crowds, Barcelona is more than a club because the team plays like no other.

Any 11 players that walk out on to the field for Barca understand how this game was meant to be played: beautifully.

Spain’s National Team has been playing the Barcelona way for a few years now.

Spain’s dominance in the Euro’s of 2008 through the subsequent winning of the World Cup this summer looked much like that of Barcelona’s global dominance. Both the national team and Barca play the ball on the ground, pass it quickly, run into space, dominate possession, play a high defensive line, and try to score goals. Neither Spain nor Barcelona sit back, and play on the defensive for a draw. No, both teams out play and out class their opponents. The way the game wasn’t meant to be played.

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Barcelona Thrash Real Madrid to Take Top Spot in La Liga

The Catalonians weren't disappointed at the Camp Nou with Barcelona's 5-0 thrashing of Real Madrid. (Courtesy Aldas Kirvaitis)

By Kevin Koczwara

El Clasico was billed as the Messi and Ronaldo show, but we (the media) should have known games aren’t decided by two players on opposite sides. Nope. Games are decided by teams and the individuals on those teams. Barcelona’s 11 men were superior, far better, than Real Madrid’s. The 5-0 win for the Catalans was as easy as that.

Madrid couldn’t handle Xavi and Andres Iniesta in the middle of the Barcelona midfield, and most teams can’t. The two World Cup winners control tempo, don’t give up the ball and eliminate opposing teams attacking players by not allowing them to ever touch the ball. Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil were lucky to touch the ball in the first half. The only chances for Madrid came when Angel di Maria smashed a shot directly at Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes and at the end of the half when Ronaldo took one of his two free kicks and missed just wide of Valdes’ post. Other than that, it was a forgettable night for Jose Mourinho’s men.

Mourinho and company came into the Camp Nou with a one point lead over Barcelona in the table, and now, they leave with a two-point deficit and a big time humbling.

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Real Madrid and Barcelona Battle for the Top Spot

Ronaldo and Kaka haven't seen the field together this season because of Kaka's injury problems. But, Ronaldo has not let the fans of Real Madrid down this year in the club's attempt to dethrone Barcelona as the best team in Spain. The two giants of Spanish soccer will meet this weekend. (Courtesy Tsutomu Takasu)

By Kevin Koczwara

One Point separates Barcelona and Real Madrid in the La Liga table. A solitary point. That’s all. The closest competitor, Villarreal (7-3-2, 24 pts), sits seven points behind second place Barcelona (10-1-1, 31 pts). The two horse race for Spain’s top division title has begun, but the main event won’t begin until this weekend’s ‘el Clasico’ where the Catalans take on their arch enemies in white, Real Madrid (10-0-2, 32 pts).

It’s no surprise the giants of La Liga lead the way. Madrid and Barca’s payrolls outreach just about any other club in the world – except maybe Manchester City – and their opponents in La Liga have little to no chance keeping up with them.

Barcelona’s squad bolsters most or Spain’s World Cup winning starters, a few of their bench players, the best player in the World, Lionel Messi, plus a bench and youth system that top clubs around the world pluck talent from.

Argentina national team captain Javier Mascherano moved to the Camp Nou this summer from Liverpool only to find limited playing time behind some of the world’s top midfielders, any team in the world would take on the fiery midfielder right now, but he’d rather sit out and watch from Barcelona’s bench right now because its just too good to pass up playing for. Who wouldn’t want to play alongside Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, David Villa, Bojan, Carlos Puyol, Dani Alves, Pique and Pedro? I know I wouldn’t pass up that chance.

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Messi: Master of the Chip

Lionel Messi has scored 16 goals in 14 appearances for Barcelona in all competitions this year. He's also chipped in four assists. (Courtesy Nicholas Macgowan)

By Kevin Koczwara

Lionel Messi scores goals, that’s a given by now. He scores lots of goals, some more beautiful than others. But, have the fans and pundits become a little jaded? Is Messi really that good of a goal scorer and are all of his goals “beautiful”? Well, no, but many of them are.

Messi makes fans and pundits around the world sit and scratch their heads and say, “how did he do that?” on a regular basis. The Argentine does things that just don’t happen on the field and most players wouldn’t dare try some of the shots or moves he attempts while running at defenders. That’s what makes him stand out.

He is skilled enough and a good enough player to try and chip a goalkeeper on a regular basis. Not because it’s flashy to chip a goalkeeper. Nope. Just because he knows it’s the most effective way to score at that given moment in the game.

And Messi is probably the only player playing, right now, who dares to do some of the things he does. To top it off, he makes it look easy.

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Valencia, Atletico Prep for Key Match

By Joe Meloni

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan's future with the club may be decided by its success in the first half of 2010-11. (Photo Courtesy Alvaro Felipe)

By season’s end, Atletico Madrid’s key contribution to the 2010-11 season may be sidelining Barcelona dynamo Lionel Messi for a couple weeks. The Argentine left Sunday’s match, which Barcelona won 2-1, in the final minutes after a challenge from Tomas Ujfalusi.

Failing to pull any points from Barca cost Atletico a chance to continue its early season success. Currently, los Rojiblancos are in the obligatory late-September, four-way tie for fourth place with Barcelona, among others. Three days from now, Atletico will meet current table topper Valenica, which, even with former talisman David Villa roaming the Camp Nou, has handled its three games with as many victories. While the triumphs came against middling sides Malaga, Racing Santander and Hercules, securing maximum points from these fixtures is key to winning La Liga.
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La Liga Preview: Mourinho leading Real

Jose Mourinho took over as manager of Real Madrid days after leading Inter Milan to victor in the Champions League final. The questions of whether or not anyone can be Barcelona and whether or not Mourinho can win anywhere will be answered about nine months from now. (Photo Courtesy: APasciuto)

By Joe Meloni

Visions of Spain captain Iker Casillas proudly brandishing the nation’s first-ever World Cup trophy two months ago are still fresh in the mind of soccer fans around the globe. Surrounding him on the podium were his teammates, including the likes of Barcelona stars David Villa, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Xavi and Andres Iniesta. While the group celebrated the championship together, it all ends once La Liga begins its season.

The stars of los Galacticos and the leaders of l’equip blaugrana don’t have much to celebrate together in most season. Last year, Barca edged out Real Madrid by three points and hopes to win the league for the third consecutive time.

There are, of course, other clubs in the league. But it always comes down Madrid and Barca when the season’s approaches its conclusion.

Unlike last season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thierry Henry won’t be able to help Barca to the title. And Jose Mourinho will be calling the shots in the Spanish capital.
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The Mighty Mourinho

By Kevin Koczwara

Jose Mourinho’s teams win. That’s just what they do. You can’t say they are always the most entertaining side, or the best team on the field. But they score timely goals, come together in tough matches, and win. It’s that simple.

Mourinho won every trophy he could when he was in charge of FC Porto in Portugal, including the UEFA Champions League. He was introduced to the world during Porto’s amazing run through Europe. Mourinho’s men held off the marauding Manchester United and went on to win the trophy in 2004.

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