La Liga Matchday 12: Winners and Losers
Posted on November 7, 2011 10:27 pm
After the final whistle of the match between Real Madrid and Osasuna, my first thought was: “If Barcelona win in San Mamés, the league is done”. It is clear that, eventually, the title will be won by one of the big two, but the key is knowing how long it will take them to steal the tournament. Fortunately, Athletic’s great match on Sunday maintained a semblance of competitiveness that will last a little further.
Angel Di Maria: Since his time at Benfica it was clear he was a player destined for really great things. However, on his arrival at Real Madrid seemed to suffer with the big stage and alternated good performance with games in which he disappeared completely. In this tournament, however, the Argentine has been spectacular. He has greatly improved his decision-making process and his teammates thank him for that. Against, Osasuna he has played his best game since arriving to the country, and his injury is as terrible for los merengues as it is for the league as a whole.
Marcelo Bielsa: My bold forecast: Athletic Bilbao will finish the league in third place and will win the Europa League. Almost always, the formula good manager+good squad=good results. As I said at the beginning of the season, the slow start of the Lions was attributable to the difficult Bielsa system and the normal period of adaptation of the players to his concepts. Once this period has passed, we are seeing the results. Against Barça, Athletic deserved to win on Sunday, and that’s just the prelude to the successes that will definitely come.
Rayo Vallecano: Four years ago, the team was in the Second Division B. Last year, the players were not paid and they knew that their only hope was to win promotion to the top flight for the team not to go into bankruptcy and keep their jobs. The Rayo Vallecano players are survivors. The board change meant that, for the first time in years there is a semblance of a peaceful atmosphere in Vallecas and the results show it. Their eighth place is absolutely deserved.
Atletico Madrid: What happened to them on Sunday was a disgrace. They were winning 1-0 after half an hour and they were one man up. What could go wrong? In short, everything. They ended up losing 3-2 after an shameful display. It is the never ending story with Los Colchoneros. Good players, good managers terrible board and a terrible fan-base. A team simply can’t function well if they are always under pressure, and the board has to stop thinking that serially sacking managers is the solution for their troubles.
Real Sociedad: Total disaster. After an encouraging start, the txuri-urdin have plummeted to the bottom of the table. Their defeat in Vallecas was textbook on how to lose a game. Coach Montanier not only sent a starting XI with only one striker, Vela, playing out of position, but Iñigo Martinez completely blew the game plan after 10 minutes with a penalty and a red card. Impossible to win a match like that.
Pep Guardiola: The three-point lead that Real Madrid has over Barcelona right now, represent the largest margin since Guardiola sits in the Blaugrana’s bench. Actually, that speaks far more of his extraordinary stint than of a “crisis” of the current team, but the fact is that, numerically, this is the lowest point of his tenure.
What about the petro-dollars?
After the crisis of a couple of weeks ago, Malaga seems back in the right track. Not because of their boring goalless draw at Betis but because that result allowed them to remain in the European zone. Their fans should be happy with the sixth place even though, squad-wise, the team should be fighting for a little more.
Degree of competitiveness of the league: 30%
Athletic Bilbao saved us for one more week, thank you Loco!
The phrase of the week
“I told Bielsa that his players are beasts” with these words, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola honored Athletic Bilbao after the game in San Mamés.
The question of the week
Will Barcelona manage to keep the distance of at least three points with Real Madrid before the derby in December or will they continue to lose ground?