La Liga Matchday 13: Winners and Losers
Posted on November 23, 2011 4:27 pm
How do Real Madrid do it every time? For years now, los Blancos have become accustomed to winning games in the last minute, sometimes miraculously, sometimes undeservedly, but always excitingly. On this occasion, first the crossbar and then an Higuain handball saved them against a brave Valencia, which could have beaten the two giants and are now effectively out from the fight for the title.
Athletic fans: I’ve talked a lot of Bielsa and his Lions’ extraordinary campaign this season, but I know no limits on this subject. It’s a good time to be an Athletic Bilbao fan (which I’m not): this is one of the few teams with identity in the modern game, year after year they have a new, exciting crop of youth players, they always try to win in style and have a never-say-die philosophy. Is it possible to ask for more? Yes, a dedicated and passionate fanbase who have now received their reward after years of unconditional support for their team.
Karim Benzema: In the middle of last season, after yet another Higuain injury, Jose Mourinho had one of his most brilliant occurrences. Referring to Benzema, he said, “If you want to go hunting and you have a dog, you hunt more. If you go with a cat, you can still hunt but will hunt less”. Since then, the French striker received the nickname of “cat”, but more recently his style looks more like a panther’s. He has scored 12 goals in 17 games and made 6 assists. With a cat like that, why would you need dogs?
Espanyol: Without much noise, the second team of Barcelona is having one of those solid seasons that give relief to their long-suffering fans. Their reliable performances are further proof that the only way to have good results on a budget is a combination of an intelligent manager, a well-thought transfer policy, -Weiss, Moreno, Romaric-, and an even better Youth Academy -Rodriguez, Didac, Baena-.
Valencia: They fought bravely against Barcelona and Madrid, and still only picked up one point out of six at home against the big two. At this time, Valencia are definitely the third best team in the league but, with a little more luck, they could be topping the table. Too bad! If los Che were there, the league would be a lot more interesting than it is now.
Marca’s Readers: On Monday, Barcelona announced that assistant coach Tito Vilanova, would not travel to Milan because of an urgent operation to remove a tumor. Like all other media, Marca published the news, and left the comments open to their readers. Within minutes, that section was filled with idiotic jokes and hurtful comments by the morons who read that newspaper. A couple of hours later, they had publish an apology and close the comments section. Disgraceful.
Phillipe Montanier: Sometimes you wonder what goes through the head of a manager. For several weeks, Real Sociedad’s French coach has made increasingly perplexing decisions. He has “frozen” two of their best players, Zurutuza and Griezmann. Carlos Vela is playing as a pure number 9, when the Mexican lacks the physique and finishing for that and is much better on the wing. Last weekend, long-forgotten Joseba Llorente played the entire match even though it was clear that he no longer has it in him. To top it off, in that game his team was playing decently in a 4-2-3-1 in the first half. For the second, he switched to a 4-3-3 and the team was a disaster. Is it so hard to have a little common sense?
And the petro-dollars?
Slowly, and with much less noise than in the early days of the season, Malaga keep on winning. This time they beat convincingly poor Racing Santander away and are now fifth in the league. Can you imagine a “group of the petro-dollars” in the next Champions League with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain? It doesn’t seem that unlikely now.
Degree of competitiveness of the league: 40%. Valencia were about to make everything much more interesting but sadly failed. At least, they made the percentage rise slightly from last weekend.
Quote of the week: “In Madrid, that hand-ball would have been a penalty”, Roberto Soldado, Valencia striker referring to the game between the two teams, in which Gonzalo Higuain stopped a last-gasp shot at the goal line. At first, he appeared to have done it with his chest, but afterwards, this video made clear that the hosts were right to protest.