La Liga Matchday 19: Winners and Losers
Posted on January 18, 2012 12:59 pm
So we are almost midway now and, strangely for this time of year, la Liga has left the spotlight. With Real Madrid keeping Barcelona at a rather cautious distance and the looming confrontation between the two, the focus is in the Copa del Rey. Therefore, this edition of the Winners and Losers will also focus on the knockout tournament.
Real Madrid: The Merengues are in a situation that not even their most fervent fans expected. Campeones de Invierno with a match to play despite losing the Clásico at home and with the opportunity to take revenge against a Barcelona side that has looked much more vulnerable in recent days. Of course, everything can change next Wednesday but for now, there’s every reason to celebrate for the Madrid faithful.
Mirandés: A few weeks ago, nobody had the faintest idea who the hell these guys were. Moreover, if a survey had been done, no doubt the name would have been more associated with a soft drink than a football club. But after their magical performances at the Copa del Rey, where they have eliminated three Primera sides, there’s not a football fan in Spain who doesn’t want them to go all the way.
Mauricio Pocchetino: When he took Espanyol’s helm, los Periquitos were in constant crisis, always on the verge of relegation and always taking the passionate fans to the verge of a heart-attack. Now, the only complaint from the supporters is caused by adrenaline-withdrawal symptoms. These past few weeks, the team solidly drew with Barca and Sevilla and yesterday they gave their fans a little of the excitement of old by scoring three goals in the last five minutes to overcome Mirandés in the Cup. I think next year they will have to look for a new coach as their young manager will start receiving serious offers from more ambitious teams.
Villarreal: What the hell is going on? The yellow submarine is now submerged, and does not seem to find a way back to the surface. They sacked their coach Juan Carlos Garrido and nothing has changed, if something, the team is even worse now. Squad-wise, this is a team that certainly should at least swim in the quiet side of the table, so that their bad performances are inexplicable, especially their defeat last weekend against Atletico Madrid, a truly embarrassing affair.
Barcelona: It’s true what Pep Guardiola says. The league is still within reach, the team has a good chance to rebound in the Copa del Rey and there’s no competition yet that can’t be painted on red and blue. But watching Barça lately, even when they win, a clear sense of fragility remains. The transition to a 3 back line has not been kind, especially on defense, and Messi does not seem the same in recent games. As I said in the case of Real Madrid, everything can change in a week but, for now, the team is on the down side.
Kaka’: When you read these lines the once world’s best player could have put an end to his career at Real Madrid. The Brazilian hasn’t been the same since his last year in Milan, and even if it’s clear the injury slowed him down, somehow the question about his sudden drop in quality stays in the air. This is a young player, intelligent on the pitch and with a quite lifestyle off of it. Usually, players of that kind tend to remain as elite until they turn 32 or 33, they don’t plunge into a crisis at 27.
And the petro-dollars? Like the Euro, the petro-dollar seems to be going steadily downward lately. In the past few weeks Malaga have been the representation of mediocrity. Four games without a win (six, if you take into account the Copa del Rey face-off against Madrid), a style that bores thick even their fans and, to top it off, a defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu, where his players showed an unforgivable lack of character. It sounds like there will be many changes to the team after the season … or maybe sooner
Degree of competitiveness of the league: 50%. Betis and Espanyol got Barça in serious trouble. Mallorca was about to surprise Madrid. For now, the la Liga de las Estrellas is in very good health.
Quote of the week: “We have to think why we’re not winning points.” With phrases like that, Málaga coach Manuel Pellegrini, is not really helping his cause. If he does not know the reasons for his team’s winless streak, who shall?