La Liga 2022/23 All Out of Palancas

rguilmar

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I’ll give a general La Liga thread another shot. It’s a super entertaining league in terms of technical quality, pretty accessible to an American audience, and there are several prominent Yanks playing there. We all know the big three and their quality, though I expect Atletico to be a step or two below Barca and Real Madrid. So who are the contenders who can challenge them?

Sevilla finished fourth last season. It looked like they had a real shot of making a run at the title but seemingly forgot how to win games. They have some really fun player to watch, Papu Gomez and Lucas Ocampos among them, but their strikers just stopped scoring (albeit with some poor injury luck). They had a very strong defense but sold their starting CB and brought in one replacement in Marcao who I don’t know too much about. So far as I can tell they have two CBs and three FBs on their roster so more players need to be added before a final grade can be made.

Real Betis is just a fun team to watch, and this gives me the chance to say that the Derby Days episode on the Sevilla-Betis derby is f*cking amazing. But I digress. I love watching them play but worry about their central defense as well. Bringing in Luis Felipe from Lazio was a nice piece of business and should help. Up top, Fekir is fantastic and Borja Iglesias is a serviceable striker, but they might lack the firepower needed to contend even with the addition of Willian Jose.

Real Sociedad has been solid for a few years now, and we forget that they have won La Liga before, albeit a long time ago. They are a smartly run team and have a solid spine from the CB pairing through the CM to Isak up top. If Oyarzabel comes back healthy and Isak takes a step forward, they could really be cooking. Depth is an issue though. But maybe our boy JoGo can get some run.

Villarreal made a run to the semifinals of the Champions League but finished seventh in La Liga. So it goes in Spain. There are some writers who feel like they would have benefited from finishing 8th and avoiding the Conference League. You gotta respect their ability to snatch talent from their local rivals, this time getting El Comandante Morales from relegated Levante (pundits have joked he should now be called El Almirante since he joined the Yellow Submarine). I still think they lack that top end talent to compete, but Danjuma can prove me wrong.

Others to Watch:
Valencia- ownership is a joke. The city and the supporters deserve better. But they have some players to watch like Carlos Soler. New manager Gattuso is entertaining and probably a better fit for the squad than Bordales (a good manager in his own right and handled the sh!tshow last year with grace). Plus Gattuso seems to like young Yunus Musah as a CM.
Athletic Bilbao- a team in Spain with massive amounts of funds? Get out of here. Of course they’re limited by the team’s policies, but they are a refreshing team. San Mames is still the Lion’s Den and one of the hardest places to play especially when a team from the capital visits. Plus legend Ernesto Valverde has returned to manage them.
Celta Vigo- not just because they added Luca de la Torre. I’m genuinely fascinated by Iago Aspas and his ability to almost single handedly keep the team relevant. 167 goals in 374 games for Celta isn’t a bad strike rate. I know he flopped at Liverpool and Sevilla but maybe he’s just more comfortable at home in Galicia.

Beyond that there are always interesting story lines. Crazy ultras supporting smaller clubs like Cadiz and Osasuna. Ronaldo’s (the Brazilian one) team at Valladolid. The inevitable fight against relegation. The return of Christhian Stuani at Girona, who could have easily left the club when they were relegated but stayed and fought for years to get the club back to La Liga. Rayo Vallecano and their connection to Vallecas, a unique neighborhood in Madrid. For us USMNT fans, Dest, LDLT, Musah, JoGoand likely Konrad will be calling Spain home. Plenty to watch in La Liga. Of course some will be keeping an eye on La Segunda to see if Real Oviedo, under new ownership, can make their return to La Liga. Even fewer will be paying attention to the 3rd tier to see if maybe, just maybe, Depor can begin to climb back to their rightful place among Spain’s elite.
 

Zososoxfan

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I’ll give a general La Liga thread another shot. It’s a super entertaining league in terms of technical quality, pretty accessible to an American audience, and there are several prominent Yanks playing there. We all know the big three and their quality, though I expect Atletico to be a step or two below Barca and Real Madrid. So who are the contenders who can challenge them?

Sevilla finished fourth last season. It looked like they had a real shot of making a run at the title but seemingly forgot how to win games. They have some really fun player to watch, Papu Gomez and Lucas Ocampos among them, but their strikers just stopped scoring (albeit with some poor injury luck). They had a very strong defense but sold their starting CB and brought in one replacement in Marcao who I don’t know too much about. So far as I can tell they have two CBs and three FBs on their roster so more players need to be added before a final grade can be made.

Real Betis is just a fun team to watch, and this gives me the chance to say that the Derby Days episode on the Sevilla-Betis derby is f*cking amazing. But I digress. I love watching them play but worry about their central defense as well. Bringing in Luis Felipe from Lazio was a nice piece of business and should help. Up top, Fekir is fantastic and Borja Iglesias is a serviceable striker, but they might lack the firepower needed to contend even with the addition of Willian Jose.

Real Sociedad has been solid for a few years now, and we forget that they have won La Liga before, albeit a long time ago. They are a smartly run team and have a solid spine from the CB pairing through the CM to Isak up top. If Oyarzabel comes back healthy and Isak takes a step forward, they could really be cooking. Depth is an issue though. But maybe our boy JoGo can get some run.

Villarreal made a run to the semifinals of the Champions League but finished seventh in La Liga. So it goes in Spain. There are some writers who feel like they would have benefited from finishing 8th and avoiding the Conference League. You gotta respect their ability to snatch talent from their local rivals, this time getting El Comandante Morales from relegated Levante (pundits have joked he should now be called El Almirante since he joined the Yellow Submarine). I still think they lack that top end talent to compete, but Danjuma can prove me wrong.

Others to Watch:
Valencia- ownership is a joke. The city and the supporters deserve better. But they have some players to watch like Carlos Soler. New manager Gattuso is entertaining and probably a better fit for the squad than Bordales (a good manager in his own right and handled the sh!tshow last year with grace). Plus Gattuso seems to like young Yunus Musah as a CM.
Athletic Bilbao- a team in Spain with massive amounts of funds? Get out of here. Of course they’re limited by the team’s policies, but they are a refreshing team. San Mames is still the Lion’s Den and one of the hardest places to play especially when a team from the capital visits. Plus legend Ernesto Valverde has returned to manage them.
Celta Vigo- not just because they added Luca de la Torre. I’m genuinely fascinated by Iago Aspas and his ability to almost single handedly keep the team relevant. 167 goals in 374 games for Celta isn’t a bad strike rate. I know he flopped at Liverpool and Sevilla but maybe he’s just more comfortable at home in Galicia.

Beyond that there are always interesting story lines. Crazy ultras supporting smaller clubs like Cadiz and Osasuna. Ronaldo’s (the Brazilian one) team at Valladolid. The inevitable fight against relegation. The return of Christhian Stuani at Girona, who could have easily left the club when they were relegated but stayed and fought for years to get the club back to La Liga. Rayo Vallecano and their connection to Vallecas, a unique neighborhood in Madrid. For us USMNT fans, Dest, LDLT, Musah, JoGoand likely Konrad will be calling Spain home. Plenty to watch in La Liga. Of course some will be keeping an eye on La Segunda to see if Real Oviedo, under new ownership, can make their return to La Liga. Even fewer will be paying attention to the 3rd tier to see if maybe, just maybe, Depor can begin to climb back to their rightful place among Spain’s elite.
Thanks for doing this @rguilmar !

I agree at the top it's Barca vs. Madrid, with Barca's squad looking better and deeper IMO, but with Madrid having a headstart in terms of chemistry.

Re Madrid, Benz is an alltime legend, and he'll get plenty of service, but watching to see if him or Modric slows down will be keys for the season. Kroos has already done so IMO. Casemiro and Vasquez are really going to have to fight for their minutes. Vini is a world class winger, and Madrid have other world class quality in Rudiger, Alaba, and Mendy. I may have said this last season, but this might be the key year for the development of Asensio, Rodrygo, Camavinga, and Valverde. Asensio quietly had a really nice season last year potting 10 goals at a per 90 rate below only Benz and Vini. It will also be interesting to see how Carlo manages the MF rotation, which also includes Tchouameni--a terrific piece of biz, albeit very expensive. Will Hazard do anything? Will aging vets like Carvajal and Nacho hold up over the season?

Barca are still an incomplete picture IMO, as they need to pickup another FB/WB on both sides--certainly on the left. They've been linked to RBL's Angelino, which would be my dream, and I'm still not certain the Soler transfer doesn't go thru. On the right, it does seem like the club might just go with Araujo/Kounde at FB when they don't select Dest, but I don't love that setup, as a back 3 of Christensen-Araujo-Kounde seems like it would be ideal for this squad. Maybe try FDJ at RB--why not, they've shit on him at every other opportunity. The MF is still stacked and the story for the season IMO will be whether the club finally starts to move away from Busi with Kessie now in the fold. Kessie obviously can't dictate the game anything like Busi, but with Pedri, Gavi, Nico, and an absurd amount of quality in the front 3 Barca have the ability to get the creativity and ball movement elsewhere. While Barca have an excellent squad, they have weird lack of depth at spots and I think they will struggle initially to integrate Lewa and the other signings.
 

bosox4283

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Plenty to watch in La Liga. Of course some will be keeping an eye on La Segunda to see if Real Oviedo, under new ownership, can make their return to La Liga.
I missed this news. Is there excitement and/or optimism around the Grupo Pachuca ownership?
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Great writeup rguilmar!

I like Barcelona to win La Liga. Not only have they signed a ton of good players, but I don't think they were actually that far off Real Madrid last year to begin with. Real's incredible CL run covered up a fairly pedestrian league campaign in which they won the title almost by default and did so by outperforming XG by quite a lot. And I can see a lot of ways for things to go wrong for Real - Benzema gets hurts or shows his age, they struggle to get the right midfield composition between the young guys and the old stalwarts, their right side players (RB and RW) just aren't up to standard and teams learn to exploit that, etc. Barcelona also just seems deeper at this point and this season will be crazy in terms of fixture congestion and wear-and-tear with the midseason World Cup.
 

Zososoxfan

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I look forward to @bosox4283 preview of Atleti but they had a quiet summer so far. I'll be the first one to tell you how good and promising Nahuel Molina is, but he's a good--not yet elite--RB and I don't think that's going to fix Atleti's surprising defensive problems from a year ago. Maybe getting Saul back will help? I like Gimenez a lot, but I'm not sure who's the best to pair with him out of Savic, Hermoso, or Felipe (maybe Kondogbia, Mandava??). On the bright side, Angelito Correa had a terrific season potting 12 goals and 5 assists, and Felix started to show his promise with 8 goals and 4 assists at a good per 90 rate. Cunha also showed good promise, and Atleti still have excellent players all over the pitch with Griezmann, RDP, Lemar, Carrasco, Oblak, etc.

Sevilla are due for a big regression IMO, as any side would losing Kounde and Diego Carlos in the same window. Good thing for them that Monchi can reinvest more wisely than just about anyone. Their scoring was down last season, but the D was terrific. I'm looking for that to flip this season as they'll need to outscore teams and rely on possession. With Acuna, Rakitic, Gomes, Navas, and Fernando, this is an older side that really might struggle to keep up with the pace later in the season, especially if the Argentines get significant PT in the World Cup.

I like Betis a lot and Pellegrini had them playing very well last season and I expect for that to continue. Most of the squad is in their prime and should continue to gel. Juanmi and Borja combined for 26 (!) goals and Willian Jose had 9 goals and 4 assists. If Luis Felipe can help prevent a few more goals, they should push hard for top 4.

Sociedad might be the most exciting side to watch as they finished in a respectable 6th place with a stingy D and young squad overall. Another season to gel under Algacuil and I'm sure the expectation for this season is to push for top 4. Oyarzabal led their attack with 9 goals and 3 assists, alongside Isak who scored 6 and assisted 2. Sociedad needs them to blow up if they're gonna push for higher honors--but they have the talent and promise, so it's not a long shot by any means. They have exciting Spanish players throughout their squad and are about to hit their peaks. They bought Brais Mendez from Vigo, who was productive last season (5 G, 4 A) but it took him a ton of minutes (over 3000) to get there--i.e. not a particularly good rate. Nevertheless, I expect that rate to improve significantly on this better side.

Villarreal are another team I'm going to try and watch as much as possible. They were unlucky to miss out on UEL and instead will compete in Conf League. Moreno (9G, 3A), Groeneveld (10G, 3A), and Dia (5G, 5A) were all incredible last season. The latter 2 are likely headed to bigger clubs soon, so Villarreal need to make this season count. They also need to start breaking in younger players at the back and in the middle, as Albiol, Parejo, Capoue, and Trigueros all played big minutes last season and are 29+. Emery is an elite manager (in Spain anyways) and if they can nab GLC on a permanent transfer, he might be able to increase the scoring output for this club to push them into the top 4.

I think Bilbao will stay about the same, as I don't see much room for improvement for them.

I think Valencia made a big mistake swapping Gattuso for Bordelas. I abhor Bordelas' style but it was effective and he's good at managing it. Valencia have a slew of exciting players like Soler, Gaya, Guedes, Gomez, Musah (!), Duro, and Guillamon, but even assuming they can improve on both sides of the ball I think their management disaster situation is going to result in a middling finish and this squad getting picked apart next summer. Soler, Gaya, and Guillamon are FA next summer, with Guedes and Gomez a year behind them. Nevertheless, I'm expecting an underperformance due to ownership.
 

bosox4283

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I look forward to @bosox4283 preview of Atleti but they had a quiet summer so far. I'll be the first one to tell you how good and promising Nahuel Molina is, but he's a good--not yet elite--RB and I don't think that's going to fix Atleti's surprising defensive problems from a year ago. Maybe getting Saul back will help? I like Gimenez a lot, but I'm not sure who's the best to pair with him out of Savic, Hermoso, or Felipe (maybe Kondogbia, Mandava??). On the bright side, Angelito Correa had a terrific season potting 12 goals and 5 assists, and Felix started to show his promise with 8 goals and 4 assists at a good per 90 rate. Cunha also showed good promise, and Atleti still have excellent players all over the pitch with Griezmann, RDP, Lemar, Carrasco, Oblak, etc.
Last year, Atletico struggled to find defensive consistency, especially in the first half of the year before acquiring Reinildo Mandava, and had a hard time getting everyone going at once.

Reinildo really stabilized the defense upon arrival, so the hope is that Atletico can get enough quality time from the pair of Savic-Gimenez, as Gimenez is injury-prone, to avoid giving up easy goals. Felipe and Hermoso are both quite mediocre, so I almost envision Simeone using Kondogbia or Witsel as options at CB.

I'm hoping that Nahuel Molina can somewhat replace Trippier's production, or else Simeone will have to play Llorente at that position. In some odd ways, I think Llorente as better as RB since he's just so-so with the ball. But the magic that Trippier and Llorente shared two years ago was one of the key ingredients to the title run.

Up front, the challenge is the same -- can Simeone find a way to get the time to play quality attacking football frequently and forcefully? Simeone has the players. There's no lack of quality. It is a matter of finding the right mix and having Simeone have the conviction to play in the open field.

This is the line-up I like, with Griezmann, Correa, Lemar, Saul, Rodrigo de Paul, Witsel, and Morata coming off the bench.

Oblak
Molina-Gimenez-Savic-Reinildo
Llorente-Koke-Kondogbia-Carrasco
Joao Felix-Cunha
 

rguilmar

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For shits and giggles, I entertained the idea of CR7 going to Sevilla and tried to figure out if that was possible. Turns out that Sevilla are yet another big club in Spain that are at their financial limits with regard to their salary structure. They actually had to sell Kounde to register Macao. They don't quite have the same financial levers to pull as Barca. Someone had mentioned that perhaps Barca's financial difficulties were a blessing in disguise for the club, and the idea that they are now in a position to potentially capitalize on other clubs running into problems is just more proof of that. Whatever the case, if they can't figure out a way to turn their wonderful attacks into more goals, it's going to be a long season for Sevilla.

I also remember Atleti having some issues and maybe needing to offload some players, but @bosox4283 would know more about that.

I think Valencia made a big mistake swapping Gattuso for Bordelas. I abhor Bordelas' style but it was effective and he's good at managing it. Valencia have a slew of exciting players like Soler, Gaya, Guedes, Gomez, Musah (!), Duro, and Guillamon, but even assuming they can improve on both sides of the ball I think their management disaster situation is going to result in a middling finish and this squad getting picked apart next summer. Soler, Gaya, and Guillamon are FA next summer, with Guedes and Gomez a year behind them. Nevertheless, I'm expecting an underperformance due to ownership.
Valencia had to come up with some revenue as well as they had budgeted for $30 million or so more in sales that never happened, so either they found savings somewhere else or are in trouble because they had no sales since January. That club is such a mess that it's possible that they forgot to sell players or hoped that La Liga would somehow overlook it. Perhaps they accept that they won't be bringing new players in, so they don't care about the FFP punishment right now and will right the financial ship next summer? I agree that Bordales >>>>> Gattuso, but the players they have are such a bad fit for Bordales's system. Marcelino is still in need of a job and is a better fit, but that bridge was torched long ago.

I missed this news. Is there excitement and/or optimism around the Grupo Pachuca ownership?
I'll let others who are literally more invested in the club answer more completely, but the sense that I get is that the response has been pretty positive. One of the first pieces of business was bringing in Mexican starlet Marcelo Flores* on loan from Arsenal. They've also held onto the two Borjas (Baston and Sanchez) and added some veteran depth, so it looks like they'll be pushing for promotion again this season, and perhaps playing a less practical style.

Back to La Liga, both Elche and Villareal will be celebrating their 100th birthdays this year, and Villareal recently completed a renovation to El Madrigal/La Ceramica.

*Flores is actually born in Canada so is technically a dual national
 

rguilmar

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Want to give a shout to Betis after stumbling on this video from Copa90 (and very glad to see Eli Mengem back at it with another cool series). Joaquin is an absolute riot.

Anyways, they have been an awesomely fun team for a few years now, to the point that Sid Lowe has a saying #alwayswatchbetis. Speaking anecdotally, Betis are the most popular “second team” in La Liga, the team fans want to win except when playing their “first team”. I think Villarreal is the popular choice to crack into the top four this season, but I’m keeping my eye on Betis. Assuming that they can keep Fekir, they might have something interesting. I’m a huge fan of Luiz Henrique having seen him play a grand total of once at Fluminense, but he really stood out in that game. Fekir often drifts left, so if Henrique can offer any danger on the right, it can really open things up. They’re fun, their fans are fun. Why not?
 

rguilmar

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Season kicks off tomorrow in Pamplona with Sevilla visiting Osasuna. El Sadar is a nice little stadium, and I hope that La Liga broadcasts again begin with that 10-15 minute montage of scenes outside the stadium and a visual tour through it (including locker rooms, media rooms, and team store). It's always funny to see a new, state-of-the-art facility like the Metropolitano (no longer the Wanda) followed by the quaint and antiquated feel of a place like Estadio de Vallecas.

Friday
Osasuna v. Sevilla- All eyes will be on Sevilla but Pamplona is a tough place to play and Osasuna have some interesting players like Ruben Garcia and Chimy Avila

Saturday
Celta Vigo v. Espanyol- The other team from Barcelona brought in rising star manager Diego Martinez, and both teams have a Yank in their squad,. Sort of
Barcelona v. Rayo Vallecano- should be interesting to see who Barca has registered and ready to play. Bebe and Falcao are still at Rayo, and they're trying to bring in Diego Costa
Valladolid v. Villareal- Valladolid are recently promoted and Villareal are expected to challenge for a top four spot, so of course Ronaldo's team will somehow win

Sunday
Valencia v. Girona- Girona and Stuani are back! Let's see how young Yunus Musah does in his natural position and how the Gattuso experiment works for Valencia
Cadiz v. Real Socieded- Cadiz have a crazy fanbase which should help. Socieded freshened up the squad a bit and hope to challenge for Europe again but star Mikel Oyarzabal is out for a while
Almeria v. Real Madrid- Madrid begin their title defense, Almeria hope not to be embarrassed

Monday
Athletic Club v. Mallorca- Like most, I have a soft spot for Bilboa. Club legend Ernesto Valverde is back and sure to use some young players
Getafe v. Atletico Madrid- seems like a mismatch but the game is at the Alfonso Perez and is a smaller Madrid derby. Really interested to see how Molina does for Atleti
Betis v. Elche- In case you're wondering what happened to Javier Pastore, he's at Elche. Mojica is fun to watch too, but always watch Betis.
 

rguilmar

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Beyond trivial trivia:

Villarreal currently lead La Liga (along with Atléti and Betis!!!!)
Villarreal B currently lead La Liga 2 (along with Granada)

MD 1 and all
 

rguilmar

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Heck of a Sunday lined up this week:
Athletic Club v. Valencia
Atlético Madrid v. Villarreal
Real Socieded v. Barcelona
 

bosox4283

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Heck of a Sunday lined up this week:
Athletic Club v. Valencia
Atlético Madrid v. Villarreal
Real Socieded v. Barcelona
Emery got the best of Simeone, or maybe Simeone had one of those matches when he outsmarts himself. Either way, Villarreal were their typical well-organized selves, effectively minimizing Atletico's strengths and finding the right offensive movements and match-ups to create space and opportunities. In the end, though, it was a very close match, with one Atletico error from Molina and one amazing save from Rulli to set the stage (the second goal was basically when Atletico had lost Molina to a red and had given up).

Barcelona looks damn good. A four-win win away at Real Sociedad is impressive.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barca had their most interesting lineup in some time. The match report says it was a 3-2-4-1 but that doesn't take into account how lopsided it was, with Balde on the left of the 4 and Dembele on the right. Balde played more D as expected. Perhaps more notably, the MF 2 that started was Gavi and FDJ. FDJ had a turnover that led to Sociedad's goal, but Pep and presumably Xavi always say that if you want to play a possession-based game that you will have those turnovers at times. He was also arguably fouled, but IMO the blemish is on the player not the ref in this instance. It was a very fluid shape (perhaps too much so), with only the back 3, Lewa up top, and the flanks fixed, with Dembele on the right and Balde on the left. FDJ, Gavi, Pedri, and Ferran popped up all over the park. Of those, Pedri was by far the best as the others all had trouble on both sides of the ball at times. In particular, I thought FDJ needs to contribute much more in defense if he wants to continue to play, as Barca have the creativity and press resistance to omit him. His biggest asset, carrying thru the middle third, is unique but is only one way to generate offense. Gavi and Ferran looked lost at times, but it's not clear to me if that's on the players or Xavi. Dembele gets loads of credit from me for tracking back quite a bit during the first half. It was also very exciting to see Balde contribute the opening assist in addition to supporting the back 3 and MF in defense.

In any event, Barca's ridiculous frontline started to shine yesterday. Lewa showed his scorer's instinct and netted in the first minute. Barca struggled a bit thru the first half, but Fati and Raphinha came on in the 2nd half and Fati assisted for Dembele, scored himself off a ridiculous Lewa back heel, and Raphinha assisted beautifully for Lewa's second. Pedri played a ridiculous game even for his standards.
 
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rguilmar

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There aren’t a ton of matchups that jump out at you this weekend, which is rare in La Liga, but in no particular order:
Betis v. Osasuna- Betis are off to an unsurprisingly hot start and Osasuna are off to a somewhat surprising hot start. Both teams have won both games, and it’s Osasuna’s first away from El Sadar. The Benito Villamarín is always rocking and both teams are fun to watch.
Almería v. Sevilla- both teams are struggling out of the gates. Almería have thus far held onto Sadiq who I think is a very nice player but the owner had announced he would be sold a while back. I’m down on Sevilla. They downgraded the strength of the team by losing both CBs and didn’t upgrade their weakness at striker. It’s an Andalusian derby as well, though not much history as this version Almería is younger than many of the posters here (educated guess)
Valencia v. Atlético Madrid- the only matchup between two of La Liga’s blue bloods, assuming Valencia still qualify for that recognition. Atleti looked a little timid at home against Villarreal and the Mestalla can be a tough place to play.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Simeone's men outdoing Gattusto's in the fouls challenge, but Valencia playing better football so far. Madrid getting some offense into the game slowly though.
 

rguilmar

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Simeone's men outdoing Gattusto's in the fouls challenge, but Valencia playing better football so far. Madrid getting some offense into the game slowly though.
I thoroughly enjoyed this game. Sure it was only 1-0 and Atletico probably got a little lucky with the result, but it was entertaining. Atleti seem to be lacking a spark right now and just look passive.

We do have a super Saturday coming up:
Real Madrid v. Real Betis- first home game for Madrid and a matchup of the two 3-0 teams in La Liga. While I’m in the #AlwaysWatchBetis camp, I don’t have a great feeling about this one. Betis are weak on the right and Madrid are scary on the left. It might be the first chance to see the impact of no Casemiro though as Betis will create chance.

Real Sociedad v. Atletico Madrid- Sociedad might have Sadiq ready and Sorloth is already back in the fold. By my poor math, it looks like they’ve sold nearly €90 million and spent around €55-€60 million while likely improving the squad. Not too shabby.

Sevilla v. Barcelona- I’ll admit that I have no clue what Sevilla are doing in the transfer window. They’ve earned the benefit of the doubt in recent years, but they’re off to a slow start after a poor second half last season. I think he’s a fine manager but I wouldn’t be shocked if Lopetegui is the first manager sacked this year. Barcelona have been pretty damn impressive lately.

Just some random tidbits for Athletic Club. The Basques are the only team yet to concede a goal so far this season. It’s always nice to see a strong team in Bilbao. One of their stars, Iñaki Williams, has the record for most consecutive games played in La Liga history (which is crazy when you factor in that the streak went through Covid) but left last weekend’s game injured. The streak is at 236 straight games over 6 and a half seasons. Reports are not looking good.
 

rguilmar

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I had to get this post in before Sevilla get mauled by Man City’s outrageous finances. They looked good for the first 15 minutes or so against Barcelona and things could have gone differently had Rakitic scored (or if they finished any of their early chances), but if I had stock in Sevilla I would have sold it before the season started. For a club their size, the bills for any sustained success all come due at the same time, and for Sevilla it looks like that time is now. The finances dictated that they would have to take a step back right when other clubs are in the ascendancy like Real Sociedad, hated rivals Betis, and most dangerously Villarreal. I’m not saying that Sevilla are destined for a 7th or 8th place finish, but I’m saying I wouldn’t be surprised. They have one point and have a tough stretch coming up against Espanyol, Villarreal, and Atlético before the international break (along with the UCL matches). Things can get really hot in the frying pan of Spain.

Valencia, where to begin? They had three top players- Guedes, Soler, and Gaya- knowing that they would have to sell one this summer. Well, they sold two and the third has been serving a four game suspension for criticizing officials. Their first game without Soler, who had scored their only goal this season, and of course they bang in a handful of golazos (the first by Gaya’s replacement). I haven’t figured out if Gattuso is a good manager or not, or perhaps paraphrasing the Italian “sometimes good, sometimes shit”, but he is an entertaining one.

Some wayyyy too early impressions of some newer and younger players:
Momo Cho got the start for La Real against Atlético and was electric. He combined with Sadiq for the soccer version of an alley oop, leading to a draw. He is eligible to play for several nations and holds an English passport, so if this is the kid’s actual level he’ll be off to the Prem for some outrageous amount of money in a few transfer windows.
Yunus Musah is really good. We knew that, but I think his last two games are being reduced to a banger of a non-goal and two very nice assists. He was Valencia’s best field player in the last two games. His ability to turn and advance the ball is spectacular.
I really liked the cameo by Jorgen Strand Larsen for Celta. I hadn’t heard of him till Pepi was loaned to Groningen as Larsen’s replacement. He’s tall, he has a nice touch. Looks like a nice complement to the legendary Iago Aspas (5 goals so far)
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Been watching Celta matches here and there because I am a USMNT dumb-dumb to see how De La Torre does when and if he gets on, and getting to watch Aspas in the bargain is a real treat.
 

rguilmar

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Been watching Celta matches here and there because I am a USMNT dumb-dumb to see how De La Torre does when and if he gets on, and getting to watch Aspas in the bargain is a real treat.
Im right there with you. He’s such a classy, technical player who has scored some ridiculous goals over the years (there’s one against Huesca years ago where I still don’t know how he flicked the ball by the defender). It’s too bad he’ll be remembered by some as the guy who flopped at Liverpool (and for one corner kick) and Sevilla. He’s a local guy from right outside Vigo, brought up at Celta, he’s single handedly saved them from relegation and always grabs the Celta team crest when he scores. He’s just easy to root for.
 

rguilmar

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While there might not be many match ups between La Liga's top teams, there are several "What do we have here?" type of games:

Rayo v. Valencia- Is Valencia as good as last week's performance, or was that a flash in the pan? A trip to Vallecas is always a tricky one.
Espanyol v. Sevilla- Are Sevilla in serious trouble? After this game in Barcelona they have games AT Copenhagen in the UCL and AT Villarreal before the international break, all of this on the heals of getting run out of the park by both Barca and Man City. If they don't put it together Lopetegui won't make it to October (which btw starts with games against Atletico Madrid, two against Dortmund, and one against Athletic Club de Bilbao)
Atletico Madrid v. Celta Vigo- Will the last gasp winner get a fire lit under Atleti? They've gotten ok results, but really seem to lack the spirit of previous teams. And are Celta for real?

The big one, though, is Villarreal traveling to the Benito Villamarin to face Real Betis. Both teams must have their sights on a top four finish. Betis are a thinner squad and will be missing some key pieces like William Carvalho and especially Nabil Fekir but they have among the most rabid fan bases in La Liga behind them. Two fun teams who play attractive soccer so for some reason it'll end up 0-0 (though I did read somewhere that Villareal are the only team in a top five league yet to concede a goal).
 

bosox4283

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Real Sociedad v. Atletico Madrid- Sociedad might have Sadiq ready and Sorloth is already back in the fold. By my poor math, it looks like they’ve sold nearly €90 million and spent around €55-€60 million while likely improving the squad. Not too shabby.
Horrible luck for Sociedad and Sadiq -- he torn his ACL and is out for the season.
 

candylandriots

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Horrible luck for Sociedad and Sadiq -- he torn his ACL and is out for the season.
Sørloth is such an enigma. All out sucked for Palace, goest to Turkey and plays out of his mind for a good team. Turns that into a big deal at Leipzig, and predictably does nothing (thanks for fee I guess?-especially from Leipzig). Wonder how he'll do at Sociedad?
 

rguilmar

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Sørloth is such an enigma. All out sucked for Palace, goest to Turkey and plays out of his mind for a good team. Turns that into a big deal at Leipzig, and predictably does nothing (thanks for fee I guess?-especially from Leipzig). Wonder how he'll do at Sociedad?
He was on loan there last season too. Started slow and finished strong. Most of his appearances were off the bench. We will see, but with Momo Cho the potential lightening to his thunder, Sorloth might do ok while Sadiq is out. Sociedad have limited funds and make their investments count, so they rarely make a mistake.
 

rguilmar

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While there might not be many match ups between La Liga's top teams, there are several "What do we have here?" type of games:

Rayo v. Valencia- Is Valencia as good as last week's performance, or was that a flash in the pan? A trip to Vallecas is always a tricky one.
Espanyol v. Sevilla- Are Sevilla in serious trouble? After this game in Barcelona they have games AT Copenhagen in the UCL and AT Villarreal before the international break, all of this on the heals of getting run out of the park by both Barca and Man City. If they don't put it together Lopetegui won't make it to October (which btw starts with games against Atletico Madrid, two against Dortmund, and one against Athletic Club de Bilbao)
Atletico Madrid v. Celta Vigo- Will the last gasp winner get a fire lit under Atleti? They've gotten ok results, but really seem to lack the spirit of previous teams. And are Celta for real?

The big one, though, is Villarreal traveling to the Benito Villamarin to face Real Betis. Both teams must have their sights on a top four finish. Betis are a thinner squad and will be missing some key pieces like William Carvalho and especially Nabil Fekir but they have among the most rabid fan bases in La Liga behind them. Two fun teams who play attractive soccer so for some reason it'll end up 0-0 (though I did read somewhere that Villareal are the only team in a top five league yet to concede a goal).
To answer my own questions:
Valencia are inconsistent and likely destined for another mid-table finish
Sevilla went up 3-0, gave up two goals and Lamela got sent off. Murphy's Law and all, Sevilla survived. I think they've been passed by enough teams in La Liga to say that Conference League qualification would be a good season for them.
I'm still not sold on Atletico Madrid. Yes, they blasted in four goals but they also massively outperformed their xG. Goals can cover up a lot of deficiencies which for me are the midfield play -actually general roster construction and how it impacts the MF- and what looks to be passive play.

Athletic Club have been a lot of fun this year. Nico Williams scored a very nice first goal. Ander Herrera is back at home, and any transfer for Bilbao is nice because of their unique circumstances. They're well coached, never lack for effort, and always are solid in the back. It's just been a question of scoring for them, and if they can continue to do so they can make a run at Europe.

If you don't have a La Liga team that you root for, you could do much worse than jumping on the Osasuna bandwagon. They have some really nifty players like Chimy Avila, Ruben Garcia (and have "best neck tattoo" locked down between those two), Moi Gomez, and Abde (on loan from Barca). They have tons of homegrown players too, as well as a fantastic stadium in the great city of Pamplona. They likely won't make Europe unless they win the Copa del Rey, but they'll be fun as hell to watch.
 

rguilmar

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MD 6 has a couple of notable games like Villareal hosting Sevilla in a battle for Champions League qualification and a game involving some minnows from Madrid. Much of the world will be glued to the Madrid Derby, I'm sure. There are some compelling matchups among mid-table teams. Valencia hosting Celta should be a good one but would have been more compelling to us if Yunus was uninjured and LDLT was getting more minutes. I am pretty interested Athletic Club against Rayo Vallecano. These teams have intense connections to their communities- Athletic Club to Bilbao and the Basque region and Rayo to the Vallecas neighborhood- that create some extreme fan loyalty to their causes.

And I need to mentioned the return of R.D.T. (Raul de Tomas) to Rayo. He's a Real Madrid product who was loaned out several times to Rayo Vallecano, including the 2018-19 season where he netted 14 goals. Madrid sold him to Benfica to start the 2019-20 season, and Benfica sold him to Espanyol literally the next transfer window in January. The following season he scored 23 for in the Segunda then 17 for Espanyol last season, tied for second most in La Liga with Iago Aspas and Vini Jr. Then R.D.T. has a falling out with Espanyol with rumors flying around, each side blaming the other. Espanyol did bring in a new manager, Diego Martinez, but I'm not sure if that caused the rift. The player himself has always seemed enigmatic to me, but some people seem to absolutely loath him and I'm not sure why. Perhaps the wonderfully slicked back hair? Anyways, Espanyol released a statement confirming the sale of R.D.T. effective this upcoming January at an absolute bargain basement sale price for Rayo. There was no thanking the player or anything like that. R.D.T. for his part absolutely blasted the club on the way out the door and blamed them for the deterioration of the relationship. The best part is that the transfer to Rayo took place after R.D.T.s agent reportedly head-butted Rayo president Martin Presa in the face. Presa was hospitalized and has been seen sporting bandages over his nose, and there has been a police report about the assault. You can't make this stuff up.
 

rguilmar

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Match Day 6 is in the books and we get a breather for the international break. My overall impressions:
  • Real Madrid are just frustratingly consistent, and just so damn good. No Benzema, no real replacement, no problem. That train just keeps on going.
  • Barcelona are very exciting to watch and very deep. It remains to be seen if they can be consistent but it should be a good title fight. Countdown to the first Clasico has begun.
  • The narrative for years had been a league with a top 2 plus Atletico then the rest, but I think we are looking at a top two (you know who), a group of European contenders/pretenders (Atleti, Sevilla, Betis, Villareal, Athletic Club de Bilbao, Real Sociedad) where injuries and other luck will determine where they end up, a group of pain in the butt teams to play against (Valencia, Getafe, Celta, Osasuna, Rayo) and the rest. In short, I don't think Atleti fans should assume qualification into the Champions League next season.
  • It's great to see the stadiums back to being mostly packed and the crowd atmosphere returning to La Liga, the events at the Metropolitano not withstanding. Spain has been slow to fill the stadiums, but the games in Madrid, Betis, and Bilbao were particularly rocking this weekend. Long may it continue. I can't wait for La Ceramica to be finished and Villareal can play at their true home. When the whole town turns out, which it basically does for home games, that place should get loud. I'm hoping to get to a few games in early 2023 (Madrid Derbi 2.0, Barca-Valencia, maybe one other) so the return of the fans has been particularly warming.
  • Just looking at the standings, everyone's favorite La Liga SmartBank team, Real Oviedo, is off to a slowish start. Plenty of time to get it going. I saw them play once and they were more entertaining but not as solid as last year's edition. Here's to hoping they can get back into La Liga (unless you're from Gijon). Everyone's favrite third tier team, Deportivo la Coruna, are off to an ok start. Would be great to get them moving back up the pyramid where they belong.
 

Zososoxfan

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Match Day 6 is in the books and we get a breather for the international break. My overall impressions:
  • Real Madrid are just frustratingly consistent, and just so damn good. No Benzema, no real replacement, no problem. That train just keeps on going.
  • Barcelona are very exciting to watch and very deep. It remains to be seen if they can be consistent but it should be a good title fight. Countdown to the first Clasico has begun.
  • The narrative for years had been a league with a top 2 plus Atletico then the rest, but I think we are looking at a top two (you know who), a group of European contenders/pretenders (Atleti, Sevilla, Betis, Villareal, Athletic Club de Bilbao, Real Sociedad) where injuries and other luck will determine where they end up, a group of pain in the butt teams to play against (Valencia, Getafe, Celta, Osasuna, Rayo) and the rest. In short, I don't think Atleti fans should assume qualification into the Champions League next season.
  • It's great to see the stadiums back to being mostly packed and the crowd atmosphere returning to La Liga, the events at the Metropolitano not withstanding. Spain has been slow to fill the stadiums, but the games in Madrid, Betis, and Bilbao were particularly rocking this weekend. Long may it continue. I can't wait for La Ceramica to be finished and Villareal can play at their true home. When the whole town turns out, which it basically does for home games, that place should get loud. I'm hoping to get to a few games in early 2023 (Madrid Derbi 2.0, Barca-Valencia, maybe one other) so the return of the fans has been particularly warming.
  • Just looking at the standings, everyone's favorite La Liga SmartBank team, Real Oviedo, is off to a slowish start. Plenty of time to get it going. I saw them play once and they were more entertaining but not as solid as last year's edition. Here's to hoping they can get back into La Liga (unless you're from Gijon). Everyone's favrite third tier team, Deportivo la Coruna, are off to an ok start. Would be great to get them moving back up the pyramid where they belong.
I feel like your first line about Madrid is true for the past 3-5 seasons dating back to CR7's final season or 2. This is what's scary about this Madrid--they don't even have their usual Galacticos du jour. This is a deep squad that's been built smartly. It helps to have ageless wonders like Modric and Benz, but giving the likes of Vini and Rodrygo time to bed in, selling off aging players like Casemiro, and bringing in talent all over the place like Valverde, Camavinga, Tchoua, etc. is going to be terrifying if and when they do add a player like Mbappe, Haaland, or whoever's next to blow up.

Barca are answering the questions early on, and I absolutely think they'll be neck and neck with Madrid for the title. I'm a bit lower on their UCL chances because chemistry and cohesion matter more there IMO, but they're absolutely overpowering everyone not named Bayern at the moment. Perhaps more importantly, this is a fun and dominating team again. The match against Bayern was must-watch TV for any football fan, and the Clasicos will be too. IMO, the world football hierarchy looks like MANC, Madrid, Barca, Bayern, and maybe PSG, with everyone else fighting for 2nd tier and below.

I agree that Atleti have fallen off the pace of Barca and Madrid. But this is surprising to me. Atleti have made very smart transfer business over the past couple of years and I really thought they were setup well. I mean, looking at their squad I'd think they should be able to keep pace. But they can't for many of the reasons you've talked about previously. It really might be time for Simeone to move on, but it does seem like the club and manager are a good match, so perhaps just patience is needed.

The league does seem more fun than ever. I really hope this is the case as ESPN being the US broadcast partner could do wonders for the league's visibility in the US. I'm not trying to overstate things--La Liga is easily the second most watched league in the world behind EPL (just ask Lewandowski)--but IMO it should be watched even more in the US because the quality and entertainment is there.
 

rguilmar

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I agree that Atleti have fallen off the pace of Barca and Madrid. But this is surprising to me. Atleti have made very smart transfer business over the past couple of years and I really thought they were setup well. I mean, looking at their squad I'd think they should be able to keep pace. But they can't for many of the reasons you've talked about previously. It really might be time for Simeone to move on, but it does seem like the club and manager are a good match, so perhaps just patience is needed.
I'm hesitant to comment too much on Atleti knowing we have @bosox4283 here and he knows way more than I do. I will say that they just seem to lack that edge. They almost seemed boa constrictor in years past, strangling the life out of a game (and I don't say that in a negative way really, more in awe of how they could literally score a goal with a half chance and never seem threatened to lose the lead). Part of me really enjoys when they're both really good and really nasty. They have more talent than the rest of the chasing pack and much more depth, but something is just missing this season.

The league does seem more fun than ever. I really hope this is the case as ESPN being the US broadcast partner could do wonders for the league's visibility in the US. I'm not trying to overstate things--La Liga is easily the second most watched league in the world behind EPL (just ask Lewandowski)--but IMO it should be watched even more in the US because the quality and entertainment is there.
I do hope that as people get more familiar with the teams and players in La Liga they will grow to love the league. Clubs like Rayo Vallecano and Athletic Club Bilbao are very unique clubs and really can't be replicated. There is a lot of depth in La Liga too. Villarreal finished 7th last season while also making the CL semifinals and pushing Liverpool to the brink. Plus so many La Liga clubs rely heavily on homegrown talent which I think the EPL will be losing more and more of because they can just buy players. The result is a lot of good player stories. I've enjoyed ESPN's coverage too. Every game is available in English and Spanish, post game interviews are done in English or translated by the announcer, they have an almost daily La Liga news show. I do like the pregame footage of the warmups, fans entering the stadium, and the occasional video "tour" of the stadium. Some of the color guys could be improved upon, but past that I've liked what they've done.
 

rguilmar

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La Liga is back!

First the predictably slow, muted response to the incidents in Madrid. Atlético are far from the only with issues with fan racism in Spain and they have made at least a small effort in the past to deal with it. That being said there is a known group of supporters there who have not been dealt with by the club or La Liga. I don’t think anyone who follows La Liga was surprised by the chants hurled at Vini once the situation had escalated, which tells you how infamous this group is.

To the soccer. The bookends of the weekend are two of the more passionate fanbases. Bilbao opens against Almería at the lions den of San Mamés (beautiful new stadium btw). The Basques have figured out how to score so they are a legit threat for Europe. On the back end is a game in Vallecas with Rayo hosting Elche. Rayo is so popular in their neighborhood that they don’t even sell tickets online. Something like 80% of their seats are season ticket holders.

The big game is Atlético visiting Sevilla. My prediction for the Sevilla managerial position remains unchanged. They need wins and they have a tough stretch ahead of them. I’ll be tuning in to Osasuna visiting Real Madrid. I’m pretty sure Chimy Avila is suspended which makes a result even more unlikely but Osasuna have enough tricky players to maybe make things interesting. And of course Betis travel to Vigo #alwayswatchbetis
 

Zososoxfan

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Pretty huge results this weekend. Osasuna drew against Real, Barca eked out a win against Mallorca, Atleti les dio una paliza a Sevilla, Bilbao continues good form with a shellacking of relegation candidate Almeria, Celta beat Betis 1-0, Sociedad win a 5-3 thriller over Girona, and Villarreal drop points to 19th place Cadiz.

Barca are now top of the table on GD, the top 7 are all bunched together and very competitive, and Sevilla currently sit 17th (!). I don't recall what your prediction is for Lope @rguilmar but if it's that he gets sacked soon, then I agree. They have a good squad--these results are not acceptable. Someone mentioned him as a candidate for the USMNT job, and he'd be a great get for us, but he's a serious flight risk (see Madrid-Spain WC debacle).
 

rguilmar

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Pretty huge results this weekend. Osasuna drew against Real, Barca eked out a win against Mallorca, Atleti les dio una paliza a Sevilla, Bilbao continues good form with a shellacking of relegation candidate Almeria, Celta beat Betis 1-0, Sociedad win a 5-3 thriller over Girona, and Villarreal drop points to 19th place Cadiz.

Barca are now top of the table on GD, the top 7 are all bunched together and very competitive, and Sevilla currently sit 17th (!). I don't recall what your prediction is for Lope @rguilmar but if it's that he gets sacked soon, then I agree. They have a good squad--these results are not acceptable. Someone mentioned him as a candidate for the USMNT job, and he'd be a great get for us, but he's a serious flight risk (see Madrid-Spain WC debacle).
Yeah, my prediction from the outset was that Julen would be one of the first managers sacked. It's not totally a criticism of him though. The fans were against him and the squad, while talented, was built very lopsidedly. They had the strongest defense last season and sold both CBs (replacing them with an already injured Marcao and a youngster from Bayern). They needed a goal scorer and brought none in. Most of it was financial, and their sporting director said as much conceding that this season was the price to pay for past successes. It's an older team that needs an overhaul. To add insult to injury, rivals Betis have passed them not only in the hearts and minds of the neutrals, but also on the field. With Barca, Real, Atleti, Betis, Bilbao, Villareal, and Real Sociedad all looking strong this season, it wouldn't shock me to see Sevilla completely out of all European competitions next season. Hell, we just saw what Osasuna can do at the Bernabeu, and that was without a single neck tattoo as both Chimy Avila and Ruben Garcia were out! They're both incredibly gifted players who are fun to watch.

I was the one who threw Lupe's name in the mix for next USMNT manager because I clearly have an agenda. I might be misremembering things, but I thought he was sacked by Spain for taking the Real Madrid job, not that he quite. In a vacuum, I have no problem if a national team manager finds a post WC club job provided that none of his potential squad play for that club, but that wasn't the case here as there were plenty of Madrid on that team. On top of that though, Spain's manager just cannot accept a job at Real Madrid or Barcelona while still coaching Spain for so many political and historical reasons (I'd at Atletico and Athletic Club to the mix).

Shame about the Betis game. I was super excited for it, then Aspas and Fekir both start the game on the bench and Betis get an early red card. Betis gonna Betis I suppose. Other side of that coin, both the La Real- Girona and Valladolid- Getafe games were super entertaining!
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Yeah, my prediction from the outset was that Julen would be one of the first managers sacked. It's not totally a criticism of him though. The fans were against him and the squad, while talented, was built very lopsidedly. They had the strongest defense last season and sold both CBs (replacing them with an already injured Marcao and a youngster from Bayern). They needed a goal scorer and brought none in. Most of it was financial, and their sporting director said as much conceding that this season was the price to pay for past successes. It's an older team that needs an overhaul. To add insult to injury, rivals Betis have passed them not only in the hearts and minds of the neutrals, but also on the field. With Barca, Real, Atleti, Betis, Bilbao, Villareal, and Real Sociedad all looking strong this season, it wouldn't shock me to see Sevilla completely out of all European competitions next season. Hell, we just saw what Osasuna can do at the Bernabeu, and that was without a single neck tattoo as both Chimy Avila and Ruben Garcia were out! They're both incredibly gifted players who are fun to watch.

I was the one who threw Lupe's name in the mix for next USMNT manager because I clearly have an agenda. I might be misremembering things, but I thought he was sacked by Spain for taking the Real Madrid job, not that he quite. In a vacuum, I have no problem if a national team manager finds a post WC club job provided that none of his potential squad play for that club, but that wasn't the case here as there were plenty of Madrid on that team. On top of that though, Spain's manager just cannot accept a job at Real Madrid or Barcelona while still coaching Spain for so many political and historical reasons (I'd at Atletico and Athletic Club to the mix).

Shame about the Betis game. I was super excited for it, then Aspas and Fekir both start the game on the bench and Betis get an early red card. Betis gonna Betis I suppose. Other side of that coin, both the La Real- Girona and Valladolid- Getafe games were super entertaining!
Its sounds like Lopetegui is under serious consideration for the now open Wolves job. Sevilla to Wolves under normal circumstances might be a downward move but if he is about to get sacked anyway I wonder whether he just negotiates an exit.
 

rguilmar

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Its sounds like Lopetegui is under serious consideration for the now open Wolves job. Sevilla to Wolves under normal circumstances might be a downward move but if he is about to get sacked anyway I wonder whether he just negotiates an exit.
Rumors are flying that Lopetegui will be out after the Dortmund game regardless of result and that Jorge Sampaoli will return as manager. I can see the allure of a team in the Prem after having his defense gutted because of financial considerations, but does Julen want to hop right into a relegation battle? They do have several familiar faces though…

Curious to see Sevilla under Sampaoli. He’s definitely a different type of manager.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Rumors are flying that Lopetegui will be out after the Dortmund game regardless of result and that Jorge Sampaoli will return as manager. I can see the allure of a team in the Prem after having his defense gutted because of financial considerations, but does Julen want to hop right into a relegation battle? They do have several familiar faces though…

Curious to see Sevilla under Sampaoli. He’s definitely a different type of manager.
I really like Sampaoli but that current Sevilla squad seems almost like the anti-thesis of his football - aging, plodding, tactically deliberate, lacking in dynamism, etc. Maybe that's the point - a shock to the system. But they're going to need to have some patience and Monchi is going to need to work some more magic in the transfer market over the next few windows to get him some new and younger players.
 

bosox4283

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I'm hesitant to comment too much on Atleti knowing we have @bosox4283 here and he knows way more than I do. I will say that they just seem to lack that edge. They almost seemed boa constrictor in years past, strangling the life out of a game (and I don't say that in a negative way really, more in awe of how they could literally score a goal with a half chance and never seem threatened to lose the lead). Part of me really enjoys when they're both really good and really nasty. They have more talent than the rest of the chasing pack and much more depth, but something is just missing this season.
Atletico's comfortable and confident win against Sevilla is contrasted with the pathetic and frustrating loss against Bruges. Which Atletico is the real Atleti? Unfortunately, I think the disjointed Atletico is the real one.

First, the defensive inconsistency and fragility stems from the fact that the two best CBs -- Savic and Gimenez -- are injured frequently. When they are out, the dip in talent to Felipe or Hermoso is huge, the team cannot build from the back, and the team becomes prone to mistakes. Despite any changes in Simeone's approach or philosophy, defensive rigidity has been a bedrock of the team. Without this strength, the team sort of falls apart.

The team is just stale. Maybe Simeone has lost his fastball, either his ability to motivate a team or his ability to modify tactics to maximize talent. In the past, Simeone could bring out the toughness in his squad or adapt to his players. This year, Simeone cannot seem to do either.

But Simeone's seeming inability to motivate or adapt may not be his fault. The team seems to have the wrong players for this moment in team. Two players stand out. Carrasco seems slow or disinterested, and his performance restricts the team's ability to maintain intense defensive pressure or reliable defensive structure. Joao Felix, who is clearly immensely talented, does not seem interested in playing Simeone's style week in and week out. There are times when Felix thrives and other times when he does not seem to grasp that any elite team will require playing both ways.

Beyond Carrasco and Felix, there are players that do not seem to fit (De Paul) or Simeone does not like (Kondogbia).

There is also imbalance. The team did not initially replace Trippier, forcing Simeone to use Llorente there. Molina is new and may end up being great, but he's adapting to both La Liga and Simeone. Reinildo may be one of the best signings in a long time, but really cannot move up the pitch -- previously, players like Filipe Luis offered more offensive prowess and overall balance.

Simeone has figured it out in the past and certainly may do it again. For this year to be a success, there will need to be a shift in how Simeone uses the pieces that he has. In my view, we need more Correa and Cunha, and less of Griezmann, since Correa and Cunha play more vertically and take on defenders (even if they fail, I like the burst of energy). Saul needs to keep playing given that he gives the team what it needs.

After this year, the team needs a refresh -- a new coach, selling some players (Felix, Lemar, Oblak), going with the youth, and having a year or two with decent results to build something again. The trouble, of course, is that the team depends on the money from Champions League, so the dip in performance to fall out of the top four is not acceptable for the club.

Of course, Simeone is a legend and it seems to me that there are like six good coaches in the world. I have no idea who could replace him, so I do hope that Simeone figures it out.
 

rguilmar

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Looks like you'll be getting more Griezmann, not less. Thankfully this will end one of the sillier stories of the season; Griezmann as the super sub in the 61st minute.

View: https://twitter.com/FabrizioRomano/status/1577698969467162624?s=20&t=WRbMEKsXpjHOS_fsXMeozg


I do wonder if the inconsistency you mentioned at CB is making Atleti- Simeone and/or the players- feel like they just can't be as aggressive as they have been in the past. I hadn't really noticed the change in Carrasco's play, but now that you mention it, it is pretty obvious. He used to be one of those players that would literally make me stand up in anticipation because he was going to do something. Not so anymore.
 

rguilmar

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La Liga MD 8 kicks off with an interesting matchup in Pamplona with Valencia visiting Osasuna. Osasuna are one of the surprise teams so far. Sure, they’ve gotten a little lucky at times, but fortune favors the bold and Osasuna are definitely a bold team.

Sevilla sacked Julen Lopetegui and brought in Jorge Sampaoli. They now welcome high flying Athletic Club. Last week the Williams brothers assisted on each other’s goals, which was cool. How often does that happen for brothers representing different national teams? I’m interested to see if Sampaoli significantly changes tactics and players this quickly.

There aren’t a ton of “name” matchups aside from Real Socieded v. Villarreal. Both teams are getting star players back, at least in training- Alberto Moreno for Villarreal and Mikel Oyarzabal for La Real. There is a Madrid Derby (Getafe-Real) too. If last week taught us anything though it’s that any of the games can be very entertaining.
 

rguilmar

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This weekend was about three different 1-0 score lines.

Real Sociedad beat Villarreal in a great matchup on paper 1-0. La Real were absolutely dominant though, and 1-0 flattered Villarreal. Like most people, I had the Yellow Submarine pegged for the top four but this is looking like last season all over again.

Real Madrid walked away from Getafe 1-0 winners. It was thoroughly professional performance that Madrid were never going to not win. You know, Madrid.

Barcelona got a lucky 1-0 win at home against Celta. I am surprised the Galicians didn’t at least get a draw. Iago Aspas at one point had a free shot about ten yards out. Normally that’s an automatic goal. Celta were dominant at the end. But, soccer.

Three 1-0 games, three totally different stories.
 

rguilmar

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It's a Clasico weekend. Much focus is being put on the all important Drake kit that Barca will be sporting this weekend celebrating the artist's achievement of being the first to 50 billion streams on Spotify. There will also be a special warmup. If you don't like Drake, don't worry, other artists will be featured later this season. Hopefully Barca can get some $$$ out of this as I imagine they will be falling short of financial projections this year after the Champions League debacle. In all seriousness, this is a huge match. Top two in the league, tied on points and separated on goal differential. The injury crisis at Barcelona has taken its toll for sure and the schedule does not ease up until the World Cup break. Hay Liga, at least for now!

But there are several other big games. One that looks particularly entertaining is third place Bilbao playing host to fourth place Atletico Madrid. There are some regional derbies too; Betis-Almeria, Valencia- Elche, and Rayo-Getafe. Villarreal hosting Osasuna and Real Socieded going to Galicia to face Celta Vigo are potentially interesting fixtures. Sevilla look to climb out of the relegation zone (!!!) as Sampoali continues to put his stamp on the club. In reality, he admits that he can't make too many changes prior to the World Cup.

In another one of those "only in Spain" events, RFEF President Luis Rubiales had some conversations with relatives leaked to the press where he expressed a dislike for Sevilla, Villarreal, and Valencia, at times saying he hoped these clubs would lose particular games. I don't necessarily know how much control, if any, Rubiales has over things like referee selections, VAR, games times, and anything else that could impact the result. Whatever the case, it's not a good look. Rubiales was recently under fire when a former staff member accused him of hosting orgies paid for with Spanish FA money and for his leaked conversations with Gerard Pique over the financial details of the Spanish Supercopa being played in Saudi Arabia in which Pique's company netted quite a stack of money.

The biggest soccer match in the world, Drake, and orgies. Just another week in La Liga.
 

rguilmar

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Madrid gave Barca the Madrid treatment. It never felt like they weren’t in control. Barcelona had themselves a hell of a week, effectively out of the Champions League and beaten in El Clásico. It doesn’t ease up- Villarreal, Athletic Club, Bayern, and Valencia all follow over the next 12 days.

Atlético Madrid looked a little like the Atleti of old by winning in Bilbao, one of the toughest places to play in La Liga. Not 100% like the Atlético of old, but at least they’re on the right track. The Joao Felix situation does hang over the club though. Probably at the point where they need to just sell him.
 

rguilmar

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Valencia-Sevilla was one of the wildest endings to a match I’ve seen in a while. With the game tied 1-1 and about a minute left in added time Valencia’s Justin Kluivert in on goal with only Papu Gomez the only Sevilla defender between him and the goalie. Gomez took Kluivert down outside of the box and is rightfully given a red card. Kluivert had gotten gotten up and squared the ball before the foul was called though and a different Sevilla player pushed a different Valencia player in the box. After a review, Gomez was given a yellow, the other Sevilla player Kike Salas was given a red, and Valencia were given a penalty. Gaya missed the pen.
 

Zososoxfan

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Valencia-Sevilla was one of the wildest endings to a match I’ve seen in a while. With the game tied 1-1 and about a minute left in added time Valencia’s Justin Kluivert in on goal with only Papu Gomez the only Sevilla defender between him and the goalie. Gomez took Kluivert down outside of the box and is rightfully given a red card. Kluivert had gotten gotten up and squared the ball before the foul was called though and a different Sevilla player pushed a different Valencia player in the box. After a review, Gomez was given a yellow, the other Sevilla player Kike Salas was given a red, and Valencia were given a penalty. Gaya missed the pen.
That was a rollercoaster of a read! Thanks for sharing that, gonna hafta look it up later today.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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It'll be pretty wild if he goes to Villa after turning down the Newcastle job. I suppose Newcastle looked like a much bigger mess right after Bruce was fired. And Emery had CL football to look forward to with Villarreal last year. But still.
 

rguilmar

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I have a lot of sympathy for managers. They’re often fired, rarely given a chance, and are the first change a struggling club makes. But Emery was at a club that’s pretty known for giving managers a long leash and he had built up a lot of credit with the Champions League run last season. They’ve been a bit disappointing in the league as I think most people had them pegged for a top four finish, but Villarreal are rightly considered one of the best run clubs in the world. Now he’s off to a club that will fire him if he can’t right the ship, and relatively quickly. Hell, that’s why he’s in consideration for the position in the first place. I get it, money matters, but this is a risky move. He’s a good manager so it might work out, but I wouldn’t go house hunting in Birmingham if I were him.
 

teddykgb

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I have a lot of sympathy for managers. They’re often fired, rarely given a chance, and are the first change a struggling club makes. But Emery was at a club that’s pretty known for giving managers a long leash and he had built up a lot of credit with the Champions League run last season. They’ve been a bit disappointing in the league as I think most people had them pegged for a top four finish, but Villarreal are rightly considered one of the best run clubs in the world. Now he’s off to a club that will fire him if he can’t right the ship, and relatively quickly. Hell, that’s why he’s in consideration for the position in the first place. I get it, money matters, but this is a risky move. He’s a good manager so it might work out, but I wouldn’t go house hunting in Birmingham if I were him.
Really nothing to add to this it sums my view up perfectly. I know the Prem has money but that Villa job is not easy and I can’t see how it is preferred to what he had
 

Zososoxfan

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I'd add that Villa have the 7th highest wage bill in the EPL. If Emery thinks he can get them to compete for a European place, then it's a reasonable gamble considering he's almost certainly going to make a lot more money at Villa.
 

bosox4283

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Hey -- what's going on with this law? I've read things like La Liga will be reduced to 16 teams, that Barcelona and Real Madrid are throwing their weight around, that the other teams are threatening a strike.