La Liga 2022/23 All Out of Palancas

rguilmar

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Last weekend was chaotic on the pitch with upsets galore, and this weekend is shaping up to have chaos off the pitch. Valencia fans once again plan to protest club ownership. Things have been spiraling for a long time, with Yunus Musah at one point having to drive on the sidewalk to avoid angry fans who were blocking him in. Fans’ anger is really with the ownership of Peter Lim, and they currently sit in the relegation zone after Cadiz had a nice win to start the weekend. I expect a quiet Mestalla, which is normally pretty loud with drums and megaphones, as the fan groups and ultras will probably stay outside.

Meanwhile, down in the third tier things are looking grim. The Spanish federation took control of the old Segunda B with the idea of fully professionalizing it, but it hasn’t gone well and a large group of clubs are in full rebellion. Two clubs have essentially been barred from competing while a third is only allowed to do so after a court order. The television deal fell apart. While unlikely, the league might be forced to suspend the season. This is probably of interest only to me, but there are some notable clubs in the Primera Federación (the official name of the league):

Real Murcia- they were in La Liga not long ago
Numancia- ditto, and I’m pretty sure they beat Barcelona in Pep’s first game in charge in that magical 2008-2009 treble winning season (I think it was at the Camp Nou as well)
Real Unión- a Spanish soccer OG, this basque team is now owned by Unai Emery
Alcorcón- they had a famous 4-0 Copa victory over Real Madrid. Nbd
Gimnastic- the team from Tarragona was founded in 1886, so it’s one of the oldest clubs in Spain*. It’s also the closest to my family’s hometown since the shutting down of Reus.
Deportivo La Coruña- Super Depor! For f#cks sake they were Champions League semifinalists. They gotta get up to La Segunda. This club belongs in La Liga.

*The oldest club in Spain is Recreativo de Huelva, founded in 1889. Gimnastic were founded as an athletic club prior to that year but didn’t add soccer until later. For fun, I looked up Recreativo to find out where they are now, and it’s down in the fourth tier. This third tier is basically soccer purgatory, so you can imagine what the fourth tier is.
 

rguilmar

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Girona putting a hurting on Almería in Friday Night Football, up 4-0. Old friend to MLS fans, Taty Castellanos has been electric, as have loanee Rodrigo Riquelme (Atlético really have something with this kid) and new signee Viktor Tsygankov.

I like Girona a lot and they play attractive soccer, but did not see this coming.
 

rguilmar

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https://images.app.goo.gl/yvXzffehnty8GYDk8

#AlwaysWatchBetis indeed. Their last five La Liga games:

1-2 vs Barca
3-4 vs Celta
3-2 at Almería
2-1 vs Valladolid
3-2 at Elche

That’s nearly 5 total goals scored per game. The games are fun to watch. In today’s edition, Elche jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first ten minutes, had two players red carded, had three PKs called against them and stopped one PK near the end of the game to keep it 2-2. William Jose missed from inside the 6 yard box near the death too but redeemed himself just a few minutes later by burying the winner in stoppage time.
 

Zososoxfan

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Copied from the Barca thread since I don't know the best place for this discussion:

The mini-slide continued as Barca lost 1-0 away @ Almeria. The team looked hungover from the bummer defeat @United, but I happen to think they were more guilty of looking ahead to the Copa match with Real midweek. Either way, the loss to lowly Almeria leaves Barca with a nice cushion (7 points) instead of a commanding lead in the Liga race.

Xavi did OK with the tactics against United--he "won" the first half, but Ten Hag outclassed him with adjustments in the second. Xavi's a young manager and the club need to be patient with him as he grows and gains experience. But I think the question is whether there's enough patience in Catalunya to let him see it out. He also ripped the players yesterday--I'm not sure whether that's the right man-management attitude. Time will tell. But it certainly feels like the outcome to the season hangs in the balance of the next month.

Lewa is also reported out for the next 2-3 weeks, including the Clasico, and league matches vs. Valencia (relegation candidate) and Bilbao (8th). After that, it's the Copa return leg against Real--EGADS! Lots of injuries (Pedri, Dembele) are piling up, and FDJ and Gavi are suspended for the Liga match against Valencia at week-end.
 

rguilmar

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Copied from the Barca thread since I don't know the best place for this discussion:
This was the biggest surprise in a “Wtf was that” kind of weekend. It was Almería’s first win ever against Barca, who could have put ten points between themselves and Madrid. I honestly didn’t bother catching the game because I didn’t think Almería had a shot.

In other wildness:
The Madrid Derby ended 1-1 at the Bernabéu. The shocking things were Atletico taking the lead down a man and 18 year old Alvaro scoring the tying goal for Real Madrid (I need to point out that Alvaro is a born and raised Catalan).
Girona won for the first time ever at San Mamés (old or new) and currently have the third highest goals scored and third highest goals against in La Liga.
In the Betis comeback win, Elche finished the game with eight players.
Osasuna won 3-2 at Sevilla, which at the start of the season wouldn’t be surprising, but seeing as though Sevilla have righted the ship and won 5 straight at home while the team from Pamplona were resting 8 starters, it was a surprise.
Valencia beat Real Sociedad with club hero Ruben Baraja as manager and actually looked like a competent team.
Somebody* not named Iago Aspas scored two goals for Celta Vigo.

*That somebody is Gabri Veiga who undoubtedly will be getting interest from soulless PL teams this summer. He’s one of the real breakout players this season, along with Oihan Sancet from Bilbao and Aimar Oroz from Osasuna. All three are kids who came up through their respective academies (though Sancet did begin his youth career at Osasuna).
 

Zososoxfan

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This was the biggest surprise in a “Wtf was that” kind of weekend. It was Almería’s first win ever against Barca, who could have put ten points between themselves and Madrid. I honestly didn’t bother catching the game because I didn’t think Almería had a shot.

In other wildness:
The Madrid Derby ended 1-1 at the Bernabéu. The shocking things were Atletico taking the lead down a man and 18 year old Alvaro scoring the tying goal for Real Madrid (I need to point out that Alvaro is a born and raised Catalan).
Girona won for the first time ever at San Mamés (old or new) and currently have the third highest goals scored and third highest goals against in La Liga.
In the Betis comeback win, Elche finished the game with eight players.
Osasuna won 3-2 at Sevilla, which at the start of the season wouldn’t be surprising, but seeing as though Sevilla have righted the ship and won 5 straight at home while the team from Pamplona were resting 8 starters, it was a surprise.
Valencia beat Real Sociedad with club hero Ruben Baraja as manager and actually looked like a competent team.
Somebody* not named Iago Aspas scored two goals for Celta Vigo.

*That somebody is Gabri Veiga who undoubtedly will be getting interest from soulless PL teams this summer. He’s one of the real breakout players this season, along with Oihan Sancet from Bilbao and Aimar Oroz from Osasuna. All three are kids who came up through their respective academies (though Sancet did begin his youth career at Osasuna).
Great summary, thanks for writing up. Lots to unpack here. In order of your post:

  • Your comment about Alvaro being Catalan and playing for Madrid got me panicked and I looked up other Catalans that have played at Madrid. Fortunately, no huge names stood out, with the best modern player likely being Celades or Dani Garcia. Not quite Figo's level.
  • Ruben Baraja! What a name!!
  • Vigo comment lol
  • Soulless PL teams lol
 

rguilmar

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Regarding Alvaro, he was born on the Costa Brava and brought up in the Girona academy before Madrid snatched him away. He’s chosen to represent Uruguay, where his father was born. He’s one of those rare Catalans, or Spaniards for that matter, either above the fray or just not interested in Spanish and Catalan identity. Don’t expect any Pique or Ceballos type political statements from Alvaro.
 

rguilmar

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I know most people are likely paying attention to today’s Clásico, but the other semifinal of the Copa kicked off last night. Osasuna topped Athletic Bilbao 1-0 at El Sadar last night. What the game lacked in quality was made up for in speed, aggression, and physicality. There no real dirty plays, but several players left the field bloodied. With so many players on both teams from Pamplona, it’s not surprising. Osasuna just had more difference makers on the wings who could eliminate one or more defenders on the dribble. Case in point- Abde’s very nice winner.
 

Zososoxfan

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Copied from Barca thread:

Just caught highlights and what a match!

Busi got the highlights started with a beautifully lofted ball for Raphinha to run onto and "chip" the keeper with a header. Raph has done this a couple of times this season, and it's one of his best skills. It should be used as often as possible.

Ansu got the start at CF and didn't do so hot, as his finishing was lacking. Later in the match he was arguing with Ferran for the opportunity to take a pen, with Ferran taking the shot but missing wide. It was nice to see Ansu give him a pat on the back immediately after, showing some real maturity that even I would likely lack. Ansu did hit the post later on.

Araujo had an unusual flub leading to a well-deserved DOGSO roja directa.

MATS almost gave away a cheap goal trying to be a little too cute with his ball playing skills.
--
With Real drawing with Betis, Barca have opened up a 9-point lead in La Liga again. After crashing out of UEL, Barca have the week off before facing pesky Athletic at the weekend. Real also have the week off, but play Liverpool next Wednesday in the UCL return leg before playing Barca in a fortnight for a key Liga clash.
 

rguilmar

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Barca won a game that maybe they shouldn’t have while Real Madrid couldn’t do the same (in a much more attractive game to watch at Betis). That’s the difference between winning La Liga and not winning La Liga.

Sevilla, who looked like they had turned a corner, got smashed at Atleti 6-1.Old friend Casey Keller went so far as to say Sevilla quit on Sampaoli. I think that results earlier this season were overly kind to Atlético Madrid in La Liga, and unkind in the tournaments, but since the new year the performances have been great. It does coincide with the loan move of one talented youngster to London and the finalizing of the deal for Griezmann who might be the best player in La Liga. His goal this weekend. Oh my.

But Sevilla and Valencia are both in real trouble. There are a ton of team in the relegation fight. Elche are as good as relegated but only five points separate 19th and 12th. Only two of those teams look like they lack the fight, and it’s the two big boys.

There is a slow movement at The Spanish Football Podcast for the new hashtag to be #AlwaysWatchGirona as the small Catalán team are fun to watch. Third most goals for, fourth most goals against. And they generally play attractive soccer.
 

Stanley Steamer

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Sorry to post an ESPN article, but I thought it captured some of the anti-Barca sentiment I currently share:
https://www.espn.com/soccer/barcelona-espbarcelona/story/4899599/barcelona-boss-xavi-saddened-by-relegation-chants-at-san-mames
It's hard not to root for the Bilbaos and Sociedads of the league, compared to the big two. It really felt like Barca rigged the system this summer, all because it's simply unthinkable to have a club their size be ordinary. I don't know much about the ref charges but the (upper) class system present in European football is one of it's worst features.
 

rguilmar

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Sorry to post an ESPN article, but I thought it captured some of the anti-Barca sentiment I currently share:
https://www.espn.com/soccer/barcelona-espbarcelona/story/4899599/barcelona-boss-xavi-saddened-by-relegation-chants-at-san-mames
It's hard not to root for the Bilbaos and Sociedads of the league, compared to the big two. It really felt like Barca rigged the system this summer, all because it's simply unthinkable to have a club their size be ordinary. I don't know much about the ref charges but the (upper) class system present in European football is one of it's worst features.
I agree with you regarding the ease of rooting for Bilbao, Sociedad and others over the big two. The majority of Spanish teams are comprised of local kids brought up through the youth system. Their just more interesting and fun to root for, at least in my opinion.

When it comes Barca, I personally have more of an issue with this current scandal than with the “levers” pulled over the summer. They sold real monetary assets that will compromise their ability to maximize on revenue down the road. There was real cost and there is real risk for Barca if this gamble does not work out- the gamble being that they were willing to give away future earnings to improve the team now based on the idea that increased advertising from this improved squad would offset those future losses.

I say this as a former diehard Barca fan who gave up on that fandom years ago when I found myself more interested in clubs like Betis, Celta, Depor, Osasuna, and yes, those two Basque teams. I have family members who are socios at Barca (as well as members at Espanyol). This ref scandal is a big deal. There is just no way for Barcelona to come up for a reasonable explanation as to why they secretly paid the vice president of the referees association millions and millions of dollars. Either they got influence or they thought they were getting influence. It taints the entire era, including those glorious Pep years.

They might be guilty of getting influence over referees, and the prosecutors claim to want to prove that, or they might not be guilty. The feeling I get is that most fans of other teams want them to be guilty. It likely won’t be too dissimilar to Deflategate here. Fans and other teams will be out for blood, and probably rightly so.
 

Stanley Steamer

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Thanks for the insight. Interesting year in La Liga, maybe not so much at the top, but to see Valencia and especially Sevilla in danger of the drop is surprising.
 

Zososoxfan

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I agree with you regarding the ease of rooting for Bilbao, Sociedad and others over the big two. The majority of Spanish teams are comprised of local kids brought up through the youth system. Their just more interesting and fun to root for, at least in my opinion.

When it comes Barca, I personally have more of an issue with this current scandal than with the “levers” pulled over the summer. They sold real monetary assets that will compromise their ability to maximize on revenue down the road. There was real cost and there is real risk for Barca if this gamble does not work out- the gamble being that they were willing to give away future earnings to improve the team now based on the idea that increased advertising from this improved squad would offset those future losses.

I say this as a former diehard Barca fan who gave up on that fandom years ago when I found myself more interested in clubs like Betis, Celta, Depor, Osasuna, and yes, those two Basque teams. I have family members who are socios at Barca (as well as members at Espanyol). This ref scandal is a big deal. There is just no way for Barcelona to come up for a reasonable explanation as to why they secretly paid the vice president of the referees association millions and millions of dollars. Either they got influence or they thought they were getting influence. It taints the entire era, including those glorious Pep years.

They might be guilty of getting influence over referees, and the prosecutors claim to want to prove that, or they might not be guilty. The feeling I get is that most fans of other teams want them to be guilty. It likely won’t be too dissimilar to Deflategate here. Fans and other teams will be out for blood, and probably rightly so.
Even though I remain a solid Blaugrana culer, I absolutely understand this sentiment. La Liga is a disaster of an organization and they're so far behind the times in seeing the value of some revenue sharing to boost the quality of sides in La Liga, but even throughout the Spanish pro pyramid. La Liga is much more exciting when there aren't any pushovers at the bottom, and the winning side finishes with 70-something points, as opposed to 80+.

Although looking at the EPL, perhaps there's something more nuanced than that. IOW, the EPL winners have finished with 80+ points every season this millennium, and even during the last handful of seasons where the league has been its most exciting (IMO), you still have winners at 90+ points. In any event, I think the EPL this year is pretty darn exciting, with a race that quickly came down to 2 teams, a strong second tier with plenty of competition, and a relegation battle without even one side lagging so far behind as to throw in the towel.
 

rguilmar

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I do find La Liga in general super entertaining because the stakes are pretty high for the "other" 17 teams besides Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, and Barcelona. The relegation scrap will be top tier this season, and teams relegated to La Liga SmartBank are one bad season away from purgatory. The fight out of the third tier can take a long time, just ask Deportivo la Coruna. Depor finished one goal away from promotion back to La Liga but lost the game, and the following season were relegated to the third tier where they've been for a couple of seasons. And that is a massive club in Spain. It's a precarious position to be in and it makes it both terrifying and exciting. Watching the fight for Europe is huge too, especially because the relative size of these teams allows the impact to be enormous. Real Sociedad currently occupy that fourth spot with a total salary budget of 43 million Euros. Atletico are more than triple that, and that is not including Cholo's 30 million plus Euros. Champions League money, or Europa League for that matter, just means that much more than to any of the top 7 EPL sides just in terms of percentage of the budget. Couple that with the fact that many Spanish teams are especially good at finding and developing talent, the difference the cash makes is huge. That says nothing of the impact of actual financial regulations that Spanish teams operate under. Just imagine what La Real could do with an extra tens of millions of Euros while keeping in mind that they are operating at a net positive gain of over 27 million Euros in transfers this season

Back to the field. @Zososoxfan might have a different view on this, but it seems like Barcelona this season, like Real Madrid last campaign, are winning games that maybe their performances don't totally justify. Lots of narrow 1-0 wins. Take the Athletic Club game this weekend. I think a fair argument could be made that even a draw would have been unfair to the Basque squad. They were really on it. MATS has been obscenely good this season. Even though the (very nice) goal scored by Inaki was rightly disallowed, it was just by sheer bad luck that the ball hit Munian's arm instead of his shoulder or head. Barca's defense was badly caught out. But, such is the luck of a champion sometimes. I love watching Gavi and Araujo play though.

On the other end of the table, Sevilla at one point jumped from 19th to 13th in like a 15 minute span when they scored two goals against Almeria. It's that tight.
 

rguilmar

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Huge Derby this week featuring two team close to each other in the table and with potentially tens of millions of Euros at stake. But enough about Cádiz-Almería, there is a Clásico on Sunday too. There is bound to be some extra fire this time with Real Madrid joining other member clubs in the case against Barcelona. Madrid must win or No Hay Liga. Rumors are that Pedri could suit up for Barcelona. Let’s just hope that the winner doesn’t comes from a bad call favoring Barca. Spanish media will be insufferable for weeks.

Elsewhere, Osasuna hosting Villarreal is a sneaky interesting game with two teams who play entertaining yet also contrasting soccer and both teams in the fight for a spot in Europe.
 

Zososoxfan

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Huge Derby this week featuring two team close to each other in the table and with potentially tens of millions of Euros at stake. But enough about Cádiz-Almería, there is a Clásico on Sunday too. There is bound to be some extra fire this time with Real Madrid joining other member clubs in the case against Barcelona. Madrid must win or No Hay Liga. Rumors are that Pedri could suit up for Barcelona. Let’s just hope that the winner doesn’t comes from a bad call favoring Barca. Spanish media will be insufferable for weeks.

Elsewhere, Osasuna hosting Villarreal is a sneaky interesting game with two teams who play entertaining yet also contrasting soccer and both teams in the fight for a spot in Europe.
Pedri ruled out for today.
 

rguilmar

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Barca won this weekend’s Clásico so no hay Liga. The Blaugrana have it all wrapped up. Sure, there’s a mathematical chance that they lose it, but that’s just not going to happen.

The team playing the best right now are Atletico Madrid. They trounced Valencia 3-0. I’ve been down on Atleti a lot this season, but they have that snarl back along with some really nice soccer. There was a chance in the 20th minute that was like Pep Era Barca. I know a lot will be made of shipping out Felix and getting the Griezmann deal wrapped up, but there is likely more to it than that. The Frenchman has been the best field player this season in La Liga imo.

Goal of the week goes to El Comandante, José Luis Morales, for his strike from close to midfield.

Call of the week goes to the ESPN analyst (was it Graham Hunter???) who channeled his inner Tony Romo by noting that Morales was monitoring the Osasuna GK's positioning and that Morales might try a long range shot no more than a few second before the aforementioned goal. He had made a similar note maybe a minute beforehand.

A message to Gavi- I love you but you gotta cut that sh*t out. I know you’re passionate, but Lewa can take care of himself. No need to deck a Madrid player behind the ref’s back and risk a card just because he touched the big striker.

A message to Gabri Veiga-I love you but you gotta cut that sh*t out. Stop scoring goals and being generally awesome at the game or some filthy rich English team will take you away from us.

A message to all EPL teams- Gabri Veiga isn’t very good. And even if he was, Galicians don’t travel well. See Aspas, Iago and Perez, Lucas for evidence. Best leave the young man at Celta.

Sevilla and Valencia are both in serious danger of relegation. Neither team looks to have the fight in them right now.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barca won this weekend’s Clásico so no hay Liga. The Blaugrana have it all wrapped up. Sure, there’s a mathematical chance that they lose it, but that’s just not going to happen.

The team playing the best right now are Atletico Madrid. They trounced Valencia 3-0. I’ve been down on Atleti a lot this season, but they have that snarl back along with some really nice soccer. There was a chance in the 20th minute that was like Pep Era Barca. I know a lot will be made of shipping out Felix and getting the Griezmann deal wrapped up, but there is likely more to it than that. The Frenchman has been the best field player this season in La Liga imo.

Goal of the week goes to El Comandante, José Luis Morales, for his strike from close to midfield.

Call of the week goes to the ESPN analyst (was it Graham Hunter???) who channeled his inner Tony Romo by noting that Morales was monitoring the Osasuna GK's positioning and that Morales might try a long range shot no more than a few second before the aforementioned goal. He had made a similar note maybe a minute beforehand.

A message to Gavi- I love you but you gotta cut that sh*t out. I know you’re passionate, but Lewa can take care of himself. No need to deck a Madrid player behind the ref’s back and risk a card just because he touched the big striker.

A message to Gabri Veiga-I love you but you gotta cut that sh*t out. Stop scoring goals and being generally awesome at the game or some filthy rich English team will take you away from us.

A message to all EPL teams- Gabri Veiga isn’t very good. And even if he was, Galicians don’t travel well. See Aspas, Iago and Perez, Lucas for evidence. Best leave the young man at Celta.

Sevilla and Valencia are both in serious danger of relegation. Neither team looks to have the fight in them right now.
Pretty awesome that two often maligned players in Roberto and Kessie scored against Madrid. Araujo is just a monster, and shutting down Vini is one of the hardest things to do in the sport at the moment. I do think Araujo is injured again though. Having him and Kounde locked up, along with Christensen makes me feel good about the future of the backline. FDJ really shined again in this game--it's taken far longer than anyone had hoped or expected, but he's now reaching elite MF status again.
 

rguilmar

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I’ve read Rory Smith’s weekly newsletter for a long time now, and I usually find it pretty interesting, but I found this bit curious:

"There is always something heartening about seeing a player enjoying a sudden flourish, granted belated recognition after a career spent toiling away from the spotlight. It acts as a reminder that talent is not always a gift. It can be a reward, too. Joselu, certainly, fits that particular bill. He is 33 now, having spent the last decade or so as an industrious, faintly unspectacular forward for a variety of teams that might fairly be described as “midtable.” Last week, though, long after he might have abandoned hope of representing his country, he was called up to Spain’s national team. On form, his appearances against Norway and Scotland in the first round of qualifiers should not have been controversial: Joselu has scored 12 goals in 22 games for a struggling Espanyol team this season. He got his chance with Spain not because of an unexpected romantic streak in Luis de la Fuente, the country’s newly installed coach. He has done enough to deserve it.

That does not necessarily mean it is a feel-good story for Spanish soccer, though. The team de la Fuente selected against Scotland — a game that resulted in just Spain’s third defeat in a qualifier in nearly two decades — also included David García, an equally unheralded 29-year-old defender. A 35-year-old, Iago Aspas, came off the bench. It is not to diminish Scotland’s achievement to suggest this was not a vintage Spain squad...

It is not long, though, since Spain and Germany seemed to have established smooth, reliable production lines of talent. Both countries were praised, effectively, for having industrialized youth production. Now both find themselves increasingly stocking their squads — if not their first teams — with players like Joselu, Aspas and Füllkrug: the kind of journeymen they were supposed to have moved beyond.

There is no immediate explanation for why that might be. Perhaps there is a roadblock on giving young players a chance. Perhaps their domestic leagues are too reliant on imports. Perhaps their lauded academies churn out identikit players, leaving gaps elsewhere. (The likelihood is that, combined with a bit of random chance, it is a blend of all three.)"

I mean, tell me you don't watch La Liga without telling you don't watch La Liga. The bulk of the Spain team is made up of young players who were given a chance. There is no such roadblock at all. I'm not going to go down the list, but the failure of Spain has nothing to do with not giving young players a chance, both at the club level and for the national team. Just read the ages up and down the roster. And the idea that the La Liga is "too reliant on imports" is laughable. The bulk of Spanish teams aren't just made up of Spaniards but of players from the team's province. It's not just a Bilbao thing. The three examples Smith gives- Iago Aspas, David Garcia, and Joselu- show that. Aspas is from Galicia and plays in Galicia (and notable failed when he left the province). David Garcia joined Osasuna when he was nine and aside from loan spells has never left the club. Joselu got professional minutes at Celta when he was 18. I especially cringed at the idea of Garcia being "unheralded". He has been "heralded" beyond Pamplona and across La Liga for years now. Just because he has no desire to leave his hometown club doesn't make him unheralded. It just means that if you only watch the EPL and Champions League you haven't heard of him. I will grant the "identikit" idea though. The rest of it seems lazy and uninformed to me. I do agree that this Spain squad is not vintage, but the idea that there is some roadblock for youngsters or an overreliance on foreigners is just absurd.

Anyways, La Liga is back this weekend. A massive bottom of the table Andalucian derby between Sevilla and Cadiz as well as the Betis-Atleti match are the highlights. Rory Smith won't be watching, but they should be entertaining games.
 

rguilmar

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Osasuna are through to the Copa del Rey final against whoever comes out ahead in today’s Clásico. Athletic Bilbao really were after it but the winner came from a well-placed volley from the top of the 18 by Pablo Ibanez in extra time. They also qualify for next season’s Supercopa and a win in the final would put the team from Pamplona into the Europa League. They’ll be the neutral’s pick for sure in the final.
 

rguilmar

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Real Madrid won today’s Copa del Rey Clásico 4-0. I imagine this cements Osasuna’s place as the side most people will be rooting for in the final.
 

rguilmar

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Just some off the field notes, because it’s never dull in Spain:
  • The Barcelona-La Liga conflict has devolved into a public war of words with the Catalan team issuing a statement calling for the removal of La Liga President Tebas. The accusation by the club is that Tebas is using his position to turn public sentiment against Barca in retribution for the club’s leading role in trying to create the Super League. To be fair, public sentiment was always going to be against Barca. They paid €7 million to a referee official in a secretive way. How does that not look bad?
  • Barca have also asked fans to report any potentially libelous items in the media about Barca to the club. Probably says more about the media in Spain than anything else
  • Several new manager’s have taken over relegation threatened clubs. Sampaoli is out at Sevilla along with his during-the-game written instructions to players (that can’t be a good sign that the players understand their roles). Diego Martinez has been replaced at Espanyol by Luis Garcia- not that one (though he played at Espanyol while the more famous one was at Anfield). It was considered quite the coup for Espanyol to land Martinez in the first place as he is really highly regarded. He will find plenty of chances this summer. Valladolid brought in the manager from Cruzeiro which isn’t surprising because both clubs are owned by the Brazilian Ronaldo.
  • Back in Barcelona, the club have officially announced the plan to move to the Olympic Stadium on Montjuic while Camp Nou is being renovated. Cue the jokes about Barca’s finances, but the reality is that clubs were given an infusion of cash by La Liga from a new TV deal, but the vast majority of those funds had to be spent on non-player things like capital improvements. That’s why so many stadiums in Spain are new or newly renovated, including San Mamés in Bilbao, La Cerámica in Villareal, the Bernabéu, El Sadar in Pamplona, the Reale Arena in San Sebastián, and Vigo’s Balaidos Stadium to name a few (and did I see a site for a New Mestalla???). No word on how Rayo will spend the cash but they have no visible improvements that I can see.
  • Clubs have been doing a great job of signing young gems to long term contracts. Real Sociedad have signed pretty much everyone to extensions, most importantly Oyarzabal. Bilbao locked up Sancet for like 8 years. Gabri Veiga looks to welcome the idea of staying at his hometown club too. The benefits are obvious. The stars of the future either stay in La Liga or clubs can extract huge transfer fee, mostly likely in pounds not Euros.
  • Nico Williams deleted his social media accounts after his two misses in the Copa semi against Osasuna. I haven’t seen the specific reason for his doing so other than some “hateful” comments (nothing specific). Given the player involved and the reputation- fair or unfair- of many Basques when it comes issues of race, most are assuming the worst.
 

Zososoxfan

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Just some off the field notes, because it’s never dull in Spain:
  • The Barcelona-La Liga conflict has devolved into a public war of words with the Catalan team issuing a statement calling for the removal of La Liga President Tebas. The accusation by the club is that Tebas is using his position to turn public sentiment against Barca in retribution for the club’s leading role in trying to create the Super League. To be fair, public sentiment was always going to be against Barca. They paid €7 million to a referee official in a secretive way. How does that not look bad?
  • Barca have also asked fans to report any potentially libelous items in the media about Barca to the club. Probably says more about the media in Spain than anything else
  • Several new manager’s have taken over relegation threatened clubs. Sampaoli is out at Sevilla along with his during-the-game written instructions to players (that can’t be a good sign that the players understand their roles). Diego Martinez has been replaced at Espanyol by Luis Garcia- not that one (though he played at Espanyol while the more famous one was at Anfield). It was considered quite the coup for Espanyol to land Martinez in the first place as he is really highly regarded. He will find plenty of chances this summer. Valladolid brought in the manager from Cruzeiro which isn’t surprising because both clubs are owned by the Brazilian Ronaldo.
  • Back in Barcelona, the club have officially announced the plan to move to the Olympic Stadium on Montjuic while Camp Nou is being renovated. Cue the jokes about Barca’s finances, but the reality is that clubs were given an infusion of cash by La Liga from a new TV deal, but the vast majority of those funds had to be spent on non-player things like capital improvements. That’s why so many stadiums in Spain are new or newly renovated, including San Mamés in Bilbao, La Cerámica in Villareal, the Bernabéu, El Sadar in Pamplona, the Reale Arena in San Sebastián, and Vigo’s Balaidos Stadium to name a few (and did I see a site for a New Mestalla???). No word on how Rayo will spend the cash but they have no visible improvements that I can see.
  • Clubs have been doing a great job of signing young gems to long term contracts. Real Sociedad have signed pretty much everyone to extensions, most importantly Oyarzabal. Bilbao locked up Sancet for like 8 years. Gabri Veiga looks to welcome the idea of staying at his hometown club too. The benefits are obvious. The stars of the future either stay in La Liga or clubs can extract huge transfer fee, mostly likely in pounds not Euros.
  • Nico Williams deleted his social media accounts after his two misses in the Copa semi against Osasuna. I haven’t seen the specific reason for his doing so other than some “hateful” comments (nothing specific). Given the player involved and the reputation- fair or unfair- of many Basques when it comes issues of race, most are assuming the worst.
Thanks for the update @rguilmar !

I don't know exactly when it happened (likely the Clasico), but Barca have run away with La Liga. They're 12 points clear at the top. On top of the angst the weekend's Copa collapse caused, getting knocked out of that competition while Madrid keep fighting for UCL and Copa hardware stings.
 

rguilmar

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The weekend got off to a flying start. Ten man Sevilla coughed up a 2-0 lead in the final minutes. Gabri Veiga was suspended for Celta but another Vigo youngster, Miguel Rodriguez, got the first in the 89th minute and Pacienca got the second in extra time.

Marcos Acuña had a banger though.

View: https://twitter.com/vartatico/status/1644441359544119310?s=46&t=XvGOrrWIyL-5CHVVL_0JYQ


Thanks for the update @rguilmar !

I don't know exactly when it happened (likely the Clasico), but Barca have run away with La Liga. They're 12 points clear at the top. On top of the angst the weekend's Copa collapse caused, getting knocked out of that competition while Madrid keep fighting for UCL and Copa hardware stings.
It’s hard for me to tell how good this Barca team is. Are they the team running away from La Liga or the team that got trounced at home by Real Madrid and failed in Europe? Plus the question of identity- lots of 1-0 wins and very little possession. I’m not criticizing that because a win is a win and a trophy is a trophy, but it’s not what Xavi says he wants from the team either.
 

rguilmar

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Game of the week so far is definitely Villareal coming back to beat Real Madrid at the Bernabéu 3-2. Chukwueze was an absolute monster for the Yellow Submarine with one sublime goal and one absolute golazo. Nacho will be seeing the Nigerian in his nightmares for a while. It was a great game to watch.

View: https://youtu.be/HTaVzrzgpVs


The real fireworks though took place in the parking lot after the game. Fede Valverde apparently went up to Villareal’s Alex Baena and punched him in the face. Allegedly Baena had said something about Valverde’s unborn son during the previous meeting (there were complications during the pregnancy which definitely impacted Valverde’s play for a while). Baena has filed an official complaint and denies saying anything about Valverde’s family.

As La Liga Turns…
 

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Game of the week so far is definitely Villareal coming back to beat Real Madrid at the Bernabéu 3-2. Chukwueze was an absolute monster for the Yellow Submarine with one sublime goal and one absolute golazo. Nacho will be seeing the Nigerian in his nightmares for a while. It was a great game to watch.

View: https://youtu.be/HTaVzrzgpVs


The real fireworks though took place in the parking lot after the game. Fede Valverde apparently went up to Villareal’s Alex Baena and punched him in the face. Allegedly Baena had said something about Valverde’s unborn son during the previous meeting (there were complications during the pregnancy which definitely impacted Valverde’s play for a while). Baena has filed an official complaint and denies saying anything about Valverde’s family.

As La Liga Turns…

Fede will probably face a lengthy suspension, which is understandable. However, if the Baena kid said what is reported, I hope Valverde broke his jaw.
 

rguilmar

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Agree 100%. Perhaps I’m naive but I find it almost impossible that one person would say what Baena is accused of saying to another person. The accusation is that something similar was said again today too. We likely will never know though. I don’t doubt for a second that Valverde believes that is what he heard. He’s been carrying this around for months.
 

rguilmar

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In happier news, rumors are flying around Cataluña that Lamine Yamal is set to make the squad for Barcelona against Girona tomorrow night. He’s a 15 year old striker and would become by the youngest player to play for Barcelona.
 

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In happier news, rumors are flying around Cataluña that Lamine Yamal is set to make the squad for Barcelona against Girona tomorrow night. He’s a 15 year old striker and would become by the youngest player to play for Barcelona.
Following the footsteps of Messi, Bojan, and Ansu...nevermind.
 

rguilmar

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Following the footsteps of Messi, Bojan, and Ansu...nevermind.
Oh man, I remember being so excited for Bojan. He did make a career for himself playing all over Europe and in Montreal (and maybe Japan???). He never came close to the exceedingly and unfairly high expectations though. I still hold out hope for Ansu but I think his time at Barcelona is over. Injuries have really derailed his career.
 

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Oh man, I remember being so excited for Bojan. He did make a career for himself playing all over Europe and in Montreal (and maybe Japan???). He never came close to the exceedingly and unfairly high expectations though. I still hold out hope for Ansu but I think his time at Barcelona is over. Injuries have really derailed his career.
Bojan was my modern introduction to learning how to sift hype from reality. Freddy Adu was the original (speaking personally).

Unrelated, but there was a good article on the CBS App (how is it so good yet so very bad simultaneously??) about how Barca's biggest offseason move needs to be in the medical staff, more so than at manager, squad, or even finance. So many players getting injured and frankly taking too long to recover.
 

rguilmar

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Horrendous miss by Taty Castellanos. I thought he was going to be a sure thing in Europe.

View: https://twitter.com/laliga/status/1645522847094243334
He’s been ok but not great for Girona. He has six goals in 26 matches which isn’t a great return, but it’s second on the team just behind Cristian Stuani. Girona do score quite a few goals- 4th most in La Liga behind the Big Three- and create plenty of chances. That miss though was brutal. What you don’t see in the clip was the two minutes of possession by Girona leading up to the chance. Teams don’t create chances like that too often at the Nou Camp. He absolutely needs to bury that.
 

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rguilmar

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Another great Sid Lowe piece, this one about Lucas Perez paying his own release clause, taking a 90% pay cut, and dropping down two tiers just to go home to Depor. Lowe always seems to capture the essence of Spanish soccer, that it’s more than just the club but the community and region they represent.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/deportivo-la-coruna/story/4923561/lucas-perez-local-boy-come-to-rescue-deportivo-la-coruna

"I don't see this as going to the third division, I see this as going to Deportivo," he insists.

There is something very fitting, very Galician about it. Here, where many go to sea, and many leave, they talk about morriña: the pull of the land, of home, a kind of longing, a nostalgia.


Anyways, big games this weekend include the Basque Derby where Athletic look to avenge their loss to Real Sociedad earlier this season, as well as a relegation six pointer between Valencia and Sevilla. This game is so important that Sevilla rested a bunch of their players against Manchester United.
 

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Barca draw to lowly Getafe paired with a Madrid win tightens the race ever so slightly. Barca looked baaaaaad without Pedri, FDJ, and Dembele. Ansu couldn't even get into the XI.
 

trs

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Barca draw to lowly Getafe paired with a Madrid win tightens the race ever so slightly. Barca looked baaaaaad without Pedri, FDJ, and Dembele. Ansu couldn't even get into the XI.
True, but given Real's fixtures coming up, I can't see them really going after La Liga that seriously. They should mop up and get the Copa del Rey so they can drop it off their team bus again, but with that and upcoming Champions League fixtures, they're playing pretty much twice a week until the end of the season. They're deep, but not as deep as they have been in the past.
 

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True, but given Real's fixtures coming up, I can't see them really going after La Liga that seriously. They should mop up and get the Copa del Rey so they can drop it off their team bus again, but with that and upcoming Champions League fixtures, they're playing pretty much twice a week until the end of the season. They're deep, but not as deep as they have been in the past.
Oh I agree, and frankly it's a pretty big accomplishment if Barca take La Liga over them.
 

trs

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Oh I agree, and frankly it's a pretty big accomplishment if Barca take La Liga over them.
For sure! If only Atletico could have skipped their customary mid-season faffing they would also be in the mix...

More and more news here about a Messi return to Barcelona as well. That would be interesting.
 

rguilmar

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Oh I agree, and frankly it's a pretty big accomplishment if Barca take La Liga over them.
Legit question I have is- how good is this Barcelona team? On the one hand, they got bounced out of Europe early twice, the manager uses the word “suffer” more than any other to describe their games, and they just had back-to-back 0-0 draws for the first time in 18 years or so. On the other hand, they win games and they appear to have locked up La Liga pretty early on.

Anyways, the fun is in the battle for European spots. Three deserving teams for that last UCL. Real Sociedad are deserving because they’re such a well run club, Villarreal are deserving because they have the fourth best squad in Spain, and Betis are deserving because they are entertaining and I do worry about their finances if they don’t get an infusion of cash. Athletic Club have a chance to enter the picture or if Spain gets another European spot.

At the bottom, Elche have been done for a while, but Espanyol and Valencia are in serious trouble. Neither team looks up for the fight. Both brought in club legends as managers, neither of whom has any experience managing a team under this amount of pressure. Valencia are obviously a huge club and going down would be a disaster, but Espanyol is a large club too. They’ve dumped the pro-Spain Franco vibe, though many of the fans are Catalans who favor staying part of Spain (including two of my uncles, one of whom proudly grows fruit which is served at the team’s training complex). They’ve adopted the Catalan spelling of Espanyol along with focusing on developing Catalan players, and I think they routinely have more Catalans on their squad than Barcelona. In short, I don’t really have any problem with them even if the bulk of my family is Barcelona supporting separatists. There are a bunch of teams within striking distance-Almería, Valladolid, Cádiz and a few others.

8th to 14th are the “job basically done” teams who with a hot streak could challenge for Europe but likely will just play out the season comfortably. The exceptions are Sevilla, whose players and manager have to prove they’re worth keeping around, and Osasuna, who are in their second ever final of the Copa del Rey and looking to win their first ever trophy.
 

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Legit question I have is- how good is this Barcelona team? On the one hand, they got bounced out of Europe early twice, the manager uses the word “suffer” more than any other to describe their games, and they just had back-to-back 0-0 draws for the first time in 18 years or so. On the other hand, they win games and they appear to have locked up La Liga pretty early on.

Anyways, the fun is in the battle for European spots. Three deserving teams for that last UCL. Real Sociedad are deserving because they’re such a well run club, Villarreal are deserving because they have the fourth best squad in Spain, and Betis are deserving because they are entertaining and I do worry about their finances if they don’t get an infusion of cash. Athletic Club have a chance to enter the picture or if Spain gets another European spot.

At the bottom, Elche have been done for a while, but Espanyol and Valencia are in serious trouble. Neither team looks up for the fight. Both brought in club legends as managers, neither of whom has any experience managing a team under this amount of pressure. Valencia are obviously a huge club and going down would be a disaster, but Espanyol is a large club too. They’ve dumped the pro-Spain Franco vibe, though many of the fans are Catalans who favor staying part of Spain (including two of my uncles, one of whom proudly grows fruit which is served at the team’s training complex). They’ve adopted the Catalan spelling of Espanyol along with focusing on developing Catalan players, and I think they routinely have more Catalans on their squad than Barcelona. In short, I don’t really have any problem with them even if the bulk of my family is Barcelona supporting separatists. There are a bunch of teams within striking distance-Almería, Valladolid, Cádiz and a few others.

8th to 14th are the “job basically done” teams who with a hot streak could challenge for Europe but likely will just play out the season comfortably. The exceptions are Sevilla, whose players and manager have to prove they’re worth keeping around, and Osasuna, who are in their second ever final of the Copa del Rey and looking to win their first ever trophy.
Totally valid question and I'm not sure about the answer. I think they're a good (mostly) young squad, with a young, promising, but inexperienced manager. Getting the D sorted out has been a process that's taken years. Araujo has really cemented himself as the leader of the backline and if I had to guess, the team more broadly. But the other 3 defensive positions have really come together too with Balde, Kounde, and to a lesser extent Christensen establishing themselves as players for now and the future. If they can keep that group together, they have time to coalesce and be a solid platform for the club to build on going forward.

In the MF, we've seen nice improvement from FDJ (finally showing signs of blossoming at Barca), Gavi (unreal what he's doing at his age), and Pedri (logging more minutes this year but breaking down again), while the club are still getting useful minutes although far too many from Busi. Kessie's played pretty well IMO, but they really need to feature him more alongside FDJ next year in a double pivot to get the most out of both of them.

Up front it feels like it's been the most underwhelming. Lewa has been solid but let the team down in European competition, Dembele has looked good but is dealing with injuries, Raphinha has been promising but without enough end product, Ferran is having another season of 'everything but the finish', and I can't bring myself to talk about Ansu because it makes me too sad.

I've written quite a bit and yet haven't (and won't) touched on Alba, Alonso, Roberto, or Garcia--all of which have already logged 1500+ minutes this season. We've seen another good season trending in the right direction from MATS, so that's good.

Assuming Barca can finish out the season with the La Liga trophy, it will have been a bumpy, slightly underachieving, but ultimately successful (IMO) season for Xavi. I'm sure many won't see it that way considering the resources put into the squad, but he's still a young manager and this squad isn't totally coherent. I really can't overstate how dominant the D has been in La Liga this season. They've conceded 9 goals (!!!!) over 29 games, and have a GD of +44. That bears repeating--they've only conceded 9 goals in 29 games this season. No 2 leagues are the same, but among the big 5 leagues the next best defensive record is Lazio with 20, Atleti with 21, Napoli with 21, Newcastle with 24, and so on. I didn't consider that a Xavi side would hang their hat on defensive record, but there you have it. OTOH, while Lewa's likely going to win the Pichichi, Barca just aren't scoring nearly enough. They're 8 behind Madrid and more importantly ~20 goals behind the elite clubs across Europe.
 

trs

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Assuming Barca can finish out the season with the La Liga trophy, it will have been a bumpy, slightly underachieving, but ultimately successful (IMO) season for Xavi. I'm sure many won't see it that way considering the resources put into the squad, but he's still a young manager and this squad isn't totally coherent. I really can't overstate how dominant the D has been in La Liga this season. They've conceded 9 goals (!!!!) over 29 games, and have a GD of +44. That bears repeating--they've only conceded 9 goals in 29 games this season. No 2 leagues are the same, but among the big 5 leagues the next best defensive record is Lazio with 20, Atleti with 21, Napoli with 21, Newcastle with 24, and so on. I didn't consider that a Xavi side would hang their hat on defensive record, but there you have it. OTOH, while Lewa's likely going to win the Pichichi, Barca just aren't scoring nearly enough. They're 8 behind Madrid and more importantly ~20 goals behind the elite clubs across Europe.
Agreed here on all accounts. Barcelona were certainly not a favorite to win the League nor have a world-class defense. The 9 goals in 29 games is a feat. In terms of scoring it's been odd for them. Their recent dry spell is surprising and they definitely found the back of the net a lot more in the first part of the season. They should see out the league but their remaining schedule does have a few challenges in it with games against Atleti, Betis, and Real Sociedad, but those are all at home, where they've given up a whopping 2 goals all year long. Real Madrid will be focusing on Champions and may not push so hard in La Liga, and Atleti is just too far out to really make a difference unless Barca really fall apart.

I'm actually going to attend the Barcelona / Betis game and am looking forward to it. Betis haven't really been lighting up any scoreboards either, so I may be in for a 1-0 tactical game, but Betis need points and aren't far from 4th.
 

rguilmar

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I'm actually going to attend the Barcelona / Betis game and am looking forward to it. Betis haven't really been lighting up any scoreboards either, so I may be in for a 1-0 tactical game, but Betis need points and aren't far from 4th.
I’m pretty damn jealous of you. One of the last games at the Camp Nou for a while, and I’d expect quite a few Béticos to be in attendance.

Betis really like to attack but have been undone by a couple of things. Injuries and suspensions for players like Fekir, Juanmi, and Cáñales- who just served a suspension and is looking at another four game ban- have hurt their creativity in the final third. Beyond that though, they are far and away the leaders in red cards in the big five leagues with 12! For comparison, there have been 28 this season in the EPL total. They’re not a dirty team with among the fewest fouls committed and fewest yellow cards. But they get caught out a bit because they press so high, they lose their collective minds at times, and probably have had some bad luck too. It’s hard to score with ten or fewer players on the field.
 

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It felt like it was coming. Girona create a boatload of chances and score quite a few goals. They’re much more likely to lose 3-2 than 1-0. And Taty seems to always be to be heavily involved in chances that the ghost stats don’t pick up, like his foot just barely missed the ball or he was just barely offside (at a Moratta-esque rate at times). But that he got 4 against Real Madrid? Did not see that coming.

La Liga had been pretty compact for much of the season but gaps are emerging. No Hay Liga as Barca wrapped it up early. Sociedad have seemingly righted the ship to but some breathing room between themselves and the chasing pack for 4th. Assuming Real Madrid win the Copa, then it’s just a matter of how 5-7 shake themselves out and who goes to the Europa League and who goes to the Conference League (Betis, Villareal, Athletic Club with Osasuna sneaking up). Of course, that’s a big assumption given that Osasuna are playing well and Madrid just let in four goals to Castellanos. And someone can correct me, but if Sevilla somehow win their invitational, aka the Europa League, Spain will get eight teams into Europe.

At the bottom, Elche are down, and will be joined by two of likely five teams- Valencia, Espanyol, Almería, Getafe, and Cádiz. I’d rather not see Valencia or Espanyol go down, despite the entertainment value for Zoso if the other Barcelona team were to be relegated. I’m always intrigued by Cadiz fans and their bromance with Rayo, both being far left supporters groups, so I’d keep them too. I have no hate for Almería, but they’re just a “meh” club to me. Getafe would be reunited with their south Madrid rivals Leganés, and I do love me a good Derby. Of course, the chaos created by a Valencia relegation would be unmatched, not that I want to see it.
 

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Valencia got a stunner from 19 year old local academy product Javi Guerra in added time to beat Valladolid 2-1. The game had been a comedy of errors up to that point- Diakhaby literally taking his eye off the ball and letting old friend Cyle Larin go in 1v1 against the GK to score only for Diakhaby himself to equalize on a header that the Valladolid GK let go in because he thought it was going wide.

In uncomfortable news for us USMNT fans, Larin has actually been really good in La Liga. 6 goals and 2 assists in 12 appearances ain't a bad rate of return, especially when you realize he didn't start for many of those appearances. I'd pay good money for a Yank to be doing that in La Liga.
 

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Results I just don't get from the midweek games:
Taty 4 Real Madrid 2
Almeria 2 Getafe 1- Almeria win their first road game of the season and Quique Sanchez Flores gets the axe at Getafe
Rayo 2 Barca 1- Rayo get 4 points off of Barca this season which is actually worse than last season where they topped the Blaugrana twice! It was another example of "Don't mess with Rayo's Garcia's" as both of the left sided players scored. Sergino Dest learned this lesson the hard way last season and his professional career hasn't recovered since that game.

Down in La Liga SmartBank five teams are within four points of first place (Eibar, Alaves, Granada, Las Palmas and Levante), Real Oviedo are making their usual late season surge but unfortunately it's enough to escape the drop but not really get into the promotion playoff spots. Malaga are in real trouble of the drop down to the purgatory of the third tier, which would be a shame as it's a big club with great fans and a nice stadium. Of course, if they survive it will be at the cost of Racing Santander or Sporting Gijon who also have great fans and stadiums (at least Gijon has a great stadium).

Speaking of the third tier, there are 40 teams and only 4 get promoted, Real Madrid killers Alcorcon among the potential promoted teams as is Deportivo la Coruna who might very well end up facing rival Celta Vigo's B team in a playoff. Barcelona B, Madrid B, and JoGo's Real Sociedad B teams are in the mix too.