Getafe set for shock European return

Getafe

As La Liga enters it’s final stages of the 2018-19 season, the shake up for European qualification is beginning to take shape – with Getafe a surprise candidate to finish in the qualification spots.

The side from South Madrid have maintained their consistent form since December 2018, with just two La Liga defeats in their last 11 league games – against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Jose Bordalas’ side are currently in fifth place and in prime position to qualify for European football for the first time since 2011.

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Barcelona face tough run, as Real Madrid mount challenge

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Defending La Liga champions are facing a tough run of fixtures in domestic and European action, just as bitter rivals Real Madrid are preparing a late bid for the league title.

Ernesto Valverde’s side have drawn their last two league games, against Valencia and Athletic Bilbao, dropping four key points, in the same fortnight that Santiago Solari’s team have beaten Alaves and Atletico Madrid.

That has nudged Los Blancos ahead of their city rivals as the Catalan side’s main challengers, and the current leaders will be looking over their shoulder.

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From Hazard to Dybala and possibly Neymar Real Madrid need to buy big next season

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By their incredible standards Real Madrid have looked their most fragile and normal for the first time in a good decade. It has been a season of transition for the club who came into this season without Ronaldo and with Zinedine Zidane resigning. It has felt a little empty for a side who have won the last 3 Champions League trophies.

Let’s be honest something has felt off about the club, where was the mega signings? Because look around and you will see that Florentino Perez is still around, he who invented the original galacticos and made sure that Madrid kept signing the very best players- sometimes it worked sometimes it didn’t- yes we all remember Thomas Gravesen.

This season was clearly a breather- so much had happened in such a short space of time at Madrid then everyone needed it. And yet the club find themselves just 6 points behind league leaders Barcelona, are in the semi finals of the Copa del Rey, have won the World Club Cup and have one foot in the quarter finals of the Champions League- things really are not that bad at the club, are they?

Madrid though will be having a summer of upheaval, there is no secret about that. Coach Santiago Solari is only staying if he is able to win a trophy and the Copa del Rey may not be enough for  a side who are used to winning bigger trophies. But it is the players that the club will be bringing in which is raising the most eyebrows.

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Madrid have been flirting with each other ever since the World Cup ended last summer and Hazard has made no secret of where he would like to play next season. With his current club Chelsea looking like they might hit a meltdown under current coach Maurizio Sarri, Hazard may just be able to find the perfect excuse to leave. He is very much expected to leave what ever happens at Chelsea.

Paulo Dybala is another leading candidate to join Los Blancos, it what would be seen as more of a shock move after his successful career at Juventus, but Dybala the class player that he is should be able to fit into Madrid with few problems.

Then there is the real shock move which could happen this summer- the transfer of Neymar from PSG- could it really happen? Neymar would be gold for Madrid and a big loss for PSG. But what about the Barcelona fans? Last time a big name player switched clubs- Luis Figo from Barcelona to Real Madrid fans started a riot ending with a pigs head on the pitch.

Neymar would be the key for Madrid going forward, although Hazard may see Neymar as a threat as he wants to be the shining light at the club- One thing is for certain, this summer will be an incredibly interesting one at the circus that is Real Madrid.

 

Real Madrid fans are wrong to turn on Gareth Bale

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If any player deserves myth status at Real Madrid currently than you could do no more wrong in suggesting that accolade should go to Gareth Bale. But it seems that every time Bale makes an error it is this the fans are remembering him for and not his greatness as a player.

Let’s be blunt, Bale has become the best ever British import- he has joined Real Madrid, competed in a side with Cristiano Ronaldo, scored countless goals- most of them important ones and most of them awe inspiring and has won so many trophies that it is easy to lose count of them all. But for some reason that doesn’t matter diddly to Madrid fans.

Madrid’s fans have always been very hard to please. Especially if you are a player of flair- even Ronaldo has been booed at the club before, and if he can be then anyone can. But these are fans that probably wish the likes of Roy Keane had played for the club. The harder you are the more loyal you are etc etc.

It’s not that the fans do not like Bale, and any of them would have to admit he has been one of the best foreign players the club have had in their last 25 years, but they won’t let things lie down. So when Bale missed a sitter against Atletico Madrid that was brought to the forefront so much so that Spanish daily reported on it, is Bale in crisis at Madrid moment? What was bizarre is that Bale scored in that game and Madrid won 3-1, which has consequently brought them  back into the league.

But this is Madrid fans in a nutshell, they did the same to another British player-who scored important goals and won 2 Champions Leagues, Steve McManaman. Now the ex Liverpool player is welcomed back at the Bernabeu with open arms and you get the feeling that once Bale leaves the club and the years go on and retirement comes, Bale will be seen as a very important figure at the club. Surely that was cemented last summer when he came off the bench in the Champions League final and scored an incredible bicycle kick against Liverpool- and let’s be honest it was his involvement in the game that ended up winning Real Madrid their 3rd consecutive Champions League title.

Madrid fans will never change- but they need to show Bale a little bit more respect- after all he is the best player they have at the moment.

Are Barcelona hitting poor form at the wrong time?

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Even before the new Spanish league started Barcelona were installed as favourites. The bookmakers were not silly and realised that too much had changed at Real Madrid for them to compete this season, no Zidane and no Ronaldo meant transition and then Julen Lopetegui was sacked and the best Madrid could muster was Santiago Solari to steer the ship until the end of the season. Madrid looked doomed and Barcelona looked set on to win yet another league title.

And so the title played out that way, at one point just a few months back, Barcelona had gone 10 points clear of Real Madrid, and then February happened.

With 23 games played and 15 more still to go Barcelona are in 1st place but the gap is not just 6 points. Real Madrid have swallowed 40% of that gap up after going their last 5 games in a row unbeaten and winning all of those matches. Of course it’s not as if Barcelona have started to lose games because they haven’t. They have lost just 2 all season. But they have drawn their last two, which in the league can really affect your standing.

First there was the 2-2 draw at home to Valencia and that was followed up by a disappointing 0-0 result away to Athletic Bilbao, where the team including Lionel Messi gave a listless display. That same weekend Real Madrid had just beaten rivals Atletico Madrid in their classic derby by 3-1 which has made all the difference to the league standings. And of course it has been 3 games in total without a win for Barca who also drew 1-1 in their Copa del Rey match with Real Madrid.

The league then is all to play for, even Atletico have a chance as they are just a point behind Real. After that there is no chance for the others. But can Barcelona hold their nerve in what was supposed to be a write off season for Real, who now has a second wind?

Well let’s be honest and say that Barcelona are still in the driving seat. They have the most points, have scored the most goals and have conceded just 23 all season. They are still the team to beat but not many people thought that it would end up being this hard, and they have made heavy weather of it somewhat.

Next weekend they will play 15th place Valladolid at Nou Camp and will be massive favourites to beat a team who have won just 3 games on the road all season and won none of their last four matches away from home. Meanwhile Real Madrid will be trying to keep up the chase when they take on Girona at home, both will be expected to win and one could well think that this league could go down to the last couple of matches. Watch this space.

Vidal will get his chance for revenge

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After not being able to overcome eternal rivals, Real Madrid, in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, Barcelona were dealt a further blow with the news that Arthur Melo has been ruled out for 3-4 weeks.

The Brazilian has been an incredible success story since his arrival from Gremio, to the extent that there are now genuine concerns as to how successful Barca will be in his absence.

He has given the Catalans an extra layer of security thanks to his ball retention and willingness to set the tempo and rhythm of a game, and they’ll certainly miss his input. Continue reading

Malcom has posed Valverde a few questions…

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The big games need big performances, and with Lionel Messi only on the bench for Barcelona against Real Madrid in midweek, Ernesto Valverde was counting on Malcom doing the business.

Perhaps the situation was forced upon him by Ousmane Dembele’s injury, because were the Frenchman fit then we would surely have seen him take his place on the right hand side of a front three.

As it was, his omission gave Malcom the chance to get some much-needed minutes under his belt and, hopefully, show the Catalans what he was capable of. Continue reading

Philippe Coutinho the odd man out at Barcelona

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It has now been over a year since Philippe Coutinho became the world’s second most expensive player in the history of football. The Brazilian moved to Barcelona from Liverpool in a deal which cost a potential total of €160m, has already won three medals at the club and enjoyed many decisive moments yet there is speculation over his future.

Across the playmaker’s first 22 appearances in Spanish football he found the net ten times, yet only six more goals have followed in the following 28 outings for the Catalan giants. Coutinho has faced dilemmas both on and off the pitch, trying to force his way into a star-studded attack while settling into a new culture and language. Continue reading

Vinicius Junior provides spark for Real Madrid attack

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Only a fortnight after making his debut as a teenager with Flamengo, Vinicius Junior was making football headlines around the world. The Brazilian penned a new contract with his club before his €45m release clause was met by Real Madrid with many questioning the price of the deal for someone with such little experience.

That move came before Neymar – who Vinicius has said is his ‘idol’ – left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a world record €222m move. Indeed, at the time the 17-year-old was at the time the second highest fee for a Brazilian footballer, behind only Neymar’s switch from Santos to the Camp Nou. Continue reading

Sevilla must address miserable away form

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Back in November there were fanciful suggestions that Sevilla could challenge for this season’s La Liga title. Those questions have long since vanished and the question is now whether they can maintain their position in the top four this season.

This would still represent success for the club of course, yet despite having a relatively strong campaign to date there are a number of underlying issues which continually reoccur to undermine their loftier ambitions. Saturday’s loss at Celta Vigo ensured they still had not won away from home in the league since September and they are now 14 points off the top. Continue reading