Barcelona slump presents Real Madrid with an opportunity

It’s been a peculiar start to the 2019/20 season in Spain. Before a ball was kicked, predictions were made of a tight title race at the top of La Liga that would take many twists and turns over the course of the campaign. That has so far materialised, but not in the way most expected.

Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid have all suffered faltering starts to the season. Diego Simeone, Ernesto Valverde and Zinedine Zidane have all come under pressure and have all fielded questions over their ailing teams. Just one point separates the three sides at the top of La Liga, but that is a picture of their struggles so far rather than their strength.

This week, the picture is bleakest for Barcelona. The Catalans looked to be finally hitting their stride with five consecutive victories and Lionel Messi finding something close to his best form again, but that rise has been stunted by a shock defeat to Levante at the weekend followed by an insipid 0-0 draw at home to Slavia Prague in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Atletico Madrid are also toiling, winning just two of their last six fixtures in all competitions. Meanwhile, Real Madrid might well be the team in the best shape at this moment. They suffered a shock loss to Real Mallorca before the last international break, but have responded with wins over Galatasaray and Leganes, although the weekend’s draw at home to Real Betis was below-par.

Barcelona’s slump presents Real Madrid with an opportunity to really kick-start their season. Injuries have eased for the capital club in recent weeks and Zidane is now able to pick something close to his full-strength team. Karim Benzema is in goalscoring form, while there are signs that Eden Hazard is starting to grow accustomed to his new surroundings.

Real Madrid take on Galatasaray at home in the Champions League on Wednesday. A win is required after a poor start to their European campaign, but there would be a larger significance to three points for Los Merengues. It would show that they are starting to build something. They might be a long way from being the finished product, the finished article, but there is at least some signs of progress. The same can’t be said for Atletico Madrid and Barcelona right now.

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Why Real Madrid are getting better every week under Zinedine Zidane

For Real Madrid there will be enquiries into why their Champions League campaign has not started off on the front foot, but in the league everything seems to be taking shape, with coach Zinedine Zidane perhaps in the midst of his most difficult and testing season.

Last night Real could only draw with Belgian side Club Brugges at the Santiago Bernabeu which led to the inevitable boos, though in truth the match, which finished 2-2, would have felt like a small victory after the home side found themselves 2-0 down.

That match followed their first game in the group stages where they were easily beaten by PSG in Paris by 3-0. The defeat in Paris was probably overblown- a lot of very good teams are going to lose their this season, true the result wasn’t good but it wasn’t catastrophic either. What followed felt much more important.

So it was back to La Liga where Madrid had been making heavy weather of their results, to be fair eternal rivals Barcelona were too. But the fixture list did not look good for Zidane’s men. Following the PSG defeat they would have to play early front runners Sevilla away from home and also stay on the road to play the derby against Atletico Madrid, a side genuinely after the La Liga title this season.

Many thought that down south in Spain, Madrid would falter and yet they didn’t-they won and kept a clean sheet to boot. The final score reflected the closeness of the game with a 1-0 result, but that was still 3 massive points for Los Blancos.

The next match was set up as two genuine rivals for the league went head to head in Madrid, and that match ended 0-0 with the majority of the game being a midfield battle which became quite fascinating to watch. Eden Hazard in particular was given praise for getting physically stuck into the match. Hazard has arguably struggled this season for the club despite coming back from injury, but he should improve over time.

The draw at Atletico has suddenly put Madrid on top of the standings, albeit on goal difference and a top squeeze down to 5th place but still amongst all the criticism’s and the bla bla bla, Madrid under Zidane are top of the league and that is all that matters.

There will, of course, be more twists and turns and Madrid do not look like the polished finished article just yet. But with Gareth Bale to come back from injury and some emerging talent in the form of Rodrygo et all there is a lot of hope for Madrid. They need to steady that Champions League ship though.

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A preview of gameweek 5 in LaLiga

Football, football, football.

Here is our preview of all ten games in LaLiga this coming weekend.

Osasuna v Real Betis

Key men: Roberto Torres (Osasuna); Nabil Fekir (Real Betis)

Prediction: Osasuna 1 – 1 Real Betis Continue reading

Atletico Madrid has its best chance at a LaLiga title in six years

Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid team has started its LaLiga campaign in the best possible fashion – three wins from its opening three games.

As such, Atleti is the only team with a 100% record in Spanish football’s top flight after just three games.

Coming up on his 8th year anniversary of being in charge at the club, Simeone will know that what they have achieved in the early stages of 2019/20 is no mean feat.

While Barcelona and Real Madrid have stumbled and stuttered over the early hurdles, Los Rojiblancos have gone about their business in a typical steady fashion. Continue reading

This weekend’s fantasy LaLiga suggestions

Two rounds in, thirty-six to go. What tales has LaLiga in store for us between now and next May?

It’s time to look ahead to the upcoming games in Spanish football’s top tier as you decide on what changes, if any, to make in fantasy LaLiga.

Have a read and see if any tips stick out which might suit your fantasy LaLiga team this weekend.

Goalkeeper – Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid) – 11.0 million

Always a great choice, Jan Oblak will be confident of another clean sheet against Eibar. Continue reading

Barcelona thrash Real Betis as Antoine Griezmann arrives for the champions

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez injured for another game, the focus was on two things in La Liga: 1) How would Barcelona react after losing their first game of the season against Athletic Bilbao, 2) How would Antoine Griezmann perform?

Thankfully the Frenchman announce his arrival for the Spanish league champions and did it in style as Barcelona thrashed Real Betis 5-2 at the Camp Nou. Griezmann scored a brace and looked delighted to get off his mark with the club. The pressure was already growing for the World Cup winner after a move from Atletico Madrid which had cost the Catalan Giants over 100m euros. His first game for the club was poor and when Nabil Fekir opened the scoring for Betis it seemed as if Barcelona and Griezmann would be in real trouble.

They say timing is everything and in football it means a lot when you can equalise just before half time, it was scrappy and seemed to come off of Griezmann’s shin, but that mattered little, the fans were delighted for him and that goal seemed to reenergise the player who went on to have a very confident second half which led to him scoring again, a cracking goal too that swept into the net.

For many Griezmann was the man of the match and it mattered with the likes of Messi, Suarez and Ousmane Dembele out with injury. One wonders where Barca would be in the league had they not signed Griezmann? But what he did at the weekend was step up. It seems incredible to think that just 2 games in the pressure was massive on Griezmann to perform but this is what it is like at clubs like Barcelona, had he put in a no show again at home and Barca lost or even drew as a result, fans would have been venting their anger. But the storm has been calmed, caught in a tube and thrown away, and Griezmann and Barcelona can now look forward to their next game.

As for the league table it’s strange to see Barcelona in 9th place, though there has only been 2 games played. Sevilla and Griezmann’s former team Atletico Madrid top the league standings as they have won both of their opening games.

Barcelona’s next game will be against Osasuna. On paper that seems like 3 points but this game is away from home in Basque County just like the Bilbao match was a few weeks ago. Basque teams have an uncanny ability to turn it on against the likes of Barca and Real Madrid, and Barcelona will have to be on their game to get anything in that encounter.

One thing is for sure, it should be a cracking game.

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Could Zidane quit Real Madrid for a second time?

Real Madrid’s objectives are always the same, to win every trophy they are in. But that has had to change after last seasons nightmare, chaotic turn of events that saw Zinedine Zidane quit the club and then they went through two different managers in the space of 8 months as they failed on all fronts, something had to change and surprisingly Zidane was back in, he had stepped in so to speak to save Florentino Perez’s presidency.

All was set to be recharged this season, Zidane would have the money to spend, the great one was back, he who had won 3 Champions League’s in a row. However no one at the club was counting on the Gareth Bale factor. It was simple Zidane wanted to sell the Welshman, he was in no way shape or form in his plans. With a Chinese move imminent where Bale would earn a staggering 1m a week, it was Perez of all people who pulled the plug. He quite rightly recongnised Bale’s qualities and refused the sale of him. Now Zidane was stuck with him.

At that point after such determination to get rid of Bale, Zidane could have walked, his excuse this time being that he was undermined. But that never happened and he stayed as the beginning of the season took hold and Madrid had problems away to Celta Vigo before powering through 3-1, which included an assist by Bale for Madrid’s opening goal.

At the weekend against Valladolid, Madrid were 1/7 to win the game, this is a team they used to stick 6 plus goals past when playing at the Santiago Bernabeu, this time they drew 1-1. They were leading 1-0 for the majority of the game before a player whose surname would ring moans and groans throughout the Madrid fans ears scored, his name Mr. Guardiola- no, you really couldn’t make it up.

It’s so early in the season that it would be harsh to judge Zidane and Madrid, and time is needed. But La Liga is a league where 3 teams are going for the title in themselves, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. And, as previous seasons have proven there is hardly any measure of error in Spanish football, you drop points especially at home and you lose league titles.

If the rot continues and remember this is one game, but if results don’t come in and if Bale underperforms like he did at the weekend, could Zidane just think that he was right and leave the club. Crazier things have happened and it wouldn’ t be a surprise. Patience is thin at Madrid and Zidane isn’t one of those that waits around to be sacked. The next six weeks will be telling if he walks for a second time.

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Preview of all this weekend’s LaLiga action

There were some shocks in the opening round of games of the LaLiga season.

Athletic Bilbao scored a late winner to take all three points from league champions Barcelona. A night Antoine Griezmann and co will look to forget as soon as they can.

Real Madrid looked solid in their 3-1 win at Celta Vigo, even without Eden Hazard. Karim Benzema certainly hit the ground running for Zinedine Zidane’s side.

Atletico Madrid and Sevilla both started with three points from their games while Villarreal and Granada played out an enthralling 4-4 draw at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

This weekend, LaLiga again has games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Continue reading

LaLiga fantasy picks for the opening weekend of the season in Spain

LaLiga returns this Friday night when Atheltic Bilbao welcome the reigning champions to San Mames.

Will anyone be able to stop Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez and co from winning Barcelona’s third successive Spanish league title?

As always, we’ve taken a look at the fixtures from a LaLiga fantasy football viewpoint to help you with your picks for the first weekend of the season.

Have a read and see if any tips stick out which might suit your fantasy LaLiga team this weekend. Continue reading

Difficult season ahead for Diego Simeone’s Atleti

Diego Simeone

They may have just broken their transfer record fee for Benfica’s Joao Felix but Atletico Madrid are facing a season of huge transition in 2019/20

Now almost eight years in charge at the club, Simeone could be facing one of his toughest years yet.

As well as Felix, Atleti have also brought in Marcos Llorente from their cross-city rivals and central-defender Felipe from FC Porto.

However, they have lost Rodri to Manchester City, Lucas Hernandez to FC Bayern in the Bundesliga, Gelson Martins to AS Monaco and, possibly most importantly of all, Diego Godin to Inter Milan in Serie A. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll also Continue reading