La Liga: Best 11 Players of the Weekend: Matchday 6

Barcelona lost and Real Madrid lost, repeat and repeat but the big two clubs lost and for now La Liga feels quite unpredictable. At least Barcelona can say they lost away from home against a tough team in Getafe. But what is Madrid’s excuse? Losing at home to Cadiz was probably the biggest shock in European football this weekend.

So Real Sociedad are top of the league after winning back to back games and Villarreal are only in 2nd place due to goal difference. Everything is to play for so let’s take a look at which players made the final cut of 11, maybe you will recognise a few in your fantasy picks?

Goalkeeper: Remiro- Real Sociedad 7pts

Whilst Getafe’s and Cadiz’s goal keepers could have made the final cut for keeping a clean sheet against Barcelona and Real Madrid it is worth noting that the clubs had 3 shots on target between them. Remiro gets the nod after Real Sociedad impressed again in a 3-0 win and that is Remiro’s 4th clean sheet already this season and he now has 28 points.

Defender: Dimitri Foulquier- Granada 6pts

Dimitri Foulquier earned 6pts at the weekend as Granada beat Sevilla 1-0. He did get booked but helped to keep a clean sheet and also assisted in the winning goal.

Defender: Paulo Oliveira- Eibar 5pts

Oliveira had a great game making some decisions that kept a clean sheet for Eibar, as the club, playing at home, drew 0-0 with Osasuna. He is valued at 5m and now has 8pts

Defender: Damian Suarez- Getafe 5pts

Damian Suarez had to keep alert to keep Barcelona out as Getafe recorded a famous 1-0 victory at home against the Catalan giants. Suarez was solid at the back and really led his team well to minimise Barcelona’s threat on goal.

Defender: Cala- Cadiz 5pts

Cadiz continued their brilliant start to the season by beating Real Madrid 1-0 at the Bernabeu and defender Cala was the best of the bunch at the back keeping Madrid fairly quiet.

Midfielder: Portu- Real Sociedad 6pts

Yet again Portu makes the final 11 cut after another dazzling display by Sociedad. The club beat Real Betis 3-0 away from home and Portu scored the opening goal. His team are now top of La Liga

Midfielder: Pere Milla- Elche 6pts

Pere Milla scored the opening goal as Elche playing away from home beat Alaves 2-0. Milla controlled the ball well in midfield and to get a goal and set up his team for victory was icing on the cake.

Midfielder: Yannick Carrasco- Atletico Madrid 6pts

Atletico Madrid recorded a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo and for much of the game the score was only 1-0, but Carrasco scored in injury time to finally confirm the win. Atletico have started the season unbeaten and will be one of the favourites to win the league.

Midfielder: Adnan Januzaj- Real Sociedad 6pts

A brilliant 3-0 win for Sociedad against Real Betis was capped off by a good goal from Januzaj who rounded off the win by grabbing the clubs 3rd goal. He is valued at 6.5m is looks like being a very reliable capture.

Striker: Mikel Oyarzabal- Real Sociedad 6pts

There’s quite a flurry of Real Sociedad players making this weeks list and for good reason, right now Sociedad are the best club in Spain. Oyarzabal assisted in the opening goal of the game and then scored the 2nd from the penalty spot.

Striker: Luis Suarez- Atletico Madrid 4pts

Luis Suarez has already been hit and miss for Atletico but when he is on fire there is no stopping him. Suraez was integral to this game as he opened the scoring for Atletico in a game that they eventually won 2-0, and he now was 3 goals and one assist already this season.

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La Liga: Best 11 Players of Matchday 5

The champions Real Madrid are back on top of the league after they overcame Levante. Surprise package Real Betis bounced back from back to back defeats to beat Valencia away from home and Barcelona could only draw at home against Sevilla in a tense match.

But which players performed the best over the weekend? Let’s take a look below.

Formation 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois- Real Madrid 7pts

Thibaut Courtois made some vital saves as Real Madrid beat Levante 2-0. The home side had 11 goal attempts and 4 of those were on target as Levante gave Madrid a more difficult match than they had anticipated. Courtois now has 19 points for the season.

Defender: Facundo Roncaglia- Osasuna 11pts

Facundo Roncaglia earned 11 points as Osasuna beat Celta Vigo 2-0. It was a perfect weekend for the player who had struggled with points up until now. Not only did he score the opening goal but he assisted in the 2nd and of course kept a clean sheet.

Defender: Sergio Ramos- Real Madrid 10pts

Sergio Ramos is used to making player of the weekend teams. And he was solid as Real Madrid beat Levante 2-0 away from home. He made some vital interceptions and contributed well to the game.

Defender: Kieran Trippier- Atletico Madrid 10pts

Kieran Trippier has impressed in Spain and he was part of a defence that kept a clean sheet. The problem is it was more points dropped for the club who have drawn back to back games. This time at the weekend it was against Villarreal.

Defender: Raphael Varane- Real Madrid 10pts

Varane has come under fire last season and sometimes in this one. But on his day he is one of the best defenders in Europe. He earned maximum clean sheet points as Real Madrid beat Levante 2-0. He is valued at 8m.

Midfielder: Philippe Coutinho- Barcelona 8pts

Coutinho is back with Barcelona after his loan spell at Bayern Munich and it is hoped that he is re focused to perform better with the club. He did his job well at the weekend as the club came back from 1-0 down to Sevilla to draw 1-1 and Coutinho got the equaliser.

Midfielder: Portu- Real Sociedad 6pts

For the 2nd week in a row Portu has made the player of the weekend team line up. Portu scored Real Sociedad’s last goal as they beat Getafe 3-0 and the player looks like being an important one for the season ahead.

Midfielder: Sergi Roberto- Barcelona 6pts

Sergio Roberto had a solid game for Barcelona as they navigated a difficult test at home to Sevilla. He is valued at 7m and now has a total of 8pts for the season so far.

Midfielder: Edgar- Alaves 6pts

Edgar had a decent game as Alaves beat Bilbao 1-0, though sadly for the player he did have to go and could have a  possible injury. When playing he did keep his guard well and helped maintain a tight line that ultimately kept a clean sheet and 3 valuable points for the side.

Striker: Karim Benzema- Real Madrid 4pts

Benzema struck again and it was an important goal as Real Madrid were only winning the game 1-0. This 2nd goal finished the game off as a contest It was important for the usually prolific striker too as it was his first of the season.

Striker: Vinicius Junior- Real Madrid 8pts

Vinicius Junior scored his 2nd goal of the season and Real Madrid’s opening one. Could this be the season that Junior breaks out, as he has been hyped up for the last 18 months. His current value is a bargain looking 6m.

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La Liga: Best 11 Players of Matchday 3

It’s officially the 3rd week of the Spanish season but this was the first game that Barcelona were involved in and they didn’t disappoint as they swathed aside Villarreal 4-0.

Champions Real Madrid came back from a losing position to stun Real Betis and win 3-2 in a very entertaining game. But the man taking all of the headlines will be Luis Suarez, who scored 2 goals for his new club Atletico Madrid as they crushed Granada 6-1.

Let’s take a look below at the best 11 players this past weekend, did any of them make your team?

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Norberto Neto- Barcelona 7pts

Credit need to be given to Norberto Neto who usually doesn’t get much game time for Barcelona. He joined last season but this was only his 3rd game for the club. Barcelona were clearly the superior team as they demolished Villarreal 4-0 but Neto still had a job to do and kept composed and got his clean sheet.

Defender: Jordi Alba- Barcelona 7pts

Jordi Alba was part of a defence that kept a clean sheet as Barcelona easily beat Villarreal 4-0 at home. Alba also assisted in Barca’s first goal of the game, and their first of the season and it was another solid game for him.

Defender: Xabier Etxeita- Getafe 5pts

Xabier Etxeita earned 5pt as he helped keep a clean sheet for his club Getafe as they drew 0-0 with Alaves, he is valued at just 3m and could be a bargain pick if he can keep up his performances throughout the season.

Defender: Clement Lenglet- Barcelona 5pts

Lenglet was criticised last season in an overall poor season that his club Barcelona had. Of course this wasn’t all his fault and the defender put in an assured performance as he helped keep a clean sheet in Barca’s win over Villarreal which they won 4-0.

Defender: Ruben Duarte- Alaves 5pts

Ruben Duarte put in a good shift at home as Alaves were able to pick up a point with a 0-0 draw against Getafe. It wasn’t the best of games but Duarte showed his qualities and made a few very good interceptions during the game. Because he was in minus points before, these 5pts have helped him and he now has a total of 4pts.

Midfielder: Angel Correa- Atletico Madrid 8pts

Atletico Madrid were superb in beating Granada 6-1 and Angel Correa was at the heart of the action in midfield. Correa assisted in 2 of the six goals and was a constant threat in his position. He is valued at 7.5m.

Midfielder: Unai Lopez- Athletic Bilbao 8pts

Unai Lopez had a great game in midfield for Bilbao and scored both of their goals grabbing the three points as Bilbao beat Eibar impressively away from home by 2-1.

Midfielder: Portu- Real Sociedad 6pts

Portu had a solid game as he opened the scoring for Real Sociedad and made brilliant use of possession in midfield. Sociedad went onto beat Elche 3-0 at the weekend. Portu is valued at 8.5m and has an overall score of 8 points so far this season.

Midfielder: Marcos Llorente- Atletico Madrid 6pts

A brilliant game for Marcos Llorente in midfield who scored Atletico’s 4th goal in their 6-1 win over Granada. He was all over the pitch- in a good way and it was no surprise in the end that he also assisted in another goal.

Striker: Luis Suarez- Atletico Madrid 10pts

What a debut for Luis Suarez who signed from Barcelona just a few weeks ago. Not only did he see his new team score 6 goals in their first league game of the season, he scored a brace. What made his debut more impressive is that he only came on for the last 20 minutes. He is valued at 15m.

Striker: Anssumane Fati- Barcelona 8pts

Anssumane Fati seems like a striker worth keeping an eye on, he had a very decent last season and has started this one in great form. He scored 2 of Barcelona’s 4 goals against Villarreal and they were the opening two goals which effectively killed off the game. At just 5m Fati looks a steal for a great bargain.

Player of the weekend: Luis Suarez- Atletico Madrid 10pts

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Juventus bring back Morata

Juventus’ lengthy search for a new centre-forward came to an end on Tuesday as they announced the acquisition of Alvaro Morata from Atletico Madrid, who returns in Turin five years after his first stint at the club. Morata spent two seasons with the Bianconeri between 2014 and 2015, scoring 27 goals in 93 appearances, including one in Berlin’s Champions League final, and left because Real Madrid activated the buy-back clause that was included in the original deal. Continue reading

Is the new La Liga season Diego Simeone’s last stand with Atletico Madrid?

What Diego Simeone has achieved at Atletico Madrid has been nothing short of brilliant. The team usually in the shadow of their neighbours Real Madrid experienced their most successful decade in the 2010s under Simeone which included a La Liga title, domestic cups, the Europa League and 2 Champions League finals.

However time waits for no man, and especially in football that rings true. One wonders if even Simeone is now on borrowed time at the club? Much of this comes down to last season when Atletico were tipped to do very well. But they ended the season without any silverware and it was the way they performed during the season that simply had a word in neon headlights- underwhelming.

Atletico finished 3rd last season but that could have been 4th as they finished on the same points as Sevilla. Whilst 3rd isn’t bad considering the league has Real Madrid and Barcelona in it, this was seen as not a vintage season for Spanish football. Atletico finished 17 points behind Real Madrid and even 12 points behind Barcelona who had a forgettable season by their standards.

Atletico only scored 51 goals, 35 less than Barcelona and Sevilla and even Villarreal who finished in 5th place scored more. In short not only were Atletico not getting the right results they were also quite boring to watch. Perhaps losing Antoine Griezmann who finally switched to Barcelona was the last straw? However over 120m euros was spent on Joao Felix as his replacement.

At the beginning of the season Felix looked exciting and sharp, and every time he was on the ball the crowd got excited. That dissipated quickly enough though and at the end of the season Felix was much like his club, underwhelming. Scoring just 6 goals and assisted in just one, was very poor for a player that had cost so much. True Felix was hit by injuries too but still played more than half the season. Felix has time on his side, but perhaps Simeone doesn’t?

Of course Simeone has been incredibly loyal to the club, and it would feel odd if they sacked him for having another mediocre season, but maybe Simeone will see that it is time to go. Let’s not forget that Simeone’s contract with the club doesn’t expire until the summer of 2022, but we all know that in football contracts count for very little if the time is right for a coach to move on.

This season will be very interesting where the fans will be expecting Felix to have a much better season. Alvaro Morata is back with the club after they purchased the striker for 56m euros.

Maybe after spending 9 years at the club the time is right soon to move on. However at the other end he has been superb, last season was a blip, and perhaps Atletico will be firing on all cylinders for the forthcoming season. It will certainly be engrossing to have Morata back on the scene, as the club really need goals.

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Is Alvaro Morata good enough to lead the line for Atletico Madrid?

Atletico Madrid have turned their season around somewhat since the resumption of the Liga season, with a strong run of form carrying them up to third place in the table. While the capital club not so long ago looked set to miss out on a place in the top four and Champions League qualification, they are now within touching distance of pulling up a seat at European club football’s top table again.

Of course, Atleti wanted much more than just a top four place this season. The original aim was to challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid for the title. Both sides are going through generational transitions and so many saw the door to be open for Atletico Madrid. They too have gone through a transitional season, though.

The conversion of Marcos Llorente into an attacker over the last few weeks has been a revelation. The former Real Madrid man has been exceptionally influential higher up the pitch, hitting a rich vein of form that started with his brace in Atletico Madrid’s Champions League win over Liverpool at Anfield before the coronavirus shutdown struck.

Alongside Llorente, Diego Simeone has largely favoured Diego Costa. The former Chelsea striker looks to have found fitness and form again since the restart, with Simeone using Costa as a battering ram to use next to the more creative Llorente. So what place does Alvaro Morata now have at the Wanda Metropolitano?

The 27-year-old has been rotated in and out of Simeone’s side over the last few weeks, vindicating the decision to hand him a start against Real Mallorca with a brace in a 3-0 win. Before that, though, Morata had been struggling for form, with his only goal since the restart coming in a 5-0 demolition of Osasuna.

There’s no suggestion that Simeone will look to move Morata on, with the striker only signing permanently from Chelsea in the January window, but there are questions over who will lead Atletico Madrid in the long-term. Edinson Cavani, who is now a free agent after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, has been strongly linked with a move to the club. Would Morata be knocked further down the pecking order in the case of Cavani’s arrival? Is the Spanish international good enough to be Atleti’s first choice centre forward? And if he is, how will he fit in?

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Have Barcelona just conceded the La Liga title to Real Madrid?

Real Madrid are now the odds on favourites to win La Liga after Barcelona drew 2-2 at home against Atletico Madrid in an entertaining match.

Barcelona are looking at a hat trick of titles but their fierce rivals Real look like they will stop them. Barca have dominated in Spain of late winning 4 of the last five, in the last decade they have won 7 titles alone.

Whilst Real Madrid have dominated on the European scene in the last decade winning 4 Champions Leagues, including three in a row they have failed mostly on the domestic front. Though in 2017 they broke the Barca stranglehold by winning the title which is, up to this point, coach Zinedine Zidane’s only managerial league title.

At the beginning of the season with Zidane coming back and the soap opera of Gareth Bale will he won’t he leave it was thought that Real were going to experience a season of transition, however they look stun to set everyone if they can wrap up the title this season. It could well go amongst Zidane’s very best achievements of his glittering career given that many thought Madrid could be playing second fiddle to not only Barcelona but Atletico Madrid also.

As it stands Real are top by just one point but they have a game extra to play which takes place on Thursday, July 2nd. It is a home game against Getafe which they will be expected to win with ease.

Win that and they will go 4 points clear with just five games left to play. Barca have been a mess lately where they have drawn 3 of their last four games and dropped vital points. In the game against Atletico there was 3 penalties, one for Lionel Messi but Saul converted 2 goals from the spot for Atletico and that was enough to take 2 points from Barcelona. Indeed Atletico then had a chance to win the game and put even more misery on Barca.

If another clasico remained between the two clubs then the league would not feel as over as it does now. At least then Barca could stake their claim and give it one last try. But the two teams have already met each other. Real’s remaining games all look winnable and yet of course you never quite know what will happen. Lose to Getafe tomorrow and everything changes again. But for now it looks like Real are in the driving seat to win their 34th Spanish title.

 

 

Has Diego Simeone finally figured out how and where to use Marcos Llorente?

It could be that Atletico Madrid’s 5-0 win over Osasuna earlier in the week is looked back upon as a turning point in the career of Marcos Llorente. Lured from Real Madrid last summer, the addition of Llorente was deemed as quite a coup for Atleti. Llorente is a talented young midfielder who many see as one of Spanish football’s best hopes for the future.

And yet Diego Simeone didn’t seem to know what to do with the 25-year-old for the first two thirds of the season. Competition is currently stiff for midfield places in the Atletico Madrid squad and Llorente soon found himself down the pecking order behind the likes of Koke, Saul Niguez and Thomas Partey.

Something has changed, though. Simeone had some time to think about Llorente’s role in the Atleti team over the coronavirus shutdown and has subsequently deployed in a new position in the last two games. Used as more of an attacker than a midfielder, Llorente drove Atletico Madrid to two very important wins in back-to-back games.

Introduced off the bench for the final 30 minutes against Osasuna, Llorente scored and contributed two assists in a 5-0 win that represented Atletico Madrid’s best performance of the Liga season so far. And the 25-year-old followed it up with an impressive display in a win over Real Valladolid days later.

It would appear that Simeone has unlocked Llorente’s inherent creativity and invention by moving him higher up the pitch. While he has been previously used as a number six and a number eight, it’s as something closer to a number 10 that Llorente has finally found his place in the Atletico Madrid team.

This conversion could be a game-changer for Atletico Madrid as they attempt to rescue a difficult season. This season was always going to be one of transition for the capital club, with Simeone more than once referencing his desire to change Atleti’s style of play and identity as a whole.

Saturday’s win over Real Valladolid lifted them up to third place over Sevilla, significantly boosting their chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League when just a few matches ago they had a lot of work to do. And if Atletico Madrid are to take their seat at European club football’s top table again it will be Llorente who has helped them do so.

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Is this the year Atletico Madrid win the Champions League?

One team that will certainly be hoping that the football season is not abandoned and thus there being no Champions League is Atletico Madrid. The team led by the charismatic Diego Simeone played one of the very final competitive games when the Coronavirus struck and it was an important one. A great game that saw Atletico knock out the reigning champions Liverpool.

That victory, when the club were behind in the tie also took place at Anfield in a stunning extra time comeback that saw Atletico win the game 3-2. This against a Liverpool side who were the champions and have also dominated English football this season, 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League, unbeaten at Anfield in the league and only having lost one game. Everyone thought that Atletico were going to be knocked out that night, but the team showed a spirit by a foreign team on English turf not seen perhaps since Inter Milan visited Chelsea on their way to winning the Champions League themselves in 2010.

With Atletico through to the quarter finals and gaining every clubs respect in knocking out the champions, the onus was on Atletico, just how far could they go? Could they win the competition they so desperately want? Could 2020 finally be the year?

In recent years Atletico have reached 2 Champions League finals. Both times in 2014 and 2016 losing to their city rivals Real Madrid. Talk about adding salt to the wounds. And on both times Atletico were not beaten in 90 minutes. In one final they collapsed in extra time and in the other were beaten on penalties. It would be the 2014 final that would feel soul crushing for the club who were still coached by Simeone. After leading 1-0 they looked to have won it with just a couple of minutes of injury time left until Sergio Ramos sprung up from a corner and headed in the equaliser. Sheer joy for him and Real, sheer heartbreak for everyone associated with Atletico.

Of course it hasn’t just been in recent times that Atletico have challenged for Europe’s greatest prize. We could go as far back as 1974 when they reached the final for the first time. This time they were up against the mighty Bayern Munich who were on their way to winning 3 European Cups in a row and beat Atletico 4-0 in the final.

Atletico are a very good team, although them winning the Champions League would still feel like a surprise in many respects, simply because they have never won the competition. Not many ‘new teams’ have been able to win the competition. In fact since its inception for the 1992/93 season there has only been three teams who have won the competition for the first time. Marseille in 1993, Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Chelsea in 2012.

One just felt that 2020 could have Atletico’s name on it. After all beating Liverpool is a huge and Real Madrid currently look like they could be exiting the competition at the hands of Manchester City, with the return leg yet to be played.

The question is will the competition return? Let’s hope so, and there does seem to be a window in June where football could return properly, we will just have to see how events play themselves out over the next few weeks.

 

 

Liverpool finally lose in what has been a tough week for the European champions

It took 44 league games but Liverpool have finally been beaten in the Premier League. Not many people would have predicted that it would be Watford who were in 19th place that would inflict Liverpool’s first defeat since January 2019.

It has been a miserable few days for Liverpool who not only lost in the league but were then knocked out of the FA Cup last night against Chelsea going down 2-0. So they have let in 5 goals in two matches and manager Jurgen Klopp will be concerned. Next up they will play Bournemouth at home and if they were to drop points in that game Klopp will need to be afraid. After that they have a mammoth task of trying to overcome Atletico Madrid in the 2nd leg of their Champions League game. The Spanish side hold a 1-0 lead, though that 2nd leg is at Anfield and every follower of football knows that Anfield is quite a daunting place for any side on a European night.

Liverpool of course have been fantastic this season, and have been actually for the past two years now. But no one can deny the fact that this has been a bad period for the club. One such person who did seem to be in denial was Klopp, coming out with words like ”not really” in suggestion that the clubs form had slipped. Was he hurting inside really? Only time and a biography will answer that one. But the whole of the team must have been devastated at finally losing a game. The objective of winning the league is more or less done, being 22 points in the lead. At best the gap could be cut with a loss of form, but Liverpool could still easily win the league and do it by 10 points clear in the end anyway.

The objective was too remain undefeated for the season. No one was publicly saying it but of course it was. Liverpool would have become only the 3rd team in the history of the top tier in England to have done it, and they were so close too. In defeat to Watford they also lost out on beating the all time English record for most wins in a row. With 18 they needed one more, but alas that went too.

If Liverpool do go out of the Champions League- as champions it would be a blow, but let’s be honest this season was all about winning the league title for the first time since 1990, and that objective is streets ahead and well on target. But what one senses with the club now is what has happened to super giants like PSG and Bayern in the last few seasons who have gone unbeaten for six months, only to lose 1 game and have the season unravel to a damp squib by the end of it.

The fact that it has been so long since Liverpool won the league title will be their saving grace this year though, it really is all that matters to the club, city and fans.

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