La Liga Team of the Week Match May 38

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An enthralling La Liga season has drawn to a close and many of the division’s stars will now be turning their minds to the upcoming World Cup in Russia. But who made a final in the last round of fixtures to secure a place in the last Team of the Week?

Marc ter Stegen, Barcelona – seven points

A final clean sheet of the campaign rounded off what has been a wonderful season for the German.

With 113 points to his name, ter Stegen will be eyeing a starting berth for his national team come the World Cup. Continue reading

Barcelona unbeaten streak ends in shock loss at Levante

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Our game of the week looks at the blockbuster fixture at Estadi Ciutat de València that saw Levante put an end to Barcelona’s unbeaten streak in an enthralling 5-4 win that will be etched on the minds of both players and fans alike for some time to come.

A much changed Barcelona side came into the tie with a lethargy that suggested they believed this result to be a mere formality.

However, they were given an early shock when Boateng just managed to force a whipped cross into the goal off the underside of the bar to open proceedings in the ninth minute.

The 21-year-old Ghanaian then doubled the lead just after half an hour into the tie when he capitalised on a Continue reading

La Liga Team of Week 37

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Following an exhilarating penultimate round of fixtures in which Barca waved goodbye to the prospect of an unbeaten season, we look at the team of the week to arrive from the fallout of the action. 

Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid – seven points

The Slovakian goalkeeper has been exceptional between the sticks for Atleti this season, earning plaudits from across the footballing world.

With his side seemingly set to finish in a more than respectable second position, his 22 clean sheets with just 20 goals conceded is a truly excellent record.

José Gayá, Valencia – five points Continue reading

Why Philippe Coutinho Must Start On The Left Or Not Start At All

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Three days after being hauled off at halftime after a nonexistence performance against Real Madrid, Philippe Coutinho gave a glimpse of why Barcelona decided to pay £142million for his services in January.

The Brazilian opened the scoring and put in one of his best performances of the season against Villarreal, en route to a 5-1 win. It’s easy to point to the difference in quality between the opposition, but Villarreal are in 6th place and have won their only matchup with Real Madrid this season. Moreover, on Wednesday’s encounter, Coutinho faced off against one of the best right backs in Europe, Mario Gaspar, and still managed to impress.

Perhaps the main difference between the two performances was not in the quality of the opposition or the weight of the occasion: Coutinho has delivered time and time again in heavyweight Premier League clashes that boast the same vigor and importance of El Clásico. Perhaps the difference is in his position: while he started on the right wing against Real Madrid, he operated as a left winger against Villarreal.

Coutinho’s best position has always been a puzzle that nobody has quite yet solved. The Rio De Janeiro native rose to fame under Brendan Rodgers’ title-chasing diamond 4-4-2 as a left-sided interior. Under Jürgen Klopp, he operated as a left winger, cutting in from the wing and dazzling the Kop with pinpoint long shots. This season, he often found himself as a left-sided central midfielder, supplying the high-flying triumvirate of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané. Since arriving at Barcelona in January, Ernesto Valverde has fielded him in a variety of positions, including on the right. Taking note of Tite’s success in playing him on the right wing next to Gabriel Jesus and Neymar Jr., Valverde has started Coutinho on the right in several high-stakes matches, from El Clásico to the Copa Del Rey Final. While the Brazilian has impressed on the right, keeping him on the right instead of his more natural, left-sided position would not only be a waste of his abilities, but a waste of the £142million shelled out for him as well.

Against Madrid, Coutinho was isolated and hesitant to use his preferred left foot. Against Villarreal, Coutinho proved just why he is viewed as both the long-term and short-term replacement to Andrés Iniesta, who, like him, experimented at left wing, despite playing the majority of his prime as a left-sided midfielder.

It was clear from the start how comfortable he was on the other side of the pitch. Midway through the seventh minute, he attempts to run through the channel between Álvaro and Gaspar, but seeing as though Samu Castillejo blocked Lucas Digne’s passing lane, he retreats for the short pass option. At first, it seems he’s about to play a one-two with Digne, but instead, he swivels past two Submarino Amarillo players, just another glimpse of the Brazilian’s nonchalant press-resistance.

At the tenth minute, just as Ousmane Dembélé is blazing past several naive yellow shirts, Coutinho realizes there’s the opportunity for a through ball or a shot. He changes tempo at the edge of the 18-yard-box, turning his light jog into a full-fledged sprint, and hammers home the rebound for Ousmane’s deflected shot.

At the sixteenth minute, he notices Rodri Hernandez shuttling over to press him just as he is about to receive the ball. The Brazilian quickly side-steps him and squares it to Iniesta, who threads the needle for Digne, who squares it for Paulinho, who scores the second.

Between his performance on Sunday and his performance on Wednesday, it was night and day. While it may be tempting to experiment, between Ousmane Dembélé and a lesser known Argentine bloke, Barcelona aren’t exactly desperate for options on the right-hand side. Instead, they must focus on shoe-horning Coutinho in Iniesta’s role–the left-sided playmaker. It will take patience, it will take time, and it will take an outright position change, but as the Catalans prepare for a summer move for Antoine Griezmann and a summer exit of Andrés Iniesta, there is nobody better to link midfield and attack, and usher in the new era at Barça, than Philippe Coutinho.

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Barcelona secure emphatic league title in Game of the Week

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Our La Liga game of the week saw a Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona run out 4-2 winners at the Estadio Riazor as they overcame a robust Deportivo La Coruna side to claim a 25th title.

With Barcelona knowing that victory would be enough to reclaim the highest domestic honour from bitter rivals Real Madrid, the visitors came into the tie focused solely on the goal of sealing a title that has been months in the making.

And it appeared that the game was set to go according to the script early on, when Philippe Coutinho met a Dembele pass first time to swing the ball inside the far post on six minutes – netting his 11th goal across the Premier League and La Liga in 2017/18.

The visitors then doubled their lead a little over half an hour later when Messi  took down a looped Luis Suarez ball before driving it past Deportivo keeper Martinez.

However, if Barcelona had expected that they might walk to the title then they were gravely mistaken.

Just two minutes after Messi had put Barcelona two goals ahead, Lucas Perez then halved the deficit when he rounded off a counter attack to score his sixth goal of the season and put himself on 29 points.

Emre Colak then put the hosts level, capitalising on some slack Barcelona defending to put his side level on the 64 minute mark and earn himself a place in our team of the week.

This proved to be the wake-up call that Barcelona had needed, with the league leaders having been guilty of coasting after the break.

Despite their renewed vigour, it wasn’t until the 82nd minute that Barcelona finally made the break-through – Leo Messi again the creator in chief as he turned several Deportivo defenders before stroking home after an audacious one-two with Luis Suarez in the box.

Suarez then set up Messi for a third time just three minutes later, as his team mate ensured he would be taking home the match ball to add to his La Liga winner’s medal.

The hat-trick goal caused scenes of delirium among the Barcelona players and topped off a scintillating solo performance from the Argentine who now has 154 points and 32 goals for the campaign.

The Catalan side must now host arch rivals Real Madrid as they keep their collective thoughts on the prospect of finishing the campaign with an unbeaten run in tact – something that would in itself be a tremendous accolade to the successes of their campaign.

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Coutinho exit will finally be felt by Liverpool following Oxlade-Chamberlain injury

At the time, the exit of Philippe Coutinho was deemed to be something of a disaster for Liverpool. It came at the worst time of the season, midway through the campaign, just as the Reds were starting to find their groove. But as things turned, the sale of Coutinho to Barcelona did little to halt Liverpool’s momentum. If anything, it added to what Jurgen Klopp’s side were building.

Coutinho was never the most natural fit for Klopp’s side. Of course, the Brazilian playmaker’s natural talent meant that he couldn’t be omitted. Klopp had to find a place for him, but at times that actually slowed down the attacking play of the Reds. With a frontline of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, Liverpool quickly became the quintessential Klopp outfit.

Liverpool-Coutinho

The loss of Coutinho to Barcelona was also mitigated by the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The England international took some time to find his feet at Anfield following his move from Arsenal in the summer, but the exit of Coutinho acted as a catalyst. Oxlade-Chamberlain became Liverpool’s driving force through the middle of the pitch.

He has found his best form in the Champions League, illustrated perfectly by his performances in both legs of the quarter final against Manchester City. Against the best midfield unit in English football, Oxlade-Chamberlain was dominant. His energy and high pressing game was crucial to securing a semi final passage for the Reds.

This is why his season-ending injury is such a blow to Liverpool as they attempt to make their first Champions League final in over a decade. Without Oxlade-Chamberlain, the true impact of the departure of Coutinho might finally be felt. Klopp will have to find some midfield creativity from somewhere, otherwise his attacking line could be starved of a supply line.

Against Roma, with the scoreline at 5-2, this might not be so much of an issue. While an away goal would surely be enough to send Liverpool into the final, Klopp’s side will be largely focused on keeping the opposition out, but should the Reds make it to Kiev later this month, that’s where their lack of drive and presence through the midfield could be brutally exposed.

Both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have strong midfield units, particularly in the latter instance. Without either Coutinho or Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool could be outplayed by the duo of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, not to mention Marco Asensio and Mateo Kovacic too.

There’s a sense that Liverpool are currently playing as more than the sum of their parts and much credit must go to Klopp for that. On paper, Manchester City should have knocked out the Reds in the quarter finals, but they were overrun by a rampant Liverpool. Klopp has instilled a certain spirit in his side, but that spirit was largely embodied by the energy of Oxlade-Chamberlain. They will miss him and this week’s game at Roma might be the first indication of that.

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La Liga Team of the Week

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In the week that Barcelona won the title, it is of little surprise that Messi hs found a place in our team of the week – but who joins the Argentine?

Norberto Neto, Valencia – seven points

His 32nd start of the campaign was complemented by a 10th clean sheet, to, as Valencia battled out a frustrating 0-0 with Eibar.

The Bats seem set to secure European football however, with Neto playing a valuable role in their campaign. Continue reading

La Liga Game of the Week: Barcelona close out Valencia in tight affair

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This week’s La Liga Game of the Week saw Barcelona overcome a challenging Valencia side to secure a 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou.

Barca will have been justified had they come into the game with a degree of trepidation, knowing full well that the fourth placed side posed a credible threat to their unbeaten record.

However, the hosts put the handle on the game from the early stages – taking the lead in the 15th minute when Luis Suarez netted near post after Philippe Coutinho’s exquisite slide-rule pass.

The Uruguayan’s emphatic celebrations have been a regular occurrence this season, with him having hit 23 goals in 28 games on his way to 100 points.

Equally, the Brazilian will have been delighted to have contributed to the goal.

The 25-year-old has dropped off the exceptional rate of goals and assists he was delivering at Liverpool following his big money move but moments like this show he is certainly beginning to settle in at his new club.

He again highlighted his ability once again when Umtiti headed in from his whipped cross to double Barcelona’s lead on 51 minutes – punishment for a Valencia side that had missed a number of high quality chances.

With nine goals and 11 assists across the two leagues, Coutinho’s 77 points this season and will be a hot favourite to really kick on next campaign.

With the game seemingly tied up, Dani Parejo added a touch of spice when he converted from the spot to score his seventh goal of the campaign after Dembele was penalised for a foul in the 87th minute – the hard shot squirming under Marc ter Stegen’s body.

ter Stegen will have been disappointed to have conceded the goal so late on, with the German on the cusp of an 18th clean sheet of 2017/18.

The penalty added a touch of drama to the final moments of the game but the hosts were good value for the victory in truth, seeing the tie through to the finish as they secured an 25 win of the campaign to put them on 82 points.

The victory puts Barcelona another step closer towards claiming this season’s La Liga title, though second placed Atletico Madrid did secure a 3-0 victory over the weekend.

The Catalans next see action against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final, whilst Valencia travel to Celta Vigo as they look to consolidate a qualification place for next season’s Champions League.

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La Liga Team of the Week

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Want to see our team of the week from La Liga’s most recent action? Check it out here!

Daniel Gimenez, Real Betis – seven points

The keeper has played twice for his club this season, keeping consecutive clean sheets in the process.

The 34-year-old’s performance helped his side to a 1-0 win over Girona and he will be hoping his run can put him in the frame as a first team contender for next season.

Damian Suarez, Getafe – nine points

The 29-year-old scored the decisive goal in his side’s fiery 1-0 win in which Flamini saw red in the second half.

The side’s ability to dig in for the win symbolised a mentality that has seen Suarez earn eleven clean sheets and 45 points across the season.

Sime Vrsaljko, Atletico madrid – seven points

The Croatian international has not always been a fixture this season but always dependable when called upon.

With 11 clean sheets and four assists in his 17 games, Vrsaljko  remains more than valuable to Diego Simeone.

Diego Godin, Atletico – five points

The Uruguayan has kept a highly impressive 17 clean sheets this season, helping him to 78 points so far across the campaign.

His exploits helped Atletico onto an impressive 3-0 win this weekend as they look to run the campaign in with a flourish.

Victor Laguardia, Alaves – five points

Another player to be named in our team of the week for consecutive turns, his Alaves side ran out 1-0 winners against an uninspired Eibar.

Laguardia now has six clean sheets this season, an impressive tally when considering the fact he has managed just 14 appearances over the campaign.

Casemiro, Real Madrid – four points

The Brazilian scored what proved to be a pivotal second goal for his side as they ran out 2-1 victors against an all-but-relegated Malaga.

Casemiro may not have had the best of campaigns over 2017/18 but his goal saw him hit 35 points for the season.

Daniel Parejo, Valencia – four points

Parejo has managed 49 points across the campaign, his seven goals and seven assists seemingly likely to help Valencia to a Champions League spot for next season.

Parejo scored a late penalty during the weekends action, but it was not enough to facilitate an unlikely come back at the Camp Nou.

Philippe Coutinho, Barcelona – four points

Coutinho is finally starting to find his groove for Barcelona, setting up his one-time Liverpool team mate Luis Suarez to score the games opener.

The Brazilian now has nine goals and 11 assists across La Liga and the Premier League, seeing him hit 77 points across the two competitions.

Angel Correa, Atletico Madrid – eight points

The Argentine midfielder has been a valuable member of the Atletico side this season, making 32 appearances for Simeone’s men.

Correa now has 75 points, thanks in part to his 15 goals – one of which game in their comprehensive win over Levante.

Isco, Real Madrid – six points

It’s been a tough campaign for many in the white of Madrid but Isco has arguably been one of the better performers.

He got the opener against his old side Malaga as he hit six goals and six assists in his 27 games.

Adrian Lopez, Deportivo La Coruna – eight points

It’s been a disappointing season for relegation threatened La Coruna but Adrian’s brace in the 3-2 victory over Bilbao gives them a sniff at survival.

If they are to stay up then the form that has seen him secures nine goals in 25 appearances will prove crucial.

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Intrepid Barcelona fight back at Sevilla in Game of the Week

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Our La Liga Game of the Week saw Sevilla and Barcelona play out an entertaining 2-2 draw at La Bombonera as the visitors valiant fightback saw them come from two goals behind to retain their unbeaten streak in this season’s campaign.

Having lost two games on the bounce in a season that has seen them undergo intermittent periods of bad form, the hosts came into this tie with an attitude suggestive that they believed they had a point to prove.

With Correa having missed an early opportunity to put his side ahead, he made amends by setting up Franco Vasquez to open the scoring, the latter scuffing home the Argentine’s ball from six yards out. Continue reading