Can Josep Maria Bartomeu survive Barcelona’s crisis?

What a season it’s been for FC Barcelona!

At the beginning of the campaign, during the curtain raiser to each season, the Joan Gamper Trophy, Lionel Messi apologised for the collapse against Liverpool.

He also noted that the Catalans would be challenging again for the Champions League and the other top prizes on offer.

But it’s safe to say that things haven’t quite gone according to plan. Continue reading

Unheralded Sergi Roberto continues to prove his worth for Barcelona

Sergi

Due to his incredible adaptability to operate in so many different positions, such as a central midfielder, winger or fullback, and his undoubted all-round quality, Sergi Roberto continues to prove his worth to Barcelona.

And under Quique Setien’s tenure, he’s shown what a vital asset he is to the tactically sophisticated technician’s plans, with him giving his manager much flexibility as to how best deploy him and his team in general.

Operating at right back, a role he’s now extremely familiar with, for Barca’s crunch clash with Getafe, Roberto once again put in shift littered with upside, in a match where he notably scored his first league goal since 2017.

Despite Barcelona dominating possession for large chunks, third placed Getafe still posed a major threat offensively with their transitions, physicality and nous upfront. So Roberto had to be on his game to handle this threat, which he was, dealing with whatever came his was quite comfortably indeed.

Facing off against talented Barca loanee, Marc Cucurella, Roberto certainly won the battle, for he defended with conviction and awareness to keep his adversary quiet. Good in 1v1s, tracking runs attentively, strong in aerial duels and timing his challenges cleanly, the 28-year-old hardly put a foot wrong, thus ensuring Cucurella struggled to have his usual impact.

When not directly marking Cucurella, Roberto remained positionally secure, as he’d recognise when to tuck infield to ensure compactness, step out, drop back, shift across or support his defenders.

The fact he chimed in with eight ball recoveries, three interceptions, two clearances and won two aerial duels punctuated his strong output.

Meanwhile, on the offensive side of things, Roberto was customarily assured in possession, stroking around the ball tidily to connect, construct and break the lines when the opportunity arose. Two footed and boasting fine vision, the Spaniard’s ability to remain unfazed by pressure to combine with his teammates to get away from danger or to find the free man was a big plus against Getafe’s fierce pressure.

Image 1 - Superb incisive pass to play in a teammate

Superb incisive pass to play in a teammate

Without question, however, his most striking contribution came from his wonderful forward bursts. Curling and timing his runs superbly so he could remain onside while exploiting the blindside of his marker, he added valuable width and depth to Barca’s attacks. Credit must go to the likes of Frenkie De Jong and Antoine Griezmann especially, for they drew their trackers narrow to generate openings for Roberto to explore.

Image 2 - Brilliantly timed blindside run in behind

Brilliantly timed blindside run in behind

Image 3 - Sublimely timed run in behind to take advantage of the space

Sublimely timed run in behind to take advantage of the space

Image 4 - Wonderful depth run as he catches Getafe off guard

Wonderful depth run as he catches Getafe off guard

Image 5 - Cucurella getting drawn inside which frees up Roberto to receive

Cucurella getting drawn inside which frees up Roberto to receive

Image 6 - Providing a great outlet for the switch

Providing a great outlet for the switch

Indeed, his goal offered a glowing testament to his aptitude here, with him angling his out-to-in blindside run smoothly to evade his marker before finishing with aplomb on his left foot.

Image 7 - Fantastic blindside run to get free before finishing

Fantastic blindside run to get free before finishing

Some other ways he unbalanced Jose Bordalas’ men came courtesy of his slick underlapping runs and rotations with Griezmann, which posed dilemmas for Getafe on who should mark who. His high and wide positioning also saw him available for quick switches of play, where he often found himself in a 2v1 overload with Antoine Griezmann or a 3v2 superiority to get at the away team.

Image 8 - Helping form a 2v1 out wide with Griezmann

Helping form a 2v1 out wide with Griezmann

Image 9 - Forming the free man as Barca form a 3v2

Forming the free man as Barca form a 3v2

When looking at his offensive numbers, and they were solid too, as he completed 41 of 46 attempted passes, five of six attempted passes into the box and final third, two shot assists, two dribbles and two touches inside the box.

After yet another accomplished display by the regularly unheralded Barca utility, this will do wonders for the heavily derided figure’s confidence, who regularly comes in for rather harsh criticism.

With such a massive period ahead that includes the Clasico against Real Madrid, their Champions League tie with Napoli and a tough contest with Real Sociedad, you can guarantee Setien will value his presence no matter where he decides to deploy him.

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Fantasy LaLiga picks for this weekend’s action – Madrid derby takes centre stage

This weekend sees another full list of LaLiga clashes as Madrid prepares for the derby when Real host Atleti on Saturday afternoon.

It’s time to look ahead to the upcoming games 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 – Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao) – 5.5 million

Unai Simon is the third-highest scoring goalkeeper in fantasy LaLiga so far this season but far cheaper than Thibaut Courtois and Jan Oblak. Simon is on 55 points.

Defender – Yuri (Athletic Bilbao) – 3.0 million

The highest-scoring defender is another incredible bargain at just 3.0 million. Yuri is another Athletic Bilbao player.

Defender – Yeray (Athletic Bilbao) – 2.0 million

A good cheap defender and another Athletic Bilbao bargain! Yeray is a great choice for many fantasy LaLiga managers.

Defender – Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid) – 7.0 million

Daniel Carvajal is enjoying some consistency at right-back this season for Real Madrid and is one of Los Blancos’ cheaper options.

Defender – Diego Carlos (Sevilla) – 6.0 million

Sevilla’s Brazilian centre-half is enjoying a strong season so far with Sevilla.

Midfielder – Daniel Parejo (Valencia) – 8.5 million

Parejo, the Spanish playmaker, having another fine season at the Mestalla.

Midfielder – Ruben Garcia (Osasuna) – 4.5 million

Five goals and one assist from Osasuna’s midfield makes Ruben Garcia one of the surprise packages of the LaLiga campaign so far.

Midfielder – Santiago Cazorla (Villarreal) – 5.5 million

Veteran midfielder Santi Cazorla only returned from long-term injury last season. He has been in great form for Villarreal.

Midfielder – Martin Odegaard (Real Sociedad) – 5.0 million

The 20-year-old Norwegian star who is still owned by Real Madrid has a huge future in the game. Martin Odegaard has performed brilliantly this season.

Forward – Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 20.0 million

Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon d’Or last week. The Argentine wizard missed the first few weeks of Barcelona’s season. Messi looked to be coming back to his best with two goals in the Copa del Rey during the week.

Forward – Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) – 10.0 million

Karim Benzema is ensuring no-one forgets about him in Zinedine Zidane’s new-ish Real Madrid squad.

Team in full (4-4-2): Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao); Yuri (Athletic Bilbao), Yeray (Athletic Bilbao), Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid), Diego Carlos (Sevilla); Daniel Parejo (Valencia), Ruben Garcia (Osasuna), Santiago Cazorla (Villarreal), Martin Odegaard (Real Sociedad); Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Total cost: 77.0 million

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Top fantasy LaLiga picks as Barcelona prepare for tough tussle at Valencia

This weekend sees another full list of La Liga clashes as Spanish football’s top flight settles in for the second half of the season.

It’s time to look ahead to the upcoming games 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.

Continue reading

Top fantasy La Liga picks for this weekend’s action in Spain

We have another full schedule of LaLiga games coming up in Spain this weekend.

It’s time to look ahead to the upcoming games 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.

Continue reading

Barcelona and Real Madrid game ends goalless but these two teams have pulled away in La Liga

True it was expected that this seasons tussle for the La Liga title would come down to Barcelona and Real Madrid and so it seems to have passed. The two teams played out a 0-0 draw in midweek and both are on 36 points. They have a 5 point advantage to 3rd place in the league standings.

The disappointment this season seems to lie with Atletico Madrid who under Diego Simeone have a fantastic team but the club have just been off the pace in the last few months and have just 29 points. Whilst it is realistically possible for them to bridge the gap to Madrid and Barca it does seem as if the club are playing more for Champions League glory after their disappointments in 2 finals this decade.

Back to El Clasico and this was the first match to end goalless since 2002. Then at a match which was also at the Nou Camp, Madrid player Luis Figo had a pigs head thrown at him- he had just switched from Barcelona. This match was a tense affair and Madrid at times probably deserved the win. Gareth Bale was harshly ruled off side as he thought he had put his team 1-0 up. Yes it was offside but when we are talking millimetres surely the player is not evidently cheating. If common sense can’t take hold hopefully UEFA and FIFA will bang their heads together and change the offside rule.

Madrid played well though and for long periods bossed the game away from home, this is something they have rarely done on their visits here. There was of course a lot of tension connected to this match with the political uprising suspending this match from a few weeks ago. Inevitably arrests were made outside the stadium and one could fathom that Barcelona’s players were not 100% focused on the game. Whilst the movement is of high importance and nobody is denying that it is unfortunate that it has overshadowed perhaps the biggest game in world football.

La Liga for the first time this season seems to be a two horse race and these great rivals will lock horns for much of the season it feels. Despite winning an incredible 3 Champions League trophies in a row Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane only won 1 league title in his first spell at Madrid. One wonders if that could play against him. There just feels like there is something missing at Madrid, perhaps another star dust player. The league will reveal itself soon enough. Gone are the days of Messi v Ronaldo now it is more like Messi v Hazard- who will come out on top?

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Fantasy LaLiga picks for this weekend – Messi has to be in

We have another full schedule of LaLiga games coming up in Spain this weekend.

It’s time to look ahead to the upcoming games 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 – Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao) – 5.5 million Continue reading

LaLiga predictions – Barcelona face big test at Atletico Madrid while Real Madrid look to continue good run of form

It’s another busy weekend in Spain’s LaLiga. There is a full schedule of games to look forward with one particular highlight being the meeting of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday night.

Here’s our brief preview of every single LaLiga game taking place over the coming days.

Celta Vigo Vs Real Valladolid

Key men: Denis Suarez (Celta Vigo); Oscar Plano (Real Valladolid) Continue reading

Match previews for this weekend’s LaLiga action

LaLiga returns tonight and there are some interesting matchups to look forward to over the whole weekend.

Time to sit back and enjoy these games after last week’s international break.

Levante Vs Mallorca

Key men: Jose Campana (Levante); Ante Budimir (Mallorca)

Prediction: Levante 2 – 1 Mallorca Continue reading

LaLiga match previews

LaLiga returns on Friday night and there are some interesting matchups to look forward to over the whole weekend.

Enjoy these games before another international break kicks in next week!

Real Sociedad Vs Leganes

Key men: Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad); Martin Braithwaite (Leganes)

Prediction: Real Sociedad 2 – 0 Leganes Continue reading