La Liga is back and will kick off with the grand derby when Sevilla take on Real Betis

It’s taken 3 months but La Liga is finally returning after Covid-19 and the first match will take place this Thursday when bitter rivals Sevilla take on Real Betis.

The match between the two teams is called ‘The Grand Derby’ and it is sure to be a good encounter. Of course the edge will be taken off the game given that the league will play out the season behind closed doors with no fans. However the Bundesliga has proved that even without fans games have still been intense. For example goals are still being scored, with plenty of attacks and players are still being booked and cautioned. Of course without the fans it will never be the same, but at the end of the day many fans will be watching the games on television and getting back into the drama of football.

Currently Sevilla are in 3rd place with 47 points and whilst a top two position looks out of reach the club will have to continue to win games to qualify for next seasons Champions League. There is just 2 points between Sevilla in 3rd and Atletico Madrid in 6th position and it is clear that Sevilla have no given right to a top 4 place. As for Real Betis they are in 12th place with 33 points and 9 points behind a Europa League place and losing pace so they will probably need something from this game.

Betis come into the match with mixed form with just 1 win from their last five games although they did win their last match before the pandemic put an end to proceedings. However that victory was a fantastic 2-1 win over Real Madrid. As for Sevilla they are on a 4 game unbeaten run and have lost just two games at home this season.

And who will win La Liga? Only Barcelona and Real Madrid can win the title now and Barcelona have 58 points whilst Madrid are just two points behind on 56. At the weekend Barcelona will be away to Real Mallorca whilst Madrid will take on Eibar at home. Of course both teams will be favourites to pick up all three points but they could also be rusty. However what has been impressive in Germany has been Bayern Munich who have actually looked sharp and fantastic as if the break had never occurred so it will be interesting to see how the two giants in Spanish football react.

The first games back in La Liga will be spread over four days starting on June 11th until Sunday June 14th. The league has another 11 games left to play.

 

 

La Liga: Best 11 Players of the Weekend: Week 24

Real Madrid were shocked as they could draw at home against Celta Vigo 2-2. With Barcelona getting past Getafe with a 2-1 win it means that Barca are just one point behind Madrid with 14 games left to play. From the top 6 teams only two won in Barcelona and Villarreal and that has also made Champions League finishing positions more open and interesting.

Let’s take a look below at who performed the best this past weekend.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Joel Robles- Real Betis 7pts

Only two goalkeepers in La Liga earned 7 points and it happened in the same match as Leganes took on Real Betis. The game ended 0-0 but Joel Robles deserves this one being the away goalkeeper and Levante had 11 goal attempts.

Defender: Oier Mate- Osasuna 8pts

It was a perfect match for Oier Mate who not only kept a clean sheet for his club but also scored the only goal and winner as Osasuna beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 away from home.

Defender: David Garcia- Osasuna 5pts

Garcia alongside his team mater Oier Mate helped to keep a clean sheet away from home and earned 5 points. That is his 7th of the season where he has helped his club.

Defender: Aissa Mandi- Real Betis 5pts

Aissa Mandi has been good at collecting yellow cards which has hampered his points total, but at the weekend he did a perfect job for Real Betis and he has helped the club keep 4 clean sheets this season.

Defender: Martin Valjent- Real Mallorca 

Real Mallorca beat Alaves 1-0 and Valjent was a big part of that success and earning 3 points in the heart of defence. He has helped to keep 4 clean sheets this season.

Midfielder: Suso- Sevilla 6pts

Suso rescued a point for Sevilla who were losing 2-1 at home to Espanyol but with just minutes left Suso was able to get a very important goal for the home side. It was only his 2nd goal of the season but such an important one.

Midfielder: Toni Kroos- Real Madrid 4pts

It was a disappointing result at the weekend for Real Madrid who could only draw 2-2 at home to Celta Vigo. But Toni Kroos put in a good shift at home and also scored a goal to put his team back in the game after they conceded first.

Midfielder: Moises Gomez- Villarreal 4pts

Moises Gomez got the winning goal as his side Villarreal beat Levante 2-1 in a very close game. He has been involved in 7 goals this season and that was his 3rd of the season.

Midfielder: Thomas Partey- Atletico Madrid 4pts

Thomas scored only his 2nd goal of the season to help Atletico draw 2-2 with Valencia in an entertaining draw. The league is over for the club but they need to maintain a Champions League berth.

Striker: Gerard Moreno- Villarreal 6pts

Gerard Moreno had a brilliant game for Villarreal as he opened the scoring and then set up the winner as his side won 2-1. Moreno has scored 10 goals this season and created 3 further goals.

Striker: Lucas Ocampos- Sevilla 6pts

Lucas Ocampos also earned 6 points and did the same job as Moreno scoring his teams first goal and then setting up the assist for the 2nd as Sevilla drew 2-2. It was Ocampos’ 7th goal of the season.

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Barcelona sack Ernesto Valverde but the situation turns into a farce

Barcelona have sacked coach Ernesto Valverde but the handling of the affair ended up turning into a farce. Instead of the club making a professional decision the story ran out of control when former player Xavi rejected taking the job.

The Catalan giants ended up exposing themselves early, Valverde knew he was out of a job as the Barca board scrambled to appoint someone after the club were beaten 3-2 by Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals out in Saudi Arabia. The timing though seems off. It is ended with Barcelona fans having a Valverde for a domestic league game, only to see him and the team go halfway around the world to play in the Super Cup and the team coming back with Valverde gone and a new manager in place.

But why now? Why did Barcelona make this decision? Valverde after all becomes the first Barcelona coach in 17 years sacked mid way through the season. The last was Louis van Gaal. It has been reported that Barcelona panicked when they witnessed the Atletico game. The club were 2-1 up with 10 minutes to go and lost 3-2. It reminded them of the Champions League collapses against Roma and Liverpool when the club spurned a 3 goal lead, each time with Valverde in charge.

It’s odd in a way that the club have finally said goodbye to him given that they are top of the league in Spain and qualified for the knock out stages of the Champions League. If they were going to sack him surely it would have come days after going out of the Champions League in embarrassing fashion to Liverpool, or at the end of last season, but he was liked by the board, well until now.

So who will be replacing him? It should have been Xavi and that would have been the natural decision. But the former Barca great actually did the most decent thing and declined to leave his current managerial position at Al Sadd during their season. It was reported he could take over in the summer but Barca wanted someone now. That someone is Quique Setien.

Setien’s last job was coach of Real Betis where he recorded some great results including beating Barcelona. He has long been an admirer of the clubs playing philosophy and could be the perfect replacement, only time will tell on that, but he has never had a win rate above 50%, at the same time he has never coached one of the elite teams and at 61 his dream has finally come true.

As for Valverde, well once you have managed Barcelona it is like winning an Oscar and he will be high demand, with no problems to find another job, although he will more than likely take the next 6 months off. The one shame is the way Barcelona handled it all for a man who probably should have gone this summer. Having said that one could question if he has been a failure for Barcelona? Sure their performances collapsed in the Champions League but Barcelona won 2 league titles under him and two cups. Week in week out they did a job on Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid to win La Liga.

Former Barcelona great Andres Iniesta called the handling of Valverde’s sacking ‘a bit ugly’, and he was right to say that. It’s interesting how loyal figures at the club are usually shown the back door or the handling for their exits is not done let’s say with the best of etiquette in mind. But what is done is done and Setien will be thrown in at the deep end, his dream has finally arrived and he will be hoping that it isn’t a nightmare.

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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

A preview of all the action in gameweek 4 of LaLiga

Another full list of LaLiga matches awaits all Spanish football fans this weekend. There are some very interesting matchups to look out for as well.

Here is our preview of all ten games.

Mallorca v Athletic Bilbao

Key men: Salva Sevilla (Mallorca); Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao)

Prediction: Mallorca 0 – 1 Athletic Bilbao 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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Real Betis to break transfer record for Borja Iglesias

Borja Iglesias

Real Betis fell away from the European places last season primarily due to a lack of firepower and a blunt attack in the final third. The striking position was earmarked many months ago for being their primary area of concern this summer with the aim of landing a minimum of one prolific player.

A multitude of reports now claim that the club are prepared to break their 22-year long transfer record to land Espanyol striker Borja Iglesias. The hitman has a €28m release clause at the RCDE Stadium and that would trump the signing of Brazilian winger Denilson, in then (1997) a world record transfer which brought Betis into global headlines. Continue reading

Transfer News: Are Tottenham finally ready to spend money and buy Lo Celso?

Giovani-Lo-Celso-Real-Betis-2019-940x530(1)

The transfer window in the Premier League opened up on May 16th and so far it hasn’t seen many players coming in but has seen quite a few leaving. There is a lot of work at Manchester United to be done and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer realises this and has acted accordingly. Two players have already been released in Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia and we should expect more in the coming weeks.

West Ham have been very active in juggling up their squad and have released 8 players which includes Andy Carroll and Samir Nasri. They have also got Roberto the goalkeeper from Espanyol on a free as a back up.

A couple of legends of the Premier League will play no more in England in Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany who will become player/manager of his boyhood club Anderlecht. Petr Cech’s last game was in the Europa League final for Arsenal and he will hang up his gloves and join Chelsea’s goalkeeping coaching team.

The big news this week regarded Tottenham and their reported pursuit of Giovani Lo Celso. The North Londoners have reportedly bid £53m for the midfielder who was on the books of PSG but was then loaned out at Spanish club Real Betis, who bought the player only in April.

With Tottenham buying no new players in the last two transfer windows this would signal the clubs first purchase in over a year. However whether Tottenham will get their man is up for debate given that Betis have him under a release clause for £88m. It is understood that the club would listen to offers though in the region  of £75m but that is still over £20m what Tottenham have bid. And to further make things complicated for the club other Premier League sides have shown an interest in the 23 year old.

The connection could be a good one though for Tottenham fans hoping that their manager Mauricio Pochettino stays at the club next season given that Lo Celso is Argentinian. But this could end up being a war of words between Pochettino and club chairman Daniel Levy. If we remember a few weeks ago Pochettino hinted that he needed assurances from the club in order to stay with them, and surely one will be to bring in quality players this summer in the form of Lo Celso.

For Real Betis they would be looking at massive profits. They purchased Lo Celso only in April for about £20m, and if they did accept Tottenham’s bid they would have made a massive £33m profit in one month. Though it looks likely they will hold out for more and Tottenham will need to make a bigger improved bid.

The good news even if Tottenham fail with Lo Celso is that the club have revealed their purchasing power and that they will be buying players this summer, which must come as a relief for any Tottenham fan.

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Espanyol boss Rubi set to join Real Betis

Rubi Espanyol

The departure of Quique Setien from Real Betis created one of the most high-profile and interesting job vacancies in European football. In his first season at the helm, Setien led the club back to European football but inflated expectations and a greatly increased budget meant that this season’s 10th-place finish was one of disappointment.

A series of stars have arrived at Los Verdiblancos over the past 18 months: Pau Lopez, Marc Bartra, William Carvalho, Sergio Canales, Giovani Lo Celso. International standard players whose standard is competing in Europe and next season presents an opportunity for the club to focus on domestic competitions and potentially even launch a bid for a top four spot. Continue reading

Top La Liga Strikers in 2018/19: Lionel Messi

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The different descriptions of how to praise such genius ran out a long time ago and it is no surprise to see Lionel Messi ranked as the best La Liga striker of the season. He didn’t just amass more points he engulfed and controlled that position so that the next nearest striker, Karim Benzema was a cool 75 points behind him.

Personally for Messi it was another terrific season, true it could have been better as Barcelona ‘only’ won the league this season but the magician from Argentina still scored 36 goals in the league and assisted in another 13. That means that he was involved in 49 of Barcelona’s 90 goals, so well over 50% which is simply a stunning statistic.

Messi could have been yours this season but he would of cost the most out of every other player and was valued at 20m. He did end up collecting a huge 172 points though which as you’ve probably guessed was good enough to be ranked number 1 right across the board from strikers to any other player in any other position in any other major league. Whew! are we lucky to be able to witness his greatness in our lifetimes.

Messi started the season in fantastic fashion earning 20 points in his first 3 games including 12 alone when Barca beat Huesca 8-2 at the Camp Nou on matchday 3. In that game Messi scored 2 goals and two assists so even if that match was involved in 50% of the goals.

There were only 6 times when Messi failed to score a point and on two of those occasions the club had already won the league and so were concentrating on other competitions including the final stages of the Champions League and the Copa del Rey final.

Messi scored some huge points in games that other players could only dream about, 14 against Real Betis and 16 against Sevilla. But that wasn’t even his biggest haul, no that was saved for the game against Levante where Barcelona were playing away. The game finished 5-0 to Barca and Messi scored a hat-trick plus got two assists so was involved in every goal. To top that he picked up an extra 2 points as a bonus for getting the hat-trick.

The plaudits have long run out for him but he still amazes and seems one of the main reasons to watch La Liga football. Despite his attacking greatness it is also worth noting his disciplinary. This is important given in fantasy football how points can be lost and Messi was shown the yellow card just 2 times this season in the league.

It was another season where Messi made scoring hat-tricks seem normal and scored some fantastic goals once again, proving he is one of the greatest players ever to play the game. He will be back next season where he will most likely be the most expensive purchase but can your team really live without him?

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