Fantasy La Liga Gameweek 2 Picks

Real Madrid begin the defence of their La Liga title on Sunday night with a trip to Real Sociedad, but games that were due to involve Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid are still postponed for their involvement in European competition last month.

With seven matches taking place in the Spanish top flight this weekend here are our fantasy football picks:

Goalkeeper: Rui Silva (Granada)
Granada started their season with a 2-0 win at home to Athletic Club last weekend and have a good opportunity to make it six points from six by hosting Deportivo Alaves in gameweek 2.

Goalkeeper Rui Silva will set your fantasy team back just £3.0m and is significantly cheaper than the other two goalkeepers who kept opening weekend clean sheets.

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Vinicius Junior proves once again why he is so valuable to Real Madrid

Zinedine Zidane is no stranger to throwing in a curve ball with his team selections and the Real Madrid performed a familiar trick on Sunday by naming James Rodriguez to his starting lineup for the crucial away game at Real Sociedad. This was the same James who hadn’t started a game for Los Blancos since the defeat to Real Mallorca all the way back in October.

Such was the fuss made about the Colombian’s presence that not much was said about the call to rest Eden Hazard just days after he’d turned in his best performance as a Real Madrid player so far in the 3-0 win over Valencia. In his place, Vinicius Junior was trusted on the left side of attack.

There is no doubting the potential Vinicius possesses. It’s easy to forget the Brazilian winger is still only a teenager such has been the impression he has made on the Santiago Bernabeu over the last two seasons. But for all that Vinicius frustrates and still has a lot of refining to do to his game, he is extremely valuable to Los Blancos.

He proved this, not for the first time, in the 2-1 win over Real Sociedad that took Real Madrid to the top of La Liga for the first time since their Clasico win over Barcelona at the start of March. While the visitors to the Anoeta struggled to break down La Real for much of the match, Vinicius made things happen.

It was the Brazilian teenager who win the penalty kick that Sergio Ramos stroked home to send Real Madrid on their way. There is an unpredictability and sometimes a lack of control to Vinicius’ dribbling, but this is partly what makes him so difficult to defend against and why when he gets the ball something tends to happen.

With James and Karim Benzema generally unwilling to drive at the opposition defence, Vinicius attempted to run through them. This saw him dispossessed a number of times, and the Brazilian could still do with polishing his final product in the final third, but nobody else currently at the Santiago Bernabeu approaches the game like he does. He gives Zidane something different and that something different helped earn Real Madrid what could prove to be a season-defining result. A result that puts them on course for the Spanish title.

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Real Madrid has become a home for Brazil’s next generation

Reinier Jesus will at least have some countrymen to help him settle into his new surroundings in the Spanish capital. Last week saw Real Madrid complete a deal to sign the Brazilian midfielder for £26 million from Flamengo with the 18-year-old putting pen to paper on a six-year contract. Reinier is just the next player in a long string of Brazilians to have pitched up at the Santiago Bernabeu recently.

First, Vinicius Junior arrived, making the move from Flamego to Real Madrid after his 18th birthday in the summer of 2018 for a fee of around £40 million. A year later Rodrygo made the move from Santos to the Spanish capital for a fee of around £35 million. The two players have been compared ever since, playing a similar role at a similar age from the same country for the same club. Now they will be joined by Reinier, a player likened to Kaka in the way he plays the game.

Of course, Real Madrid are a club that has long been fascinated with Brazilian football. The Santiago Bernabeu has been home to the likes of Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Kaka and Robinho over the years. Now, Real Madrid is once again harnessing a group of Brazilian players.

This time is slightly different. Previously, Real Madrid targeted Brazilian players like Kaka and Ronaldo once they had already risen to the top of the sport. In contrast, Reinier, Rodrygo and Vinicius Real Madrid have this time gone straight to the source, luring these players directly from the country of their origin.

Patience will be required to develop the trio into the world class operators Real Madrid have bought them to be. That isn’t always in abundance at the Santiago Bernabeu where fans expect immediate results, but Rodrygo and Vinicius have shown that it’s possible to make an immediate impact at one of the biggest clubs in world football.

Reinier is the son of Mauro Brasilia, a Brazilian futsal legend, and is considered one of the country’s brightest midfield prospects. He scored six goals in 14 appearances for Flamengo last season as the club went on to win the league title. Real Madrid will now look to harness Reinier in the same way they have done with Rodrygo and Vinicius. A large part of the future of the club can be found in these three players.

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Vinicius Junior starting to rediscover last season’s form

In Belgium, Real Madrid were carried by their Baby Brazilians. Comparisons between Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior are natural given their nationality and style of play, not to mention their tender age, but all too often the discourse around them recently has been to use one to beat the other with. The win over Club Bruges showed that the pair can combine to great effect.

It’s certainly true that Rodrygo has started the season in the better form. Indeed, the 18-year-old has very quickly become a key figure for Real Madrid, scoring six times in 11 appearances. Zinedine Zidane has made it clear that he is a fan of the teenager and sees a big future for him at the Santiago Bernabeu.

For Vinicius, it’s been a different tale this season. The Brazilian burst on to the scene last year, drafted into the first team squad by Santiago Solari following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui. Vinicius instantly lifted everyone at the Santiago Bernabeu at a time when they needed a lift. Within a few weeks he was arguably Real Madrid’s most important player alongside Karim Benzema.

Injury curtailed Vinicius’ season, though, and he struggled to rediscover that early form over the early part of the 2019/20 campaign. The Spanish capital is an unforgiving footballing environment and some sections of the Real Madrid support has started to turn against the young Brazilian as he toiled.

More recently, though, Vinicius has looked more like the player the Santiago Bernabeu fell in love with last season. A frequent lack of a final product is still an issue for the 19-year-old, as it was last season, but he has now found the back of the net in games against Osasuna and Club Brugge, also impressing against Espanyol and Eibar in recent weeks.

This serves as a lesson to those quick to write off Vinicius earlier in the season that young players, especially ones as talented as he is, need time and patience to develop. The Brazilian’s talent is clear for all to see, he just needs the right environment for that to come through. Rodrygo might have stolen the majority of the headlines this season, he might have stolen a march on Vinicius as Real Madrid’s most promising teenage Brazilian, but there is room for both to succeed at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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Vinicius Junior must be harnessed by Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid

Last season, he was pretty much the only reason to watch Real Madrid, at least for a period of the club’s 2018/19 campaign. Indeed, while the Santiago Bernabeu tried to quickly forget what happened last season, the emergence of Vinicius Junior was a bright point. It gave Real Madrid something to build on.

Vinicius almost single-handedly changed the tone around the Santiago Bernabeu after the sacking of Julen Lopetegui midway through the season. Until then, the teenage Brazilian had been kept at Castilla despite his obvious potential. It wasn’t until the appointment of Santiago Solari that Vinicius was unleashed and the impact he made was profound.

Since then, though, he has seemingly regressed. Injury ended Vinicius’ season early, but the Brazilian has struggled to pick up where he left off this season. Indeed, Zinedine Zidane has used the teenager sparingly. Vinicius has fallen down the pecking order even with Marco Asensio out injured for the long term and Gareth Bale still something of a scapegoat.

This was illustrated by the news that Vinicius has been left out of the matchday squad for Wednesday’s La Liga fixture against Leganes. As things stand, Zidane favours another teenage Brazilian, Rodrygo, with Lucas Vazquez, Isco and Luka Jovic also injured in the squad.

Vinicius has been a target for more criticism than most over the early part of Real Madrid’s season. Fans and pundits were afforded a glimpse of what the Brazilian can bring last season and they want more. But it is up to Zidane and Real Madrid to harness and protect the youngster.

Such was the impact made by Vinicius last season it’s easy to forget that he is still only 19-years-old. He still has a lot of growing to do, both as a person and a player. Sometimes, it seems that the teenager is trying to do too much and in this labouring he is losing the spontaneity that made him so potent before the summer.

Therefore it’s probably for the best that Zidane takes him out of the firing line for the time being. Real Madrid have the players to cope without him. The likes of Bale, Karim Benzema and Hazard can carry them in the final third. Vinicius remains a shimmering prospect for the future, but those around him must consider what is best for him in the present.

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Have Real Madrid forgotten about Vinicius?

Real Madrid tend to get their man, even if it takes a few years. Eden Hazard had long appeared destined to one day pull on the famous white jersey of the Spanish giants with the Belgian finally making the move to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. It’s a move that had been a long, long time in the making.

Of course, Real Madrid still have a void to fill after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus last summer. Not just in terms of goals, but in terms of stardust. They need players who can handle the weight of carrying a club of such stature. Hazard certainly fits the bill in that regard.


But positionally and tactically, did Real Madrid really need Hazard? He is a left-sided attacker and it’s on the left side where Zinedine Zidane’s side are strongest. They have Marco Asensio, but more notably it’s where Vinicius Junior made himself the brightest teenage talent in Spanish football last season.

Indeed, the Brazilian was the breakout star of the 2018/19 La Liga season. He was a revelation for Real Madrid, becoming their most important player for a spell between the turn of the year and Easter. Were it not for injury he might well have done more to save Real Madrid’s campaign.

It was expected that Vinicius would hold down a starting place next season, but will that still be the case now that Hazard has been signed? Can Zidane find a way to fit both the Brazilian and the Belgian into the same team? If he can’t, could the money used to spend Hazard have been used elsewhere?

Real Madrid had a number of positions to fill this summer. They needed a centre forward and got one in the form of Luka Jovic, signed from Eintracht Frankfurt after an excellent season in Germany. They needed a left back and got one in the form of Ferland Mendy, signed from Lyon.

Zidane also needs a central playmaker, with Real Madrid linked with both Christian Eriksen and Paul Pogba. Might it be the case that Hazard becomes more of a central force so that both he and Vinicius can be accommodated in the same side? He has, after all, played that role on occasion for Belgium.

Real Madrid needed players who could perform here and now. But they mustn’t neglect their future in the process of overhauling their team. Hazard represents the here and now, while Vinicius represents their future. The challenge for Zidane is to look after both.

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Barca could end Solari’s Real Madrid career

Screenshot 2019-02-28 at 20.15.09

Earlier this season, Julen Lopetegui knew definitively that his Real Madrid coaching tenure was over when Los Blancos were hammered 5-1 at the Camp Nou.

The manner of the defeat left Florentino Perez no other option, notwithstanding that the president needs no excuse to exercise his trigger finger. Continue reading

Real Madrid still haven’t stepped out from under Ronaldo’s shadow

There was a sense of confusion, bafflement, around the Santiago Bernabeu as the full time whistle blew on Real Madrid’s 3-0 home defeat to Barcelona, on their 2018/19 Copa del Rey campaign, on Wednesday night. The home supporters had seen their team ragdoll their fiercest rivals for the majority of the 90 minutes, yet it was they who ended up on the wrong end of the emphatic scoreline.

Indeed, the statistics at full time made for bemusing reading. Real Madrid managed 14 shots on goal compared to Barcelona’s four. What’s more, many of those efforts from Real Madrid were high quality chances. Vinicius Junior in particular was presented with a number of opportunities to find the net.

Cristiano Ronaldo

When it mattered most, Real Madrid lacked cutting edge. They had been in good form coming into the Copa del Rey semi final. Their first leg draw at Camp Nou set them up nicely to make the final of a competition they haven’t won in five years. And yet Barcelona showed them up when the pressure was on.

This is where Cristiano Ronaldo was so important for Real Madrid in years gone by. The kind of performance turned in by Los Meringues on Wednesday night wasn’t especially unusual, it’s just that previously they had Ronaldo to drag them through, to get them over the line.

Nine months after his departure to Juventus, Real Madrid still haven’t stepped out from under the shadow of their former Portuguese forward. A few weeks ago, it seemed that Karim Benzema was filling the void, scoring six goals in a run of five games, but that streak has since come to a halt.

Vinicius has widely been labelled the Ronaldo replacement at the Santiago Bernabeu, and with good reason. The emergence of the Brazilian teenager was a turning point in Real Madrid’s season. He has given them a forward thrust that they had been previously lacking. Many of their attacking moves flow through him.

However, Vinicius is still a teenager and there’s only so much he can do on his own. The majority of the opportunities he spurned on Wednesday night were of his own making. Relying on him to create and score is not a sustainable plan for Real Madrid in the post-Ronaldo age. The defeat to Barcelona exposed the problems that they are still facing.

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Real Madrid all but surrender late title bid with shock defeat to Girona

Real Madrid v Girona

Last Sunday morning, the Santiago Bernabeu bore witness to what may well have been the end of Real Madrid’s thin hopes of a late La Liga title challenge.

The Spanish giants and current Champions League holders stumbled to a 2-1 defeat to bottom-half side Girona in front of their disillusioned fans.

Girona are enjoying only their third season in the top flight of Spanish football having been promoted to La Liga for the first time in 2016.

Let’s take a look at the fantasy football heroes and zeroes after this surprise win for the Catalonian club.

Vinicius Junior provides spark for Real Madrid attack

Vinicius Junior

Only a fortnight after making his debut as a teenager with Flamengo, Vinicius Junior was making football headlines around the world. The Brazilian penned a new contract with his club before his €45m release clause was met by Real Madrid with many questioning the price of the deal for someone with such little experience.

That move came before Neymar – who Vinicius has said is his ‘idol’ – left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a world record €222m move. Indeed, at the time the 17-year-old was at the time the second highest fee for a Brazilian footballer, behind only Neymar’s switch from Santos to the Camp Nou. Continue reading