Wednesday, August 31, 2011

La Liga: Week 2 Review

After the LFP (club association) and AFE (players' union) found a solution for the strike, everyone was waiting for the beginning of La Liga. The summer is leaving us, but it seems nothing really changed. Barcelona and Real Madrid show their superiority defeating their rivals easily, which is not unusual anymore, and the rest of clubs will have to fight for "the other Liga", since the superiority of the two giants is too evident.

There is a title race between two majestic teams and a different race to win "La Liga of the humans". In the race for the title, Real Madrid suffocated Zaragoza with an impressive and suffocating defensive pressure. Zaragoza were able to connect three passes in a row and the ball was always in the feet of the merengues. Once the always starving Ronaldo opened the scoreboard, a storm of goals and chances fell on Zaragoza, who never showed to be a serious opponent. Real Madrid gave a lesson of dinamic and direct football, driven by a sublime Özil and a perfect Ronaldo in the execution. The madridistas start the new season as they finished last year, crushing rivals and a hat-trick for the Portuguese.

Ronaldo and Marcelo scored vs Zaragoza

But Barcelona responded just one day later. The Catalans suffered the injuries of lots of players of their backline (Alves, Adriano, Piqué, Puyol and Maxwell) and Guardiola reinvented the system, honoring his teacher Johan Cruyff with a brave 3-4-3. The theorically risky plan worked with total perfection. Villarreal resisted for half an hour, only running behind a ball that was Barcelona's property. Once Thiago scored, Villarreal collapsed and they never seemed to be able to surprise the barcelonistas. The goals of Cesc, in the last moment of the first half, and Alexis Sánchez, when the game was retaken, ended up finishing with the shy hopes of the "Yellow Sumbarine". Messi also joined the party with two goals, which completed the score. Remarkable the Messi-Cesc partnership, flowing in attack in free roles, exchanging positions. Villarreal never found them and they paid the bill, showing the same worrying image of the Champions League games against Odense.

In "the other Liga", the eyes were on Sevilla and the new Málaga. It was a hot regional derby between eternal enemies. Sevilla had just been eliminated by Hannover from the Europa League and the visit of the new rich Málaga was a test for them. Marcelino's team responded and the first goal of Negredo, in the first minute of the game, calmed the fans, who were still disappointed by the continental failure. In the first half, Malaga was unable to stop the constant threat of Perotti and, especially, Negredo, who showed his best image. Probably, Negredo finally feels important and the confidence shown by the striker was remarkable. Málaga still tried it after the nice goal scored by Santi Cazorla, but they failed to impressed in their debut. For now, Málaga only seemed to be a collection of individualities, but never shown to be a team. They will need to improve in the collective work in order to be the alternative they are supposed to be.

Negredo makes the difference

In Mestalla, Valencia struggled to win the 3 points, but the support of the home crowd and the self-confidence of the team was enough to overcome a 1-3. The early goal scored by Soldado was soon balanced  by two goals of Racing. Valencia showed the same strengths and weaknesses of last season: attacking power and defensive errors. The Racing of Cúper, who returned to Mestalla, had the game in their hands, but the naive youth team of Santander failed to control the game. Valencia were able to lay siege on Racing's goal in the last half an hour of the game to achieve an epic victory. Soldado made his debut as captain, replacing Mata, and presented himself as volunteer to be the new idol of Valencia with an impressive and decisive hat-trick.

As it is usual in recent times, Atlético Madrid failed to win a game in their debut at home. The new hour (the game was played at 12 AM on Sunday) was unhealthy for the atléticos, who were unable to score a single goal in 90 minutes. Without Falcao and Turan, the signings for the new season, and with Forlán packing to join Inter, the home team was toothless in attack. Atlético did not play a bad game and had lots of chances, but the bad luck and Adrián Fernández, the young goalkeeper of Osasuna, avoided the home victory for a team who missed a reference in attack. Osasuna succeeded in taking a point from the Calderón.

Arrivederci Uruguayo

Another disappointing debut was the one of Bielsa's Athletic. A confused Athletic had lots of problems to create chances against a Rayo Vallecano, who left a good impression in their return to Primera. The goal scored by Iturraspe was supposed to give Athletic calm to win the game, but Rayo responded with a goal by the veteran Movilla, which allow the madrileños to scratch a point from La Catedral.

In Granada, the home team and Betis met in their return to Primera División. Granada seemed too nervous in their first Liga game after 35 years and Betis was the best team on the pitch during all the game. The ambition and bravness of the Betis' coach, Pepe Mel, was awarded by a late goal scored by Rubén Castro when the game was about to die. In Gijón, Sporting was surprised at home by the serious Real Sociedad of Montaniere. The Basques were led by Agirretxe and achieved an important away victory. Sporting failed to show a good image despite they played 20 minutes with one more player.

Betis celebrates the return to Primera with a victory

Mallorca made their fans happy with a victory against Espanyol in a game to forget. The goal scored by De Guzmán made the difference in a game where the mallorquinistas were slightly better. Espanyol, dismantled in the last 6 months, missed the reference of Osvaldo in attack and the pericos will have to improve much more, if they want to repeat the good image shown last year. In Getafe, Levante scratched a draw in the last minutes of a game of very low level. The defenses always defeated the attacking lines and the ball was always too far from the box.

La Liga started and we are back with the "bipolar" league. Del Nido and Roig, presidents of Sevilla and Villarreal respectively, made powerful complaints about the situation. They are probably right. At this point, only an accident make possible the defeat of any of the two giants, which clearly harms the competitiveness of the competition. The new TV deal discussion is on the table, but this debate requires a more deep analysis. We will do it soon.

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