Sunday, October 24, 2010

El Rincón del Madrid (Real Madrid Corner)--Week 7 Recap: PORTUGUESE TIDAL WAVES CRUSH CANTABRIAN FISHERMEN

Every week, I’ll try to give you the best and latest Real Madrid news, notes, and analysis.  Having lived in Spain, I’ll try to incorporate more of the in-depth coverage everyone wants to read.  It’s an exciting time to be a Real Madrid fan.  Jose Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, and a slew of young new players like Mezut Ozil, Sami Khedira, and Angel DiMaria could make dethroning Barca a reality this year.
            The White shirts crushed Racing Santander 6-1 on Saturday evening in the Bernabeau.  CR7 had 4 goals, being the first “Blanco” since Fernando Morientes in 2002 to score 4 or more in one game.  The “Meringue play” was most impressive as they brilliantly executed pinpoint “through balls” throughout the game and penetrated the Cantabrian side’s defense from all angles.  The “galacticos” have scored 16 goals in their last 3 la liga matches.  Most analysts expected a blowout because Mourinho has a personal record of not having lost a home league match in eight years while at Porto, Chelsea, Inter and now Madrid.   Madrid had won 32 times in 42 matches against Racing in the Bernabeau and Racing lost its best player, Sergio Canales, to Madrid over the summer.  Did anyone think CR7 would have 4 goals or that a Mourinho coached side would put up 6 goals?  I don’t think so.  However, CR7 now has 10 goals in 8 La Liga matches, starting to get back to his Manchester United form.  Ironically enough, Racing Santander coach Miguel Angel Portugal, recently held Madrid`s technical director post and this sight was all too familiar for him as he watched his team go down in a fury claiming, “we fell asleep during this match.” 
Madrid maintains a 1 point edge over Barca and both teams will have to prepare for midweek Copa del Rey matches against Murcia and Ceuta, respectively.  Madrid heads to Alicante next weekend to battle Hercules in the José Rico Pérez (lead by resurgent players David Trezeguet and Royston Drenthe) while Barca must square off with Sevilla in the Camp Nou (Barca barely edged Sevilla in the Sanchez Pizjuan when they faced them last May).
Now, let’s discuss Madrid’s best off season acquisition.  I want to address which player has been most influential in helping “los blancos” achieve their current success.  I rank them from #1-5 (1 being the best).
1. Ricardo Carvalho
The Portuguese national team player made a name for himself at Porto and starred for Chelsea.    He’s a reliable backline defender and isn’t afraid to take on star strikers.  He’s started all 11 games and has been a valuable acquisition due to frequent injuries to Ramos and Albiol.  He already scored a goal and is a quick playing centre back with short movements who’s aggressive and aerially inclined.
2. Mezut Ozil
Mezut started his club career for FC Schalke and Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. He’s an attacking midfielder and has 1 goal in the Champions League and 2 goals/3assists in La Liga.  He’s not afraid to pull the trigger and teams up nicely with Cristiano Ronaldo up top.  He was brought over because he’s a German national stand out (21 appearances and only 22 years old) and had a tremendous World Cup showing.  He was one of ten nominations for the golden ball in the ‘10 World Cup. He always has his nose around the goal and is known for his ball handling abilities, deft touches and crosses, and aerial abilities.
3. Angel Di Maria
The feisty Argentine National team player who starred for Benfica is known for his brilliant moves on the wing and has double digit shot totals. He’s a wide winger who has already made an impact scoring 2 fantastic La Liga goals.
 4. Sami Khedira
He’s a Midfielder and German National teamer and has been a mostly solid replacement for Xabi Alonso.  The former Stuttgart man is physical, aggressive, and seems to understand Mourinho’s tactical approach.  If he and Ozil can continue to improve their English and Spanish to communicate better on the pitch with their teammates, his success will continue just like it did when he scored the game-winning header in a 3-2 win against Uruguay in the 3rd place play-off match in the ’10 World Cup.
 5. Pedro Leon
The Murcia-raised talent played on Murcia, Valladolid, Levante, and Getafe before his Madrid call.  He did feud with Mourinho initially and was left off the squad for a few matches but the conflict seems to have been resolved.  His natural winger skills and ability to draw fouls makes him a valuable late substitute against difficult teams.


The first phase of the group stage continues to run its course.  What have we seen this week out of the Spanish clubs?  Thanks to two if the world’s biggest stars, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Real Madrid and Barca both sit at the top of their groups.  Valencia closely follows Rangers of Scotland and Manchester United, in third place within their group.  As we head into week 7 of “La Liga”, Jose Murinho’s Real Madrid boys seem to be finding their form as they cruise on with 17pts atop the table while Barca continues to look for the right lineup formation and is lodged in between Villarreal and Valencia in a tie for 2nd with 16pts. 

Week 7

Players to Watch:  Alberto Rivera, Santi Cazorla, Leo Franco

Alberto Rivera:  The first-year Sporting Gijon man who has spent most of this decade playing for the Andalusian club, Real Betis (currently in the 2nd Division), is off to a great start and is one of the top assist generators in the league.  This midfielder grew up in the Real Madrid youth system and is relying on his solid fundamentals to lead his new Asturian team to a 2 win, 3 loss start.  His savviness helped his team stun Sevilla last week (2-0) and he’ll look to do the same this weekend as he leads his club into a volatile Getafe environment in the Madrid suburbs.

Santi Cazorla:  The Spanish National team constant has had a brilliant start thus far leading the “yellow submarine” to a second place position atop the table on the heels of “the merengues”.  The Asturian-born midfielder/forward/winger is known as a “passmaster” in Villarreal’s system and will lead the Valencian squad against Atletico Madrid in a gigantic primetime matchup on Sunday night (See my “Match to Watch”).

Leo Franco:  The Argentine goalkeeper is in his first year with Real Zaragoza (in Aragon) after coming over from Turkish side Galatasaray even though he’s played most of his career in “La Liga” (5 years each with Mallorca and Atletico Madrid).  He’ll need to utilize all of that La Liga experience this weekend as “los maños” head up to Cataluña to face Barca in the Nou camp.  Expect to see a barrage of goals after Barca scored trounced Zaragoza twice last year and tallied close to 10  goals in last year’s campaign against the zaragozanos.

Impact Foreign Player of the Week:  Diego da Silva Costa
The Atletico Madrid Brazilian striker is clearly showing that he didn’t deserve to be on loan the last 4 years.  The 22yr old has netted 3 goals already and is the only driving force behind Atletico’s success since the rest of the team has been hampered by injuries, namely Kun Aguero’s.  He will try to catapult his squad past the yellow submarine this weekend in my “Match of the Week” as his team makes an appearance in “El Madrigal”.
Hot Team: Real Madrid
Jose Mourinho’s hype about being the “special or chosen one” may be all it’s cracked up to be.  He’s yet to lose a match since coming over to Madrid from Inter Milan.  Ronaldo has been on fire the last 3 games (Oh did I mention he now has 40 goals in 45 games for the white shirts) and the team’s defense looks to be the best it has been in 3-4 years.  Look for them to stomp a weak Racing Santander team in the Bernabeau as Sergio Canales gets a shot at his old club.
Cold Team:  Osasuna
Pamplona’s favorite club is struggling.  The enthusiasm and energy from the “running of the bulls” aka Festival de San Fermines hasn’t carried over into “La Liga” this year.  Since the opening match of the season in which they narrowly lost to Real Madrid, Osasuna has managed only 1 win at home against a newly promoted Real Sociedad Club and has struggled against the likes of Deportivo La Coruña, Espanyol, and Levante.  The next 5 matches bring weaker opponents and if Osasuna (and old man Juanfran) cannot start to make up some ground, they may be destined for relegation which they haven’t seen since the 1999-2000 season.

A Few Predictions (using the Quiniela Format):

Barcelona v. Real Zaragoza: 1
Real Madrid v. Racing Santander: 1
Valencia v. Mallorca: 2
Sevilla v. Athletic Bilbao: 1
Villarreal v. Atletico Madrid: 1

Trainer to Watch:  Michael Laudrup

The Danish star who exhibited his skills for 7 quality years in the 90s for both Real Madrid and Barcelona managed an early season draw against his former teammate Pep Guardiola a few weeks ago.  This week he’ll feel that same pressure as he must head into “El Mestalla” stadium in Valencia to face a tough club that feels they should have drawn in last week’s instant classic against Barca.  I can guarantee an entertaining match and a quality coaching matchup between him and Unai Emery.

Match of the Week:   Villarreal v. Atletico Madrid
Diego Forlan.  Kun Aguero.  Giuseppe Rossi.  Marcos Senna.  Diego Costa.  Simao.  Santi Cazorla.  De Gea.  Jozy Altidore??? Hahaha, I don’t know about that last one.  This match is chalk full of superstars and promises to be a great one.  Only separated by 3 points, both teams are playing well and have been intensively preparing for this Sunday’s prime time match. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Week 6: La Liga Beat and Predictions: Injuries Affect Saturday's Epic Battle

A critical week 6 is upon us in La Liga.  3 Catalan speaking clubs lead the way while Murinho’s boys lie sandwiched in between.  Valencia currently sits in1stfollowed by Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Barcelona.
I am a Real Madrid supporter (I'll try not to favor them too much). My favorite player is Sergio Ramos.  Ramos is doubtful for this week’s Real match in which they face Malaga on Saturday night in La Rosaleda. This is how my weekly “La Liga” briefing will be structured: players to watch, impact foreign player of the week, hot team, cold team, predictions (using a quiniela format), coach to watch, and match of the week. I look forward to having all of your participation. Feel the passion, the power, and the intensity of La liga!!!!!
Week 6
Players to Watch: David Villa, Giuseppe Rossi, Aritz Aduriz
David Villa (if he plays) will square off against his old team this weekend.  Statistically, he has managed only 2 goals thus far.  He has adamantly declared he will not celebrate a goal if he happens to score one to pay respect to the club (Valencia) that helped catapult his career.  On Wednesday, Villa tied Schalke’s Raul with 44 international goals playing for “la roja” (the Spanish National team).  He looks to continue this scoring pattern in what will be a crucial match for the azulgrana at the Nou Camp this Saturday at 2:00p.Est.  I find it hard to believe he’d miss this occasion but I am aware of his lingering knee issue.
Giuseppe Rossi, the New Jersey born, Italian national team player already has 4 goals this season for a Villarreal team that has had no trouble finding the back of the net.  He’s featured in the “Monday Night Football” game against newly promoted Hercules; both hail from the same “comunidad valenciana”.
Aritz Aduriz, the 29yr old Basque striker, who has played for Mallorca the last few years fine tuning his skills, has had a monumental impact this season for Valencia.  He surprises new people every week.  After his recent call-up to “la roja” for the Euro 2012 qualifiers, look for his confidence and attitude to be in top form.  He’s got 3 goals already and will look to add more to his total against Barca this weekend.
Impact Foreign Player of the Week: Nilmar
Nilmar Honorato da Silva is probably the best Brazilian striker who nobody knows.  He leads La Liga in goals and before coming to Villarreal, had played his entire club ball in France or Brazil.  He can team up with Rossi, Cazorla, Senna Capdevila and even fellow American Altidore to continue Villarreal’s winning ways. If he continues to have success, he could find his way to the Bernabeau as the transfer window quickly approaches.
Hot Team: Valencia
16 pts in La Liga.  A reduced debt of 150 million.  1st place.  Valencia are playing well.  They managed to just concede one goal to Manchester United in the Champions league.  And had a hard fought tie against Atletico Madrid.  Look for a draw this weekend as they head to the Nou Camp to fight against rivals, Barca.  However, losing their star player Joaquin for the match could prove to be costly.
Cold Team: Deportivo La Coruña
On one hand, it’s been all draws and losses as well as shameful performances for the Galician boys.  On the other hand, the early strength of their schedule and weekly tests may prove that this team can handle adversity as the season progresses.  After last week’s 6-1 thumping against Real Madrid, Depor has a ton of work to do.  They host Osasuna in the Riazor, as Guardado and company look to ascend from the relegation cellar where they currently sit with only 3 points.
A Few Predictions (using the Quiniela Format):
Barcelona v. Valencia: X
Malaga v. Real Madrid: 2
Atletico v. Getafe: X
Athletic Bilbao v. Zaragoza: X
Sporting Gijon v. Sevilla: X
Trainer to Watch: Pep Guardiola
Huge match for Josep this weekend.  With Xavi ruled out and a host of other injuries and aches affecting his team (including Pedro and Villa), Spanish fans will be watching Pep very closely.  Will he convince Messi, Villa (has a nagging knee problem), Maserchano, and Valdes to step up?  He’s telling the media that all is under control but if Barca draws or somehow loses to the Valencian leaders; expect a large outcry from the Catalunyan crazies.
Match of the week: Barcelona v. Valencia
Must-see TV.  After el clasico, it’s probably the biggest rivalry.  This Saturday night match (in Spain, afternoon in the states) will feature two of the league’s top teams.  Don’t forget about the shared language, the stars, and two of the more popular trainers.  It’s a quiniela stumper/buster especially with Barca leaving many perplexed as they continue to create opportunities but cannot manage to capitalize.  Xavi won’t play, neither will Joaquin and even David Villa is doubtful.  Regardless, make sure to tune in for this epic battle.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


With the international break the next couple of weeks, La liga will not resume until October 17th.  I have taken the time to write about the catalans.  Also, check out all things la liga and soccer at  I'll return to my regular format next week.  Cheers.

Some people may think I’m a bit crazy for wanting to say that the famed la liga masters are in some trouble, but let’s review some facts.  Barcelona or Barca as they’re so cooly called in the football world currently sits in 4th place in La Liga.  Barca almost tallied 100 points in la liga las year and still set the all time record for pts narrowly beating Real Madrid.  The season before (Pep Guardiola’s first), won an unprecedented 6 trophies that year, including the Champions and World Club Champions leagues.  So far this year, Barca has struggled against a newly promoted team, Hercules (from Alicante) and a lower table team, Sporting Gijon.
            The true Barca fans have noticed a difference this year, just as many scoring opportunities but less dazzling finishes.  Pep Guardiola is not only having trouble in La Liga but Barca recently drew with Rubin Kazan, a Russian team, after the first leg of the Champions League.  Ironically enough, they had quite the time getting through Rubin Kazan last year as well.  Barca desperately needs the International break to find their form again.  After a 1-1 draw to Mallorca, and with other dangerous squads like Real Madrid, Villarreal and 1st place Valencia looking like they are in good form, there is some cause for worry in Cataluña.  And, you may say, “This madridista is out of his mind, we’ve dominated the possession in most games, and still have 13 points”.  Let me say one word, “injuries”.  Pedro will be out three weeks with a hamstring injury.  Messi’s ankle may still be bothering him after his 10 days off.  Xavi is still sidelined with a hamstring issue and hopes to be back before the epic battle that will take place October 17th against Valencia.  Barca’s team is not known for its physicality.  Abidal, Puyol, and Pique are strong players but they are more known for technique and system management. 
A couple other things to consider besides the injuries: Villa has scored 2 goals but seems to be feistier this year and was already held out a game for slapping a player.  Hopefully this is a score a lot of goals temper to mimic that of his world cup performance instead of him taking out his aggressions with girly slaps to the face.  This year, there’s no more Ibra, No Marquez, and no Hleb.  All had had enough of Pep’s system.  Robinho looks like he’d rather play in Italy so forget about that transfer.  I sincerely believe Pique has a secret desire to return to England since he’s constantly being courted by EPL teams where he could make more money.  Fabregas seems content at Arsenal even with the constant media attention and other barca players nagging at him to return to his homeland. Adriano looks lost.  Maserchano has not made a big impact thus far.  Bojan just signed a contract through 2015 for some big money.  This could be motivation for him to score goals because he realizes the club not fully trusts him or he may view it as a time to relax since he’ll be paid up for the next 5 years and realizes Barca has plenty of strikers.  Murinho appears to be lingering in Pep’s mind.  Cristiano went off this past weekend and don’t think Pep’s not watching every Real Madrid game.  Maybe Pep will be unaffected by the renewed Real Madrid pressure since he’s ready to move to Arsenal next year.  What motivation does Pep since he’s won every possible trophy in Spain anyways?  Some may quip that Pep grew up with the Barca club, played for it, and loves to live and die for the club every day.  Time will tell.  Let’s not forget there’s more overall strength in La Liga this year, too. Barca has a new President in Sandro Rosell who replaced the ever so cocky and debonair Joan Laporta this past summer.  Laporta, albeit a real media ham, did make mostly good decisions for the club and took much of the media pressure off of Pep and the players.  Unfortunately, he had other gubernatorial ambitions. 

And the most important question.  Can Messi score 34 goals again this year?  Pep relies on the “little magician” every game.  If he stays healthy, Barca could immediately start to dominate again.  However, the next 3 matches include: Valencia (in 1st place and looking incredible), Zaragoza (played Barca well at the end of last year and desperate for a draw/win at the bottom of the table), and Sevilla (new trainer, very talented squad, passionate fan base).  Pep has a little less than 2 months to put his boys in good position before “el clasico” at the end of November.  If the Blaugrana continues to perform like this, I don’t think they’ll be close to that 100 point mark like they were last year.

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Blog---Excited to Post About La Liga--Week 5

Hi Friends, Liga Fans/Supporters, and Football Aficionados,

Since I'm back living in the good ol’ USA, I have felt quite removed from my true passion, soccer. Or, as it’s known in the rest of the world, football,
fútbol, calcio, joga, etc. Thus, I decided to start a weekly blog that will be solely dedicated to the happenings of the world's greatest soccer/football league, La Liga. This is Spain's first division. While most of my friends may prefer watching and following American football, basketball, or baseball, I want to inform and educate the world as much as I possibly can to spread the growth in America of the world's most popular sport in one of the world's most magical countries. I thought that the best way to do this was to write weekly entries in English about Football in Spain because “el fútbol en España es la vida” or “Soccer is life in Spain and means everything”. La liga is filled with some of the top soccer players in the world. This is better evidenced by Spain’s triumphant display in the 2010 world cup. This is considered by many to be one of the top 3 (maybe the best) leagues in the world.

I am a Real Madrid supporter (I'll try not to favor them too much). My favorite player is Sergio Ramos. This is how the main weekly posting will be structured:
players to watch, impact foreign player of the week, hot team, cold team, predictions (using a quiniela format, coach to watch, and match of the week. I look forward to having all of your participation. Feel the passion, the power, and the intensity of La liga!!!!!
Week 5
Players to Watch: Diego Forlan, Fernando Llorente, Cristiano Ronaldo
Diego Forlan is one of the world's top players. The Uruguayan star has 3 goals this year and will square off against a tough Sevilla defense that could be extra motivated with its new coach in place. He's continuing to ride the high after his great performances over the summer with his national team and the winning of the golden ball award. Atletico has been in good form for most of the season thus far but will be without Kun Aguero.
Fernando Llorente is the face of Athletic Bilbao. He also has three goals this year and even notched one in the Spanish National team's loss to Argentina in Buenos Aires. He's great in the air and his physical presence makes him one of La Liga's most dangerous players. I predict him going into the Mestalla and leading his team to a close game against a very talented Valencia team.
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the game's most recognizable stars. Jose Murinho, his fellow countrymen and coach, is waiting for his striker to finally starting earning his big salary. The shots are there this year. The finishing is not. Ronaldo is frustrated. The team will have an easy test against Deportivo La Coruña in the Bernabeau which should provide an ample amount of opportunities. So far, we've seen one easy penalty attempt and a deflection. Will one of the world's finest finally step up?
Impact Foreign Player of the Week: David Trezeguet
The Frenchman was transferred to Hercules (a recently called up team from the second division in Alicante) and is setting the world on fire with 3 goals in 4 games. He's finding his old form and is proving to be unstoppable. He'll go away to Getafe this week and should be able to continue to penetrate and get goal scoring chances. The former Juventus striker who helped shock Barcelona a few weeks ago may be eyed by some bigger teams as the weeks go on.
Hot Team: Villarreal
The American/Italian Rossi hasn't disappointed this year. Nilmar has been electric. Cazorla is still underrated. Maybe Altidore will be inserted to add some more scoring power, too? The yellow submarine is firing on all cylinders after a disappointing last season. Look for them to crush Racing Santander this week.
Cold Team: Real Zaragoza
Los maños have the talent, the trainer, and the fan support to win. After living in Zaragoza, I can tell you that the club's decision making has been very suspect. The team is at the bottom of the table but has looked impressive at some points. With the famous pilares festivals right around the corner, Ander, Lafita, and Jorge Lopez have to step up and show some leadership or the city will personally come after each player. La Romareda welcomes Sporting Gijon this weekend. The Asturian team has been tested early this year but is definitely beatable and continues to be in the bottom of the table as well. Aupa Aragoneses!!
A Few Predictions (using the Quiniela Format):
Zaragoza v. Sporting: 1
Real Madrid v. Depor: 1
Barca v. Mallorca: 1
Valencia v. Athletic: 2
Sevilla v. Atletico: 1
Trainer to Watch: Gregorio Manzano
The feisty andaluz from Jaen is back. The former Mallorca manager was so close to tasting the Champions league last year until Sevilla broke his heart. Curiously enough, he's now leading that talented team against a tough Atletico squad after having early success in his first Europa league game. Will he get the ball rolling in Andalucía or eventually get sacked like the previous two managers?
Match of the week: Sevilla v. Atletico
Although Valencia and Athletic along with Barca v. Mallorca will both get top billing, this match will be the best. Forlan, Simao, Navas, Palop, Capel, Kanoute. All 33,000 in the Sanchez Pizjuan will be rocking for this one. The cruz campo will be flowing. Even though Atletico has dealt with some early injuries and some interesting substitutions, Quique Flores will have his boys ready. I think we'll see the Good Atletico. We all know that we never know which Atletico we'll get. Atletico drew in the Europa league and will be ready to take out those frustrations.