La Liga ‘mid-season’ recap

It only seems like yesterday the league started and already 16 matches have been played with quite a few astonishing results, some intriguing games and a few disappointing teams.  The 80th season of La Liga kicked off on August 28, 2010 with three newly promoted teams and the return of two wonderful derbies- the Basque and Valencian derby.  Real Sociedad returned to the Primera División after spending three seasons in the Segunda División, while Levante returned to top flight football after a two year stint in the Second Division and the Alicante based side, Hércules was the other team to return to La Liga after a hiatus of 13 years.

Team Analysis

The season started off brilliantly for defending champions Barcelona as they visited Racing Santander with new front man, Villa and recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over the verdiblancos and it wouldn’t take the new signing much time to record his first league goal for the Catalan side, scoring the third goal of the match in the 62nd minute.  However, that scintillating performance was to be out-done (not in a good way) the following week when newly promoted Hércules visited the Camp Nou and recorded a famous 2-0 victory for the first big upset of the season.  It was a wonderful team effort by the visitors and a sloppy performance by the home team, which I think by now it is safe to say a well deserved win for Hércules.  Thereafter, the blaugrana went on a poor home run which saw them win 2 of their 3 games, scoring a meager 4 goals.

Title rivals Real Madrid were held in a 0-0 draw in Mallorca during their season opener.  It was perhaps the most anticipated match of the new season and the away side were expected to win easily over a debt-ridden Mallorca team.  Unlike their wealthy opponents, who were busy strengthening their team with no less than 5 players in the off season as well as a new coach, went through a much publicized take over during which they lost a few of their top players, as well were forced to let coach Manzano go as they were unable to match the demands in his new contract due to the financial constraints.  However, despite, their debts the home team, led by former Real Madrid and Barcelona player, Micheal Laudrup, gave the new look Real Madrid all they could handle and held firm defensively and came away with a commendable point.

The build up to the new season saw pundits and enthusiasts tipping Atlético as the most likely team to contest the big two in the race for the league title, even more so when they had secured both the Europa League Cup and the UEFA Super Cup and for the first couple rounds they certainly looked the part, getting their season off to a wonderful start, recording a convincing 4-0 victory over lowly Sporting Gijón.  However, that association would later subside as the rojiblancos reverted to their usual Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde demeanor that they have so often been affiliated with in past seasons.

The two surprise teams at the start of the season had to be both Valencia and Villarreal.  Valencia were tipped to be in disarray after losing two key players, David Villa and David Silva to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively in the off season.  However, the likes of Mata, Joaquín and Pablo held the ship afloat along with new signings Soldado and Aduriz.  Valencia remained undefeated for the first 6 rounds, winning 5 of their 6 games and led the league for 3 weeks.  However, since their defeat to Barcelona in round 7 they went on a poor run of form and now find themselves in 4th place, 15 points behind Barcelona.  Villarreal, although a strong team since the past 7 years were not expected to be a serious threat at the start of the new season and it certainly looked that way when they began their campaign with a loss in San Sebastian against Real Sociedad.  However, since that loss the yellow submarines went on an amazing run, remaining undefeated for 9 consecutive La Liga games until their defeat against Barcelona.  They are still one of two undefeated home teams in league and sit comfortably in 3rd place.  Espanyol is also one of the most improved teams this season, sitting in 5th place at the winter break, something they hadn’t done last sesason.

Every season there is at least one team that underachieves but this season there are two key teams, Sevilla and Deportivo.  Sevilla’s horrendous start to the new season was to begin when they were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League qualifying round by Portugal’s Sporting Braga after losing 5-3 on aggregate, which saw them relegated to the Europa League.  Their first match in Europe’s second tier against PSG saw los nervionenses fall 1-0 at home.  Their league debut went smoothly, recording a comfortable 4-1 victory away to Levante.  However, after that victory, Sevilla won only one of their following four games.  Los nervionenses are currently on a 5 game losing streak and have now fallen to 11th in league.  Deportivo have also been one of the worst sides this season, spending much of the 16 rounds in the drop zone and had to wait until round 9 to pick up their FIRST victory of the season.  The Galician side were and are still struggling to score goals and with the likes of Urretavizcaya and Guardado sidelined for much of the season their attack was fairly depleted.  It was a massive problem for the Galicians to the point that the bosses opted to bring in a sports psychologist to talk to the players.

Málaga, under new “rich” management were expected to at least challenge for a spot in the top half of the table but instead are now battling against relegation, while Real Zaragoza after only their 2nd season back in top flight football are looking likely to be headed back down to the 2nd division as they went into the winter break as the worst team in La Liga.  Almería who have survived top flight football for the past three seasons are also among the candidates at this point for relegation as they went into the winter break in 17th.

So far, the teams that need to re-evaluate their seasons have not done much in the transfer market up to this point, with the exception of Málaga who have now brought in FOUR new players- Argentine defender Demichelis, Brazilian midfielder Baptista, Spanish defensive midfielder Camacho and Spanish goalkeeper Asenjo, in their attempt to strengthen their squad.

Astonishing Results

The first big upset of the season came in round 2 of the campaign as newly promoted Hércules recorded a famous 2-0 victory in the Camp Nou against defending champions Barcelona, both goals coming from Valdez, in a game that was a brilliant team performance by the visitors.  The second upset of the season involved Hércules once again when they also beat Sevilla 2-0 in the José Rico Pérez stadium, at which point most were wondering if the Alicante based team would be the dark horse of the competition, which they have thus far proven when it is most important.  It is worth mentioning that Mallorca is the only team so far to have taken points from both Real Madrid and Barcelona this season, earning a draw in both matches.  The 2nd most anticipated match in world football, behind the UEFA Champions League Final, El Clásico saw the biggest upset (!) as Barcelona outclassed Real Madrid thumping them 5-0 to remain undefeated against their arch-rivals in the last 5 match ups.  It was a bitter-sweet match depending on which side of the fence you sat.  But as a Madridista it had to be a hard defeat to swallow as the whites were walking zombies and were unable to cope with the blaugrana’s midfield.  However, since then both coaches have went on to say, the win does not reflect a difference in class between the two teams but instead reflected the difference on the night, which Mourinho went commented after the match,

“One team played to their potential and one didn’t.  Loss, yes – humiliation, no.  It was a defeat we deserved, we just weren’t good enough.  I have spoken to my players and I told them the season has not ended. Who knows what can still happen this year?”

Real Madrid rebounded nicely putting the defeat behind them with 4 consecutive wins since then.

Coaching Casualities

Since the start of the season there have been four coaching casualities but not to any significant effect just yet.  Sevilla’s Antonio Álvarez was the first coaching change of the new season which came in round 5 after his team’s 2-0 defeat against newly promoted Hércules.  His replacement was former Mallorca boss, Gregorio Manzano.  However, Manzano’s appointment have not made things better for the Andalucian team but made it worst if anything.  When Manzano took over the team they were sitting in 7th and have since plummeted to 11th.  Álvarez’s sacking was followed 4 rounds later by that of Málaga’s Jesualdo Ferreira after the Portuguese boss was unable to get his side playing the “champagne” football that he had so faithfully promised following his appointment, as well he was still unable to secure a home win with the anchovies.  Former Real Madrid boss, Manuel Pellegrini was brought in as a replacement for the Portuguese but again not to much effect as they are in the same position as they had been when Ferreira was fired.  Pellegrini’s only true accomplishment was to record 2 home victories with the Andalucians, something they have failed to do since February.  Real Zaragoza’s José Aurelio Gay was the third coaching casualty and he was replaced by former Atlético Madrid and Mexico manager Javier Aguirre after Zaragoza’s home defeat against Sevilla.  Here is another coach that have had little effect on his team since coming in, remaining in the relegation zone, in the same position when he took over as coach.  Almería’s Juan Manuel Lillo was the 4th sacking a week later following his team’s humiliating 8-0 home defeat against Barcelona.  He was replaced by José Luis Oltra, who has yet to really make a difference only managing to climb a spot up to 17th since his reign.

Interesting Statistics

The year 2010 has been a fabulous one for Barcelona ace, Lionel Messi who scored 61 goals in 64 appearances and his counterpart, Ronaldo amassed 43 goals in 45 appearances for Real Madrid in his two seasons with the club.  A total of 160 matches have been played in league with 438 goals scored- an average of 2.74 goals per match.

The top goal scorer in league is being disputed between Real Madrid and the FA, with the latter stating that Ronaldo has only 17 goals rather than 18, as a goal scored in round 3, which the club credited Ronaldo as the scorer, is being argued by the FA as coming off another player.  However, both Ronaldo and Messi at this point are levelled on 17 goals after 16 rounds.

The biggest home wins in chronological order are as follows:

  • Real Madrid 6 : 1 Deportivo La Coruña – October 3, 2010
  • Real Madrid 6 : 1 Racing de Santander – October 23, 2010
  • Barcelona 5 : 0 Sevilla – October 30, 2010
  • Barcelona 5 : 0 Real Madrid – November 29, 2010
  • Barcelona 5 : 0 Real Sociedad – December 12, 2010

The biggest away win is Barcelona’s thumping of Almería to the tune of 8-0.  While the highest scoring games are both, Barcelona’s 8-0 victory over Almería and Real Zaragoza’s 5-3 defeat against Málaga.

The longest winning streak is Barcelona’s current streak, which stands at 10 games between October 16, 2010 to present.

The longest unbeaten streak is also held by Barcelona, who are now undefeated in their last 14 games- a run that began September 19, 2010 to present.

The longest winless streak is 9 games, held by three teams:

  • Real Zaragoza – from August 29, 2010 – October 30, 2010
  • Almería – from October 3, 2010 – December 5, 2010
  • Sporting Gijón – from October 24, 2010 – Present

The longest losing streak is Sevilla’s current streak which began November 21, 2010 and stretched over a period of five games- their last defeat coming against Real Madrid in the final game before the ‘mid-season’ break.

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