Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"It Would be a Dream to Play for Barca!"

The Quotes of the Week

“I’m ready for the next step” - ex Brondby manager, Michael Laudrup, sends out a come and get me plea to potential Real Madrid suitors.

“The offer they gave me, wasn’t even worth looking at” - Depor’s want away midfielder, Victor, is probably not winning may friends in La Coruña.

“I’ve not really noticed that much difference” - Asier del Horno’s response when asked whether it rained more in Bibao or London.

“This team deserves to be amongst the best in the world” - Atletico Madrid coach, Javier Aguirre, talks up his new club.

“On Monday, if Luis Aragones calls me, I will drop everything and go where they tell me to” - Depor’s Joan Capdevila is ready and waiting should del Horno fail a fitness test.

“Those people who wanted my death are going to be happy” - Real Betis president announces his retirement from the club in somewhat dramatic style.

“To be fair, we did have a few more problems this year (in the dressing room)” - Betis and Spain winger, Joaquin, confirms that all was not well with the team for parts of their troubled season.

“I want to play for a big team, but have not received any offers yet” - Getafe striker, Riki, had best hope that some come soon.

“Sevilla is the example for all Spanish teams to follow” - Sevilla’s president del Nido is refusing to allow their UEFA cup victory get to his oversized head. He ought to have a look how Betis and Espanyol fared this season, with their European campaigns.


Lampard Not Going to Barca - Or is He?

In an act of journalistic desperation - or boredom, Marca have been stalking Frank Lampard as he holidayed over the weekend in Stiges, just down the road from Barcelona, with his Catalonian girlfriend. After eventually catching up with him, just as he was just adding the finishing touches to his sandcastle, the paper’s stooge managed to force the Chelsea midfielder into admitting that playing for Barca would not necessarily be a hardship, should it ever happen, but that he is quite happy in London and looking to renew his contract. That was still enough for the paper to quote the England player as saying “ It would be a dream to play for Barca !”.


Transfer News...

Alaves have rejected a bid from Real Sociedad for centre back, Juanito...Valencia’s Ruben Baraja denies being the make weight in a swap deal with Atletico Madrid that would see Pernia and Gabi heading for the Mestalla...Celta’s Silva is to return to Valencia on the expiration of his one year loan deal...Villarreal midfielder Antonio Guayre to move to Celta Vigo...Defender Alberto Lopo leaves Espanyol after 16 years to join Deportivo...Man Utd still after Riquelme....Villarreal still after Inter’s Materazzi (the man who smashed Sorin in the face)...Betis after Osasuna’s Ludovic Delporte.

Javier Portillo - Not That Good Really...

Many thanks to Christoph in Belgium who has written in to tell the truth about Real Madrid’s Portillo who has just completed his loan deal with Bruges and has been telling all who would listen in the Spanish press how well it went....

“Supporting the team our good friend Portillo is playing in, i have to say he overexaggerates the level he showed us this year. After not scoring 10 goals (in the very hard Belgian league) he is mostly known for his haircut and the fact he cost the team 1 million euro a year. Just as a wage.

Javier just disappeared after the last game of the season , and since no contact could be established. To say he is being voted best foreign player is a bit ridicule of him, as we do not have such an award. Only the 'ebony shoe', but this is for best African player (won by the very very good Mbark Bossoufa, in who Valencia is reported to be interested). And the nomination for the 'golden boot' is a bit awkward, as the golden boot is elected in january next year, and is being held for the best player of 2006.

By the way, everyone is nominated :-)

So still Portillo did not find his level (and he was thinking of going to Valencia, what a joke). He is a decent guy, but for the belgian league,he is just too slow. Imagine, he is behind Bosko ( i do not run at all) Balaban in the picking order :-)”


With a bin men strike looming in La Liga Loca’s neighbourhood and the temperatures hitting 35 degrees, it is time to bail out for a couple of days - however, normal service to be resumed early next week...


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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Seleccion, Election and More Reviews

La Seleccion

Despite trying its best, La Liga Loca is still yet to get into the World Cup spirit - not surprising considering the general lack of interest in the tournament, here in Spain. Unlike England, where every taxi driver in the land will have had the cross of St George tattooed onto their foreheads by now, things are a little more subdued here in Spain. A rare occurrence, indeed.

Nevertheless, the goings on of the national team are keeping the sporting papers busy in what has been an eventful time for them and their tactically challenged manager Luis Aragones, who incredibly has yet to decide on his starting formation against the Ukraine on 14th June.

The main problems with the side, at the moment, seem to centre around their full backs. Michel Salgado is currently out of action - due back soon - but more importantly, Asier del Horno’s future in the Mundial is in serious doubt after picking up a calf muscle injury in training. Test results due on Monday will say whether the Chelsea left back will be watching the finals from his tv or from the bench.

On standby if needed is Deportivo’s Joan Capdevila - currently holidaying with his family - but ready for action if the call from his country comes. “Hopefully, del Horno is totally f**cked. He sucks anyway”, exclaimed the fullback. Not really.

Real Madrid News

With the club unable to either buy or sell players due to the leadership limbo that the side finds itself in, most news from Bernabeu centres around the endless exhortations of a gaggle of identikit, besuited old men, all of whom are trying to woo the club’s supporters into voting for them in the upcoming presidential elections.

Winning in the publicity stakes so far is Juan Palacios who, on Thursday, was pictured standing side by side with the very lovely and very, very uncomfortable looking Shakira - who happens to be sponsoring ‘Viceroy’ the watch making company that Palacios heads.

Whilst confessing to “not giving a flying f**k” about the election, when questioned, (sadly she didn’t say this at all) ‘AS’ reported the Colombian warbler had declared that Palacios was “a really great guy”. On further examination of the story, it seems that she had actually said that “Alejandro Sanz told me he was a great guy”.

Some confusing signals have been coming out of the Jonathan Woodgate camp. The occasional Real defender - who is currently hiding out in Leeds, perhaps to avoid dissection by Madrid’s doctors - had reportedly asked his agents to look into the possibility of a move back to the Premiership, with Woody seemingly tired of the endless free time, available women and sunshine that he has been enjoying in the capital.

One day later, however, Woodgate refuted this stories and claimed that he was working harder than ever to get back to fitness and called the club directors to say that he would be back for the new campaign, as he ‘owed the club, so much”. About 20 million euros, at the last count.

To be fair, in the 13 games he had played for Real, he was very good - despite his disastrous red card, own goal debut - and the side could do with a more reliable partner for Sergio Ramos.

Forgotten striker Javier Portillo - who was loaned out to Belgium club, Bruges, for last season - is not in any great hurry to come back and be nineteenth choice striker at the Bernabeu, “I was voted the best foreign player in the league and was nominated for the Golden boot. I cannot leave”. It seems, he has finally found his level.

In Other News...

Atletico Madrid are said to be homing in on Valencia’s Pablo Aimar whose services may now be surplus to requirement, after the arrival of the free scoring Morientes at the Mestalla. Other targets include Osasuna’s Raul Garcia and Barca’s dread locked midfielder Thiago Motta.

Getafe captain Vivar Dorado has had his contract renewed by the club despite missing much of the season through injury.

Espanyol have reshuffled their coaching line up and appointed former Athletic Bilbao number two, Ernesto Valverde as coach alongside new sporting director Paco Herrara, who was nicked from Liverpool.

Getafe president Angel Torres - who has now developed the annoying habit of talking about himself in the third person - refuted all suggestions that he would selling his shares in the club and moving on, “Angel Torres will remain president of this club for the next few years”, he declared.

In a late breaking story, Real Betis president Manuel Luis de Lopera had announced he will be stepping down from the club at the end of June, to spend more time with his money.

How was it for you? - Part 2

Coming up today, we have a look at the likes of Barca, Betis, Cadiz and Celta - to see who were the Ketchup girls of La Liga and who were the ‘Lordi’s’.

As always, send in your own rants or praises on your club’s seasons - or anyone else's - by either clicking on the comments box or e-mailing directly to laligaloca@yahoo.co.uk.

Barcelona: 1st, 82 points

Until their eventual Champions League victory, it was difficult to know whether it was an exceptionally good Barca side that cruised to La Liga title, this season, or merely a very good one. Part of the problem was the lack of any serious domestic challenger, but a European run that saw them take on and defeat the likes of Chelsea and Milan confirmed their genuine quality.

At the back, Valdes - despite having his occasional dodgy moment - had one his strongest seasons yet , whilst Puyol and Marquez were as solid as centre back partnership as you will find in Europe. Whilst the annoyingly chirpy Ronaldinho and annoyingly grumpy Eto’o grabbed the headlines with their goals, it was in midfield where Barca had improved considerably on last season, to take the team to the next level.

The addition of Van Bommel, consistency of Edmilson, development of Iniesta and emergence of Messi meant that the Frank Rijkaard had greater flexibility in changing his formation from defensive to attacking, when required - something that was not always so easy for them last year, as their struggles to overcome Celtic in the CL showed.

Despite missing Xavi for much of the campaign, few teams came close to matching Barca and the twelve point margin, they eventually won the league by could have been considerably higher, had they not drifted off at the wheel, at the end of the campaign.

Marks - 9 / 10

Betis: 14th, 42 points

Oh dear. This was a car crash of a season for Real Betis after last year’s triumphant campaign which saw a fourth placed finish and a Copa Del Rey victory. This time round - with the defeat of Chelsea and a victory over Sevilla being a notable exception - the year was a disaster. Off the field, there was constant squabbling with the egomaniac club president Manuel Luis de Lopera refusing to attend home games in the modestly named Manuel Luis de Lopera stadium, after being booed by his own fans, in November.

On the pitch, matters were little better. An injury to Brazilian striker Ricardo OIiveira in the Chelsea CL tie meant that the club had lost the services of their most crucial player for the year (22 goals last season) and it showed. Goals were immensely hard to come by and with Joaquin hiding out on the wings for much of the season, desperately looking for a way out of the club, Betis had very little to offer as a threat going forward and a possessed a defence that had started to leak goals.

However, by not being as bad as other teams, Betis survived and an alarming end of season pitch invasion by the fans - one that has cost them dearly, it seems - showed how close the side was to relegation.

Marks: 4 out of 10.

Cadiz: 19th, 36 points

It’s hard to write anything about Cadiz without using adjectives such as plucky, gallant and brave - all words used to describe glorious sporting failures. Especially in an England context. Instead, Cadiz this year were entertaining, drunken, but ultimately not good enough.

Previously more famous as having Michael Robinson - the most famous man in Spain - as a director, Cadiz made a huge impact on the league in their first match and nearly got the better of Real Madrid - in retrospect, not that hard an achievement. Despite hanging on for much of the season, the club’s lack of goals and genuine top flight quality meant that Cadiz were always going to be relying on a little bit of luck to beat the drop.

Sadly, despite some gallant (doh!) performances, it was not to be and we said good-bye to the real yellow submarines and their very excellent fans - the only ones in Spain that actually bothered to follow their team around the country, in any great number.

Marks: 6 / 10.

Celta Vigo: 6th, 64 points

Celta were a peculiar side this year. They only lost three games less and scored ten more goals than relegated Alaves, yet somehow managed to end up with a place in the UEFA cup. Not bad at all for their first season back in the top flight after a short spell in the Segunda. For much of the campaign, Celta were rarely out of the top eight and towards the end, were flirting with the Champions League places before Sevilla’s charge took a little wind out of their sails.

The reason for this year’s success stems from their superb back five. Although Joao Baiano up front was a reliable target man who kept the goal tally ticking over at a respectable rate, Celta were blessed with having Jose Pinto in goal - the winner of the Zamora (goal keeper of the season) - aided by a tough tacking and industrious defence.

It was their stinginess that meant the club only managed four draws all season which helped balance out their rather disappointing defeats tally. Whether Celta are able to repeat this year’s success remains to be seen. There are many clubs poking around some of their players such as Borja Oubiña and they will no longer have the element of surprise. Nevertheless, it was a fine season for the Galicians - it’s just a shame that their fans continuously failed to witness it.

Marks: 8 / 10

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Atletico - Ever the Bridesmaids

Poor old Atletico Madrid. Every time they see a light at the end of the tunnel, it turns out to be a giant Eurostar sized train. Just as the fans had allowed a tiny glimmer of hope into their lives with the unveiling of Javier Aguirre as manager, it was snuffed out, this week, by the footballing gods. With Atletico, every positive event must always have an equal and opposite, it seems.

This week’s setback was the transfer of Tomas Rosicky - Borrusia Dortmund’s faintly sinister looking midfielder - to Arsenal.
Rosicky was a player that Atletico had been linked with for some time. Six tedious months to be exact. Since the end of last year, either the Czech midfielder or his brother had been wheeled out, at every possible opportunity, to say how much they were looking forward to the chance to become a ‘rojiblanco’, to play in the best league in the world, etc.

However, it seems that Rosicky has found the lure of Champions League football, playing alongside Thierry Henry and the big bags of gold that the Gunners were offering too much to resist. Fair enough, really.

Another reason for the transfer falling through is that poor old Atletico are a little cash strapped these days and wanted to pay for the midfielder in instalments, under the assumption, perhaps, that were shopping in Dixons. This was something that Dortmund, who are not exactly minted themselves, were unable to accept.

And so, Atletico must start the search for a midfielder, yet again, with president Enrique Cerezo claiming that “we will bring in another player who is better than Rosicky”. Not if Chelsea or Real get there first, you won’t.

Morientes Coming Home?

Not content with the disastrous experience that was Patrick Kluivert and his one league start, Valencia are looking to repeat past mistakes and have been linked with soon to be Liverpool outcast, Fernando Morientes.

It seems that Quique Sanchez Flores’ summer quest, as well as trying to look a little less intense - his stare currently resembles a near sighted Grant Mitchell trying to read an eye-chart - is to find the perfect striking partner for David Villa. Obviously, a task he has given up on already if Morientes is coming to town.

Other contenders linked with a move to the Mestalla are Deportivo’s perma-sulk, Diego Tristan and Diego Forlan, who looks to have the lost the momentary interest that Barcelona had in him.

The Unoriginal Lookalike Section


Sevilla president, Jose Maria del Nido

Barcelona Have No Defence

After a relatively quiet couple of years on the transfer front it seems that Frank Rijkaard is going to earn his beans this summer and shuffle the Barca pack a little. First priority is to find a replacement for Henki Larsson, now that Thierry Henry has elected to stay with Arsenal - probably a wise decision considering he called the Barcelona team a bunch of women amongst other names, after the Champions League final.

Second on Rijkaard’s to do list is to bring another centre back to the Nou Camp, seeing as the club only has three decent ones on the books, currently - Puyol, Marquez and Oleguer. An outside bet for this role could be Chelsea’s William Gallas.

Ludovic Giuly - the flying midfielder who was incredibly left out of the French World Cup squad - has renewed his contract to 2009, to leave Rijkaard with some tasty midfield options, next season. Especially as Thiago Motta likes set to leaving the club.

In Other News...

After much broo and a little ha-ha, Athletic Bilbao president (for the moment) Fernando Lamikiz has confirmed that Javier Clemente will be continuing as his team’s manager - “we never had any doubts about him carrying here”, he announced as his pants smouldered, menacingly.

The Toni Cassano weight watch - The Italian heavyweight striker has been put on a strict summer dietary regime by Real Madrid’s training staff. The club, it seems, are terrified that the portly attacker will return to Madrid after a month of Mama’s cooking in even worse condition than he is now. A situation they have become accustomed to with Ronaldo over the years.

Osasuna have appointed former second in command, Cuco Zigando - try saying that quickly 10 times - to replace Javier Aguirre as manager of the club.

Savo Milosevic is less than impressed by the people of Montenegro's historical decision to seperate from Serbia. The Osasuna striker has declared that every goal he scores in the tournament will be dedicated only to Serbs. Combined with his alarming threat to break Sergio Ramos’ neck, last month, La Liga Loca has the impression that our Savo is a little bit unhinged.

Transfer Rumours - Getafe’s Riki to Depor if Tristan goes to Valencia....Reading’s Steven Sidwell to Villarreal (true!)...Morientes to Betis, if Valencia does not work out....

La Liga...How Was it For You...?

Thanks to Cesar in New York for these views on Valencia’s peculiar year - keep them coming either by clicking on the comments icon - or by e-mailing laligaloca@yahoo.co.uk

"I'm a huge Valencia fan and I'm very disappointed in their season. I was excited by Flores' youth and the good stretch in the middle of the season, but the players gave up on him at the end. The last few games of the season sums it all up. The veterans are getting old and comfortable, the young players aren't getting a chance and the scrap heapers like Regueiro are left to carry the team.

I blame Soler more than anything. I think he's done a terrible job since he's been there.
Ok, I am rambling. Thanks for a great blog!"


Next on La Liga Loca - the end of season review continues....


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Monday, May 22, 2006

The Big Season Review - Part One

Final Stats...Final Stats...Final Stats....

Pichichi - Top Scorer

Eto’o - 26
Villa - 25
Ronaldinho - 17
Milito - 15
Ronaldo - 14

Samuel Eto’o grabbed this title with his single strike against Bilbao last weekend.

Zamora - Top ‘Keeper (goals conceded per game)

Pinto (Celta) - 0.78
Cañizares (Valencia) - 0.81
Valdes (Barca) - 0.83
Leo Franci (Atletico) - 0.97

Poor Cañizares blew this title on the final game of the season when he let in two goals against Osasuna.

Marca’s Team of the Season on rating points won

Pinto (Celta)

Alves (Sevilla)
Puyol (Barca)
Pablo (Atletico)
Pernia (Getafe)

Navas (Sevilla)
Silva (Celta)
Aimar (Valencia)
Ronaldinho (Barca)

Villa (Valencia)
Eto’o (Barca)

Coach - Bernd Schuster (Getafe)

La Liga - How was it for you?....

Over the next few posts, La Liga Loca will take a quick look at how each team performed this season. However, your thoughts and opinions are always welcome - either click on the comments box or e-mail directly to laligaloca@yahoo.co.uk...

First up.....

Alaves: Final Position - 18th, 39 Pts

Of course, any season that ends with relegation can hardly be called a roaring success, but it could have been very different year for the newly promoted side, had it not been for the bizarre activities of their president, Dmitry Piterman. Instead of focusing on footballing matters, the Ukrainian instead spend much of his time firing managers for not obeying his instructions and waging war with the club’s fans - who he branded as mostly ‘drunks and idiots’. Quite.

On the pitch, Alaves were certainly good enough to stay up and were only two minutes away from achieving this, before Espanyol’s very, very, very late winning goal on the last weekend of the season, condemned to the Segunda. With a bit of luck, Alaves and Piterman will be back before too long - fans revolt withstanding - as the Primera is a duller place without them.

Marks - 4 / 10

Athletic Bilbao: Final Position - 12th, 45 Pts

The club’s final mid table position covers up what was a dreadful season for the Basques that saw them spend most of the season flirting with relegation for the first time in their history. Their saviour was former manager and big mouth, Javier Clemente who came back to manage the side in November whilst they were bottom of the table.

Whilst he is not exactly everybody’s cup of tea, he restored some defensive solidity to the side and made a shrewd January transfer move by bringing Aduriz into the side, whose goals helped them through a very tough time. Next year could be just as problematic for Bilbao, who have the admirable - or suicidal - policy of only having players in the squad born or raised in the region. Whether Clemente will be in charge to lead them again, is another matter, currently open.

Marks - 4 / 10

Atletico Madrid: Final Position - 10th, 52 Pts

Despite the usual high hopes at the beginning of the season, Atletico’s year turned out to be an absolute stinker. Stuck resolutely in mid table for much of the campaign, their new signings such as Kezman, Maxi and Petrov failed to perform to the high standards expected of them, whilst Fernando Torres was forced to resort to changing his hair style each time his form plummeted.

Carlos Bianchi, their first manager of the season, was a disaster who was loathed by the players and local journalists, alike. His replacement, Pepe Murcia, did manage to stabilise the club and lead them into top six contention, before he watched his men blow the end of the season is style with some truly dreadful performances. With the fans starting to stay away from the ground in their droves and the threat of Torres’ departure, new coach, Javier Aguirre, has a tough job in turning around the fortunes of Atletico and finally banishing ‘la pupas’.

Marks - 4 / 10


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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Trading Places in La Liga

It’s all gone quiet over there

“My first option is, of course, Sevilla. But I’m a professional and I’m not going to close any doors” - Sevilla manager, Juande Ramos warns his club president that he is not one to be taken for granted.

“This could be a team of Champions” - Javier Clemente has clearly had a night on the mushrooms, as he talks up his Bilbao side. While he can.

“This prize is thanks to the work of a lot of people, they should enjoy it” - Javier Aguirre says good-bye to the people of Pamplona.

“I don’t have to prove anything, to anyone” - Except to his new employers perhaps. Atletico Madrid’s departing Pepe Murcia refuses to go quietly.

“Lopez Caro is a great coach and should be on the bench next season” - Real Madrid’s Cicinho is probably kissing up to wrong posterior with this outburst.

“I didn’t watch it but I read in the papers who won” - Roberto Carlos did not let the Champions League final spoil his regular Wednesday night Bingo.

“I had never cried on a football field, before that Sunday (his final game)” - Zidane confesses that not even playing alongside Guti for four years had been enough to reduce him to tears.

“I take the blame for everything that has happened. That’s why I am going” - Atletico Madrid’s sporting director, Toni Muñoz, bucks the trend of an entire nation by taking the hit for his side’s disappointing season.

Changing Rooms

The league is technically only a few days over and already the managerial landscape is looking very different to that of the beginning of the year.

In a country where it is quite normal to stay in a job for decades, if not centuries, the Spanish Liga stands out like Toni Cassano in a salad bar, such is the turnover of coaches.

For those of you out there, looking for a career change - this is a guide to where your applications will be gratefully received.

Athletic Bilbao - As of this weekend, the club board were still deciding on whether or not to terminate the contract of Javier Clemente, who was brought in during the season to save the club from relegation. Something he achieved.

Atletico Madrid -Carlos Bianchi was dumped at the side of the road, like an unwanted puppy in November, then Pepe Murcia was moved up from the B team to take over. Now, he too has been removed of his duties with Osasuna’s flat topped, Javier Aguirre taking over and becoming their third manager, this season.

Barcelona - If he had any sense about him, Frank Rijkaard would get out of town now, having won the double for his club. Instead, he will hang around for a bit longer, enjoying the bags of cash and glory. As safe as a manager can be in La Liga - which is not very.

Betis - It looks like current coach, Serra Ferrer, has had quite enough and will be packing his bags any day now. Both Juan Ramon Lopez Caro and Getafe’s Bernd Schuster have been linked with the possibly soon to be vacant hot seat.

Celta Vigo - After guiding his side to sixth in their return to the Primera, the bespectacled Fernando Vasquez is sure to be there next season - unless he isn’t, of course.

Deportivo - After months of moaning and toy throwing, Joaquin Caparros has decided to stay on for another two years after some clear the air talks with the president - someone he has had a prickly relationship with, at times.

Espanyol - Position vacant. Miguel Angel Lotina quit the side seconds after their last game and few can blame him, after the nonsense he had to put up with from his employers over the season.

Getafe - Remains to be seen if the club can hang onto the in-demand Bernd Schuster. Betis have had an approach rejected, but an offer from Real Madrid may to good to refuse - especially as the German coach would not even need to move house - except maybe to something considerably bigger.

Mallorca - Gregorio Manzano to remain in charge after his appointment late in the season. He has already started preparing for next year by chucking out nine players.

Osasuna - On the look out for a new manager, after Javier Aguirre left them after four years. With the prospects of Europe, a decent squad to coach and a house in the mountains to live in - finding a decent replacement should not be a stretch.

Racing Santander - Position vacant, with Real’s Lopez Caro in the frame.

Real Madrid - Pick a day, pick a name. Nothing is going to happen until July 2nd and the presidential elections.

Real Sociedad - Jose Marie Bakero has been appointed permanently, after leading the club from relegation.

Sevilla - Juande Ramos has delivered the UEFA cup and a fifth placed finish for his side, however, his reward may only be a one year renewal of his contract, making him a very poachable man, indeed.

Valencia - Some very, very difficult negotiations are going on at the moment to renew Quique Sanchez Flores’ contract, with the two sides having very different ideas of how much someone should be paid to manage the most combustible club in the universe.

Villarreal - Manuel Luis Pelligrini looks as safe as houses, after this season’s CL semi-final action and eventual Intertoto cup qualification.

Real Zaragoza - Position vacant, after the firing of Victor Muñoz. One of the more uninteresting managerial posts in European Football.


In Other News...

As has been widely reported, Roberto Carlos is merrily blackmailing his employers by threatening a move to Chelsea. He wants a one year extension to his current contract, which expires in June 2007 and has told the Spanish press that the PL champions have offered him a two year deal and stacks more cash than he gets in Spain. As, technically, he does not have any employers to negotiate with until July, he will have to stew for a few weeks. And avoid any Real Madrid fans, in the meantime.

There has been much debate in Spain as to whether the scenes of celebrations by thousands of Barcelona fans who celebrated at Madrid’s Cibeles fountain - the traditional rallying point of Real Madrid fans - were a ‘provocation’ to the capital’s club. Marca readers seem to think so in a poll where 56% voted yes. Grumpy buggers.

As reported above, Atletico Madrid sporting director, Toni Muñoz has tearfully left the club despite the club’s board and president trying to dissuade him. “We had a great squad of players and I am the one most responsible for not having fulfilled our objectives with them”. Amazing stuff.

Javier Aguirre officially said good-bye to Osasuna after a very successful four year spell - “It’s not good-bye, it’s see you soon”, said the Atletico Madrid bound coach. His first moves in his new job is to cancel any plans the club leadership may had of embarking on a money spinning world tour over the summer or entering the Intertoto cup, should any new positions become available. Instead the Mexican, who has signed a one year deal, has called for the team to regroup on the 10th July.

Ronaldo has reacted to the Italian match fixing scandals by reclaiming the three Scudettos he says he lost to Juventus....Alaves president Dmitry Piterman has branded his centre back, Oscar Tellez, ‘ a drunk’ after upsetting tourists during the club’s end of season party...Deportivo will not be entering the Intertoto cup, next season should another position become available...Valencia’s retiring veteran Amedeo Carboni has been confirmed as the club’s new sporting director...


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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Spain 2 - 0 England - full time

A Quick Word

As there will no doubt be countless column inches dedicated elsewhere to last night’s Champions League final, La Liga Loca’s view is summed up by this picture that has come its way.


Atletico Madrid - Reasons to be Cheerful

On the face of it, it has not been a good year for Atletico Madrid fans, then again, it rarely is. An unusual season to say the least saw them spend the first half throwing away leads at every opportunity, sacking the coach - at enormous expense - who had only been in place five months, flirt with relegation, inch their way back into European contention and then chuck it all away at the end with a the most lethargic of finishes.

Off the field, they look set to be booted out of the Vicente Calderon as the increasingly obsessed Madrid city council plough ahead with their over ambitious plans to rejuvinate the rather skanky area, where the stadium is located.

On top of this, they have become the city's third team due to Getafe finishing one place and two points above them and it is increasingly likely that captain and poster boy Fernando Torres will be off to pastures new, where he can continue his one man obsession to see how many bad haircuts it is possible to have in one life time.

To those Atletico fans still reading, who have not gone off to take a bath with a toaster and a Joy Division cd - there is hope.

1. The coach - Javier Aguirre, soon to be ex Osasuna manager, arrives in town today to begin talks on taking over from stand-in coach Pepe Murcia. Good news for La Liga Loca, who found the current Atletico manager’s Andalusian hyper speed exhortations a little hard to follow, but also for supporters of the ‘rojiblancos’ everywhere. Aguirre has had an impressive spell at Osasuna, where his no nonsense, tough guy, no smiling persona lead his team to Champions League qualification. And with almost no money being spent. There is no reason he cannot repeat the same feat in Madrid. Well, actually, there are plenty.

2. Signings - Getafe and very nearly Spanish international left back, Mariano Pernia, is already confirmed for the start of the next campaign to give a little competition to Antonio Lopez and to try to repeat his remarkable scoring record for the current year, where he managed ten goals - almost all from 50 metres out. Also being lined up is Independiente’s Argentinean wonder kid striker, ‘Kun’ Aguero - although the transfer talks are going to be very tricky indeed. Tomas Rosicky from Borrusia Dortmund is also expected in town, sometime soon. The new coach will also have to decide what to do with four loan players returning to Madrid, including Man City’s Musampa.

3. Ariel Ibagaza may be leaving. But probably not Kezman.

La Liga Loca Needs You !

Starting next week, La Liga Loca kicks off the end of season club by club review - and needs your input. Who were the Kluiverts and Cassanos of the year? Who soared and who slumped? Just add a comment or e-mail directly to laligaloca@yahoo.co.uk.

La Esssential Seleccion

There are still mumblings and grumblings throughout Spain on Luis Aragones’ final 23 for the Mundial. As has been commented on the blog, the absence of Morientes has caused most consternation, but also that of Valencia’s experienced Ruben Baraja. “Baraja deserves to be in the Mundial” says David Albeda, eyeing the inclusion of Villarreal’s newly Spanish Marcos Senna with suspicion. “Its a shame Morientes isn’t there”, complains Liverpool’s Luis Garcia, who had evidently spent more time on his PSP than watching last Saturday’s cup final.

Another complaints have come from the presidents of Osasuna and Sevilla who have criticised Aragones for failing to draft any players from their sides. To be fair, it would be easier if they actually had Spanish players in their teams, who were of the quality to be selected - Raul Garcia being the exception.

Sevilla’s forward line is a Brazilian, a Malian and an Argentinean - with a midfield run by an Italian and a Brazilian. Osasuna’s goals come from a Serbian, Argentinean and Cameroonian, while their best midfielder is a Frenchman.

Marca seems to think that the starting line up will mirror that of Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation.

Casillas, Del Horno, Pablo, Puyol, Salgado: Cesc, Albeda, Xavi: Villa, Torres, Luis Garcia / Raul.


In Other News...

Real Zaragoza coach Victor Muñoz has been booted out of the club after two and half seasons, after an underwhelming 11th placed finish and Copa Del Rey Final defeat. Considering the president sold David Villa from under him and other bigger clubs have performed far worse this season, it seems a little harsh.

Cadiz manager, Victor Esparrago has fallen on his sword after his side’s relegation from the Primera. Alaves’ president Dmitry Piterman has confirmed that he is going absolutely nowhere.

Athletic Bilbao are currently in talks on whether to relieve the ‘character’ that is Javier Clemente of his duties after steering the club to safety this season. On the plus side for Clemente, he has completed his initial mission of saving the club from relegation and would receive a 240,000 euro payoff, should he be forced out the door. However, on the downside, he has few friends in the board room or even amongst the playing staff, such is his constant tendency to open mouth, without engaging brain.

Real Sociedad have confirmed that Jose Marie Bakero will remain as coach, having offered him a two year contract as reward for leading the troubled team away from relegation.

Transfer News...

Real Madrid are in the hunt for a new left back after Roberto Carlos confirmed that he has been in talks with Chelsea. Current names being bandied around are Ashley Cole (please God, not again), or a swap with Asier del Horno.

Villarreal have completed the free transfer signing of Real Sociedad’s Turkish striker Nihat with Robert Pires to follow soon...

Deportivo ‘keeper Jose ‘Alfred’ Molina has expressed a strong interest in playing in the Premiership next season, with Bolton and Manchester Utd said to be sniffing around. Meanwhile, the club are still attempting to resign want away midfielder Victor.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

The Last Weekend Preview - Part Two

The Final Battle for the Champions League

With part one of the final weekend out the way - a round of matches that saw Alaves dropping out of the Primera and Villarreal sneaking an Intertoto spot - it is time to see if the final two games of note can offer up just as much drama.

The big night is on Tuesday, when two games will decide whether either Valencia or Real Madrid will be having a slightly longer summer holiday, by avoiding the qualification rounds of the Champions League and which of Sevilla or Osasuna will be facing the UEFA cup or joining the big cheeses in the CL.

Through a stroke of good fortune - all teams are playing each other.

This is how it currently stands

2. Real Madrid - 70pts
3. Valencia - 69 pts
4 Osasuna - 65 pts
5 Sevilla - 65 pts

Sevilla (5th) DWWWW v Real Madrid (2nd) DWWWD
Although your eyebrows may raise a little at the thought, this is a match between the two in-form teams of the La Liga. Despite their continuous off the field troubles, Real’s players have quietly going on a bit of a run and are unbeaten in the league since the resignation of Florentino Perez some three months ago - indeed, Real are statistically the best league side for the second half of the season. However, their opponents tonight are tough and are fresh from defeating a second string Barca on Saturday night. Sevilla have their sights firmly set on Osasuna’s fourth spot - but it may a bridge too far for the Andalusians who face an opposition, equally as motivated. Draw.

Osasuna (4th) DWLWL v Valencia (3rd) WWWLD
You can be sure that Valencia’s players are going to wearing an extra pair of shin pads for this encounter. With the home side facing the possibility of a season long slog potentially counting for nothing but a measly UEFA cup place, the motivation will be extra strong for Javier Aguirre’s battling bruisers to get stuck into their opponents. As for Valencia, La Liga Loca senses that the fight went out of the team with their home draw against Atletico Madrid - a match that allowed Real to grab the second spot. Expect more scandalous threats of violence to be handed out to Valencia’s rather girlie forward line of David Villa and Pablo Aimar, by Savo Milosevic. Home win.


Adios to Morientes....

A couple of surprises in the Spain World Cup squad, as announced by Luis Aragones.

As seems to be the trend, this year, youth has won over experience, which is bad news for Liverpool’s Fernando Morientes and Valencia’s Ruben Baraja, who have both been dropped. Whilst it is possible to understand the dropping of Morientes - judging by his display in the FA Cup final - the former Real Madrid striker is a very consistent scorer for ‘la Seleccion’ - and with both Torres and Raul horribly out of form, it is quite a gamble, by Aragones.

However, there is good news for Cesc Fabregas, who was virtually unheard of in Spain at the beginning of the season and Barca’s often unheralded midfielder Andres Iniesta, who both make the cut after fine seasons.

Other points of note are the exclusion of Vicente who has not been able to regain fitness in time for the World Cup and the fitness gamble of having Raul and Xavi in the squad. And the inclusion of Betis’ Joaquin.

Has Aragones done the right thing - send your comments through or email laligaloca@yahoo.co.uk

Squad listing stolen from those kind people at football365

Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Santiago Canizares (Valencia), Jose Reina (Liverpool); Michel Salgado, Sergio Ramos (both Real Madrid), Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Pablo Ibanez (Atletico Madrid), Juanito (Real Betis), Carlos Marchena (Valencia), Antonio Lopez (Atletico Madrid), Asier del Horno (Chelsea); David Albelda (Valencia), Marcos Senna (Villarreal), Xabi Alonso (Liverpool), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Xavi (Barcelona), Joaquin (Real Betis), Luis Garcia (Liverpool); Jose Antonio Reyes (Arsenal), Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid), Raul (Real Madrid), David Villa (Valencia).

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The Inbetweener

The Last Word

“We don’t deserve you, Torres” - An Atletico Madrid banner correctly predicts another lamentable performance by Atletico in their 1-1 home draw with Betis.

“There was still a desire to continue, but I believe that my cycle at this club has finished” - Espanyol manager, Miguel Angel Lotina, quits a few minutes after their miraculous relegation escape on Saturday night.

“We paid for a bad start to the season” - Alaves president Dmitry Piterman ignores the four managerial sackings and regular public insults dished out to fans and players that may have had some baring on the club’s fate, this season.

“I’m sure they’ll be back in the Primera. They have fans that everyone loved” - Bernd Schuster, for one, will miss the supporters of Cadiz.

“We did everything we good, but it was not to be” - Cadiz manager, Victor Esparrago, on his side’s relegation.

“Every time a fan asks me for a photograph or an autograph, I feel the same excitement as I felt the first time it happened” - La Liga Loca is off to stalk Zidane to test this recent confession.

“Zaragoza were given a 600,000 euro payment to win the game” - Javier Tebas, VP of the League and Alaves’ legal advisor accuses the previous weekend’s opponents of having been given a little nudge of encouragement from a number of other clubs in their 3-0 victory.

“Why couldn’t Torres become a Real Madrid player?” - Real’s sporting director Benito Floro. Because he hates the club and would be beheaded within days of signing, by the Atletico fans, perhaps?

“We are people of great humanity” - Barca president Joan Laporta gets a little carried away with his club’s success.

“I can’t say that I won’t celebrate if I score in the final. It would be difficult to control such an emotion” - Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas on the possibility of putting one past his former team.

“Larsson is irreplaceable, it’ll be difficult to find a substitute for him” - Barca’s Gio is obviously not a big fan of Maxi-Lopez.

“Torres’ future is directly linked to his desire to carry on here and not to any economic considerations” - Atletico director Miguel Angel Gil Martin puts the ball in Fernando’s court.

“It’s not me against Henry...It’s Barca against Arsenal” - Ronaldinho tries to move the focus of attention away from his future team-mate and onto this week’s game.

“If the president wants me, I’m happy to stay” - Ronaldo graciously agrees to remain at the club if need be.

“We mustn’t obsess about it - if we lose it is not the end of the world” - Osasuna manager, Javier Aguirre, on Tuesday’s big clash with Valencia. Considering he is leaving the club at the end of the season, it definitely will not be the end of the world for Javier. Until he joins Atletico that is.

“We are where we deserve to be” - Atletico Madrid’s, Gabi, in a reflective mood.

“It was the best day of my life, along with the birth of my children” - World famous, sobbing Sevilla fan Miguel Terrero basks in his new found fame.

“From the beginning of the season, there have been some strange things going on, but we learned to look away” - Deportivo’s Fabricio Coliccini on the ongoing president v manager battle that has torn the club apart this season.

“There are players here, who don’t want me to continue at the club” - Athletic Bilbao coach, Javier Clemente, cries ‘infamy, infamy, they’ll all got it in for me’.

“It’s a dream for any footballer” - Over emotional Espanyol substitute, Ferran Corominas, still cannot get over his last minute winner for his club, to keep them in the top flight.


In Other News...

Atletico Madrid and Spain left back, Antonio Lopez has been linked with Barcelona -but not until the end of next season, when he will be a free agent.

Alaves’ Dmitry Piterman confirms that he will not be leaving the club anytime soon, despite their final day relegation to the second division.

Deportivo manager, Joaquin Caparros, to stay at the club until 2008 after last ditch talks with club president Lendoiro.

Celta Vigo manager, Fernando Vasquez has had his contract renewed after guiding the newly promoted club into a sixth placed finish and the UEFA cup.

Real Madrid presidential candidates Villar Mir and Carlos Sainz join forces with Sainz to run as VP. The two men have confirmed that they will be looking for Brondy manager, Michael Laudrup, as their new coach. The presidential elections are due to be held on the 2nd July, meaning that Real will not be able to participate in any transfer activity until then.


And Finally...

Thanks to Ben for some great questions, below.

With the World Cup coming up, I fancy a punt on who's going to be top goal scorer and who's going to win. I quite fancy Spain's chances and was wondering what their starting 11 will be (and what the press think it will be) Will Torres start? Or are Spain's hopes resting on David Villa's excellent form? Or is Reyes (who is still shocking) gonna be their trump card? Will Raul plod along and be the usual over-hyped player that he his?

Well - Spain, the eternal ‘dark horses’ of the tournament, have a decent squad this year, so have a have a good chance - but we say that every tournament. Up front, they are likely to start with Torres, Villa and Luis Garcia. Even the coach Luis Aragones is not mad enough to put Raul in the first team, on his current form.

Reyes is a possible starter, but is more likely to come from the bench - however, a lot depends on the fitness of Valencia’s Vicente, who is more favoured in this position.

The midfield line up is not yet clear as Fabregas’ emergence has thrown up some debate as to whether he should be in the first 11. They somehow have to squeeze in likes of Xabi Alonso, Baraja, Xabi, Albeda, Iniesta. Some fairly good options there.

I've also seen in the press today that Cesc has come out saying that Arsenal should sign Torres, do you think this is a distinct possibility or just a recycling of the usual Summer transfer gossip?

La Liga Loca thinks this is a very strong possibility - Torres was in a foul mood during Saturday’s final game with Betis and was constantly getting involved in niggly scraps. At the end of the match, he trudged off the pitch without applauding the fans - not a happy chappy. Torres would be the perfect replacement for Henry, once he leaves for Barca. He is young, desperate for titles and one of the brightest striking talents in Europe. Wenger will need to do something about his hair though.


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Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Last Weekend Preview - Part One

Going, going, nearly gone

And so to round 38 (and round 34) is finally upon us and what an odd one, it is too. Because of the unfortunate combination of a Sevilla v Barcelona postponement, three weeks ago and both teams being in European action since then, the last round of the season has been shuffled about and is now spread over one week - Saturday, Tuesday and next Saturday. This way, all the club’s lawyers are happy.

For the most part, the majority of the games are going to be completely unpredictable and will simply be decided by which players are resting themselves for the World Cup, which are sober and which have been bribed to pull their finger out and actually make an effort. Allegedly.

Nevertheless, there are still some big issues to resolve, as La Liga previews Saturday’s round of matches - one that centres on the battle to avoid the drop. Will we being saying ‘adios’ to the craziness that is Alaves or the Copa del Rey big guns of Espanyol?

To make your prediction, simply add a comment or email laligaloca@yahoo.co.uk....

In today's edition we also welcome back James Walker-Roberts with some musings on Sevilla's UEFA cup triumph....



Mallorca (15th) DLWWL v Zaragoza (11th) LLDLW
There were accusations from the Alaves camp, this week, that the previously disinterested Zaragoza players had been offered, ahem, ‘incentives’ by a consortium of relegation threatened clubs to actually give the encounter between the two sides a bit of a go, last week. In the end, the Copa del Rey losers comfortably won 3-0 - a result that secured safety for a number of clubs including Sociedad and Racing Santander. With nothing left to play for - let alone hard cash or ham - it seems unlikely that Zaragoza will be even vaguely interested in contesting this game, especially as it is probably Victor Muñoz’s last match in charge. Home win.

Atletico Madrid (10th) WWLLD v Real Betis (13th) LLDLW
Betis’ high from last week’s 2-1 victory over Mallorca - a result that lead them to safety - was rather short-lived. The post match celebrations which involved pitch invasions, flares and arson did not go down at all well with the league authorities, who quickly imposed a one match stadium closure on the club, next season. The best defence the Betis leadership have come up with so far is “other teams are just as bad”. Genius. The week then got considerably worse when their hated rivals, Sevilla, triumphed in the UEFA cup final - easily gazzumping Betis’ Copa del Rey victory, last season. Still, at least they are not Atletico, whose fans may well be witnessing the last ever match of Fernando Torres for the rojiblancos if you believe the rumours. Home win. Or the Atletico players will be running for their lives, at the end of the game.

Celta Vigo (6th) WWWLD v Getafe (9th) DWDLW
A final tie between the two great success stories of La Liga this season - however, there is little to play for except pride. Celta are guaranteed 6th place and a place in Europe and are unlikely to make 5th, as Sevilla have a one point advantage with a game in hand. Getafe could well end up in 7th if they were to win and Depor and Villarreal were to lose. Quite an achievement, really. Home win.

Cadiz (19th) WDLWL v Malaga (20th) DLLLL
This match is probably not going to be the happiest of the round, but then again, you never know with Cadiz’ superb fans. With the kick off at 8pm on Saturday night, there is plenty of time for the Andalusians supporters of both sides to get the beers in and have a bit of a relegation party. Home win.

Alaves (18th) DLLWL v Deportivo (7th) DDLWL
At last, a meaningful match. This is the first of the two big clashes that will decide who is crying into their cañas on Saturday night, and who is partying like it’s 1999. Despite the lofty position of Alaves’ opponents, Dmitry Piterman could not have picked easier opponents for their crucial survival match - apart from Malaga, or maybe Atletico, that is. Although Deportivo still have hopes of securing 7th spot and Europe via the Intertoto cup, the club is in absolute turmoil with manager Joaquin Caparros certain to be leaving in the summer along with a whole host of big name players such as Tristan, Duscher and Andrade. If Alaves throw the proverbial kitchen sink at them from the off, they should pick up the victory. Home win.

Espanyol (17th) LWDLL v Real Sociedad (14th) WWLLD
Part two of the Saturday night’s survival battle sees Espanyol - UEFA cup bound - just needing to limp over the finishing line, with a victory over ‘nothing to play for, waste of space’ Real Sociedad. However, the match will not be as easy as it looks on paper, for Espanyol. Their visitors are able to play without pressure for the first (and last) time this season and this could make them a very dangerous opponent - especially when taking their impressive scoring record this year into consideration. Espanyol striker Fredson claimed, during the week, that God himself is on their side. La Liga Loca thinks it may not be enough and it could be very, very close, on the night. Draw.

Villarreal (8th) v Racing Santander (16th) LLWLW
Should Deportivo slip up against Alaves - which they surely will - then Villarreal could well be the beneficiaries of such a result and sneak into the 7th place Intertoto cup spot - and perhaps launch another European adventure. The home victory looks a cert against truly useless opponents. Home win.

Sevilla (5th) DDWWW v Barcelona (1st)
Fresh from their very public caning of Middlesbrough and Thursday’s victory parade, Sevilla are back in action and taking on a Barcelona in the rearranged tie from round 34. All in all, this is a very good time to play the league champions who will surely be resting just about everyone, with the clash with Arsenal just around the corner. If Sevilla win their final two matches of the season (Real Madrid on Tuesday) then they will qualify for the Champions league, next season - to do that, they will need to focus and pick up three points here on Saturday night. Home win.

Part 2 on Tuesday - Sevilla v Real Madrid, Osasuna v Valencia. Could the finale be any better?


Nine Collectors Items from the UEFA Cup Final

by James Walker-Roberts

Daniel Alves– has he got the best hair cut in Spain?

Mark Schwarzer’s face-mask – did it actually affect his goal-keeping?
Although it has not yet been scrutinised in the media, he seemed to
parry nearly every Sevilla shot – two of them leading to simple tap-ins.

The printing of the names on the Sevilla shirts – the writing is just
so damn Shakespearean…. it almost made Fredi Kanoute look good.

Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido: “Now we hope that Barcelona
beat Arsenal so we can play them in the European Super Cup in Monaco”. Do
you not play them enough already in a season?? You are playing them this
weekend; do you not want to play a new team from a different country?

Did Middlesbrough actually go to win the game in the first half or were
they just preparing themselves for the comeback in the second-half? Funny
that Sevilla didn’t collapse like Basel and Bucharest, you would have
thought putting four strikers on would cause any opponents trouble, no matter
if they are top of the Swiss league or fifth in La Liga.

When did the commentators on ITV stop believing Boro could not actually
win the game? Was it when the third goal went in or was it the fourth?

Middlesbrough being described as ‘superhuman’ – come on guys, they are
14th in the league and struggled to beat Basel and Bucharest. I know they
came back from behind to score four goals twice but why were they in that
position? Was it a tactical masterstroke from McClaren? O how the
future looks bright for England….

Was the gentleman who ITV kept showing Sevilla’s biggest ever fan or
had he just received some unfortunate and incredibly badly timed news from his
phone? The guy looked like he was terrified, I know Middlesbrough are a
devastatingly good side but…

Kudos must go to the brains behind the Sevilla side Fredi Kanoute for
reading and predicting Steve McClarens Plan B: ‘We were prepared for
them to throw on strikers because they have done it before…. We've been
prepared for them playing four strikers, because we know they have had a few games
like this’. Shame Plan C never quite materialised…. good job England don’t
actually have 4 strikers to call on this summer.


All weblog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Spain 1, England 0 (half time)

Images from As.com

A new star was born during Wednesday night’s UEFA cup victory for Sevilla against ‘Boro - and it was not the sublime Daniel Alves or the free scoring Enzo Maresca, but instead the big girlie crying bloke in the Sevilla crowd.

For a while, it looked like the over wrought Andalusian was not going to make it to the end of the match without some kind of emotional breakdown, but fortunately, thanks to Steve McClaren’s inspired tactics, he was able to join his fellow supporters in celebrations, the likes of which has rarely been seen in a football stadium. One can only imagine what it must have been like back home in Sevilla.

Overall, it was a well deserved victory, but a little harsh on Middlesbrough who had no answer to the speed and incisiveness of the Sevilla attack. Indeed, even Luis Fabiano - who normally has a Tony Daly-esque tendency to run into blind alleys - was made to look good by the Teesiders' struggling full backs.

One downside to the match was egomaniac club president, Jose Maria del Nido’s constant attempts to gate crash the celebrations that even saw him muscling in on the team photo, when they posed with the trophy. All in all, his antics were not surprising for a man who once declared that he felt more important than the Pope, in his city.

Still, after 57 years, 10 months and 6 days of waiting, Sevilla deserve their moment of glory and it is one that many players including Jesus Navas have dedicated to their fans - “It’s our support who truly deserve the title”, proclaimed the midfielder.

The big question now, is can Sevilla built on this victory to push for a Champions League spot in their final two games at Barca on Saturday and Real Madrid next Tuesday, or will the victory be too much of a distraction? Osasuna will certainly be hoping the latter.


Valencia Begin Collapse Two Weeks Early

Even by their admirable standards of implosion, Valencia seem to be doing their level best to ensure that they face the final match of the season against Osasuna, in the worst shape possible, prompting a outburst from the club captain. A series of behind the scenes ‘issues’ have rocked the club, in recent weeks (again), leaving a less than savoury atmosphere surrounding the Mestalla.

First up, was the departure of the extremely popular sporting director Javier Subirats who made the decision - with a little help from president Juan Baptista Soler - to leave the club in June after ten years at that side. This untimely exit was quickly followed by the announcement that Director General Manuel Llorente Martin would also be leaving the club. It is unlikely that the two men have left “to spend time with their families”.

Yesterday the club declared that it would be delaying the talks on the proposed renewal of manager Quique Sanchez Flores’ contract, by a week in order to see where the club lies at the end of the season - arguably, a rather harsh decision considering the job the coach has done to rebuild the club and put them back in Champions League contention, this year.

Club captain, Daniel Albeda is less than impressed by the goings on and has declared publicly his dissatisfaction - “All this stuff happening at Valencia, just isn’t normal”. Au contraire, for this particular side, it is very normal indeed.


In Other News....

News just in - Osasuna manager Javier Aguirre has advised his players that he will not be continuing with the club at the end of the season. The Mexican coach, who has been at the Pamplona side for four years and has guided them to European place this season, is expected to take over at Atletico Madrid, in the summer. Deportivo manager Joaquin Caparros has reportedly been in secret talks with Osasuna to take over from Aguirre, although this is something he denies.

Barcelona have sold the tv rights to their games until 2013 for 100 million euros - a sum that might even be enough to buy Thierry Henry.

Nice scenes at Athletic Bilbao for once, where all the players attended a special press conference and stood up to applaud the long suffering fans who had backed them all season.

Miracle man, Gregorio Manzano - the Harry Redknapp of La Liga - is expected to continue as manager of Mallorca, next season, after leading his once doomed side to safety. A decision will be made on Tuesday on whether Jose Marie Bakero will be carrying on at Real Sociedad.

In Malaga, the superbly named president, Serafin Roldan will be stepping down as club in the summer, after a two year spell in charge of the now relegated club. He cites poor health as the main reason.

Big boned Brazilian Ronaldo has launched his own web site dedicated to all things him. Tellingly, on the opening page, the Real Madrid striker has photos of him action for all his clubs and for Brazil - however only one photo sees him in a Real shirt, but five have him in his Inter Milan garb. Make of that what you will.



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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

La Liga's Magic Managerial Roundabout

Moving In and Moving Out

If you were to believe all the managerial transfer gossip whizzing around the Spanish press, these days, you’d have thought there was some kind of La Liga job swap scheme going on.

Not only did eight clubs decide to ditch their coaches mid season (and there is still time for more) - Alaves (3 times), Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Malaga, Mallorca, Racing, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad - it would appear that there will be a whole wave of new managerial changes taking place in the close season, as a combination of itchy feet from coaches and even more itchy trigger fingers from impatient club presidents kick in.

In fact, if all the rumours detailed below actually come true, only four clubs will be starting with the same managers, next year, as the beginning of this season - Barcelona, Villarreal, Sevilla and Celta Vigo.

La Liga’s version of musical chairs looks set to start at Real Madrid where Juan Roman Lopez Caro is almost certainly moving on - and probably more than happy to do so, when you consider what he has had to put up with over the past six months. Lopez Caro has been linked with a move down south to take over Real Betis, his home town club.

Current Betis manager, Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, is reported to have had his fill of working with crazy man club president, Manuel Luiz de Lopera, and is listening to overtures from French club Monaco, who were said to be impressed by the Spaniard’s management prowess in guiding Betis to a Champions League spot last season.

So what of the gap at the Bernabeu? Still a very confusing situation, on the whole. It was revealed today that Carlos Ancelotti from AC Milan had signed a pre-contract agreement with former club president Fernando Martin - a deal which now looks dead and buried, because of the turmoil of the past two weeks.

It is now highly unlikely that there will be any kind of decision on the post until July and the completion of the presidential elections, as each of the candidates have their own idea on who they would like to bring in.

However, Getafe’s Bernd Schuster is becoming a stronger possibility by the day, to such an extent that club president, Angel Torres, is said to be lining up either Hugo Sanchez or Michael Laudrup - currently at Brondby - as a potential replacement for the moustachioed German.

Atletico Madrid’s stand-in coach Pepe Murcia has no chance of hanging onto his job and it is an open secret that Osasuna’s hard man Mexican manager, Javier Aguirre, will be moving to the capital to take over the near impossible task at the Calderon.

His job in Pamplona looks set to be taken by Deportivo’s Joaquin Caparros who has been grumbling for some time that his ambitions for the future of the club do not match that of the very skint board.

Other coaches set to be on the move are Espanyol’s Miguel Angel Lotina’s who has been dithering all season on the decision of whether to stay on or not. If his team are relegated this weekend, it will almost certainly be made for him.

Real Zaragoza are set to part company with Victor Muñoz after a lacklustre campaign, whilst Sociedad and Racing will probably looking for permanent successors to their current stand-in managers, despite them both guiding their respective sides to safety.

Biggest shock move of all, this summer, maybe the departure of Quique Sanchez Flores from Valencia. Although both sides are keen to thrash out a deal that will keep the Madridileño at the club, it is reported that Flores’ salary demands in the negotiations for his renewed contract are considerably higher than that being offered by the club board. As they have already booted out the director of sport and a managing director after 10 years, in recent weeks, do not be at all be surprised if Flores goes the same way.

La Liga Loca will, of course, bring you all the latest news as it happens.

La Liga season to end with a whimper

At long last and after a number of crazy plans worthy of the A-Team - including playing the final round of the season with no international players - the Spanish football authorities and FIFA have sat down over a lengthy lunch in Switzerland and agreed on a way of dealing with the thorny question of when to play the postponed Sevilla v Barcelona tie - however, it is a little complex.

The already difficult conundrum had been made even harder with Osasuna’s defeat and Sevilla’s win at the weekend - a combination of results that had given the UEFA cup finalists a sniff of qualifying for a Champions League spot. This meant that there was no way on God’s earth that Osasuna’s lawyers were going to let their rivals face a Barcelona side, shorn of 14 first team players on the final day of the season, the league’s first idea.

Instead, the Sevilla v Barca fixture will be played this Saturday, with seven other ties in what will be a staggered final round of games. The original clashes scheduled for this weekend - Sevilla v Real, Athletic Bilbao v Barca - will be played a few days after, along with Osasuna v Valencia. Clear? Thought not.

Saturday 13th May (time to be decided) - Sevilla v Barcelona (round 34), Alaves v Depor, Cadiz v Malaga, Celta v Getafe, Mallorca v Zaragoza, Espanyol v Sociedad, Atletico v Betis, Villarreal v Racing (all round 38)

Tuesday 16th May - Sevilla v Real Madrid, Osasuna v Valencia (round 38)

Saturday 20th May - Athletic Bilbao v Barca (round 38) (probably without internationals as v meaningless game, that Barca would still win)


In Other News...

Real Betis will need to find an alternative venue for their first home game, next season, after the league authorities ordered their stadium be closed for one match, after a pitch invasion at the end of Sunday’s encounters with Mallorca. In quite scary scenes, the players and match officials had to run for their lives from the Betis fans who stormed the pitch at the end of the encounter to celebrate the 2-1 victory which meant survival in the top flight for the home team. The fact that the supporters had also started setting fire to their own seats, probably did little to help their case, when the decision was made.

More evidence at the Bernabeu on Sunday, that team spirit at Real Madrid is not exactly in good shape, this season. When Zidane left the field, on his final appearance in front of his home fans, only seven of his team-mates bothered to applaud him from the pitch - Raul (of course), Sergio Ramos, Casillas, Mejia, Baptista, Cassano and Beckham. Guti and Roberto Carlos - both vice captains - were very noticeable by their absence.

Frank Rijkaard faces a tricky decision this weekend, in their encounter with Sevilla - whether to rest Samuel Eto’o for next week’s Champions League final, or not. The Dutch coach is expected to name a starting eleven without most of his big guns on the sidelines, however, Eto’o is desperate to win La Liga’s top scorer Pichichi title - an honour that Valencia’s David Villa also has his eyes on - and is loath to risk losing it to his rival who is currently only one goal behind.

Getafe’s web site crashed, on Sunday, because of the sheer volume of hits from from Xerez supporters who bombarded the message boards with e-mails thanking the Madrid club for relegating their opponents on the day, Cadiz - their despised local rivals. Nice. Meanwhile, Getafe have expressed an interest in signing Cadiz striker Lucas Lobos.


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Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday's Odds and Sods

Picture courtesy of AS

Words are very, unnecessary

“I’m not afraid of retirement” - Zinedine Zidane.

“I’m going to break your neck, you son of a bitch and you won’t be going to the World Cup” - Charming words from Osasuna’s Savo Milosevic to Sergio Ramos during Real’s clash with Osasuna, last week.

“I still have two years left on my contract, I like it here - especially all the sun and the climate” - Ronaldo declares his intentions to stay at Real and why he is such a popular guy at the club.

“It doesn’t bother me. I’ve had four years of the same thing” - Fernando Torres is becoming a little weary of the constant transfer speculation that surrounds the Atletico captain.

“It’s not just in Pamplona where people throw things” - Osasuna’s tremendously childish president Patx Izco defends his club’s fans after an metal olive oil pot, amongst many other items, was hurled at the Real players.

“We are playing for our lives” - Athletic Bilbao’s Yeste exaggerates just a tad, before his side’s midweek 1-0 victory against Zaragoza.

“In my career, there have been two very sad moments. The first was the day I left Real Madrid and the other is now” - Malaga captain Fernando Sanz is probably not the best person to invite to a party, at the moment as he ponders relegation.

“I’m Samuel Eto’o and I just want a little respect. that’s all” - The Barcelona striker, quite rightly, is growing a little tired of having monkey noises being directed at him, across the grounds of Spain.

“They lack continuity, enthusiasm, passion and courage and that what’s you need to win in sport” - Real’s life president, di Stefano is surprisingly frank in his assessment of the state of affairs at the Bernabeu.

“We simply cannot explain what happens to us at the Calderon” - Atletico Madrid’s Pablo is not alone in his bewilderment.

“As manager, I should take the blame. But I am disgusted with the team” - Valencia’s Quique Sanchez Flores was less than happy with their 2-1 defeat to Mallorca, on Wednesday night.

“Sevilla were better than us and I look to them to win the UEFA Cup” - Getafe manager Bernd Schuster with his tip for Wednesday night.

“We need to get into Europe, anyway we can” - Deportivo’s Javier Arizmendi is unbothered at the thought of a July Intertoto cup campaign.

“Realistically, I don’t think the Madrid keeper will have much to do” - Racing Santander stand-in coach Nando Yossu not believing that the absence of Casillas for their Thursday night clash with Real was going to make much difference to the game. In the end, his team managed two goals, despite his less than encouraging words.

“I’m happy here and everyday I become even more so” - What odds on Juan Ramon Riquelme’s summer departure from Villarreal, after this declaration?

“I went over to Raul to apologise for touching the ball” Real Madrid striker, Soldado, feels a little guilty for stealing his captain’s possible first goal in five months, against Santander.

“I was upset that people were booing Diego (Forlan). This player has done so much for the club” - Villarreal’s Riquelme backs his team-mate in his hour of need.

“I’m a football manager, not a cheerleader” - Valencia’s Quique Sanchez Flores can only so so much for his team.

“I’m happy to be starting a new job, whatever it is” - Valencia’s retiring old timer, Carboni is ready for the next step.

“You’ve had a year of holidays, now its time to take hours” - a banner held aloft at the Bernabeu stadium on Sunday, that was then followed by five minutes of inflatable palm trees and lilos been thrown around. Classic stuff.


Transfer Gossip...

Atletico looking to bring in Giorgios Seitaridis and Costinha from Dynamo Moscow...Real Madrid still interested in Valencia’s Fabio Aurelio but will have some competition from Liverpool...Valencia’s Carboni to be made director of sport on his footballing retirement this summer...Barcelona interested in Sevilla’s Brazilian wingback, Daniel Alves...Cassano to return to the Italian league with Inter Milan...Samuel Eto’o to AC Milan...Rafa Benitez to recruit Alave’s Mauricio Pelligrini to his backroom staff.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

The Very Busy Weekend Preview

Round 37

Although round 36 of La Liga is barely over, it’s time to bunker down for round 37 - the penultimate. Can Real hang onto to second? Will Sevilla warm up for their date with ‘Boro with a whipping of Malaga? Can Alaves continue their Great Escape? And will Zidane say goodbye to the Madrid faithful with a win? Stand by...


Barcelona (1st) DDWWW v Espanyol (15th) DLWDL
While the fans of one side from the city of Barcelona were dancing in the streets on Wednesday night, the others would almost certainly have been crying into their cañas. Espanyol’s last minute defeat by Deportivo - embarrassing enough - was compounded by the fact that the goal was scored by misfit moaner Diego Tristan. It was an awful, awful result and it has thrown Espanyol back into the relegation mix, after it had appeared that they had escaped. Newly crowned champions, Barca, are going to be in no mood whatsoever to show mercy to their neighbours and will look to warm up Sunday’s planned victory parade in style. Home win.

Malaga (20th) LDLLL v Sevilla (6th) LDDWW
Having wrapped up their 3-0 home victory at Getafe on Wednesday night in just 30 minutes, Sevilla should be very well rested for a trip to the bottom of the table where they take on poor old depressed Malaga. Their coach - the permanently overwrought Manolo Hierro - said that the team had nothing left to play for accept honour and dignity. This is unlikely to be enough. Sevilla look set for their third win in seven days, which is quite a handy record to take into their UEFA cup clash with Middlesbrough. Away win.

Valencia (3rd) WWWWL v Atletico Madrid (10th) DWWLL
Until Wednesday night, Valencia were looking as snug as a bug in a rug in second spot - until disaster struck. Their away defeat at Mallorca - a match they were absolutely battered by their opponents - was branded as “disgraceful” by furious manager Quique Sanchez Flores. Still, things could be a lot worse. He could be manager of Atletico Madrid, a side that has had an unbelievably bad week - even by their standards - with two 1-0 home defeats. However, things are likely to get even worse for the ‘rojiblancos’ on Saturday night. A defeat for Atletico will deepen their troubles, but a victory would simply do their hated rivals Real Madrid a huge favour. It is these different scenarios that makes the match almost impossible to predict. Draw.


Real Betis (16th) DLLDL v Mallorca (12th) DDLWW
Originally, this encounter stood out as a real relegation battle, but a cracking week’s work from Gregorio Manzano and his team have meant that it is a just huge game for Betis. Mallorca’s stunning win over Valencia has ensured another season in La Liga’s top flight after a bit of scare this season, however it is possible that they have used up the last of their energy in this struggle. Betis will certainly be hoping so, in perhaps their last chance to save themselves. A much needed win here will finish off an odd season for Betis which witnessed the highs of beating Chelsea and the lows of Wednesday night’s pasting by Alaves.

Zaragoza (11th) LDLLD v Alaves (18th) LDLLW
While Alaves president Dmitry Piterman may have an odd way of going about his business, it certainly seems to be getting working. The last week was a fairly typical one for the Ukrainian-American - he was on the wrong end of fan’s petition calling for him to leave the club, he then lead his team to a 2-0 victory over Betis and subsequently insulted the entire local press corps (again) at the post match conference. The league will be a duller place without him. Hopefully injury hit and dispirited Zaragoza will do their utmost to keep the relegation struggle alive to the last day, by rolling over. Away win.

Real Sociedad (14th) DWWLL v Celta Vigo (5th) LWWWL
It is possible that Wednesday’s home defeat by the jubilant Barca combined by Osasuna’s success at Atletico may have knocked the stuffing out of Celta a little. However, they look good for a top six finish, with only Deportivo likely to challenge them - not the scariest of threats. Sociedad still need one more point at least, to give them some peace of mind in a season that has been spectacularly bad. Can Mark Gonzalez manage another magic strike. Perhaps. Home win.

Getafe (9th) WDWDL v Cadiz (19th) DWDLD
In football, there seems to be two contrasting arguments over how teams with nothing to play for perform - are they a demotivated shower who can barely be bothered to break into a trot or do they suddenly believe themselves to be Brazil of 1970 and start playing with uninhibited abandon? We shall find out on Sunday afternoon when mid table Getafe take on Cadiz, who still have a tiny, tiny chance of saving themselves. But won’t. Home win.

Racing Santander (17th) DLLWL v Osasuna (4th) WDWLW
Although it is hardly a controversial concept, but La Liga Loca has a sneaky feeling that it is Racing Santander who will be dropping through the trap door, this season. Their performance against Real - who themselves barely broke into a sweat - was less than encouraging as they only really got going at 3-0 down. They will have very good reason to be concerned by their next visitors - Osasuna, a team who will like nothing more than inflicting a little misery and unlikely to give up two goals as easily as Real did. Away win.

Real Madrid (2nd) DDWWW v Villarreal (8th) DLLDW
Who’d have thought it - Real Madrid back in the 2nd place hot seat and, for once, in control of their own destiny. Whilst their recent performances have not exactly been spectacular, they have been effective and it is often overlooked that Real have not been beaten in the league for some time now. They are taking on a Villarreal side perhaps at their lowest ebb of the season - Forlan being booed by his own fans and the side with nothing but an outside chance of an Intertoto cup finish to look forward to. Their laboured effort against Malaga, midweek, does not bode well for their visit to the Bernabeu - Zidane’s last ever league match. Home win.

Deportivo (7th) DDDLW v Athletic Bilbao (13th) DLLDW
If something unfortunate happens to both Sevilla or Celta in the final two matches and Depor sneak a UEFA cup spot, then there is no justice in the world - but anything is possible at this stage of the season. Bilbao’s 1-0 (their favourite score line) win against Zaragoza will probably be enough to keep them up, but they will have to wait until the final game of the season before making sure of safety. Home win.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Football Wins, Marketing Loses"

Picture from AS.com

Well, Barcelona have done it. After much prevaricating and fannying around, they are now officially league champions for the second year running - not bad for a team who have not spent a single euro on transfers over the past twelve months, compared to Real’s impressive ninety-six million.

In the end, Barca did not even to beat Celta Vigo to clinch the title. With Valencia’s match kicking off at 8pm and Barca’s at 9pm, Frank Rijkaard’s men heard the news of their challengers shock defeat at Mallorca just after half time, which inspired predictable, but bizarre scenes of rampant celebrations during the break.

Unfortunately for the league’s many conspiracy theorists, Barca were able to pull themselves together in the remaining forty-five minutes to polish off Celta 1-0, with Samuel Eto’o's 25 league goal of the season - a fine effort where he bustled past a cluster of defenders to shoot past Jose Pinto in the Celta goal. Although a bemused Celta came to live in the second half, they were not able to find a reply.

The latest round of matches - all being played simultaneously, bar Barca -brought up some very odd but dramatic results, and although Spanish tv have been reluctant to show much from the games apart a quick 20 second resume, La Liga Loca will endeavour to piece together the night’s action and if necessary make up what is missing. It would not be the first time.

At the top, as has been mentioned, Barca are now champions, thanks to Valencia’s inability to beat lowly Mallorca in what was described by their insanely angry manager Quique Sanchez Flores as their worst performance of the season. All the goals arrived in the first half but judging by some of the action shown, Valencia can count themselves lucky to have only been beaten 2-1, with their solitary goal coming from midfielder Miguel Angulo.

This now puts their second place spot in severe danger, if Real Madrid are able to overcome Racing Santander in tonight’s clash. The Galacticos are just two points behind, although by no means certain of either picking up three points tonight, nor winning their last two encounters. However, with Real literally having nothing left to lose and Valencia not the most secure of teams, at the best of the times, Real could well save a wretched season with direct qualification to the CL.

Osasuna will thank their lucky stars that Atletico Madrid were around to help them get over their defeat to Real on Sunday night, after another insipid performance by the ‘rojiblanco’s’ at the Calderon. A single goal from Iñaki Muñoz in the fifteenth minute - a close volley that he was given all the time in the world to perform - was enough to secure the three points. Atletico then went onto give yet another virtuoso display of awful, awful finishing - all in front of 15,000 very unimpressed fans.

Atletico even managed to have a man sent off after Ariel Ibagaza saw red after walking over the back of an Osasuna striker who was still sprawled on the ground after a very poor effort at a dive.

The defeat will just enforce the very strong rumours that Osasuna coach, Javier Aguirre, will be moving in the summer to take over in the Calderon. He will have quite a job on his hands.

This result, combined with Celta’s defeat gives fourth Osasuna a handy five point cushion over Vigo - a gap that should be enough to ensure qualification to the early rounds of the Champions League.

Sevilla keep motoring along and swept aside Getafe in the first half with three classy strikes. The win keeps them in sixth, but they have closed to gap to Celta to just one. Deportivo remain in seventh, four points behind Sevilla, after a late, late strike from grumpy Diego Tristan gave his side a 2-1 victory over Espanyol. Villarreal move back into eighth but only after they struggled badly to overcome an already relegated Malaga, in the Madrigal.

In the relegation zone, Cadiz are still hanging on for dear life, second from bottom of the table after 2-2 draw at home to Real Sociedad. The original Yellow Submarines have Lobos to thank for their point after he converted a dubious penalty in injury time, to give the Andalusians a very, very slim chance of surviving their first season in the top flight - it looks unlikely though.

Alaves also showed that they are still not giving up without a hell of a fight and blew away a truly rubbish Real Betis 2-0 - although the result could have been considerably worse for their opponents.

Santander - in action tonight - sit just outside of the drop zone, one point ahead of Alaves, whilst Betis, who had thought they were home and dry now only have a two point cushion. Espanyol are also living dangerously, but Bilbao look like they will be safe after grinding out a crucial 1-0 home victory against Zaragoza - some great work on the by-line from Fernando Llorente, who pulled the ball back for Francisco Yeste to drive home.

So, barring some big shocks in the remaining two rounds of the season, matters look fairly clear in the top four, with Valencia, Real and Osasuna battling to see who will have the shorter summer holidays and be thrown into early CL qualification rounds. Sevilla and Celta should hang onto the two UEFA cup spaces, with only Deportivo likely to be a threat.

At the bottom, things are looking a lot more exciting. Malaga are already down, Cadiz soon will be, but with any of Alaves, Racing, Betis, Espanyol and even Sociedad being candidates for the last spot - it looks very interesting indeed.


The latest news on the Sevilla v Barcelona fiasco is that the Spanish league have proposed - or even declared - to FIFA that the final round of the league’s matches will be moved to the 20th May with the previous weekend being used to play the postponed Sevilla v Barca tie. As Marca declared this morning, it really is “war on FIFA”.


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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Rare Midweek Preview

35 rounds gone and 3 to go...

For once, the players of La Liga are going to earn their euros this week, as they are forced into playing a second round of matches in just four days. Will they survive the ordeal? Will Barca finally wrap up the title? Can Osasuna fight off Celta? And will Athletic Bilbao get that one last victory?


Mallorca (16th) DDDLW v Valencia (2nd) WWWWW
Real Mallorca have been a little tortoise like in their slow plod to avoid relegation, but it looks like paying off. Gregorio Manzano, on taking over the team, quickly realised the attack was less than fearsome and so worked on making the defence the key to the team’s relative success. An improbable - or predictable, depending on your point of view - victory at Atletico means they are one step away from safety. But, it is not going to be today, as they are taking on a Valencia in imperious form, with five wins from five. Away win.

Alaves (18th) DLDLL v Real Betis (13th) WDLLD
This is the big one for Alaves - a defeat would mean almost certain relegation seeing as they are already three points from escaping the relegation zone and their final run-in, is not the easiest. Betis on the other hand are unlikely to go down, barring a fluke of improbable proportions, but one last victory would make them home and dry after a fairly traumatic season. Can Piterman inspire his charges to one last charge? Home win.

Athletic Bilbao (17th) DDLDD v Zaragoza (11th) LDLLD
If Bilbao do end up dropping out of the Primera for the first time in their history, then it would be entirely their own fault. If they fail to win against perhaps the easiest opponents in the league at the moment, then they are not deserving of their spot in the top flight. As has been mentioned before, Zaragoza are fairly listless at the moment, although they managed to gain some small measure of revenge for their traumatic Copa del Rey defeat by Espanyol by gaining a 1-1 draw over the weekend. However, they may enjoy the match tonight and could make life awkward for the struggling Basque club. Draw.

Espanyol (14th) DDLWD v Deportivo (7th) WDDDL
This is perhaps Depor’s last, best chance of Europe this season. They are four points off seventh place, so a defeat combined with one or two other results going against them would probably end a season that has been fairly uninspiring for the Galicians. If Espanyol can sneak a victory then they can put all thoughts of relegation behind them and enjoy the remaining two matches, knowing that they already have a UEFA cup spot in the bag, for the second consecutive season, although their mini European run did not exactly help their domestic cause this year. Draw.

Cadiz (19th) LDWDL v Real Sociedad (12th) WDWWL
Sadly for Cadiz, things are looking a little bleak, despite a fine performance against Barca on Saturday, where they nearly overcame the soon to be league champions. They are four points from safety, but they do have one bright spot on the horizon - their remaining two games - Getafe, Malaga - are quite winnable. However, it is unlikely that Cadiz have got the firepower to do the job, even though they have the spirit, in buckets. Sociedad were unable to overcome a feisty Sevilla on Sunday, but will be looking to this tie for the three points they need to ensure safety. Away win.

Sevilla (6th) WLDDW v Getafe (8th) WWDWD
Sunday afternoon’s draw with Villarreal has probably put an end to Getafe’s heady dreams of a top six finish, especially as their opponents today managed a cracking 2-1 away win at Sociedad at the same time. Sevilla will be looking to this game as a chance to cement a top six finish, before next week’s UEFA cup final with the ‘Boro. They currently have a four point gap over seventh placed Depor and this could well be growing tonight. Home win.

Villarreal (10th) WDLLD v Malaga (20th) LLDLL
Although things are not looking too hot for the Yellow Submarines, at the moment, there is one last chance to save an eventful but ultimately fruitless season - the delights of the Intertoto cup. Three teams have entered this season (Villarreal, Atletico and Depor) and the top placed finishing side from this group will be entering the tournament this summer. They should take one step nearer this new goal, tonight with an easy victory against a dispirited team that is already relegated. Home win.

Atletico Madrid (9th) LDWWL v Osasuna (4th) LWDWL
Oh dear. Sunday’s defeat to lowly Mallorca (as predicted by la liga loca) really has caused some trouble at the Calderon. Kezman is in a spot of bother with the fans after a gesture towards them, Torres to leave in the summer rumours have kicked off again and Pepe Murcia probably blew his chance of continuing as manager next season, by declaring that he is satisfied with the team’s performance this year. Osasuna have also had a dodgy spell of late and will be looking to tonight’s match as a chance to put their Real Madrid defeat behind them. Atletico are more or less giving the tickets away, this evening, to get the fans in, so perhaps they will be rewarded by their luckless heroes. Home win.

Celta Vigo (5th) WLWWW v Barcelona (1st) DDDWW
If Barca were looking for an easy tie to wrap up the league title, then they certainly would not have picked Celta Vigo. The Galicians are on quite a run at the moment and could well find themselves in the top four sometime soon, if results go their way. Barca, though, are not exactly playing at their best at the moment, but the return to the side of Xavi may well give them they boost they carry them over the finish line, although their opponents are sure to make life difficult. Away win.


Racing Santander (15th) LDLLW v Real Madrid (3rd) DDDWW
Somehow, Racing look like having dug themselves out of trouble with Sunday’s away win at Malaga, but the fact that their second division bound opponents managed to knock two past them should be a worry. Real’s victory over Osasuna could well have given the side the boost they need to secure at least a top three finish and they should take a step nearer this goal, tomorrow night. Away win.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Real Still Waiting for Their Man

Real Madrid to Stage Manager Idol?

One of Fernando Martin’s finest moments of incompetence in his short, but entertaining reign as President of Real Madrid was to name, very publicly, seven managers he was considering to take over Juan Roman Lopez Caro, in the summer.

Not only was this a tremendously bad idea because of the undermining affect it would had his current coach, it showed a complete lack of comprehension that secret wish lists become less secret, when read out to the world’s media.

Unsurprisingly, seeing as nearly all of the seven he listed are already employed in perfectly good jobs, all bar two have ruled themselves out of the running for the soon to be vacant position at Real - leaving a situation that the English FA will now be familiar with. No one wants to manage them.

Ancelotti - “I’ve no desire to go to Real Madrid”
Capello - “I’m convinced that I will be staying at Juventus”
Benitez - “I’m very happy at Liverpool and I’m staying here”
Mourinho - “I have thought about leaving Chelsea, but I’m going to carry on”
Wenger - “I love Real Madrid, but I’m staying at Arsenal”

With all these big cheeses, politely turn down an opportunity to join the circus in Madrid, there remains just two candidates from the original ‘magnificent seven’, Sven Goran Eriksson and Marcelo Lippi.

The former will be free and single, once the World Cup is over, but his scandalous past may be a little too much for the Real board to take. Lippi’s availability after the World Cup will depend enormously on the performance of Italy during the tournament, however, he had not expressed any particular interest in a move to Spain, instead, the Premiership seems to be more attractive to him.

The smart outside money is still on Getafe’s Bernd Schuster to take over at Real. He has the backing of the current sporting director, Benito Floro and also one of the presidential candidates, Ramon Calderon.

A last resort may well be to run a ‘manager idol’ competition to find someone to take on the poisoned chalice that awaits the future coach of Real Madrid.

Second Guessing

With just three rounds left, some interesting results, last weekend, has opened up the battle for the remaining Champions League places, behind Barcelona, nicely. Can Celta overhaul Osasuna, will Valencia fall at the last hurdle. Let’s see.

2nd - Valencia (68 points): Mallorca (A), Atletico (H), Osasuna (A)

In recent weeks, Valencia have had a lot of fun taking on the cannon fodder of the league and swatting them away like pesky flies. Ten goals in three games suggests that the two relatively easy ties coming up will be dealt with in a similar manner. All things being equal, Valencia should have enough in the tank to hang onto second - especially with David Villa back in form - however, a final day trip to Osasuna could be a tricky encounter, if Real Madrid are still within striking distance.

3rd - Real Madrid (66 points): Racing Santander (A),Villarreal (H), Sevilla (A)

Sunday night’s victory over Osasuna was probably one of their most important in the league for some time, as a defeat would have put Real in severe danger of dropping out of the top four and facing the gloom of the UEFA cup. However, the hard fought win will probably be enough to keep them in at least third, but if they can hang to Valencia’s coat tails in their next two winnable matches, then a final day victory against a UEFA cup fatigued Sevilla could see an unlikely second place finish - quite a result, considering all of the off-field shenanigans of this season.

4th - Osasuna (62 points): Atletico (A), Racing (A), Valencia (H)

Poor Osasuna, after a battling season - both spiritually and physically - it seems that their quest for a Champions League spot, may well be failing, at the end. Their match with Atletico on Wednesday will be crucial - if they can recover from the disappointment of their defeat by Real and sweep aside a team, who themselves suffered a setback at the weekend, then they have a great shot of hanging onto a well deserved fourth spot. A defeat, and things will be a lot trickier, especially with their testing last game of the season.

5th - Celta Vigo (60 points): Barcelona (H), Sociedad (A), Getafe (H)

Celta’s 2-0 away victory at Deportivo was probably one of the results of the season, by any team in the league. The three points, combined with Osasuna’s slip up has meant that league new boys Celta could well be sneaking the final Champions League spot. Apart from the Barcelona game, which they are more than capable of nicking a point or three from, the last two matches are very winnable indeed, as they are pitted against two teams with very little to play for.


2nd - Valencia, 3rd - Real Madrid, 4th - Celta Vigo, 5th - Osasuna

In Other News...

The saga of when to play the postponed Sevilla v Barcelona tie may still have some life in it. The latest plan of the league authorities of playing the game on the 20th May - but with all international players banned - has gone down like a lead balloon with just about everyone involved in football in Spain. A new meeting has been called to discuss the possibility of playing just the Sevilla tie on the 14th May - the date of the planned end of the season - and playing the final round of the league calendar on the 20th - something that FIFA will almost certainly block.



Eto’o - 24 goals
Villa - 23 goals
Ronaldinho - 16 goals
D. Milito - 14 goals
Ronaldo - 14 goals
Torres -13 goals
Ewerthon - 12 goals
Riquelme - 11 goals
Baiano - 11 goals

Coming up tomorrow - the great midweek preview....

All weblog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006