Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Donut Look Back in Anger

Toys'R Us

Whenever possible, La Liga Loca always tries to share with you the latest goings on in the world of Spanish footie, outside of the big two (Racing and Getafe). Today, it’s fairly impossible, as yet again Real Madrid are hogging the footballing spotlight like a big footballing spotlight hogging thing.

Instead of talk being dominated by on pitch matters - where things are going reasonably well, for once - it’s a string of highly entertaining behind the scenes blow outs that have caused a bit of to-do, in Spain.

The big news - in more ways than one - centres around the weighty figures of both Toni Cassano and Ronaldo. It was revealed that the Italian attacker was so hacked off at his continued absence from the Real Madrid starting line up that he stood face to face - well, face to chest - with Fabio Capello after the game and blew a gasket.

“I deserve to be in the team,” he squealed at his somewhat surprised manager, “have you know shame! It’s a disgrace. I saved your arse at Roma and this is how you repay me!”.

Unsurprisingly, this very public outburst has not gone down at all well at the club. Pedja Mijatovic - who is quite a scary looking man - spoke to the club’s three captains Raul, Guti and Roberto Carlos to discuss a suitable punishment for the minute miscreant. However, some would suggest that asking Guti and Roberto Carlos for advise on disciplinary matters is like asking a Spaniard how to queue. (only kidding, Spanish readers).

The club announced yesterday that Cassano will be suspended from the team and also hit with a hefty deduction from his donut fund.

There has to be just a little bit of sympathy with Cassano’s position. He was one of the best players in the club’s preseason where appeared to have bucked up his footballing ideas up considerably. He even managed a goal in last week’s Ecija cup game. However, like Beckham, Cassano has become a victim of Capello’s desire to play with six defensive players and only one proper forward - Van Nistelrooy.

Unfortunately, Cassano decided against the more diplomatic stance of David Beckham who yesterday, expressed his dissatisfaction at being dropped but added the clause - “but these things happen in football and I respect the decision of the manager”. Clearly nonsense, but it avoids making waves.

Another very unhappy bunny at the club is Ronaldo - who has been a regular bench partner of Cassano over recent weeks. Interesting, it isn’t clear whether they have to sit on opposite sides to avoid tipping it up and sending Reyes flying into the air.

Ronaldo was supposedly livid at having to warm up for the entire second half of the match against ‘Nastic, without playing a single minute. However, opinion is divided in Spain on whether he is upset at having to do some exercise, for once, or at the lack of match action.

On this occasion, it’s entirely his own fault. Ronaldo got off to an incredibly bad start with Capello, over the summer, when he travelled to Brazil to have an operation on his knee without the club’s permission. When he returned to “a very special” welcome in August, according to his new manager, the titan of tapas was still seen as too hefty. Despite photos appearing in the papers of a Rocky style road running Ronaldo, the Brazilian, at 91 kilos is still 4 kilos overweight according to the club’s training staff and is miles, literally, from being match fit.

When Ronaldo did set foot on the pitch - in the shocker against Getafe - he was appalling and got himself sent off for back chatting the referee, thus missing the subsequent Barcelona game. With the emergence of Robinho and Raul as attacking forces, it would not be a great surprise to see both players booted out of the club in the winter. For one of them, it is about two years too late.

Should both players be made to ‘weight’ their turn? Just click on comments or email here for your say...


Europa, Europa

Champions League action tonight and Chelsea are the visitors to the Nou Camp - where they are always very welcome guests. Jose Mourinho has already started with his ‘teatro’ gibes by pointing out the large numbers of dubious penalties Barca have had at home recently, including Saturday’s against Recreativo. When asked if Chelsea’s coach was just saying this to cause trouble, the unflappable Frank Rijkaard just replied “maybe”.

One player who will be trying just that little bit harder to make an impression is Frank Lampard, who is being linked very strongly with a summer time move to the Catalan club. With Iniesta, Xavi, Giuly and Messi all lacking the physical presence and aggression perhaps needed in Europe, Lampard is seen in Spain as the classic English box to box midfielder who can cover the gap that Mark Van Bommel failed to do, by some margin.

Valencia’s injury ravaged squad travel to Ukraine to take on Shakthar Donetsk only needed one more point to qualify for the next round of the Champions League. Disgracefully, ‘Antena 3’ the Spanish tv channel which bought the terrestrial rights for the CL matches, will not be showing any of their matches until the knock out stages.


In Other News...

Real Betis’ board held an emergency cheese and wine party to discuss the club’s current plight which sees them stuck in the relegation zone and not looking like moving from it anytime soon. The job of coach, Javier Irureta, is not thought to be under threat but he himself is a little concerned - “if they sack me, it would be the law of the sport”.

Real Zaragoza were the team of the month with 10 points from four games.

Iván Cuéllar, Atletico Madrid's reserve 'keeper has decided to change his name into something he feels is a bit cooler in a bid to break into the first team. Having been overlooked in the Copa del Rey match at Levante - normally a reserve team run out - Cuéllar has paid homage to the Simpsons episode where Homer changes his name to 'Max Power'. Atleti's second string stopper will be known from now on as 'Pichu'. Which is a bit girly, really.



The Italian Job

No doubt Antonio Cassano hit a new low after his behaviour last weekend. Apparently the striker thought that it would be smooth sailing after his former mentor, Capello, took over the managerial reigns.

But Getafe proved that this was not to be so, forcing the coach to use his most in form strikers. And with Cassano competing with the likes of Ronaldo, Robinho, Raul and Van Nistelrooy, for a place in the starting line-up, many felt that he should be last in line.

Apparently the coach thinks so as well. I've got no sympathy for Cassano. He left a guaranteed starting spot at Roma to come to Madrid where strikers were never a problem. He basically held a gun to Roma's head at a time when the club was undergoing serious financial problems
and attempting to hold on to key players. He caused a serious morale problem.

If Madrid thought it had issues with players before, they haven't seen Cassano at his worst. Look how well Roma did after he left.

Trust us, he’s bad

Just to say I couldn't agree with you more about Andrés Montes. He is probably the reason I don't watch basketball (well, that plus the fact that there are too many goals and the game only takes on any meaning in the last
minute). I now watch with the sound turned down and the commentary on SER.

Futbol - pasión de multitudes...
Futbol con patatas...
Mira, mira, mira, ....

God help us!



All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday's Good Day, Bad Day

Good Day


It was a beautiful autumnal evening in Getafe’s Coliseum - although the match taking place on the pitch did not always share the same description. However, the amazing campaign continues for Getafe who rocked the delirious crowd with a clinical 2-0 victory over Deportivo to move into 6th place. With just eight games gone, the side have nearly achieved fifty percent of their season’s points target.

On paper, Getafe are nothing special. There are no big stars in the line up but from the excellent Paredes at left back to the tireless Pachon up front, the squad are delivering big performances. The ‘zero’ in the goals conceded at home column displays Getafe’s strengths. The defence, marshalled by the heroic Belenguer, is as tight as they come, whilst the attack takes full advantage of the relatively few chances that are created. Bernd Schuster’s tactics have always been to grab enough points to ensure survival for the club and then see what happens next. If they continue at this rate, then a visit to the likes of Old Trafford next season, may not be as fanciful as it sounds.

Ivan Helguera

As a reader commented, last week, it’s time to applaud the re-emergence of Helguera after nice months in the wilderness. Cast aside firstly by Juan Roman Lopez Caro and then Ivan Capello it seemed as if the centre back was on his way to Racing Santander, in January. However, the loaning out of Woodgate and the injuries to Salgado and Cicinho has allowed Helguera back into the starting line up in place of Sergio Ramos, who is looking very impressive indeed at right back.

However, it was never entirely clear why Helguera was out of favour in the first place. As a defender, he was fine but as an attacking presence he was the best in Real’s back four for many a season. As his headed effort against ‘Nastic showed, Helguera has always had a keen eye for goal. It’s good to have him back.


Two more goals against Recreativo. Five for the season. What crisis?

Real Zaragoza

There is a more detailed summary on this weeks 365 piece, but their ascension into fourth is worth mentioning again. It wasn’t a great performance for the visitors to the Calderon and they owed a great deal to the goalkeeping heroics of Cesar to keep them in the game. However, the sign of a great team is always said to be one that wins when playing badly - and that’s Zaragoza, at the moment.

Racing Santander

Or more accurately, their manager Miguel Angel Portugal, who was disgracefully threatened with the sack by the impatient president, Francisoo Pernia, when results were not going their way. The Munitis / Zigic partnership looks like being enough to guide Racing into a comfortable mid table spot this season, despite the thirty three centimetres difference between the two to two strikers. If this happens, then Pernia should publicly apologise for failing to back his manager, when times were trickier. Fat chance of that though.


Another 1-0 victory, this time away to Betis and it seems as if Gregorio Manzano is on course to repeat the tactics that saved the club from relegation last season. Grab a lead and hang on for dear life. It’s not pretty, but their current 10th place position shows it’s working.


The 2-1 away win at in-form Celta was just the kind of victory they need if they are to be serious contenders for the title. Thankfully, due to a tv deal that brings the club 24 million euros per year, the rest of the world can see them go for it.

Bad Day

Atletico Madrid

Where to start? The loss of Petrov and Maxi is having a bigger effect on the team, that originally thought - so much so that their distinctly grumpy looking club president even discussed the possibility of the cash strapped club opening its wallet over the winter.

Two league defeats and a Copa del Rey loss to Levante has brought the attention of local hacks to the Calderon, the home to La Liga’s latest ‘club in crisis’. However, last night, Atletico were a little hard down by, if it hadn’t been for a shocking miss from Luccin in the first half and some great saves by Cesar, then a solid win might have been achieved. Unfortunately, the luck isn’t going Atletico’s way, at the moment. But when does it ever?


Just behind Atletico Madrid in the ‘season turning to crap’ stakes are Valencia, with their second away defeat in a row, on Saturday night. Although Quique Sanchez Flores was furious with the 1-0 loss at Racing - “sometimes we believe we’re better than we are”, his anger seems a little misplaced. Valencia have had a shocking run of injuries and look set to lose Gavilan for the rest of the season with cruciate ligament damage. With a Champions League campaign to manage at the same time as the battle for the league title, it’s looking increasingly likely that Valencia will have another trophyless season.

Real Betis

Oh dear.

Real Sociedad

Oh dear oh dear.

La Sexta

For the love of God, if anyone knows anyone at the station, please, please, please ask them to get rid of Andrés ‘Tiki-Taka’ Monte before something unpleasant happens to my television screen. His singing of ‘all you need is love’ as a tearful child was carried from the pitch having been hit by a coin from a ‘Nastic fan, says all you need to know about this clown.

Anyone missing? Just email here for your say...



The Forecasting Genius of La Liga Loca

om a Reuters story

“Second-placed Valencia slipped to a second defeat of the season when they lost 1-0 in the fog at Racing Santander and ended the game with 10 men when midfielder Mario Regueiro was sent off after picking up two bookings.

Racing's little and large partnership of Pedro Munitis and
Nikola Zigic provided one of the few bright points of an
otherwise gloomy game when they manufactured the winner.

Munitis looped a header over Santiago Canizares after giant Serbia striker Zigic nodded on a lofted pass into the area 11 minutes after the break.”

Spot on two weeks in a row.



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Friday, October 27, 2006

The Fun Filled Weekend Preview

All you need to know

As well as the now traditional preview of the latest round of La Liga action, something special for the weekend - the breathtaking behaviour of the Spanish FA’s president, yesterday, in front of the country’s Senate. If the subject were not so serious, it would be hilarious. But first, this....


Barcelona (1st) WDWWL v Recreativo (9th) LWWLL

There has been a lot written about Barcelona, this week, and most of it is a tad hysterical. It’s simply not possible - except in Spain, of course - for a side that was supposedly all conquering less a couple of weeks ago, to be on the slide - Eto’o or no Eto’o. Put into context, their two defeats are not as calamitous as many seem to think. Losing away to Chelsea - a fairly decent team - is not exactly humiliation and Real Madrid had to win a derby, at some point. Should Barca hammer a fading Recre on Saturday - which they will - and turn it on against the English on Tuesday, then all the stories this week about the ‘Galacticos’ of Barcelona will look very silly indeed. Home win.

Racing Santander (15th) LDDWD v Valencia WDWLW (2nd)

In the same way that La Liga Loca sensed danger to predict Valencia’s defeat to Celta, a fortnight ago, again, there is something fishy about this fixture - and it isn’t the smell from Racing’s seaside dressing room. On paper it’s an away win, but Racing are slowly starting to put some results together - very slowly - and the very little and very large partnership of Zigic and Munitis has some promise. Valencia are being battered by a succession of injuries to their central midfield which is the side’s real strength and are currently without Marchena, Albeda, Edu and Baraja, which has lead to the call up of the likes of Viana - never a good thing. Draw.

‘Nastic (19th) LDLLL v Real Madrid WWDLW (4th)

The exciting news from La Liga is that the old Real Madrid is back. Not the Champions League winning, all conquering football Real Madrid, but the crazed, money-obsessed, deluded Real Madrid. The victories to Steaua and Barca has caused some kind of minor seizure in Ramon ‘we must return to being modest’ Calderon, who announced, this week the acquisition of a X-Men style 140 seater private jet and the sponsorship of a Formula One team. He also claimed that David Beckham is about to renew his contract, when everyone on the planet can see that he isn’t. As for this weekend, it’s quite likely that the ‘Getafe’ version of Real Madrid will on display. As ‘Nastic’s ‘keeper Pizarrro said, yesterday “one meeting doesn’t change a club”, however the home side are really starting to struggle in the top flight, which should give the visitors a narrow win. Away win.


Celta Vigo (10th) LLDWW v Sevilla (3rd) WLWLW

Due to the ongoing media blackout of all things Sevilla. La Liga Loca brings you the latest offering in its ongoing study of fat wildlife.

Levante (13th) WWDLD v Espanyol (16th) WLDDD

Not even one of Otis Spunkmeyer’s finest encased in concrete is a tougher cookie that Ian Harte’s Levante. Under former Real Madrid stooge, Juan Roman Lopez Caro, Valencia’s second team have learned to grind out draws and narrow wins, both home and away. With the experienced Tomassi in midfield combined to the exciting talents of Ettien and Kapo, Levante are more than capable of securing a cosy midfield berth this season, especially if they pick up three points against Espanyol - a team who are improving, but still not convincing. Home win.

Real Sociedad (20th) LLLLL v Villarreal 11th (LWWDD)

Although La Liga Loca tries to avoid profanity as much as possible - on the blog, at least - it isn’t possible on this particular occasion. Sociedad are royally screwed in so many different ways. Yesterday, they parted company with Jose Maria Bakero after six successive league defeats and their midweek cup defeat to Malaga. It’s a bit of a shame as his mid-80’s David Lee Roth mullet was always fun to see. In his place is, former Espanyol coach Miguel Angel Lotina - the team’s fourth coach in just fourteen months. His first match is against Villarreal - who have been dreadful this season - but will fancy their chances against a team in terminal decline. Away win.

Real Betis (18th) LLLDL v Mallorca (12th) LWLDW

(Big sigh of despair). La Liga Loca tries whenever possible to avoid Mallorca games - the Aston Villa of Spain and the only club which hands out ‘Clockwork Orange’ style glasses to its spectators, to keep their eyes open. Despite being dreadful, they always seem to be in mid-table, which is stark contrast to Real Betis who are always dreadful and are rightfully at the bottom of the table. To borrow from the already overused Kaiser Chiefs song, if Betis don’t win, I predict a riot. Home win.

Getafe (8th) v Deportivo (5th) WLWDW

If La Liga Loca can stomach the Metrosur and the fumes from the nearby chemical plans, then it may pop down to the Coliseum to check out Bernd Schuster’s heroic band of brothers, as they go for their third win in a row that would launch them into the top six. However, it could be a tricky proposition against Deportivo who are cut from a similar cloth to the home team and will be prepared for what is coming their way. Draw.

Osasuna (14th) WWDLL v Athletic Bilbao (17th) LWDWL

These are troubled times at Osasuna - a team that has had 81 different line up’s in 81 games and has not scored in 6 matches. But, things are not much better for their visitors, either. Nevertheless, Osasuna still have some decent players around somewhere - although it is taking new coach, Ziganda, a while to find them, apparently. Home win.

Atletico Madrid (7th) v Real Zaragoza (6th)

La Liga Loca may have been imagining things again, but it’s sure it heard the word ‘crisis’ used on tv, in discussing Atletico Madrid. While it’s true that they have lost their last league match and are racking up more fatalities than a hot summer’s day in Sevilla, but crisis? Such is the strangely cursed nature of Atletico, that a crisis - in it’s proper non-Spanish sense - at the Calderon would probably require the assistance of several branches of the UN. If this match is being shown in a home near you, wherever you may be, it'll be worth watching. Sunday’s visitors, Zaragoza are currently the most entertaining side in the league, this season and literally - in its proper sense - anything is possible with Atletico. Home win.

Villar's Big Day Out

It was an odd week in the hot political cauldron of Spain’s Senate. First off, the Party Popular had the country in stitches by denying having anything to do with the alarming number of construction / bribery scandals spreading across the country faster like a Galician forest fire. However, this lunacy was trumped, yesterday, by the jaw dropping performance of the Spanish FA’s president Angel Maria Villar who had been summoned to the chamber to discuss the steps being taken by his organisation to eradicate racism from the Spanish game.

Despite being only ten in the morning, it would be fair to say that Villar looked as if he was either ‘tired and emotional’ or had had one or two ‘refreshing drinks’ before the session. In a remarkable performance of hand waving and furious ranting, he renamed Athletic Bilbao, ‘Athletic Bilbado’, referred to the beautiful game as ‘furbal’ and renamed Sepp Blatter as “Jose Blatter’. Later on he claimed that Celta Vigo was founded in an impressively early 1230 - perhaps with Emerson in the midfield.

Even more blunders were to come - but not so funny. Villar declared to the Senate that Luis Aragones was not in the least bit ‘xenofono’ and that his reference to Thierry Henry, in 2004, as a ‘black shit’ was not at all racist. Villar also claimed that racism in the Spanish game only exists in ‘isolated cases’ and that it is monstrous that people should attack the sport that he is trying to protect.

Unfortunately, this somewhat irrational behaviour from the sport’s head is not an isolated case. Last week, he was unsure as to whether Luis Aragones had renewed his contract or not - which should never have happened in the first place. He oversaw a travesty of a friendly with Argentina where the not yet ready pitch was in a shocking condition and he has managed to bring the FA to near bankruptcy. He should resign immediately.

Just click on comments or email here for your say.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sofa, So Good in the Copa del Rey

The Rain in Spain

‘Awful’, ‘tedious’, ‘insufferable’ - rather than being apt descriptions of Telecinco’s programming content, these are just a few adjectives being banded around in today ‘s papers to describe last night’s thrilling Copa del Rey action.

As expected, the first ‘proper’ round of the annual cup competition was met by a collective shrug of indifference in Spain, both by spectators, tv companies - which showed Plymouth v Real Madrid over the summer, for goodness sake - and also writers. “Don’t talk to me about the Copa del Rey,” thunders Roberto Palomer, in today’s ‘Marca’, “I don’t care”.

And nor did the rest of Spain, with the honourable exception of the 2.000 hardy souls who turned up to watch Peña Sport v Osasuna. Or the 6.000 at Depor v Racing. Even Écija’s match with Real Madrid - which, should have tempted the locals from their sofas - failed to sell out.

For those lazy Andalusian arses too girly to brave the inclement weather, it seems a famous match was missed with the local boys running rings around their galactic visitors, to take a plucky 1-1 draw to the Bernabeu in two weeks time. The unlucky reporters sent to the match were fairly unimpressed with the visitor’s display - except for Cassano, Real’s scorer and ‘keeper Diego Lopez - and has returned Capello’s charges from champs to chumps again.

The two people who did appear to enjoy Wednesday’s mudfest were David Beckham - “I loved it here, especially with the noise of the crowd’ and Écija’s new goal scoring hero ‘Nolito’, whose late strike gave his team their memorable result - “we matched them for the whole ninety minutes’, he boasted.

A fairly strong Barcelona came away with a 2-1 away win at nearby Badalona - but it was not enough to stop the Madrid loving ‘AS’ continuing to put the journalistic boot into the team.

Valencia manager Quique Sanchez Flores had to have a police escort on leaving the ground after their 2-1 win at Portuense. The coach had infuriated home fans by refusing to bring home town boy Joaquin to the game, with the excuse that he did not want to ‘create a circus’ - a phrase that was ever so slightly taken the wrong way by the excitable local crowd. “When I said ‘circus’ I wasn’t referring to the stadium or the club,” shouted Flores as he dodged a well-aimed ham bocadillo, with his name on it.

There was more crowd trouble to be found from Rayo Vallecano’s ‘feisty’ support after the referee gave an injury time penalty to Espanyol, enabling them to finish the game 1-1, on the night. Sociedad, as predicted, had a disastrous time down in Malaga, who thrashed them 4-1. Deportivo beat Racing 1-0, Athletic Bilbao who are ‘still rubbish’ according to one writer were held 1-1 at home to Mallorca.

There was better news for Getafe who beat Xerez 2-0 and Sevilla who came away 1-0 victors in Segovia. The worst match of the night was to be found in Huelva where Recre held Betis 0-0 in a game that was ‘blooming awful’ according to ‘Marca’.

One interesting thing to note is that nearly all the attendances, on the night, ended up on a nice round figure. Either all the laws of statistical chance have just been broken, or there is some tax-fiddling fishiness going on.

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Quotes, Quotes, Quotes

“Uo!” - The exclamation screamed by Levante’s Kapo after scoring a goal. And one that got him sent off for ‘over celebrating’.

“He doesn’t know how to play without the ball” - Pedja Mijatovic on the footballing merits - or lack of them - or Robinho, before he won the man of the match award in Real’s win over Barca.

“Ronaldinho at 70% is better than most other players at 100%” - Jose Mourinho in bid for ‘dinho shock?

“Against Sevilla they said I was great, then they said I was bad against Chelsea” - the very much non smiling ‘dinho is reaching his tether’s end.

“When we lose, I’m used to my name being brought up as the one to blame” - Along with his soon to be leaving teammate, Deco

“When I saw my name on the team sheet, I couldn’t believe it” - And nor could anyone else. The first appearance in Valencia’s squad for Tavano after 65 days at the club.

“He’s fast, didn’t attack that much but he marked me really well” - Leo Messi describes Chelsea’s Cashley Cole as the best full back he has come up against. Wait till he takes on Fabian Wilnis.

“I didn’t see the 3-0” - Fabio Capello’s still broken video recorder has stopped him from seeing Real’s last season mauling by Barcelona.

“I’ve not seen Real play once this season” - As opposed to Carles Puyol, who has better things to do with his time, it seems.

“We deserved to win, we had more chances” - Villarreal coach, Manuel Pellegrini after their 1-1 draw with Levante.

“We deserved to win, we were stronger” - Levante coach, Juan Roman Lopez Caro, after their 1-1 draw with Villarreal.

“There are seven tickets to Europe and this is one of them” - Atletico’s Javier Aguirre, shortly before their 1-0 home defeat to Levante. At least there are still 6 more.

“If only we could have English referees. You aren’t allowed any contact at all, here in Spain” - Sevilla’s Daniel ‘ Terminator’ Alves.

“The field was not a field” - Fabio Capello in an existentialist mood after the 1-1 mud wrestle with Ecija.

“It was a bad game, but these happen three or four times a year” Atletico Madrid president - and convicted fraudster - Enrique Cerezo comments on their 1-0 Copa del Rey defeat and fails to take into account the Valencia and Depor defeats.


More heroes and zeroes

An additional hero is Raul for a majestic goal. Also Robinho for terrorising Barcelona's defence. Capello must have been mad to have him on the bench. He is beginning to properly wear that number 10 on his back.

Incidentally the El Classico really was a duel between Messi and Robinho. Both players were full of energy and caused plenty of havoc in the opposing defences.

An additional zero should be Gudjohnsen. He had two big games to show the world what he could do and he was
missing in action. To be fair he did work hard but he seems to be lacking in quality.

Saviola looked way more comfortable when he came on for a few minutes. But this should be no surprise, since this is his natural position. We should remember that when Ronaldinho first came to Barcelona the only player that seemed to understand him on the pitch was Saviola. The two players had a marvellous partnership in Rijkaard's first season.

We may also remember that had Saviola not gone to the Olympics as a substitute for Argentina that year, he would have been the starting striker instead of Eto'o. Barcelona had no choice but to start Eto’o since Saviola did not report for pre-season and the season opener. When Eto'o got off to a blockbuster start, they figured they could just
offload Saviola, since he also never agreed to have his wages cut.

So I guess my point is that Saviola was always Barcelona's original starting striker of the Rijkaard era. If Barca's sporting director, Txiki Begiristain, will stop being pissed at Saviola, maybe he can assume his rightful place.
I think everyone can see that Gudjohnsen and Saviola are miles apart. Even Messi and Saviola play better together.

Still Rijkaard is nothing if not consistent. His gift is his ability to get players to perform and he tends to stick with players. Sometimes this can be problem as he will let a player have multiple opportunities to prove himself and rediscover form.

Other coaches would have made major changes two games ago, but this is not Rijkaard's style. I having a feeling that he may not be quite ready to give up on Gudjohnsen even though the Barca faithful are ready send him back to the bench.

And on a related issue: Everyone's been so focused on Ronaldinho that no one's noticed how poorly Deco's game has become lately. He must be thanking his lucky stars that Ronaldinho is getting so much criticism that people forgot about him. Deco is the reference point for Barca. When he doesn't play well, Barca always loses.


A New Formation

A thought came to mind regarding Barcelona.  Given that Eto'o is out for now, the fact is the club don't have as much striker talent as they do midfield.  With this being the case, I would advocate a temporary shift to a 4-4-2 formation.  Gudjohnsen is best at midfield anyway, and it's somewhat unfair to expect him to adjust in the central striker role.  A possible line-up for the squad would be (left to right):

Strikers: Ronaldinho, Saviola
Midfield: Iniesta/Motta, Deco/Edmilson, Xavi/Gudjohnsen, Messi/Giuly
Defence: Silvinho/Gio, Puyol, Marquez/Thuram, Zambrotta

Once Eto'o returns they can switch back to 4-3-3.



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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Night of Dead Legs in the Copa Del Rey

Stand Up for The Copa

With the aftermath of the weekend’s ‘classico’ burning out quicker than the winner of the country’s version of ‘Popstars’, it’s time for Spain’s minnows - no not Ludovic Giuly - to have their day in the sun. Yes, it’s time to fasten the seat belts for the Copa Del Rey. This week, as well as challenges aplenty for the country’s tiniest teams, the cup competition is also a major test of La Liga Loca’s geographical knowledge of Spain which is restricted somewhat to the Malasaña barrio of Madrid.

The one small problem with the Copa del Rey, is that it is generally fairly rubbish. Even ‘Marca’ think so, when they argued this morning that the tournament should be more like the knock out nature of the English FA Cup, as opposed to the less than thrilling two-legged affairs favoured by Spain’s premier competition. How exciting can it be to see Real Madrid turning out tonight in what is little more than a playing field against some plucky part timers (full timers, actually) when they know they can trounce them two weeks later in the Bernabeu?

Nevertheless, Fabio Capello seems to be taking the event seriously - desperate times call for desperate measures - and is set to start with Cassano, Ronaldo, Reyes and Beckham. Up against these titanic forces will be the mighty players of Écija - which sounds more like a sneeze to these English ears, than a club - from Andalucia and the Segunda B - group 4.

Predictably, the papers are focussing on the opposition goalkeeper, Javi Martinez who will be facing Real’s heavy weight attack (no pun intended). In the traditional arms outstretched pose that all ‘keepers have to adopt before the cameras (or the ‘look at my big hands’ shot’ that Real’s Diego Lopez adopts), Écija’s last line of defence sees the game as being a tribute to the club’s fans. Both of them.

As it has been a little rainy of late in Spain, Capello will be watching his expensive superstars through closed fingers, in the hope that they avoid any Atletico style injuries - “the pitch isn’t in the best conditions”, admitted the home side’s Vice President, Rafa Gordillo, in his wellies.

Elsewhere in the league, Barcelona face the unwelcome distraction of the short trip to the confusingly named Badalona from the Segunda - group 3. Still licking the wounds of Sunday night’s defeat, Frank Rijkaard will be dusting off the Ezquerro's of his squad and sending them out into battle. However, the Dutch coach - feeling pressure for the first time in a couple of years - has his mind on pulling his flagging side back together for next week’s rematch with Chelsea. “I’m looking for more aggressiveness, pressure and balance”, said the manager - who’s team is still top of the table, let’s not forget.

Other matches of note see Valencia’s ever dwindling side travel to third division Portuense, in the village of Puerto Santamaria - where Joaquin hails from. Osasuna face a local derby at Peña Sport - with the home team perhaps being favourites considering the visitor’s current form. Athletic Bilbao take on Mallorca in an all Primera affair, along with Depor v Racing and Recre v Betis. Sociedad have the opportunity to heap more embarrassment upon themselves with a visit to Malaga - last year’s Sociedad, ironically enough.

Cup holders, Espanyol visit Madrid’s fourth team, Rayo Vallecano, Villarreal travel to Castellon, Getafe are off to Xerez and Sevilla travel to the very nice city of Segovia.

In an example of how underwhelmingly unexciting the tournament is, just 5.000 fans turned up at the Calderon last night to see Atletico lose 1-0 to Ian Harte’s Levante. The 24 euro minimum ticket price probably didn’t help the attendance, though.

The suicidal-sounding reporter from ‘Marca’, assigned to the match described it ‘without goals (for Atletico, presumably), without good play, without people but without injuries’ - a reference to the news that their striker Mista faces two months out of the squad, alongside Maxi and Martin Petrov. The paper also noted that racist taunts and monkey noises could be heard from sections of the Atletico support, aimed at Levante’s Ghanian striker, Riga.

In Other News...

Barcelona revealed, last week, that Ronaldinho neither trains before nor after games at the moment, but is ‘spending time in the gym’. Or with Michael Jordan, as on Monday, just twenty four hours after the defeat to Real Madrid, prompting ‘AS’ to speculate on whether the Barca team is set to follow the dark side chosen by the Galacticos. As well as the usual ‘dinho to Milano talk there is speculation that Deco will be moved out of the club in the summer to make may for Frank Lampard and his Catalan lady, to add a bit of bite to the midfield - but not in the Jermaine Dafoe sense.

Real Madrid are looking to the day that Roberto Carlos leaves the club to search for an even fatter pay check. They are making wooing noises through the press at Fluminese and Brazilian left back, Marcelino, who can be bought for 6.5 million euros. Atletico, meanwhile, just can’t get enough of Portuguese players and are being linked with Porto’s Ricardo Quaresma and also Chelsea’s Shaun Wright-Phillips - although he doesn’t actually hail from Portugal.

Still no tv deal news with Sevilla, who are still holding out for more money from Canal Plus for the broadcasting of live footage and highlights of their games. However, their financial case was dealt a blow when it was revealed that just 806.000 tuned into last Thursday’s flippin’ awful UEFA cup match with Slovan Liberec.

Osasuna have now used a Benitez beating 81 different starting line-up’s, in a row.


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Monday, October 23, 2006

Monday's Heroes and Zeroes


Real Zaragoza

One doesn’t like to blow one’s own trumpet, but before the season start, La Liga Loca predicted a tasty looking Zaragoza to be the new Osasuna. So far, so good. However, the blog was not alone in it’s confidence. In a preseason poll, the majority of La Liga’s players felt the same - except Becks who plumped for the relative unknowns of Valencia to do well.

Whilst Zaragoza still look a little wobbly at the back, it’s their midfield and attack which is currently looking like the bee’s knees. Argentinean striker, Diego Milito, grabbed his sixth and seventh goals of the campaign in their 2-1 win over Betis, whilst Pablo Aimar must surely be one of the buy s of the season, so far. Alongside the La Liga’s hobbit is the nice and nasty midfield pairing of Real Madrid reject Albert Celades and Alberto Zapater. Adding to Aimar’s flair is the on loan Andres d’Alessandro - who is finally delivering on his enormous promise.

The one worry for Zaragoza is the understandable dependance of the team on Aimar. When he was forced off injured, early in the second half, it took the wind out of his team’s sails and Betis very nearly battled back to grab a draw. However, manager Víctor Fernández, should feel very content with their current 6th placed berth.

Raúl Tamudo

The Espanyol striker completed a fine week with a second goal - his first being in the UEFA cup against Sparta Prague - to make it one hundred in the league. What makes this feat the more remarkable is that the forward had been singled out by his manager, Ernesto Valverde, as a bit of a trouble maker and had spent recent matches on the bench. Hopefully, his goals and Espanyol’s recent mini-revival can bring peace at last to the Montjuic. It would be even better if the supporters turned up to watch it, too.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Amazingly, there are still crazies out there who still doubt the footballing merits of the Dutch striker. A fiftieth Champions League goal midweek and his first home strike in La Liga at the Bernabeu proves that Ruud is settling in nicely to his new stables and that his forgettable final year at Old Trafford was just a fluke.

El Pato and Pinto

“If we don’t get any points against Recre then the Madrid win will mean nothing”. Getafe’s heroic goal keeper Robert Abbondandzieri certainly didn’t come all the way to Europe from Boca Juniors for a quiet retirement and it was his last minute penalty save that gave his team their second consecutive win and bring them three points closer to the forty two point target.

Celta Vigo owe their away victory to a string of cracking saves from their man between the sticks, José Manuel Pinto. The fact that the keeper was last year’s ‘Zamora’ and sits behind Casillas, Reina, Canizares, Valdés, and Palop in the international pecking order, puts England’s alleged goal keeping talent pool to shame.


With little fuss and bother, they continue to grind out the wins (last week aside) to keep them challenging at the top. Unfortunately, their injury list is ever increasing with Albeda now set to miss out the next two months. However, he will have plenty of company with Marchena, Baraja, Edu, del Horno and Vicente all on the sidelines, already. Fortunately, Quique’s locker is stacked with talent and Viana, Regueiro, Gavilan, Silva, Angulo, and Albiol are all capable of picking up the slack.

Freddie Kanouté

Seven goals from seven games. La Liga Loca never doubted him for one moment.




It’s not often that Barca end up on this side of the fence, but two defeats with no goals must be chalked down as a bad week for the European Champions, especially compared to their normally high standards. As expected, the heart of their problem is the absence of Samuel Eto’o who has always been the finisher to the team’s midfield work. Without him, Barca are just a group of fairly small footballers passing to each other. Barca’s management are surely going to have to bite the bullet and start playing Javier Saviola from the start. A comfortable looking home match to Recre, next Saturday, is a good place to bounce back.

Real Betis

In 597 games in charge of top flight football clubs, Betis manager, Javier Irureta had not once been in the relegation zone. There really is a first time for everything.

Mariano Pernia

La Liga’s version of Sean Wright-Phillips. A few months ago, the Argentinean turned Spanish full back was a goal scoring sensation for Getafe and had broken into Spain’s World Cup eleven. Now, he is warming the bench at Atletico, having fallen behind Antonio Lopez in the left back pecking order. A bad decision.

Villarreal and Osasuna

Snap out of it.

Anyone missing? Just email here for your say...



Espanyol Ecstacy

what a week! My boys go and beat my team 2-0 and play really well and i watched the match with the Peña de Sparta de Barcelona; there are three of us, though this is enough by Barça standards to be claimed as a real supporters club. hence,the team with the biggest support base worldwide.

Yes they measure it by the amount of supporters clubs, not members, yes i know it's pathetic talking of strange things, Sport(the official newspaper of Barca) was taken over by aliens on thursday morning. This can be the only explanation for the headlines "CHELSEA WERE CLEARLY THE BETTER TEAM" and "CHELSEA TOTALLY DESERVED THE VICTORY"

Now this is the equivalent of Posh and Becks saying "no photo's please". When Barça lose i don't want to spend 1 euro reading the truth. I want excuses and conspiracy theories like the leather that the ball was made of was from a white cow, therefore the cow was a Madrid supporter and wanted Barça to lose or the referee once bought a round of drinks for his mates, so he must be anti-catalan.

WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT! God, even TV3 thought Chelsea deserved to win, though, the announcer has since had a Fatwah declared on him for blasphemy. just hope this isn't a sign of things to come. Honesty in the Catalan media. Whatever next?

let's hope Espanyol don't fuck it up on sunday (mmmm) and Sparta qualify from the UEFA group as well. by the way,the acid you bought seemed ok, judging by this week's blog.

Paul, Barcelona.


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Friday, October 20, 2006

The Childish Weekend Preview


Villarreal (10th) LLWWD v Levante (14th) LWWDL

Riquelme, this week, confessed,
That his team were a bit of mess,
Forlan’s shots are astray,
His chances - pissed away,
So Levante could well be a test
Home win.

Real Zaragoza (7th) WWLDW v Real Betis (18th) WLLLD

Betis claimed this week, ‘we’re all right!’
But this season, they have been quite shite,
The defence is too leaky,
The attack is just freaky,
Against relegation, again they must fight.
Home win.

Deportivo (6th) DWLWD v Atletico (3rd) WLWDW

There’s none so strange at Atleti,
For whenever, they get near confetti,
Their nerves start to break,
Torres’ head, it does shake,
And their defence turns as soft as spaghetti
Home win.


Mallorca (11th) DLWLW v Real Sociedad (20th) LLLLL

Real have a striker called Skoubu,
Who’s developed a goal scoring hoodoo,
When he misses the goal,
His manager screams “No!
You’ve really put me in the do-do!”
Home win.

Recreativo (8th) WLWWL v Getafe (9th) WLDLW

Getafe did come into form,
To make Real Madrid look forlorn,
The coach is a German,
But hates to give sermons,
And looks like he once worked in porn.

Sevilla (4th) WWLWL v ‘Nastic (19th) LLDLL

Sevilla are lead by del Nido,
Who is a bit of a weirdo,
His friends are all crooks
Who all cook their books,
But still he remains the supremo.
Home win

Athletic Bilbao (17th) LLDLW v Celta Vigo (12th) WLLDW

Last season, Athletic did suck,
They didn’t have too much luck,
Can they stay up this year?
And play without fear?
The answer must be, can they f...(cut).

Valencia (2nd) WWDWL v Osasuna (13th) LWWDL

Delporte last week, did hit
A girl as she stood by the pitch,
As she crashed to the ground,
He gave her a frown,
And ran off without giving a sh*t.
Home win.

Espanyol (16th) LWLDD v Racing (15th) LLDDW

Two teams who are a bit bad,
Play together in Espanyol’s pad,
If the home team stop fighting,
And Garcia gets his sight in,
Then Racing will go home quite sad
Home win

Real Madrid (5th) WWWDL v Barcelona (1st) WWDWW

There once was a striker called Ronie,
Who liked to put food in his tummy,
He grew fat and round,
And his chins hit the ground,
And everyone thought it was funny (Except Capello, that is).
Away win.

Care to join poetry corner?. Just email here for your say...

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Betis Blunder to the Bottom

Betis in the Bin

Despite the noise of the journalistic din sparked by Real’s now legendary performance at Getafe, Barca’s jammy victory over Sevilla and the downright ineptitude of La Liga’s referees, a quiet but distinctive thump could be heard, last Sunday. It was the sound of Real Betis crashing into the relegation zone after their 1-1 draw at home to Deportivo.

Although the club had high hopes of a infinitely better time of it than last year’s forgettable campaign, things don’t seem to be going well for the Andalusian outfit. With just four points from six matches, Betis are perched uneasily third from bottom of the table - very much deja-vu for their fans.

To be fair, the club are still trying to rebuild from the sale of Joaquin to Valencia - after a very brief stint in Albacete - and Ricardo Oliveira, who had to be drugged and bundled into a plane to get him back from a loan spell at Sao Paolo, just to be sold off to AC Milan as the new Shevchenko.

That has left Betis a little light up front. Their new Brazilian highlighted hope, Rafael Sobis has yet to get going and was, in fact, guilty of one of the misses of the season when he headed against the post from about two metres.

It’s a situation that is certainly troubling their manager, Javier Irureta, but not to the extent that he is to start torturing his players to get results out of them - something Sociedad must surely be considering. “I doesn’t make sense to crack the whip”, mused the former Depor coach, flicking disdainfully through ‘the big book of S&M’, “it may have worked in Roman times, but certainly not now”.

Meanwhile, club captain Juanito, has more pressing matters to concern himself with. How to play Saturday’s match away to Zaragoza with a nose held together by sticky tape after an ‘incident’ on Sunday. Having being pictured with three different protection devices strapped to his face, the international expressed his dissatisfaction with all of them - “Eeed deedn’t go dat well, I lost doo buch vision”, he complained nasaly to a local journalist.

The fans have returned to the time-honoured tradition of having a pop at Manuel Ruiz de Lopera. Having only just returned to the stadium, after a nine month sulky boycott, the former president was booed yet again by unhappy fans. However, current big cheese and de Lopera lackey, José León was quick to defend his godfather - spiritual, of course - with the finest example of crawling witnessed since Emilio Butragueno claimed that Florentino Perez had special powers.

“It’s so unfair”, wailed the nominal president, as he gazed lovingly at a portrait of his mentor, “he’s in Betis’ hall of fame, with his name painted in letters of gold”. In a dramatic U-turn from the ‘we’re the greatest’ stance taken last year, José León put Betis’ current predicament into perspective - “we weren’t so good, when we we’re in the Champions League, last year, but we’re not so bad now”.

Are Betis bad? Just click on comments or email here for your say..

Europa, Europa

The Madrid based papers have gleefully leapt up and down on the Barca’s metaphorical body after last night’s defeat at Chelsea. “Uyuyuy” - declared ‘Marca’ somewhat bizarrely - unless they are discussing a potential replacement for Maxi Rodriquez, that is.

Frank Rijkaard was his usual phlegmatic self after the game and claimed that his opponents deserved their victory and he was right. Ronaldinho did not perform, Carles Puyol’s lack of form this season is starting to become very apparent indeed and Samuel Eto’o was badly missed as the person to finish off Barca’s fancy pants moves.

Valencia continued their cracking campaign with a 2-0 victory over Shaktar thanks to two more goals from the boots on fire striker David Villa.

Real Madrid’s Ramón Calderón is still on a big high - or still tiddly, perhaps - after their 4-1 victory against Steaua Bucharest, a team with all due respect that should not be in the Champions League. “This victory is a turning point! we are going to beat Barca, we’re going to win the league, we are the best!”, he declared, conveniently forgetting that their ‘turning point’ 5-1 win over Dynamo Kiev was followed by rubbish performances against Atletico and Getafe.

As well as a new found zest for life, Calderón also picked up a new best buddie in Bucharest, Steaua president Gigi Bacali - or so it would seem according to pictures published today which sees the two club presidents with wrists together in a gesture of blood brother solidarity.

Tonight, the next round of the always exciting UEFA cup takes place with Osasuna, Espanyol and Sevilla taking on some teams from somewhere.

In Other News...

Villarreal have lined up the 6 million euro purchase of Chilean midfielder Mattias Fernandez and will be berthing with the Yellow Submarines in January.

Real Zaragoza captain, Luis Carlos Cuatero will be watching his side from the stands for the next six months after picking up a cruciate ligament injury in training. Celta Vigo will be missing Gustavo Lopez for the next month.

Racing coach, Miguel ÁngelPortugal confirmed that Sunday’s 1-0 win over Osasuna will extent his spell in Santander hot seat - “The victory lets me carry on at least one more week”


The Real Problem

I think Real's problems are testament to the quality of play in La Liga. Even with all the problems in La Liga, the football is of a very high quality and although Getafe and Atletico don't play in Champions League they would cause problems for most of the teams there.

Real was always going run over Steaua Bucharest. The Real test however, is what happens when they get back to La Liga and play teams that know them. Then we will see if they are really improving or not.



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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Would the real Real please stand up?

Send in the Clones

This is all getting very confusing. One minute a rampant Real is thrashing Dynamo Kiev 5-1. Then, the same players put on appalling performances against Atletico and Getafe. A few days later, they travel to Steaua Bucharest - a banana skin in the form of a football club - and give them a 4-1 pasting.

There is definitely something in the Romanian drinking water - aside from large quantities of lead - to explain the turnaround, as Tuesday night’s version of Real Madrid was at least twenty three times better that Saturday’s.

One potential reason was the inclusion of Robinho in the starting eleven. - something many astute observers on this blog had been calling for. From left midfield, he was able to break quickly and give the Romanian defenders something to else to worry about aside from the very lively Raul and Ruud show.

Out of the four goals, the Dutchman’s was by far the best - Robinho got lucky with a deflection - with his cheeky little lob over the keeper.

Despite the fairly decent game played out on the pitch, the best entertainment was perhaps to be found during the pre-match dinner between the officials of the two clubs. Possibly a little worse for wear after the desert wine, scary Steaua president, Gigi Becali, decided to wrap his counterpart, Ramón Calderón , in a bear hug and shout out - “we’re brothers! Real and Steaua are brothers ! ”, before offering him the services of his star midfielder, Mirel Radoi. And a cheeky top up, no doubt.

Tonight sees Barcelona take on goal keeper less Chelsea whilst Valencia - who Spanish tv seem to have very little interest in - play Shaktar in the Mestalla, looking for three more points to put them in the next round of the CL.


In Other News....

Valencia’s Asier del Horno who has not featured for his new club since a pre-World Cup tendon injury, has decided to go under the surgeon’s knife to solve his niggling problem.

Sevilla still have not come up with a suitable deal through their preferred partner, Santa Monica sports, but club president, José María del Nido has put the blame for the mess firmly on Canal Plus for not offering his team the same sums as paid to Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Real Sociedad have reportedly given manager José Marie Bakero two more matches to save his job. The Basque team are currently propping up the league on just one point and will be needing victories against Mallorca and Villarreal to save their coach’s behind.



“Unicef have already signed up Barcelona, Chelsea and Milan. Clearly, they only want the best” - Real Betis’ Manuel Luiz de Lopera - modesty in human (just) form, after agreeing a sponsorship deal with the aid organisation.

“I wasn’t too worried about ‘El Pato’, he only ever moves about three metres to either side” - Cool as a cucumber Getafe boss, Bernd Schuster, was able to enjoy watching his ‘keeper during Argentina’s friendly with Spain on Murcia’s pitch of death.

“Considering his great stature, he’s quite good with his feet” - Savo Milosevic suggest his Serbian team-mate and Racing Santander striker, Nicola Zigic, has a good touch for a big man.

“He’s got to get used to being on the bench. They all have to” - Fabio Capello spells out the future to Becks, a substitute yet again on Tuesday night. Perhaps he will take up knitting?

“I don’t feel particularly uncomfortable” - Despite his bosses running a selection process for his successor, Racing Santander boss, Miguel Ángel Portugal, remains unbothered by his current predicament.

“If he carries on playing well and keeps his mouth shut” - French coach, Raymond Domenech, on the chances of an international recall for Ludovic Giuly.

“I don’t understand refs and I never will” - Ronaldo in the land of confusion after his red card against Getafe where he called the man in black ‘a phenomena'.

“Valencia are not unbeatable” - Potty mouthed Celta manager, Fernando Vasquez. a day before finding out for himself that Valencia are not unbeatable.

“If Arsenal play Baptista where he should be played, then he will be a huge success” - Sevilla’s coach, Juande Ramos, predicts big things for the big man.

“We were the antithesis of who we are” - Valencia coach, Quique Sánchez Flores, breaking the record for longest word ever used in a football interview, after the defeat at Celta.

“I didn’t sleep at all after that game” - Insomniac striker, Darko Kovacevic, after Sociedad’s home defeat to Zaragoza.

“Resigning? People in Spain tell an awful lot of lies” - Fabio Capello denies stories that he offered to leave Madrid after the Getafe defeat.

“I didn’t come here just to win 45 points” - Villarreal’s, Cani, responds to Riquelme’s claims that the club was only looking for survival as its goal this season.

“Referee’s don’t show me any respect at all”, moans Celta’s Fernando Vasquez, after his sixth managerial sending off.


A Real Alternative

Can i offer an alternative line-up to Andy's previous email. I personally think that a midfield of Guti, Becks and Robinho would be ripped to shreds away from home and against a half decent side. If you also take into account Reyes and Cassano not being great defensively this would
be suicide!

I do agree that Robinho should start as i see him as more of a threat than Reyes (being an Arsenal fan he's not really flavour of the month) and can create something from nothing. With Real focusing on the wing backs getting forward and being virtual wingers (Cicinho when fit, Carlos, Ramos etc.) they can afford to keep it tight in the middle with Becks, Diarra and Guti, who all show graft, can interchange going forward like Barca, and create.

Up front i would then have Ruud and Ronaldo, both goalscorers with Robinho feeding them playing in a free role. I reckon they miss Baptista now to play instead of the unpopular Becks and i'm glad he's an Arsenal player!
Now i just need to go home and play it on football manager to prove i'm



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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Spain’s F.A Deny Having F.A Money

Funding Issues at the FEF

For one giddy moment, it appeared that the rarely seen concepts of loyalty and responsibility were alive and well in the upper echelons of Spanish football. Despite the manager of ‘la Seleccion’ being an incompetent buffoon with the tactical acumen of a toilet brush, the Spanish Federation announced that they were standing by their man, Luis Aragones

So what had brought on this sudden desire for stability? The realisation of the importance of continuity? Aragones having a secret plan to take over the world? Or did the manager have a photo of the Federation president in bed with a donkey?

The answer according to ‘Marca’ is none of the above. The Spanish Footballing Federation (FEF) is, apparently, as poor as a church mouse with a particularly heavy tax bill and cannot afford to fire Aragones.

It seems that years of lunches, managerial pay off’s and bottles of the finest claret have taken their toll on the FEF’s coffers. The first clue to their pecuniary predicament came last season when the league’s calendar nearly ground to a halt, after the referees had not been paid for up to three months and were threatening to strike. The cheque was always in the post, claimed the FEF - and having experienced the speed of Spain’s posties, most people believed them.

The second clue came last week, when it revealed that the FEF - although since denied by them - had approached Miguel Ángel Lotina to offer him the top job, once Aragones’ fat behind had been booted out the door. However, the former Espanyol manager was only being offered 300,000 euros a year - fifty percent less than the current salary of the present manager. Today, ‘AS’ reports that the FEF can now expect a call from baseball bat carrying goons from the footballer’s union, over an outstanding debt of 5 million euros.

In response to the allegations that members of his federation could be seen busking for change on Madrid’s metro system, president Ángel Maria Villar dismissed such talk, whilst hiding behind a sofa - “we have the money to cancel the contract of any manager at any level of the Federation”, he shouted, “Aragones will complete his contract. We must all take the blame when we do not have success”, he continued.

Unfortunately, the financial situation at the FEF may well worsen, after Atletico Madrid announced that they were looking at the possibility of legal action over the injury sustained to Maxi Rodruiguez. The Argentinean midfielder had his knee knacked for six months courtesy of the appalling pitch in Murcia during last week’s friendly with Spain.

Atletico director, Miguel Angel Gil Marin claimed, last week, the loss of the international will cost the club fifteen goals and $6 million in salaries for the time he is out. And he wants it back.

This may not be so easy. No one doubts that the pitch was a shocker - “I can’t find the words to describe it”, said Bernd Schuster - it was passed fit to play on by the match officials and also the two managers. Even Maxi himself is fairly philosophical about the whole issue - “the pitch was bad, but that’s football”.

But the loss of the Martin Petrov, on Saturday, for the exact same injury - although it is unclear whether Atletico will sue itself, on this occasion - can only inspire Atletico to take it all the way to court. Very bad news indeed for the FEF.

Do Atletico have a case or is it just tough titties? Just click on comments or email here for your say.

Real’s Redemption Song

Tonight’s Champions League match with Steaua Bucharest probably can’t come quick enough for poor old Fabio Capello. Having quickly flown out of the maelstrom created by his team’s disastrous 1-0 defeat to Getafe on Saturday night, the Italian manager must be looking to the heavens for help to give his Real Madrid team a confidence building win.

Unfortunately, he won’t be getting any assistance from there, as God may be a Romanian tonight - according to Steaua president, Gigi Becali, that is. The Bucharest big chief - a terrifying combination of Jose Marie del Nido and Jesus Gil - is banking on divine inspiration for tonight’s clash - “if we beat Madrid, it will be by the hand of God”, he claimed, while being photographed in a crucifix filled office.

The Roma hating, church building, wine spitting former politician - who had himself portrayed as Jesus in a depiction of the Last Supper - has offered his players a $40,000 bonus should they beat Real tonight. Looking at the current form of the visitors, the car showrooms of Bucharest could see some big business tomorrow.

In order to keep alive Real’s Champion’s League hopes, Capello looks like giving into pressure by dropping Emerson from the starting line up and bringing in ‘cantero’ Javi Garcia along with Robinho. Raul and Ruud are expected to be the front pairing.

Whilst Capello’s job is not under a serious threat, the club was forced to deny reports yesterday that he had offered his resignation to Ramon Calderon, after the Getafe debacle.

Should the president have accepted it? Was the rightful Real manager sitting on the wrong bench? Just click on comments or email here for your say.


In Other News....

The last weekend of carnage has taken its toll on the league’s footballers - Atletico face the season without both Maxi Rodriguez and Martin Petrov; Valencia have lost Vicente for a month; Getafe’s Daniel Guiza is resting in hospital after surgery on an ulcer; Athletic with be without Pablo Orbaiz for at least four weeks.


A Real Solution

Here's a tip for Capello: play Robinho. He's more than a striker. The Madrid number 10 is actually blessed with superb skill and passing ability. If you also look at his old Santos games he does better when he's behind the

Certain players you just don't have on the bench. Robinho is one of them. For my money the midfield should consist of Beckham, Guti and Robinho. It is not gospel that you always must have a defensive midfielder. Sometimes they cost you mobility. Take a page from Barcelona who
sometimes play Deco, Xavi, and Iniesta together.

I think Diarra/Emerson is costing Madrid some speed and mobility. So much for stating the obvious. The front line should also consist of Reyes, Nistelrooy and Cassano. I
think these guys have proved themselves.
I'd put Raul and Ronaldo on the bench and use them as Super Subs. But the young blood: Cassano, Reyes, Robinho should always start.



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Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday's Heroes and Zeroes



It was a weekend when some of La Liga’s hot shots finally came out of hibernation - or night-clubs - to bang in a few cracking goals. Athletic Bilbao’s Francisco Yeste grabbed a couple, including a wondrous chip over the ‘Nastic keeper. ‘Mardy Bum’ Baiano scored a belter past Cañizares, Freddie Kanouté leapt to the top of the goal scorers chart with his fifth of the season, Depor’s Ángel Arizmendi slammed one in from 30 yards and Diego Milito stuck two past Real Sociedad for Zaragoza. Although, a one legged La Liga Loca would fancy itself to get a hat trick against that particular outfit at the moment.

Celta Vigo

The one prediction La Liga Loca got right this weekend - well, wild stab in the dark, really - was that Celta would pull themselves together to beat Valencia. However, they owe Sunday’s 3-2 victory to a bit of luck. Their second goal took a nasty deflection to sail past Cañizares and their third stemmed from a dreadful fumble from Valencia’s blonde bombshell. Strangest moment of the game, though, was when Celta’s Harry Potter look alike manager, Fernando Vasquez sent himself off with after an off pitch altercation with the fourth official - “referees don’t seem to show me any respect”, he grumbled, afterwards.

Gregorio Manzano

In his 200th top flight game as manager, Manzano is sticking with Plan A for Mallorca. Grab the odd goal and hang on for dear life. It worked last season and it looks like working again. Juan Arango’s first half effort in their 1-0 away win at Levante was his team’s only shot on target for the entire game, but it was enough.


For once, Espanyol deserve to be on this side of the water. After two fractious weeks, the players managed a handy 0-0 draw away to Villarreal. And if the pesky linesman hadn’t spotted a cross had swung out of play, a last minute header from Walter Pandiani could have made the day even better for them.


Undefeated at home against Real Madrid with three matches and seven points from this particular fixture. Its just a shame the stadium was half empty due to their ‘Day of the Club’ campaign which forced season ticket holders to fork out another 30 euros for their seats and made everyone else pay up to 100 euros for the privilege of watching what was a pretty dire match, despite the dramatic result.


Warming up, just in time for Chelsea.



Something’s got their panties in a bunch this year. Even before the nine red cards handed out this weekend, the Primera’s men in black were surpassing all previous records for the number of dismissals. Instead of watching out for hand ball goals and blatant dives, they were too busy sending off players for daring to question some of the more ludicrous decisions. Worst refs in Europe.

Atletico Madrid

As ABBA nearly sang, Atletico must feel like they lose when they win. Saturday’s (cheating) 2-1 win over Recreativo puts them into third place and a Champions League spot. Unfortunately, they must face the rest of the season without their two most talented midfielders, Maxi Rodriquez and now Martin Petrov. Every ying has a yang for the ‘rojiblancos.

Real Sociedad

Well, they’re certainly consistent. Sociedad finished last season with the leakiest defence and they are continuing where they left off, having conceded fourteen goals already.

Iker Casillas

There’s something not quite right with Real’s best player over the last three years. At the end last season, the overworked shot stopper seemed to be having a bit of a blip. However, he seems to have carried it over. His performance against Getafe was highly erratic with easy shots being punched clear and the odd fumble here and there. Don’t be surprised to see Capello make some changes, soon.

La Sexta

This won’t make sense to those readers outside of Spain, but merciful Zeus, the newly created tv channel is plumbing new depths in its match coverage. Having won the rights to broadcast one league match a week, the channel have elected to continue with the imbecile (and NBA commentator) from the World Cup to lead the matches. The man’s only talent is to scream ‘tiki-taka’ and ‘couka-rouka’ at exciting moments like goal kicks. Aside from the other three commentators all talking at the same time, the numerous pop up adverts and the ‘24’ style split screens that the directors are hooked on, the coverage is fine.

Rafael Sobis

Two yards from goal and the Betis striker hits the post. Muppet.

Any other candidates? Just click on comments or email here for your say.



A Real Mess

As an avid Real Madrid fan, I'm compelled to have my 2 cents. Noting that 2 cents is also the most id pay to watch this team play.

do you seriously call that defending you pathetic excuses for football players? honestly honestly our defenders aim today was to patch up the grass with those unnecessary slide tackles. our players were sightseeing, first time in madrid for some that's how lost we looked. 5 minutes of highlights was more than enough to confirm that next weekend im putting my house on mortgage and placing the money on a Barca win. questioning my loyalty? question away that 1-0 loss to getafe was flattering. we should kiss their feet for the mercy they’ve shown the clowns we dress in white.

its not about a loss, its the manner in which we lost. play well and lose, fair enough you can look forward to the next game maybe things go your way. but you play shit, no shots on goal and lose you've got some serious problems.

Capello always says "we were too slow". he's used that excuse 3/4 times before yet he still fields slow players. im glad he understands the problem of this team, yet he's not doing anything to patch up our problems. is there someone else that picks the team? or is it someone else talking in those press conferences?

its ignorant of me but its a lesson i will learn, the getafe players who's names i do not know, were spraying passes like it was a practice session and all they had to do is chip it over the cones.

we've gotten to a stage where even Casillas has gone shit.

i so look forward to the Steau match, if we can replicate this disgusting performance then we should start fielding our Real Madrid C team players. coz quite frankly i don't want to degrade our high flying Castilla players and belittle them by comparing them to this shower of sh*t.


The Not So Furia Roja

My two cents on Aragones: He's got to go. Surely Spain can do better in the managerial department with so many former great Spanish players walking around. Maybe they need to
emulate the Dutch model in apprenticing former great players into great coaches. Given the technical ability of
the side, we should see more from "La Furia Roja"



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Friday, October 13, 2006

The Sneezy Weekend Preview


Getafe (9th) WWLDL v Real Madrid (4th) DWWWD

The one positive for Real Madrid going into this game, is that their Dad’s Army of players should be well rested, considering only a handful were away on international duty. Normally, it is a forlorn looking Ivan Helguera plodding around the training ground but last week he had plenty of buddies to keep him company. Getafe’s big midweek news was the launch of Bernd Schuster’s own website - which, at time of writing, was not working. Bad omens for Saturday night perhaps? Away win. And a Steve McClaren taunting hat trick from Becks.

Atletico (5th) DLLWD v Recreativo (6th) DWLWW

The last time these two teams faced up, Mariano Pernia - then Recre and now Atletico left back - smashed into a ‘rojiblanco’ player which such force that, the poor fella stopped breathing for a while. Although the home side have been trotting out the usual guff about this being a tough match against dangerous opponents, they know deep down that it’s nonsense. This is a match they need to and should win if their European pretensions are to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, they are going to have to manage it without Maxi Rodgriquez - out for the season after Wednesday night’s beach football session against Spain. Home win.


Ian Harte’s Levante (12th) LLWWD v Mallorca (13th) DDLWL

This season may well turn out to be a bit like the new Killers album for Mallorca - a disappointing mess at first - but with the potential to improve over time. Or it may simply be Mr Brightside-less cack. As none of their supposed nine front players can find the goal at the moment, the latter may be case. Levante are going into the game without their top striker, Kapo, which can only lead to a dour goalless stalemate on Sunday. Draw. Or 5-4.

Real Sociedad (20th) DLLLL v Real Zaragoza (8th) LWWLD

There has been a spate of thefts at Zaragoza recently. First, Diego Milito’s boots were stolen. Emboldened by this roaring success, the thieves then nicked a tractor for inexplicable reasons. Apart from that, all seems to be going well on the playing side, although the team are having trouble finishing games with eleven men. So it was no surprise to see Alberto Zapater being listed as the dirtiest player in the league so far. Sociedad, on the other hand, are a giant, doomed, mess. Away win.

Osasuna (11th) LLWWD v Racing Santander (18th) LLLDD

Whilst Zapater may be the filthiest player in the league, Racing proudly top the league for the most number of fouls committed - the only poll they are ever going to top. Unfortunately, such apparent commitment to good old fashioned ‘kick them in the air’ tactics is not translating into wins. A Racing fan that La Liga Loca met midweek firmly puts the blame on the new president, Francisco Pernia, who appointed an inexperienced manager on the cheap in the summer and then threatened him with the sack after just four games. Standard management techniques in Spanish football. Home win.

Villarreal (10th) DLLWW v Espanyol (15th) LLWLD

Aside from a player unrest, an under fire manager, an inability to score goals, dwindling attendances and a less then happy support, things aren’t all bad at Espanyol. Their two Catalan rivals are flourishing, this year, which is great news for regional pride. Villarreal, after an indifferent start have started to show some decent form for once and can look forward to former Arsenal centre back, Pascal Cynan, making his debut for the Yellow Submarines. Oh dear. Home win.

Celta Vigo (14th) LWLLD v Valencia (2nd) WWWDW

Whilst other sides such as Athletic and Sociedad have been shockingly bad in a very public, attention grabbing way, little Celta Vigo have been achieving the same level of mediocrity away from the media spotlight. Four points from fifteen is a poor showing from what was once a promising season for the Galicians. However, La Liga Loca has a very sneaky - but not worth betting on - feeling that a revival in their fortunes is due against invincible, all conquering, free scoring Valencia - a club’s whose current air of tranquility is now becoming unnerving.

‘Nastic (16th) WLLDL v Athletic Bilbao (19th) DLLDL

Only five games in and this is looking like a relegation battle. ‘Nastic are struggling a little in the heady heights of the top flight, but not as much as their opponents Athletic - facing, yet again, a nerve shredding campaign. Away win.

Barcelona (1st) WWWDW v Sevilla (3rd) WWWLW

Unfortunately, due to contractual issues, a preview of this table topping encounter is not possible. Instead, here is a picture of a fat pigeon. Home win.

Betis (3rd) LWLLL v Deportivo (6th) WDWLW

Majority share holder - and let’s face it - real president at Betis, Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, was back in fine Sevilla-baiting action, this week, when he claimed that his city rivals were merely ‘queen for the day’ and on a lucky streak. His counterpart, del Nido, responded by claiming that he only ever talked about true rivals - such as Real and Barca - and not inferior sides. Great stuff. Home win.


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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Spain Look for Mercy in Murcia

Turf War Breaks Out

Events in the Spanish national camp are turning from tragedy to farce and back again quicker than Ronaldo at the sound of ice cream van. Federation president, Ángel María Villar has issued his upteenth confidence for Luis Aragonés and confirmed that the coach will be in charge for the foreseeable future - or until the next board meeting in two weeks - irrespective of tonight’s result against Argentina.

This acceptance to tolerate unrelenting failure from his forehead slapping manager has caused the focus of Spain’s ire to turn on the besuited big wig with a tv poll, last night, citing Villar as the numero uno reason for ‘La Furia Roja’ being less than furious these days.

The federation’s decision to play tonight’s friendly in Murcia has also brought criticism from all comers. Last week, fans desperate for tickets were pictured queuing for up to eight hours for a chance to see the much anticipated game. The fact that only two kiosk windows were open in the newly constructed 34,000 “Nueva Conomina” stadium and that the club’s ‘abono’ holders were given first dibs, meant that tickets were harder to come by than a goal from Diego Tristan.

Yesterday, matters got worse when training was cut short after just forty minutes when the dangerously soft stadium turf brought injuries to Carles Puyol and Luis Garcia which has lead to the Barcelona defender missing the tonight’s encounter. Atletico’s Pablo is expected to fill the perm shaped hole. Elsewhere, Cesc Fabregas and Iker Casillas have been dropped and replaced by the criminally underused by everyone Andrés Iniesta and Liverpool’s Pepe Reina.

Despite the pressure on Aragonés, the manager was in full flow yesterday and claimed that the friendly was against - “a team that was one of the best in the World Cup, although another side actually won it”. However, even a victory tonight may not be enough to save him from the chop with the Spanish Federation having apparently lined up Espanyol’s ex-coach, Miguel Ángel Lotina on a 300,000 euro a year deal - fifty percent less than the current manager’s flushed down to the toilet waste of money salary.

Is he the right man for the job? Just click on comments or email here for your say.

Olympic-Sized Sleaze

Whenever the overwhelming flow of news from the Spanish league is reduced to the slugiest of trickles, during international weeks, there is always something that can fill a bit of space - reports of breathtaking hypocrisy.

Today’s exponents of the purest B.S are Atletico Madrid - or more accurately their medallion wearing Director General, Miguel Ángel Gil Marí. In a display of self congratulatory mutual back slapping, his club and the Spanish Olympic Academy announced a collaboration with the aim of bring peace and love to the people of Spain.

“Olympic values and those of all sports should be spread across all of society”, pontificated Alejandro Blanco, president of the nation’s Olympic Committee. It was a tear jerking sentiment shared by Atletico’s proud representative at the ceremony. “Sporting associations are a reference point for all society,” said Gil-Marin, ”football exercises a massive influence on people, therefore it is our obligation to contribute and make sport even greater.”

Fine worlds from Gil-Marin, a man found guilty and sentenced to jail for eighteen months on corruption charges over the mishandling of his club’s finances.

On a lighter note, Atletico have mentally started spending the fortune they are expected to receive by moving from the Calderon to a new site near the city’s airport, in the not too distant future. The billions that would be heading their way would allow the club to pay off its 120 million euro debt, build an Ajax style super stadium and allow a splurge of some 150 million euros on new players.

Atleti appear to have the same property consultant as Real. If not, they could possibly recruit the city council’s former planning chief who quit his post after allegations of ‘irregularities’ and has a bit of time on his hands.

In Other News...

There is scandal in the air at Valencia after claims that several of their former players were doped up to their eyeballs whilst at the club. The allegations were made at the ongoing “Operacion Puerto” investigation into drug taking in sport, by Italian football agent Ernesto Brozetti. The players cited were Gaizka Mendieta, Kily Gonzalez, Francisco Farinos and Gerard. Valencia dismissed the accusations and advised that they would be taking legal action.

Mallorca’s Diego Tristan complains that he has only seen twenty minutes of action at his new club...Real Sociedad have suffered the most injuries out of any Primera side this season...Sunday’s Barca v Sevilla is unlikely to be televised after ongoing contractual problems with Sevilla continue.

Is Beckham Really California Dreaming?

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Badalona Bag Barca

Copa del Rey Time

The Copa del Rey is a much maligned competition - especially by a cursing La Liga Loca, last week, when sat in a stadium full of drunks until midnight watching Rayo Vallecano and Puertollano failing to score a goal. However, the prize for the eventual winners - Rayo, on penalties - was a big one. It was the chance to rub shoulders with the big cheeses of the league.

Yesterday saw the draw for latest (two legged) round of the Spanish cup - the interesting one when the Primera finally joins in the fun. The big winners were Badalona - a team languishing at the bottom of the Segunda B (Group 3) - but dancing in their Catalan streets after being paired with the behemoths of Barcelona, just a few miles down the road.

Badalona president, Fermín Casquete, realised that it may be a bit of tough challenge to progress to the last sixteen in the two legged affair, “it’s not just difficult over two matches, it would need a miracle”, but smiled to himself, instead, as he thought of the money spinning, tax avoiding tie at the Nou Camp.

The other big winner from Monday’s draw was Écija, an Andalusian club from the Segunda B (Group 4) who snared Real Madrid in a tantalising tie that might even see a run out for Beckham. The club plan to play the match in their ‘compact’ 4,200 capacity San Pablo stadium, but are looking at ways to expand the capacity to 7,000. Which is about the average attendance for Copa del Rey games, anyway.

Cup holders Espanyol face an intriguing encounter with the aforementioned Rayo Vallecano, a team in the UEFA cup a few short years ago, but languishing in the Segunda B. There are derbies galore with Recreativo v Betis, Castellón v Villarreal and Peña Sport v Osasuna.

The all Primera ties include Deportivo v Racing, Athletic v Mallorca and Atletico v Levante. Ties to be played on 25th October and 8th November.

Are you so excited that you just can’t hide it? Just click on comments or email here for your say.

The Essential Seleccion

Monday was the day that the guilt ridden footballers of the national team were wheeled out in front of the press to express their support for under fire coach Luis Aragonés and to explain away the defeat to Sweden.

With most of the squad having run for cover or faked laryngitis, Fernando Torres was snared in a giant butterfly net to give his support for his boss - “we can’t have gone from nearly winning the world cup after the Ukraine game, to being the worse in the world”, complained the Atletico striker, suggesting - quite reasonably - that the Spanish papers can go a little overboard at times.

One such organ doing exactly that is the normally stiff upper lipped ‘El Mundo’, with today’s edition is bemoaning the supposedly poor state of Spanish football and its inferior players. It cites the lack of the participants from the UEFA cup being in the national squad and the absence of Spanish players from the annual ‘best player in the world’ lists as hard evidence of this apparent decline.

To be fair, this hard wringingly pessimistic assessment seems a little harsh. Casillas, Puyol, Villa, Torres, Vicente, Alonso and Cesc could arguably have been starting in the England team, on Saturday - although that is not saying much. Whatsmore, there has been a large Spanish participation in the past two Champions League finals with significant contingents from Arsenal, Liverpool and Barcelona all featuring.

On a more positive note, the current squad has decamped to the tranquil climes of Murcia, where they face Argentina on Wednesday and where they have been receiving a considerably friendlier reception from the fans than they experienced in Stockholm.

Do Spain suck? Just click on comments or email here for your say.


“I’m an Atletico player. I don’t like Real Madrid” - Sergio Agüero immediately wins popularity with his home fans.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make him stay with us” - ‘Except pay him, stacks of cash’, Real’s Mijatovic fails to mention, when discussing contract talks with David Beckham.

“The no.7 isn’t Raul’s number. It belongs to the one in the team who wears it” - David Villa certainly isn’t worshipping at the church of all things Raul.

“Ronaldinho is not a machine” - Frank Rijkaard confirms the results of the Brazilian’s latest medical.

“I’m not a machine” - agrees Ronaldinho, soon after.

“The national team is a joke and a mess” - Joaquin’s now infamous rant before Spain’s game with Sweden.

“We all know Joaquin and the way he talks” - Fernando Torres diplomatically calls the Valencia winger an ar$e.

“When I arrived here, Benitez was all they ever talked about” - Quique Sanchez Flores on his early days as Valencia manager.

“Tonight, we’re all playing” - Marca headline from Saturday. Even with 40 odd million packed into a busy midfield, Spain still lost.

“We protested, as we were convinced it had gone over the line” - David Villa on why half the team were surrounding the ref, when Sweden were off scoring their second.

“The best is still to come. I can see defects everywhere” - Quique Sanchez Flores, a hard man to please.

“By biggest mistake was not to follow Laporta at Barca. He said their first year would be transitional” - Real Madrid president, Ramon Calderon, in admitting mistake shocker !

“I hope Real Madrid are watching my progression” - Jonathan Woodgate confirms he is not expecting a long stay on Teesside.

“It’s a lie and something I reject” - Espanyol’s Ivan de la Pena, denies being the bad boy of the dressing room.

“Don’t watch tv, listen to the radio, or read the newspapers” - Javier Clemente offers fairly useful advise to Luis Aragonés


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Monday, October 09, 2006

Carles Puyol’s Stockholm Syndrome

Adios Aragonés?

La Liga Loca’s herring-munching, furniture-building, Hives-listening part of its genetic make-up must confess to have been quite chuffed with Sweden’s 2-0 victory over ‘La Seleccion’. However, this isn’t a feeling shared by many others in Spain - except those who really, really, don’t like the manager. And there are a lot of them, it seems.

On reflection and from an outsider’s point of view, Spain were perhaps a little hard done by in not having come away with a draw, on Saturday night, especially after a fairly decent second half against their Swedish opponents.

Unfortunately for dribbling hulk that is Luis Aragonés, the luck ran out some time ago - perhaps when his creator was handing out tactical acumen and charisma - and a late second half goal ensured that Spain would be facing Sunday morning, with a near fatal three points from a possible nine, in their group.

It’s Sweden’s victory clinching effort that has caused some discussion in the papers, today, with suggestions that it has caused the relations between Aragonés and his squad to reach an all time low.

‘Marca’ takes us back to match and the 80th minute with Spain having won a free kick. Carles Puyol looks to the bench for instructions on whether to go up to support the attack. On receiving no word from his manager, the poodle haired defender takes the decision to head up field and very nearly manages an equaliser with a thundering header that was cleared by Linderoth.

Whilst his team-mates furiously protest to the referee that his effort had gone over the line, Puyol spots Christian Willhelmsson charging up the field and desperately tries to get back in time to prevent Markus Allbäck from converting the breakaway - but without success. It’s this failure to provide sufficient cover that has brought criticism from Aragonés in a reportedly heated argument between the two at the airport before the long trip home.

Meanwhile, the Spanish fans are more focussed on blaming the coach for the defeat, including two hundred who gathered outside AIK’s Rasunda stadium to hurl abuse at the departing team coach - “menos milliones y mas c....” reports one paper, leaving the final word to its readers imagination.

The press were fairly quick to put the boot in as well, on Sunday, with Tomas Guasch in ‘AS’ claiming that Spain’s opponents should have been turned over with some ease - “Sweden aren’t a good team. They’ll never be a good team”. Numerous polls have since been published with an average of ninety percent of people calling for the head of Aragones - even ahead of Spain’s Wednesday night friendly with Argentina in Murcia.

However, the Spanish federation will not be moved. President, Angel Maria Villar - a man who has twice rejected the resignation of his coach - confirmed after the game that there will be no immediate change at the top - “he will carry on as manager and qualify us for the European Championships”, claimed the national big wig, seemingly oblivious to the fact that one more defeat would almost certainly sink his country’s chances.

However, any immediate hunt for a replacement would almost certainly interrupt a important series of high level lunches on the agenda for the Spanish FA.

Should Aragonés stay or should he go? Just click on comments or email here for your say.


Burning in Barcelona

If there is one thing that winds up a proud Spaniard - those of a non-breakaway republican nature - it is any football game involving the official teams of the Basque country or Catalunya. That and cyclists, of course.

So when the two teams met in the Nou Camp for a friendly match on Sunday afternoon, the majority of the non Catalan / Euskadi sporting press were less than impressed, viewing the encounter as a provocative political statement thinly disguised as football match.

Nevertheless, a whopping fifty six thousand gathered in Barca’s ground to watch a game between the two Spanish regions comprised of players neither involved in international duty nor wanted by their respective clubs for weekend friendlies. Athletic Bilbao featuring heavily unsurprisingly.

A reportedly entertaining match ended in a 2-2 draw but Barcelona based paper, ‘Sport’ certainly didn’t help the ‘just a bit of fun’ argument with the rabble-rousing opening paragraphs of a match report pointing out that the encounter was between two peoples whose “desire to be recognised as a society continues to be met with closed eyes and ears.” You certainly don’t get that in the Daily Mirror.

Meanwhile, ‘Marca’ published a photo of a spectator attempting to set fire to a Spanish flag in the stands - but failing as it turns out - with the headline, “a football match... and a political rally”.

Harmless display of regionalist pride or provocative nationalism? La Liga Loca stands back. Just click on comments or email here for your say.


Better Blue and White than Barca

it doesn't rhyme but what the hell. good article on the mighty espanyol,but is this the joy of supporting a team.when you start waving white hankies because you only won 2-0 you know you have a problem.

30,000 socios but only 19,000 go to matches,but a better percentage than the super power down the road, 120,000 socios, 60,000 attendances for most matches,you do the maths. back to the main point failure to re-sign lotina was a mistake, valverde was a bigger one,but the failure to sign a decent centre half is the main reason.

valverde has no idea which his best side is.other teams can come to our place and know that they can kill us on the break.why can't the coaching staff see it.

despite it all,we have one of the top away supports in spain(we travel from our city)other teams seem to have larger emmigrant supporters (betis,real madrid). the organisation of the club is a joke,but we have some of the most passionate fans around.wait till the stadium is build.if we go down it's because we deserve to.it won't happen(nastic,racing and real sociodad).



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