October 7, 2009

Sevilla stun Madrid; Atleti wins…finally

The Vicente Calderon filled against last Saturday night as Atletico de Madrid once again looked for their first victory of the season. After Jurado put the Rojoblancos up a goal early on the second minute, a reckless play by third string keeper David De Gea led to an ominous penalty. While still within the first half an hour of the match, the body language of supporters was clear, it was going to be another long night in Madrid; however a poorly taken shot combined with a correct guess from the Spanish keeper pushed the equalizer away. Antonio Lopez would double the home sides advantage from a set piece and even though a Tomas Ujfalusi foul would lead to another penalty, this time converted, Atleti was able to hold on for their first victory of the season.

Elsewhere, Valencia earned a very costly victory with David Villa leaving the game with what appeared to be a muscle tear. Coming amidst bankruptcy problems and David Silva transfer rumors, this was not the news Los Ches needed with league leaders Barcelona up next in two weeks. Said Catalonian club edged out Almeria this past Saturday (via a brilliant goal from Pedrito), the three points enough to establish themselves alone at the top of the table. The only team that remains perfect in league play to this point (and still undefeated in all competitions).

The big story of the weekend, as well as one of the best games of the season thus far, was played in the Andalucian capital of Sevilla Sunday night. The local side was hosting the newly assembled Blancos from Real Madrid with the game being labeled the first real test for the “New Galacticos.” Sevilla had been perfect since an opening weekend loss to Valencia in both the Champions League and Spain while Real was traveling with out their new star, Cristiano Ronaldo, who was nursing an injured ankle suffered this past Wednesday. Excuses were not made after the match, the Chilean manager acknowledging that the home side outplayed his boys, deserving all three of the points they earned. Spreading the Madrid defense wide, dominating the wings all while consistently threading dangerous balls into the area, Sevilla picked apart Real Madrid. The Sevillian wingers made boys out of Ramos and Marcelo. The backline stood flatfooted, statues watching the Sevillian goals unfold in front of them. Madrid was tested and failed while Sevilla made a very loud statement throughout Spain and Europe: there are more than two teams in the Iberian country that can compete on the highest level.

Consequently, this game was not just a victory for the Rojoblancos from Sevilla but for the rest of the Spanish league. While critics will be quick to dismiss La Liga as boring, a two horse race, but, as the game Sunday night reemphasized, there are other quality clubs capable of hoisting hardware throughout the continent in Spain. Yes, it may take a valiant effort to dethrone treble winning Barcelona but if the Sevilla that came to play Sunday night at the Sanchez Pizjuan stays consistent then trophies are not out of the question. Trite as it may be to say, it is true: on any given day, anyone can be defeat.

As for the rest of the league, Villarreal still remains winless. Less than two years removed from their exceptional second place league finish, the yellow submarine find themselves in the red on only three points through six fixtures after a nil-nil home draw against Espanyol. Deportivo continued their impressive start to the 09-10 campaign with an away victory that leaves them fourth in the table on twelve points. Mallorca was cooled off while Xerez recorded their first ever goal in the top flight in a 1-1 draw.

As for the prediction standings thus far….

Standings Through Six Rounds
EPM (.517): 31- 29 (7)
FFT (.500): 30 - 30
LLTO (.468): 22 – 25 (2)

*LLTO does not to pick some games which is why their total number of predictions is lower…the final number (in parenthesis) indicates the number of games with the exact score picked correctly to serve as a tie breaker.

September 30, 2009

Stepping up to the Big Leagues

When I created this blog over the summer one of my intentions was to provide a level of football insight that is hard to come by in the states. Living in the Spanish (footballing) capital has provided me to local fan insight as well as daily newspapers such as Marca that are dedicated to the sport. With that being said, I still was researching news, rumors, etc, from go-to sources. While perusing ESPN’s Soccernet website, I came across a vacancy for a Real Madrid Correspondent. I applied using this blog to demonstrate my writing examples and football knowledge as well as pitching that my location would be vital for local, passionate opinions hard to find elsewhere. After week of hearing nothing, all hope gone out the window, the email came inviting me to join Soccernet’s prestigious soccer blogging staff. I obliged. Thus, you can now follow my work on Soccernet (http://blogs.soccernet.com/realmadrid/); however, I do not intend on stopping with El Partido Maravilloso. Postings may become more scarce, but I have every intention of continuing with my opinions on the whole of Spanish football not just those surrounding Los Blancos.

As always, I appreciate any comments, critics, etc. from any readers in regards to either of the blogs. Only five matches into the season, the 2009-2010 La Liga campaign is shaping up to be a very exciting one.

Barca, Madrid Look Human; Sevilla not far behind

Through the first five games of the young Spanish league season, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have quieted critics and find themselves tied, on a perfect 15 points apiece, at the top of the table. With that being said, Sevilla, who have rebounded from their first week loss, have won their last four and will play host to the aforementioned Madrid this Sunday. The biggest test of the year for Los Blancos while a chance for us to see if Sevilla can establish themselves as league contenders.

Two teams many considered serious contenders are still without wins five games into the season. Atletico de Madrid has struggled defensively, conceding away their first victory of the season in stoppage time at home against Almeria midweek.; however, in a similar fashion, Maxi finished home a sloppy Valenica clearance two minutes from time to salvage a point at the Mestilla on Saturday. Valencia on the other hand has given away four points in the last five minutes of their last two games, mistakes that are unacceptable for a talented team with desires to compete for a top European spot next season. Athletic Club Bilbao has come down to earth, losing their last two after an impressive start with victories in their first three games. Xerez picked up their first ever point in the Spanish top flight after an impressive nil-nil draw at Espanyol. Malaga has lost four straight after an impressive opening day win against the aforementioned struggling Atletico while Mallorca continue to play nearly flawless football. Asides from a couple weakly conceded goals mid-week against Sevilla (a game in which they really held their own on the road), Mallorca has been impressive thus far.

This upcoming weekend will bring us many intriguing matches right before a two-week break as players report for international duty. The aforementioned Sevilla vs. Real Madrid will surely be the game to watch, and I am going to say that Madrid’s lackadaisical form in the back will finally prove deadly as they are upset in the Andalucian capital. I know it may sound like an echo at this point but I have both Aletico and Villarreal recording their first wins of the season. Elsewhere, look for Mallorca and Deportivo to continue on form while Xerez will follow-up their first La Liga points from last week with their first La Liga victory this Sunday.

Tenerife 1 – Deportivo 3
Atletico de Madird 2 – Real Zaragoza 0
Barcelona 3 – Almeria 0
Getafe 2 – Osasuna 1
Valladolid 1 – Athletic Bilbao 1
Villarreal 2 – Espanyol 1
Racing Santander 0 – Valencia 1
Xerez 1 – Malaga 0
Sevilla 2 – Real Madrid 1
Sporting Gijon 2 – Mallorca 3

As for the prediction standings… El Partido Maravilloso took a beating the last week while Tim Stannard from Four Four Two’s La Liga Loca blog had a phenomenal set of predictions. La Liga Tickets Online neglected to put up predictions for the midweek games so their picks for the weekend’s matches were just doubled. The number in the parenthesis is, of course, number of game scores picked exactly right to serve as an end of the season tiebreaker.

1. FFT 28 – 22
2. EPM 24 – 26 (4*)
3. LLTO: 24 – 26 (2*)

September 24, 2009

Jornada 5 Predictions

With the quick turn around from the midweek fixtures, I will present only my predictions for this upcoming weekend of play with full analysis of the last two sets of games coming Sunday. And yes, I still am pulling for Atleti in the upset, regardless of them letting me down the last 4 weeks.

Athletic Bilbao 1 - Sevilla 1
Malaga 0 - Barcelona 3
Real Madrid 4 - Tenerife 1
Valencia 2 - Atletico Madrid 3
Mallorca 1 - Valladolid 0
Espanyol 2 - Xerez 1
Almeria 1 - Racing Santander 0
Zaragoza 0 - Getafe 0
Osasuna 2 - Sporting Gijon 1
Deportivo 1 - Villarreal 3

September 21, 2009

Who Invited that Guy?

Who is to say that just because you are drunk and overweight that you cannot score a goal in a top-flight football league? Well nobody told this Russian fan. A supporter invaded the pitch and kicked home a penalty during the 51st minute of the Moscow derby between Saturn and Spartak this past Saturday. It brings one to ask, who invited that guy?

Three Clubs Remain Perfect (Barcelona, Real & Athletic Club Bilbao???): Week Three in Review & Jornada 4 Preview

While a seventy-four minute gap between Ronaldo goals allowed Xerez to ponder the notion of stealing a point from the home side, a six-minute period that saw Real Madrid quadruple their lead put an end to any fairytales at the Bernabeu. Atletico de Madrid continued their disappointing season, getting embarrassed at the Camp Nou. After a slow start and on only two points, Atleti needed a strong showing against the Catalan club to reestablish themselves as a title contender. Athletic Club Bilbao continued their perfect start to the season by defeating Villarreal. The “yellow submarine” have been another top flight club yet to notch their first victory of this early season. A late equalizer at the Mestilla put Sporting Gijon on terms with Valencia while Mallorca looked strong at home against La Liga newcomer Tenerife.

As for the prediction standings after three weeks:

1. El Partido Maravilloso: 16-14 (4*)
2. La Liga Tickets Online: 16-14 (2*)
3. Four Four Two: 16-14**

*tie breaker is scores picked correctly throughout the season
**if you don’t pick the scores, then you can’t earn the points

A set of midweek games keeps the players of La Liga busy this week. The big match-up coming when perfect Real and Manuel Pellegrini visit El Madrigal. Pellegrini, who coached Villarreal for four seasons including a second place league finish, will lead Los Blancos against his former club. Villarreal, who are a perennial contender for the four Champions League spots, have stuttered out of the gate this campaign. Emotions will be high as Villarreal look to take revenge on their former manager while earning their first league win in the process.

Week 4 Predictions:
Sevilla 1 – Mallorca 0
Racing Santander 2 – Barcelona 2
Espanyol 2 – Malaga 0
Villarreal 0 – Real Madrid 1
Atletico Madrid 3 – Almeria 1
Tenerife 0 – Athletic Club Bilbao 3
Xerez 1 – Deportivo 2
Valladolid 1 – Osasuna 1
Getafe 1 – Valencia 2
Sporting Gijon 1 – Zaragoza 0

September 19, 2009

Week Three: Finally a Local Perspective

Prior to the start of week three, this author had been writing from the comfort of the New York City suburbs, far removed from the European game; however, now, after a move to Madrid, I find myself at the epicenter of Spanish football. With the new location should come a new improved level of stories, gossip and opinions of the game from both the local media and local supporters.
It is difficult to label a game a must win three matches into a thirty-eight match season; however, Atletico de Madrid find themselves in said scenario. On only one point through two games, a visit to Camp Nou tonight could potentially be the first defining cornerstone of this lengthy season. A loss at Barcelona would leave them eight points off the top early in the season, while a victory could reestablish the rojoblancos as the contender many, this blogger included, thought they would be. Madrid should stay on form with rookie club Xerez at the Bernabeu. Villarreal will earn their first win, on the road at San Mames, as will Espanyol against Deportivo.

As for Week Three Predictions:
Deportivo 0- Espanyol 1
Real Madrid 4- Xerez 0
Malaga 0- Racing Santander 0
Athletic Bilbao 1- Villarreal 2
Almeria 0- Getafe 1
Valencia 3- Sporting Gijon 1
Osasuna 0- Sevilla 2
Mallorca 1- Tenerife 1
Barcelona 2- Atletico Madrid 1
Real Zaragoza 2- Valladolid 3