La Liga Weekly

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Simon Heptinstall On January - 3 - 2011

La Liga: A New Year And A Promise Of More Of The Same To Come.

Barcelona win, Xavi makes more passes than the rest of the world put together and Daniel Alves sprints up the right wing like he’s running to get home after finding out John Terry’s been spotted with his girlfriend. Yes some things never change, it may be 2011 now but the pattern of things to come in La Liga in the year ahead seems to be pretty much established already.

But Barcelonas defeat of Levante on Sunday night was by no means a vintage display. For the first time since game week seven, Barcelona failed to score in the first half of a game and by the end of the match they were somewhat holding on to a fragile 2-1 lead as Levante lumped long balls into the box in search of a last minute equaliser. In truth Barcelona were never really in too much danger in this match despite a spirited and gutsy performance by Levante against a Barcelona team missing several key players, including Messi. But what will be most pleasing for Luis Garcia, the Levante manager, will be how much more disciplined and well organised the team looked than during their 8-0 demolition at the hands of Real Madrid just two weeks ago.
So as we near the half way point of the season what can we look forward to in 2011 in La Liga? Well first of we have the top two going for all the major honours, will Barcelona win another title and give Pep yet another medal to add to his collection or will the special one be the one smiling in May as Real Madrid finally topple the Catalan giants? Well it’s too early to say yet. Barcelona are probably still the best team in the world but if injury and suspension hit them hard then Madrid may become favourite for the title, especially if Madrid can sign a forward to replaced the injured Higuain. And of course we have the second El Classico of the season to come at the Bernabeu, don’t put your money on a 5-0 win to Barcelona this time around, Mourinho simply won’t let it happen.

But that’s enough about the boring big two for now, there are after all twenty teams in La Liga, for those keeping count that’s eight more than the SPL.*cough*. So let’s start at the top (well third) and work our way down. The battle for the last automatic Champions League place would seem to be at the moment between Villareal and Valenica, with the former in pole position right now. The little yellow submarine men play some of the best football in Spain, with only the top two having scored more and conceded less than them. But this battle will no doubt be as tough and tight as any at the bottom or top of the league, with the team finishing fourth having to settle for Champions League football at the qualifying round stage. Getafe, Athletico Madrid and Espanyol are also right in the mix for finishing in the top four as well, though Espanyols run of three straight defeats have certainly not helped their cause.

Now on to my favourite battle of the season, who will finish tenth and be crowded the most average team in the league. As things stand right now in the league it’s really too hard to call, with only ten points separating ten teams from seventeenth to eighth. Real Sociedad are currently in pole position to finish in that much coveted tenth position, two wins and four losses from their last six games being the exact sort of form needed to be crowned the most average team in the league. A special mention should go to Sevilla who started the season by getting humped by Braga in the Champions League qualifying stage and before Sundays win over Osasuna they had lost five league games in a row, which is actually more like relegation form than averageness but at least it’s put them right in the mix to finish tenth.

Talk of losing lots of games takes us to the relegation battle; actually it’s more like relegation certainty for Sporting Gijon and Real Zaragoza right now seeing as they can’t find a win for love nor money. Almeria and Levante aren’t much better off either and despite being a poor mans Man City (which is still richer than most football clubs and a lot of countries) Malaga have had a very poor season indeed, though by the looks of it they will survive by buying their way out of trouble, though they have just signed Julio Baptista so they are obviously doing their bit for charity too. Relegation battles are always hard to call due to the nature of the teams involved, their inconsistency meaning that any team puts a few wins together might be able to pull themselves out of the relegation zone despite months of toiling down there. So will I be brave and make a guess as to who will be relegated this season? No I won’t, though if Real Zaragoza stay up I will eat an actual hat.

So it’s shaping up to be a fairly standard year in La Liga then. Real Madrid and Barcelona look set to finish light years ahead of the rest, Valencia will finish in the European spots while reminiscing about all the good players that used to have and poor old Real Zaragoza (sorry for picking on them so much) will finish in the bottom five, though just how low they finish is yet to be confirmed.

And there lies the beauty of football, the details. Ask a non football fan if they care if Real Zaragoza finish seventeenth or eighteenth and they would look at you like they think you are crazy and might just steal their car, but ask a Zaragoza fan and you would get the kind of impassioned response that only football can bring from a (relatively) sane person. You see while we might moan about Real Madrid and Barcelona walking away with the league title we are still fascinated as to who will win the battle of the two giants (be that Barce vs Madrid, Messi vs Ronaldo or Pep vs Jose). The next El Classico will no doubt be one of the highlights of the European football calendar and we also have third, fourth and tenth place to decide as well as of course relegation. 2011 may be shaping up to be more of the same, but surely that’s a good thing, after all 2010 gave us so many talking points, both good and bad.

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