Archive for the ‘La Liga’ Category

La Liga: Álvaro Negredo, The Non-Hipster Choice

David Farris with his TSG debut.

Alvaro Negreda....listen up!

The Third Wheel.

Mal tercio.

To the casual outsider, La Liga exists as a fierce and epic battle between two clubs: Real Madrid and Barcelona. As if El Classico weren’t enough to keep people’s attention, last year’s race between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the top of the scoring list was spectacular. Part of what made this race so magical was that it was a microcosm of the athletic, the religious, and the political battle between the historically advantaged Real Madrid (represented by the impossibly good looking Ronaldo) and the precise, genius futbol of Barcelona (represented by little Messi).

And if you heard or read anything about soccer last season, you probably recognize that whole first paragraph as some recycled version of someone else’s story. Yes, it’s exciting to watch two captains of industry go at it week in and week out and then to have the crazy finish they did between the league and non-league stretch they played last Spring. Yes, YouTube is littered with videos like the one linked above showing goal after mind-blowing goal that you can watch until blood is shooting from your eyes to your laptop, phone, iPad, etc.

But for me and probably a few of you, watching that battle was a bit like playing FIFA on its Amateur setting. There is definitely something cathartic about putting together a dream team and watching it steam roll the landscape. And while historic campaigns like the 2010-11 are great PR directed toward the outer fringes of the La Liga and general futbol fan base, it just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Maybe it’s all of those years of playing video games on the wrong difficulty level just to build confidence that I can carry into the outside world. Maybe it’s my nearly obsessive proclivity toward avoiding the bandwagon, the popular, or the otherwise widely known and appreciated. But if La Liga is going to hold my attention this season I’ll need some kind of alt-choice – something to make my hipster soccer friends jealous.

The Aguero Show has now departed....

For the last few seasons that choice has been easy – Sergio Agüero. He’s talented at a level that could only be scientifically described as “bonkers”, has a tattoo written in a language invented by Tolkien, and is married to Diego Maradona’s daughter.

Agüero was the obvious choice to crown as the Third Wheel of the Spanish League. He scored 20 goals last season – second only to Ronaldo and Messi – and had essentially set up camp in every soccer writer’s transfer headlines all season long. Even with all of that press he was still flying just under the radar of most soccer fans because he played on a team that rarely, if ever, is shown on ESPN or The Deuce.

And then it happened. The siren’s song of petrodollars could only be held off for so long. At the end of July, Kun Agüero was tapped to be the next in what will probably be a long line of stars to watch from the sidelines of the City of Manchester (errrrr Etihad) Stadium as other, more star-y stars run around the pitch–hey folks, let’s be honest, that was Swansea and that could still happen.

The alt-dream was over. A million hipster hearts were broken and my knock-off Atlético Madrid shirt was declared ‘totaled’ and sold for scrap parts. The dream had died.

But of course, he wasn’t the only player in La Liga to score 20 goals last season. There was in actuality, a fourth wheel that worked quietly and efficiently to crash the talent party in La Liga last year.

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TFIY: How I Became A Madridista

Real Madrid is my religion. This....my church.

Well, we’re back today with our fourth installment of The Fan In You, a series where a fan offers their perspective on how they came to root for the team they love. This week’s piece brought to you by our La Liga correspondent Donald Wine II.

When I was a kid, every fall I would play soccer in the youth leagues around my birthplace in Michigan.

I was good…really good.

I remember when I was 8, I scored 30 of my team’s 32 goals that season (my younger brother tallied the other two).

I wasn’t the next Pelé, but maybe I could have got a scholarship if I had stuck with it and not found my love for track.  But to me, soccer was a fun sport to play, and sports are always more fun to play when you’re good at it.

About that time is when I discovered that there was a world of soccer outside the United States.  My brother and I would get home from school in time to watch Champions League matches.  It was there I got to see some of the best teams in the world: Manchester United, Leeds United, Arsenal, Inter, AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid.  I would watch with awe at how these professionals played the game with such ease and with such precision.  In the end, I fell in love with Madrid.

Some people get roped into following a particular team because of their history, because they have family from there or they grew up there.  For others, their affinity for a particular player is what makes them follow a team.

Despite Real Madrid’s glamorous history and star-studded lineup and their vault full of silverware, it was indeed a player that convinced me to start following Los Blancos.  Don’t get me wrong, the constant winning is awesome.  Being able to see so many of their matches because of their perennial lineup of galactic superstars is a great thing, and of course that helped me further my love of all things Real.

My Hierro

Yet, it was the player that got me hooked to Los Blancos that will surprise you: Fernando Hierro.  Even though I played striker as a kid, it was a defender/defensive midfielder that got me really following Real Madrid.

I loved Hierro’s game, how he would control the back line but would still have an ability to press forward and put the ball in the net.  Hierro was one of the main reasons I would try to find more Madrid games on TV until a young striker emerged in the Real lineup that went by one name:  Raúl.  The Golden Boy, the King of Madrid, Raúl became my favorite player in the world along with Hierro.  His ability to score goals with either foot, in every single way imaginable, made him a god among the legions of Madrid fans around the world, myself included.  My two favorite players in the world, on the same team?  It was screaming “Halamadrid” for life after that.

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The Battle For El Pichichi: Messi v. Ronaldo

This is a guest post by La Liga expert Donald Wine II. He is the author of the blog “Life In 1-1-8,” which can be found here.

For the ages....

Better than Bird vs. Magic?

If you haven’t been watching La Liga football this season, you are missing probably the greatest battle soccer has seen in years.

I’m not talking about the disastrous El Clásico from the eyes of my beloved Real Madrid against Barcelona.  No, I’m talking about the battle for El Pichichi (top goal scorer).  The race between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the top goal scorer in La Liga has reached absurd levels, with both on pace to shatter every single season goal scoring league record that exists.

While players like David Villa, Gonzalo Higuaín, Roberto Soldado, Fernando Llorente, Sergio Agüero, and Luis Fabiano have scored plenty of goals for their squads the past couple seasons, Messi and Ronaldo have found themselves once again in a two-horse race for El Pichich.

Last year, Higuaín actually squeaked by Ronaldo for the #2 spot with 27 goals to Ronaldo’s 26, but Messi overtook all by tying the record for most goals scored in a La Liga season, 34, set by the original Ronaldo  for Barca back in 1996-1997.

This year, Higuaín was keeping pace with CR7 and Messi until he suffered a back injury that will keep him out of the lineup until February at the earliest.  The rest of the pack just hasn’t been able to keep up with the pizzazz, the panache of Ronaldo and Messi.

This season’s El Clásico is just three weeks away on October 10th 2011. It will be televised in the States on ESPN Deportes with coverage beginning at 10:30 AM PT.

In the past 2 years, while Messi has steadily risen from great player to otherworldly status, he arguably saved his best season performance for last season, when CR7 entered La Liga.

Tough choice, but I give myself the edge....

Ronaldo, already viewed as an otherworldly player that is on everyone’s short list of best in the world, looked to stake his claim as La Liga’s top player, and despite an ankle injury that kept him out several matches last season and limited him in several others, has really adapted well to the Spanish game.

Anyone can tell that the competition suits both of them, as each goal they score seems to have an “anything you can do, I can do better” air about it.  When Messi gets 2 goals in one game, Ronaldo seems to come up with 2 goals.  When Ronaldo gets a hat trick, Messi answers with one of his own.  With 17 goals apiece through only 16 matches, they are greatly outpacing Messi’s run last year to 34 goals.  As every week goes by and the goal totals of the two grow, you can’t help but realize that at this point, it’s not a matter of if, but when the single-season record will fall…and by which player’s lethal strike.

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Messi No Le Lanza!….Messi Don’t Dive

Update:

The took down the terrific Messi Don’t Dive video below. But here is another ditty showing the hits the Argentine takes in the line of duty:

———-

Sorry we’re late to this.

This past weekend Heart Attack Ray Hudson issued an opine (2nd video) on Lionel Messi during Barcelona’s 5-1 thrashing of Espanyol….and recommended a little YouTube ditty on the star from Catalan country (1st video) showcasing Messi’s refusal to go down.

We would be remiss not to give Messi–and Ray Hudson–their just due, especially after we witnessed Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli yesterday seemingly get blown over by the wind on multiple occasions…..and the con jobs so often issued by other forwards and strikers.

And Ballon D’Or or not, he’s, right now, the #1 player in the world.

Messi Don’t Dive

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Real Madrid versus Barcelona

The dynamic duo are running rampant per usual

I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did. Off to have lunch! and some wine! OH and Barcelona are top of La Liga

As soccer fans we were treated to a show. USMNT fans. NOTICE what speed and skill can do versus a little and large like strike force!

The game had everything. Passion, amazing skill, goals, cards and strategy. What was surprising was that none of those were exhibited by Real Madrid, aside from the cards!

TWEEEEET TWEEEET TWEET as the ref smartly ends this massacre. Barcelona celebrates and Real are in shock. A complete embarrassment. What will tomorrow bring? Heads will roll?

93:00 – ARGY BARGY as Sergio Ramos crushes Messi and gets a straight red. Then there is a  lot of pushing as Puyol goes crashing down. This is more than handbags.

91:00 – GOOOOOOOOAAALLLJeffren taps it in after a lovely bit of work from Bojan who runs down the wing and sends in a great cross. Barcelona 5 – Real Madrid 0

89:00 – Di Maria gets a glimmer of space but holds the ball back for Ronaldo who accidentally kicks  the ball out of bounds, much to the delight of the Blaugrana faithful.

87:00 – Xavi leaves to a thunderous applause as Keita comes on to replace him. Do any of these Barca players, aside from David Villa go by both their names?

82:00 – Benzema looks like he is going to cry.

80:00 – What a montage. They showed the happy faces of the Barca players and then the anguished faces of the Real players. Real get a corner. This has been their only real attacking move of the second half.

77:00 – Bojan immediately gets sent through, but his legs fail him and he tumbles. Moments later he sends in a rocket of a shot that Casillas does well to parry.

76:00 - Bojan on for David Villa. Welcome to the Clasico David Villa. A job well done!

75:00 – Handbags are being thrown by each side, as Real are understandably frustrated. Still 15 minutes left!

72:00 – Benzema tries a backheel to comical effect. At least he wins a throw in and Real have consecutive touches with the ball.

70:00 – Barcelona have used their back heel more times in the past 5 minutes than Real have touched the ball. This is so much fun to watch!

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The Biggest El Classico Yet…

El Clasico

There are always big games to be played each year, whether it be club or country. We as fans love rivalries. We either support one of the teams and hate the other, or we watch the game as neutrals, anticipating fireworks, good play and heated battles.

International games between rivals are few and far between, but we always enjoy Argentina – Brazil, England – Germany, Spain – Portugal, USA – Mexico etc…,but typically only during World Cups or regional competitions every 2 to 4 years. “Friendlies” fail to measure up.

Club games though, are far more frequent and because they are often played twice a season and sometimes in the case of cup competitions, 2 to 4 times more. This breeds anticipation and each win or loss, or hard tackle or dubious goal, is fresh in each club supporters minds when the sides meet again. Unlike a Yankees – Red Sox series, which in my opinion has lost some of its intensity, due to the fact they meet 17 times a season (playoffs aside), these soccer games are talked about for weeks ahead of time.

The two best players in the world going head to head...again

Rangers/Celtic, the Merseyside Derby, North London Derby, Milan Derby, Galatasaray/Fenerbache, Roma/Lazio, Boca/River Plate to name a few, are all great matches, where league standing is cast aside. It’s all about beating your rival at all costs.

Often in these situations, skill and smooth play is thrown out the window and the referee is handing out cards like a dealer at the Bellagio, but Mondays Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Camp Nou could prove to be something different and here is why.

For the first time in awhile, we have two of the best players to ever play the game around at the same time (too young to see if they will eclipse Maradona, Pele, Zidane, Cruyff etc… but don’t bet against it if they continue down this vein) Not only that, they play in the same league and on Monday, Cristiano Ronaldo will face off against Lionel Messi.

Their supporting cast is not too shabby either and the managers are world class as well.

To borrow some stats from the other Guardian publication. 13 World Champions will be playing. The last two winners of the Balon D’or will be there. The reason its not the last 5 is that Kaka is injured and Cannavaro and Ronaldinho have been let go to “greener pastures”. The last 4 top goal scorers of the Champions League will be there. Basically one will be hard pressed to ever have had a club game with this much talent on the pitch.

Hopefully Mourinho will let them play attacking football

Currently Real Madrid are one point leaders with 32 points and Barcelona are second with 31. No offense to the rest of La Liga, but this is now a two horse race and the title might well come down to goal difference.

The only thing that will stop this being an amazing goal fest will be the “special ones” defensive tactics, but with Higuain, Ozil, Ronaldo, Alonso, Di Maria et al, how can one be defensive. Barcelona will be going with “guns a blazing”. Lets hope, the game will live up to its billing, if not, there will be another one very soon!

TSG will be doing our best to do live commentary. If not, we can all blame COMCAST for being a bunch of douchebags!

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