28 November 2011

Whisper it, but are Barcelona human after all?

Ever before the weekend's shock defeat at Getafe, Barca's play this campaign has looked laboured, and they have developed a worrying knack for giving up cheap goals, says La Liga blogger Joseph Sexton. [More]

22 November 2011

Malaga prove the Man City model doesn't always work

Monday night is the graveyard shift in the La Liga schedule- the games that nobody really wants to see, featuring the teams that no-one really cares about; except their own fans, of course. Barcelona hosted Real in this slot last December, but that was down to Catalan local elections taking place on the Sunday. That Málaga found themselves in this slot is probably a fair indication of their failure to capture the imagination this term. With their form underwhelming- three heavy defeats from their last five, during which they only picked up a solitary win- this project had failed to ignite. Their hosts, Racing Santander, meanwhile languished in 18th place.
Worse still, for Málaga, was the latest news surrounding Julio Baptista. The former Real Madrid, Arsenal, and Sevilla forward had almost kept the club up singlehandedly following his signing from Roma back in January. For a project that had seen such heavy investment in the summer, his presence remains key. When he plays, and when he plays well- as he had in Getafe- Málaga do well. Without him, they look probably what they are- an expensively assembled ensemble that has yet to fully gel. So, the news that he will be out now for some months and will undergo surgery naturally left coach Manuel Pellegrini with a lot to ponder....................

Continue reading the full article here on The Irish Examiner Sportsdesk Blog

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07 November 2011

Two styles clash at San Mamés

Joseph Sexton

SUNDAY night, 7pm. As the teams entered the field, a feverish atmosphere engulfed the San Mamés. Any visit of Barcelona to Bilbao is a special occasion, and this is a special stadium.

Soon, Athletic will decamp to a new 55,000 seater adjacent to this cathedral. There is something quintessentially English about this ground. It’s not just the club’s colours, borrowed from Southampton. It’s not just that the crowd sits right on top of the action, forming a part of it. It’s not just that Bilbao are famed for their direct approach, the idolisation of the big, burly centre-forward, currently represented by the hulking handful that is Fernando Llorente. It’s all of this and more.

The rain, falling for some days continued to lash the pitch as kick-off approached. There is something unique about evenings like this. Put simply, to step into the fray on this sort of night is to enter the Spanish equivalent of a wet Wednesday in Stoke with all it entails......................................
Continue reading the full article here on The Irish Examiner Sportsdesk Blog

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