MADRID-based journalist Brendan Boyle (@BrendyBoyle) reviews and recaps Week 13 from La Liga.
The table is taking shape
We’re now over a third of the way through the season in Spain and it feels that, at last, the league table is beginning to take shape and the importance of squad depth is becoming more apparent by the week, as it should.
Granada have lost three on the bounce, Villarreal have failed to win in their last three and Real Sociedad have dropped points at home to Levante and Leganés in recent weeks.
Only one team will enter Week 14 on the back of consecutive wins, Valencia, and they have not exactly been setting the world alight themselves but, to be fair, they have been ravaged by injuries in recent weeks.
Joint-top but with very different sensations
Barcelona may be top but nobody is convinced by their play. Ernesto Valverde’s men have won all six of their home league games with an aggregate of 25-7, and while these results may be convincing on paper, very few have actually been convincing as Lionel Messi’s moments continue to decide games.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, do appear to be gathering some momentum and their first 45 minutes against Eibar was truly phenomenal. After a game midweek and really horrible conditions in Ipurua against one of the most aggressive teams in La Liga in terms of pressing, it would have been very easy for Madrid to have phoned it in. Instead, los blancos were aggressive, direct, and incisive and tore Eibar to shreds.
“They came for us,” said the always frank José Luis Mendilibar. I’m just surprised it took so long for the penny to drop at the Bernabéu that a midfield three of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric was simply well past its expiry date and the rise to prominence of Uruguayan Fede Valverde has been a key part of Madrid’s resurgence.
It was also the first time where it really felt like Eden Hazard took a game by the scruff of the neck and looked like the team’s Galactico. If he can consistently get back to the level we all know he can reach, Madrid’s season just might turn out pretty well after all.
Bordalás bites back
Getafe v Osasuna was never going to be a classic. Both teams are founded upon the premise of hard-work, physicality and a general no-nonsense approach to the game of football.
Osasuna came to the Spanish capital for a draw and that’s what they left with, the bruised football spending virtually all of the final 10 minutes in the air. 0-0 on a cold Sunday evening in Getafe – not much else to report, right?
That’s what everybody thought until Getafe coach José Bordalás took centre stage. Citing quotes from his Osasuna counterpart Jagoba Arrasate and midfielder Oier, who essentially both quipped that Getafe games don’t usually entail a lot of football because they are good at disrupting the game.
Replicating Rafa Benitez’s famous “FACTS” press conference, Bordalás whipped out a fact sheet of his own, declaring that Getafe had “interrupted” the game 15 times compared to Osasuna’s 37, also citing that the home side registered 14 shots compared to four for Arrasate’s men.
“They said before the game that in the Coliseum there is hardly any football played. Oier said Getafe create scrappy games when it was Osasuna themselves who set out exactly this way. I’m not going to allow it anymore.”
This type of criticism is nothing new for the Azulón coach but he himself admitted that yesterday “The glass has overflown”. He has had enough. “Getafe is the joker card for everyone. They hide their misery behind Getafe and those who do are shameless”.
In this situation, both parties can be right. Are Getafe games easy on the eye? No. Do Getafe play the game in a structured manner? Yes. Do Getafe produce some moments of real quality in attack? Yes. Are Getafe as dirty and cynical as is often bandied about? I don’t think so.
Like any good team, they play to the strengths of their squad and their manager and, overall, the criticism has been unfair and quite personal at times.
Good on Bordalás for standing up for his players.
Sevilla continue to dominate El Gran Derbi and it was again the home fans who trudged home to either be picked up or depressed even further by the General Election results which continued to filter through.
As highlighted in our preview piece, Betis had only won one home derby since 2006 but, all things considered, they didn’t really deserve to lose last night nor did they have to quality to take all three points.
Sevilla were efficient and streetwise and once they took the lead for the second time they looked relatively comfortable. The hosts conceded the first goal at home for the sixth time in seven games this season which is extremely concerning for Rubi, whose fate could be decided in the coming days.
As is often the way with teams chasing a deficit, a bunch of attackers were thrown on in desperation and all shape and structure in midfield was lost. At times Sergio Canales found himself alone in midfield against four players in red and Sevilla were able to clog all possible avenues with relative ease and Betis were unable to create anything of any real quality in the final minutes.
Until the next derby, Sevilla is red and white.
Can they do it on a wet and windy Sunday morning in Mallorca?
No, was the answer from Villarreal and that’s now zero wins in three for the Yellow Submarine after an excellent first 10-game stretch.
There aren't many days when I see Mallorca on the TV and not wish I was there – Sunday was one. On a wet, blustery Sunday morning, nothing went right for Javi Calleja’s men, conceding two penalties, and they now have two weeks to prepare for the visit of Celta Vigo on Sunday 24th November. That’s a big one.
It’s been a pretty mediocre start to the campaign by Atletico Madrid but things could be a lot worse if it wasn’t for Álvaro Morata. With six goals in six games, the Spanish international is the main reason why Diego Simeone’s men are a point behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, with a game extra played.
Having said that, Morata provides Atleti with much more than goals; while he lacks the aggression and bite of the old Diego Costa, he is still a focal point and vital to Atleti’s attack. His movement is good, he is deceivingly quick for a big man and is able to hold the ball up and bring others into play.
As this team in transition continues to find its feet, Morata’s goals are going to be vital if los rojiblancos are to achieve anything of note this season.
Brendan Boyle (@BrendyBoyle) is an Irish journalist living and working in Madrid. A season ticket holder at Atletico Madrid and Rayo Majadahonda, he covers all things football in the Spanish capital, from Estadio Butarque to the Wanda Metropolitano.