Soccer Starts Again – La Liga, Spain, 2012-2013


Soccer Starts Again – La Liga Spain, 2012-2013

August 27, 2012

Expert analysis by John Leahy (World’s Foremost Soccer Authority).

La Liga – 2012

Real Madrid dropped 5 points in their first two games, but they should start winning and Barca always drops a few points along the way with indolent ties on the road against the minnow teams. At the moment, Barca is playing like Barca and rolling along. Osasuna gave Barca a typically tough game at their home ground El Sadar in Pamplona, but Messi gave an equally typical performance in scoring two goals to render full points to Barcelona. La Liga is off and running with Barcelona already outpacing its chief rival by 5 huge points. Granted, Real’s German midfielder Mezut Ozil could have and should have provided the game tying goal when he skied a tap in over the bar from 10 feet out. Even so, Real would still be 4 points off the pace and still trying to answer the same questions – Why didn’t Real Madrid dominate the games and beat their opponents? Coach Mourinho was so angry after Sunday’s loss to Getafe that he refused to talk to the team and told the press that the players had played horribly.

Carles Puyols really yelled at fellow Barca central defender Gerard Pique over a defensive positioning miscue yesterday and Pique has seemed a bit off the last 6 months. Maybe too much Colombian Chiquita Shakira? Barca fans have to hope that Pique will maintain his high level of professional comportment, both on and off the field. With Puyols turning 34, Pique is the future in the center of Barelona’s defense, although the conversion of Mascherano from midfield to central D has been extremely successful and may become permanent. The stability of the Barca defense is especially critical with the fractured cheekbone suffered yesterday by Puyols, who lead by example and played the entire 90 minutes before going to the hospital for x-rays. Puyols is expected back in training Tuesday, despite the injury. That is typical of the Puyols warrior character.

The rest of La Liga – Who cares? Unless you are an aficionado of the Europa League, the other 18 teams in Spain are the foils of the top 2 and have no chance at all of winning the league title. Even the oil sheik riches of Malaga have not yet produced a valid competitor for the title.

OK, Athletico looks pretty good and Falcao is a great striker and Valencia is always a tough also ran. Look for them to run in 3 and 4 for possible Champions League spots. The Europa League slots should be a wide open dog fight between perennially strong Sevilla and rich Malaga, followed by Mallorca, Real Sociedad, Levante and Athletic Bilbao. Based on Athletic Bilbao’s form under coach Marcelo Bielsa last season, I would have put them higher and even challenging for Champion League spots, however losing key personnel such as Javi Martinez and Fernando Llorente make it appear that descent is more probable than ascent. That could possibly change if the reported 40 million Euros gained from selling Martinez to Bayern Munich provided means to bolster the squad. However, finding available talent that also happens to be ethnically Basque would be a challenge. Levante produced a surprisingly positive season last year and it will be interesting to see if they can match their 6th place finish. Mallorca and Real Sociedad both finished in solid middle table positions with respectable goal differentials, bearing in mind of coarse that this is Spain where every team has to take 4 games per year in the gut against Barca and Real Madrid.

Projected table

  1. Barcelona
  2. Real Madrid
  3. Athletico Madrid
  4. Valencia
  5. Sevilla
  6. Malaga
  7. Mallorca
  8. Real Sociedad
  9. Levante
  10. Athletic Bilbao
  11. Espanol
  12. Osasuna
  13. Rayo Vallecano
  14. Getafe
  15. Deportivo La Coruna
  16. Real Betis
  17. Real Zaragoza
  18. Celta Vigo
  19. Valladolid
  20. Granada