Wednesday, September 2, 2015

La Liga Week in Review: 9/2

By Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial)

It was a bounce back week for Welshman Gareth Bale, and a week of (relative) struggles for the world's two top players.

Here's who is rising, and who is falling, in the top tier of Spanish soccer.

Stock Up     


 Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) 

In his new role as a roving number 10, Bale struggled in the opening match to convince fans and pundits alike that the move was warranted.

94 seconds into the next game, that chorus was silenced.

From a center position, Bale sprinted through the heart of the defense unmarked and neatly put a James Rodriguez cross into the net. In the 47th minute, Bale released to the right of the box and delivered a dime of an assist to the head of Benzema to make the score 3-0. Saving his best for last, he unleashed a ball from 30 yards out that goalkeeper Antonio Adán couldn’t have stopped if he were Mr. Fantastic.

A wonderful showing against Real Betis can only go so far in the eyes of madrileños, however, so the pressure is on for Bale to remain consistent throughout the course of the season.


On match day 38 of last season, Eibar fans were distraught. Uncontrollable tears engulfed their eyes, with solemn faces to match, after realizing that Deportivo La Coruna improbably secured a draw at the Camp Nou against Barcelona.

That result, along with Cordobas, relegated Eibar to the doldrums of second division football. Then, a miracle happened not even God could foresee (Ed. Note: SuiteSports does not endorse a particular view on the nature or power of God... If there is a God... Ok, you get the point).

It was revealed that Elche, the team who placed 13th, had unpaid tax debts of €3.6 million and had not paid partial wages to its players. As a result, Elche were relegated and Eibar were- you guessed it- back in La Liga.

Fast forward to this season straight out of made for TV series, Eibar are sitting at the top of the table and undefeated after thumping Supercopa champions Athletic Bilbao 2-0. Yes, it’s only two games, but the minnows from the Basque region are swimming upstream.

Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona) 

If you forgot the ex-Aresnal man played for Barcelona, don't worry, you’re not alone. Thomas signed with la Blaugrana  last summer for £15 million and proceeded to play in a whopping one game all season because of a variety of injuries.

Thrust into the lineup by way of Gerard Pique’s suspension, Vermaelen has been a rock at the back in helping Barca keep clean sheets in both games this season. To top it off, he scored the game-winning goal in the 72nd minute against Malaga.
All Thomas can do is smile after netting the game-winning goal.
After the match he was asked about his lackluster goal celebration.

“I didn’t celebrate because I am not used to scoring and I didn’t know what to do," Vermaelen said.

Can you blame him? He hadn’t scored since December 2012 with Arsenal! It remains to be seen what will happen when Pique is reinstated, but the Belgian has most certainly given his manager something to think about come selection time.

Stock Down  

Cristiano Ronaldo/Lionel Messi (Real Madrid/Barcelona) 

Blasphemous! How could the world's two greatest players ever be on a trending down list? The answer is simple; expectations. The incredible consistency that both players have shown throughout their careers is unparalleled.

Consider that this was the first time, since they both played in Spain, that the two men who have shared the last six Pichichis (league's top goal scorer) went consecutive weeks without goals.

To make matters worse, neither have an assist to their name either. In a rivalry that is often an “anything you can do, I can do better” affair, it will be fun to see who makes the first move in restoring a sense of normalcy.

Athletic Bilbao 

It was only three weeks ago that Athletic were living in the clouds after ending their trophy drought of 31 years. They took down mighty Barcelona in the Supercopa, and the promise of the upcoming season was infinite.

Unfortunately, their offense hasn't quite made it back from the wine soaked festival in the streets of Bilbao. Since then, they have managed 0 goals in 180 minutes, and lost 2-0 to an Eibar team that was supposed to be relegated the season before.

Presently, and quite astonishingly, the Basque side are sitting dead last in La Liga. All too often striker Aritz Aduriz has been left on an island and expected to do the heavy lifting. The cohesion and fighting spirit displayed against Barca will need to return, and the signing of Raul Garcia from Atleti will most certainly help.

A positive result is certainly needed when they face Getafe after the international break, or things could get bleaker.

Fernando Llorente (Sevilla) 

Backed by fanfare, and a return to his home of Spain on a transfer from Juventus, Sevilla coach Unai Emery wasted no time inserting Llorente into the starting lineup. Forgotten was the fact that he hadn’t played much in the preseason, and that he had trained with his new team for all of one day.

Did it ever show in Sevilla’s 3-0 defeat at home to Atleti. Llorente, who resembled more a lamp post than a soccer player, made little effort to move into advantageous positions needed for crosses. At his age and lack of speed, positioning is the most crucial aspect to the Spaniard being successful.

More time with his teammates, and a better understanding of the team's tactics should improve things next match day. If not, the question will arise; Was transfer more about the box office, or the greater good of the team?

Goal(s) of the Week

James Rodriguez (Real Madrid)

The Colombian put on an absolute show over the weekend and delivered not only one, but two goals of the week. Check them out below.

Games to Watch in Week 3

Note- Because of the looming international break, the next round of games in La Liga will not be played until 9/11.

Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona 9/12- 2:30 PM
Espanyol vs. Real Madrid 9/12 - 10:00 AM
Sporting Gijon vs. Valencia 9/12- 12:15 PM

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