Wednesday, October 21, 2015

La Liga Week in Review 10/21

With Lionel Messi out, Neymar has stepped his game up for Barcelona.
By Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial)

It was a wild week in Spanish soccer's top classification, with some megastars soaring and others falling back to Earth. Who's rising and who's falling in La Liga?

Find out below.  

Stock Up

Neymar (Barcelona) 

When Leo Messi and his boat load of goals went down via injury, the team as a whole was asked to pick up the slack. Taking it to heart, Neymar has pretty much done it all by himself.

With Barcelona’s defense struggling again against Rayo Vallecano, and a 1-0 deficit to climb out of, Neymar transformed into his Brazilian national side version. During the next 48 minutes, Neymar would go on to score four goals, effectively ending any hope of a heroic upset.

His first two were put in from the penalty spot, drawing both fouls with tricks that would make David Copperfield proud. Truth be told, the referee probably should have awarded him four penalties on the night -he was that good. Now leading La Liga in goals with seven, Neymar is slowly regaining the confidence that had pundits placing him in the world's best player discussion.

Nolito (Celta de Vigo) 

Through eight games, no side has surprised more than Celta. Currently sitting 2nd in the table, Celta are only out of 1st place by way of goal differential. Their resume includes away wins at Sevilla and Villarreal, and a most impressive 4-1 thumping of Barcelona in Vigo.

 The common denominator in all of those wins has been the superlative play of one Nolito. His winning goal in the 90th minute was just his latest display of brilliance. Six goals currently places him 2nd in La Liga, behind only Neymar, with an additional three assists for good measure. Having taken notice, Spanish national team coach Vicente Del Bosque called up the Spaniard for a recent European Championship qualifier against the Ukraine.

If this run of form continues, you can bet your bottom dollar Nolito will be suiting up for La Roja in France next summer.

Marco Asensio (Espanyol) 

At the tender age of 19, Marco Asensio is proving that, in the world of soccer, age is nothing but a number. Blessed with skills well beyond his years, the Spaniard provided three assists for Espanyol as they beat Real Betis 3-1.

In doing so, he became the first Espanyol player with that stat line this century. He has now created half of their goals and has more assists than anyone in La Liga. If that weren’t enough, Betis fans gave him a standing ovation when he was taken off, an act normally reserved only for the home side.

After the game, he humbly stated:

"I'm very grateful. That's never happened to me at any other stadium. It makes you go home happy with your work"

On a season-long loan from Real Madrid, all early signs point to another star in the making for Los Merengues come next season.


Stock Down

David Moyes (Real Sociedad) 

The bags are packed and the plane is on the tarmac, engine running. A loss to Levante this weekend, and the Peugeot Taxista will be pulling up to the Scots driveway. Real Sociedad have just six points from their first eight games and their fixtures are about to get a whole lot harder. On the bright side, the food is still REALLY good in San Sebastian.

Las Palmas Ownership 

Taking five points from your first eight matches is never something to be proud of. At the same time, firing your manager this early in the season is extremely short-sighted and reckless. Just a season ago, Paco Herrera achieved something no Las Palmas manager had been able to for 13 years in gaining first division promotion.

One would think that this alone would buy a manger a small a grace period to get adjusted to new surroundings and more challenging opponents. Nope, not in the Canary Islands. This isn’t Real Madrid or Barcelona, and your transfer budget resembles that of a minor league baseball team.

Come seasons end, don’t be surprised to see Las Palmas going back down, for 13 years or worse.

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) 

Waking up Monday morning, Madridistas expected Real Madrid’s press release to reveal if the injured Karim Benzema would be fit to face PSG in the mid-week Champions League clash. Instead, they were blind sided.

Gareth Bale Injured- left calf- AGAIN.

After sitting out for a month due to of the same injury, Bale returned in the second half against Atletico, the final game before the international break. Against popular sentiment, Bale made the decision to suit up for his native Wales. Despite having already secured qualification to next summer's Euro Cup, Bale played the entire 90 minutes against minnows Andorra.

According to sources, Madrid was left surprised and angry at the decision to stay with his national team after Cristiano Ronaldo excused himself from international duty because Portugal qualified for the same tournament. Even worse, the media took the news blades sharpened, with reckless abandon.

In Spanish Sports Daily AS, Real Madrid editor Tomas Roncero laid into the Welchman like few have before:

“Be patriotic, love your country, but if you are already qualified you don’t need to go to the party against Andorra, and play 90 minutes on top of that. It’s inadmissible for a Real Madrid player," Roncero said. “That is why Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the history of Real Madrid, apart from Di Stefano, and you will only ever be the most expensive. Nothing more. Madrid above all else, otherwise you can’t play for this club. Get well soon.”

Now, it’s another three weeks on the sidelines, plus more and more criticism for the world's most expensive player. 

Goal of the Week

Writers note: With so many great goals this weekend we present not one, but two goals of the week.

Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid)

An absolute work of art by the Frenchman against his old club. Taking a pass nearly 50 yards from net, Griezmann turns on the afterburners, leaving Sociedad’s defense in his wake, before calmly chipping it over the oncoming goalkeeper.

Lucas Pérez (Deportivo la Coruña)

The Spaniard plays a pass off his foot, volleying it to himself, before turning to the left and smashing it mid-air into the back of the net.

Games to Watch/Matchday 9

Celta de Vigo vs. Real Madrid 10/24 - 10:00 AM
Atletico Madrid vs. Valencia 10/25 - 3:30 PM
Barcelona vs. Eibar 10/25 - 1:15 PM

La Liga Standings

Table: PTOS- points, PJ- games played, PG- games won, PE- games tied, PP- games lost

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