Friday, October 30, 2015

La Liga Week in Review 10/30

Yannick Carrasco stole the show for Atletico in their win against Valencia.
By Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial)

This week in La Liga saw title favorites Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico separate themselves from the pack. Who’s rising and who’s falling in Spanish soccer? Find out below.     

Stock Up

 Keylor Navas (Real Madrid) 

Forget the resume, wage, or trophy cabinet. No goalkeeper is playing better in all of world football than Keylor Navas. Forced into the starter's role after the disastrous David de Gea transfer fiasco, Navas has Madridistas seeing Iker Casillas reincarnated.

According to Spanish sports daily AS, Navas has conceded only three goals through nine league games, 12 games in total. He has faced 113 shots, more than any goalkeeper at the top of Europe’s big five leagues.

This weekend he did it again when the two final unbeaten teams in Spain met. Real jumped out to an early 2-0 lead before more crisis struck for Celta. They went down to ten men in the 56th minute and it appeared the game was all but over. Instead, Celta turned up the pressure, sending shot after shot that would've beaten almost any other keeper.

Not this game, or this season.

Navas put on an absolute show, leaving players and fans in disbelief. Only Nolito ended up beating him with a cracker of a shot into the top corner. At the final whistle the score was 2-1, and Real Madrid sat atop the standings.

Luis Suarez (Barcelona) 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Barcelona playing an inferior opponent, and goes down a goal to begin the game. Last week it was against Rayo Vallecano, before Neymar exploded to score 4 unanswered goals. This week, they faced an improved Eibar side, before Luis Suarez went on to score 3 unanswered.
Marking the the one year anniversary since his debut for Barca, Suarez was nothing short of magnificent. His overall body of work has been even more impressive. In 57 games, he has won four trophies, dished out 25 assists and scored 35 goals.

The timing of the goals has been even more eye opening. Two in Manchester against city and two in Paris against PSG. The winner in the clásico and the Champions League final in Berlin. Cannibalistic incidents aside, Suarez has proven to be not only one of the world’s best forwards, but one of its best players.

Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid) 

Under Diego Simeone’s leadership, Atleti have been known as the one of the continent's most defensive and relentless sides. Their identity hinges on outworking their opponents and staying true to those principles. Over the summer,  the club recognized the need for more explosion in the final third as a counterbalance. Looking to Monaco, Atleti secured the signature of a 22 year old dynamic and unpredictable ball-carrying wide man.

As with most newcomers, the learning curve was sharp, but the bulb may have finally come on against Valencia. Though he started on the right, it was when he moved to the left that the fireworks began to commence. The Belgian terrorized Valencia right-back Joao Cancelo with bags of tricks and road runner speed.

It couldn’t have been more evident than in his breathtaking goal in the 40th minute, effectively sapping any confidence Valencia came into Madrid with. Subbed off later in the match, 50,000 strong stood and chanted “ Carrasco, Carrasco” in unison. If he was unsure of himself before, it has appeared he has finally announced his arrival.

Stock Down  

Lucas Alcaraz (Levante) 

Sitting dead last in the standings is never a good talking point when discussing one's job security, but for Lucas Alcaraz, there wasn’t much else of a resume to discuss.

After Alcaraz and his Levante side walked off the pitch after being plastered 4-0 by struggling Real Sociedad, the board met to decide the manager's fate. Only a few hours later, the board decided to sack Alcaraz only a year into the job. Perhaps knowing his fate, they tried to reach him by phone, but got no answer.

With little other options, ownership went straight out of a high schooler's playbook, sending him news of the termination via email.

La Liga's Referee Scandal 

It’s not as if the world’s greatest rivalry needed anymore fuel to the fire. Whether it’s just smoke, is another issue altogether. This week an unnamed linesman alleged he had been told to favor Real Madrid in next month’s clásico against Barcelona.

The linesman said he did not want to be identified because of concerns over “possible reprisals” but he made a formal complaint through a lawyer to the anti-corruption investigating magistrate in Barcelona. He claimed to have been told to favor Madrid – first by another official and then, over the phone, by a member of the Spanish Football Federation’s referees’ committee.

The story was broken by the Catalan newspaper L’Esportiu, while also stating that the linesman claims a telephone conversation took place that was not recorded and that there is no concrete proof of it, but he hopes the other linesman will also come forward.

True or not, this is a sad and depressing development that is sure to tarnish next month's game. Any call made against Barcelona will be called into question, while any call against Madrid will be decried because of perception from the allegations.

Javier Mascherano (Barcelona) 

We as sports fan love when our team does “their talking on the field.” At the same time, we prefer the players don’t take that to the extreme literal sense.

Earlier in the season, Barcelona faced a similar problem, when Gerard Pique was sent off and subsequently suspended four games for telling the linesman to go "F" himself. This Sunday, Javier Mascherano got into it with the official before being sent off for shouting “your mother’s shell” at the linesman – “shell” being Argentinian slang for a particular female body part.

He too, could receive a four-match ban, which would see him miss the clásico. Barcelona claim that the term means something entirely different in “Argentinian Spanish”, while newspapers, radios and TV channels went on and on and on about it all night, trying to find how best to translate it into “Spanish Spanish."

Perhaps, it would fancy manager Luis Enrique to threaten them with the old bar of soap. Lord knows, it worked on me.

Goal of the Week

Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid)

This week’s goal of the week comes courtesy of Atletico Madrid’s Yannick Carrasco. Fed the ball down the left flank, Carrasco takes on his defender, embarrassingly sidestepping him in the process, before smashing an indefensible ball to the bottom left corner.

Games to Watch/ Matchday 9

1. Villarreal vs.Sevilla 10/31 - 1:15 PM
2. Real Sociedad vs. Celta de Vigo 10/31 - 5:05 PM
3. Real Betis vs. Athletic Bilbao 11/1 - 2:30 PM

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

Click to enlarge

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