Wednesday, October 7, 2015

La Liga Week in Review 10/7

Real Madrid Goalkeeper Keylor Navas stretches to deny Griezmann's penalty kick.
By Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial)

Each week of the La Liga season, soccer correspondent Justin Sherman will be bringing you a review of Spain's top fùtbol league. Who's rising and who's falling? Find out below.

Stock Up

Casemiro (Real Madrid)  

After arriving at Real Madrid in 2013 from Brazilian side Sao Paulo, Casemiro was seen as nothing more than bench fortification in the eyes of many Madridistas. After 18 unconvincing appearances, Madrid were in a bind. Sell a player they just recently dropped $18 million for, or find a club willing to take a chance via loan. In stepped Porto- a side that fancy themselves as Europe’s farm system- to take the Brazilian for a year to hone his craft.

Fast forward to Sunday, with a newly fit Gareth Bale, Madrid coach Rafa Benitez decided to trot out a more disciplined 4-4-2 formation with Casemiro taking on the role of midfield destroyer. The 20 balls he won were a Real Madrid record for the season. Prior to this Sunday, the highest figure had been 11, won by Marcelo against Espanyol.

Far too often last season, Luca Modric and Toni Kroos were forced to retreat in assistance on the defensive end, something as foreign to them as an actual shot on target. When Madrid were at their best, they had Xabi Alonso as a calming influence in the midfield winning balls back and spreading it around. With huge talents on the bench and egos the size of the Hindenburg, it remains to be seen just how often Rafa can feature the Brazilian.

If Sunday was any indication, it could be a decision that wouldn’t be the most popular, but possibly the smartest. 

Michael Krohn-Dehli (Sevilla) 

Through six weeks, Sevilla were sitting bottom of the table and were coming off an embarrassing 2-0 loss midweek to Juventus in the Champions League. The shot count was a staggering 24-1, and there were whispers of team dissension and a lack of competitive fire. With defending treble winner Barcelona coming to town, the woes were sure to continue.

After a scoreless first half, the Danish Krohn-Dehli took the game, and possibly Sevilla’s season into his own hands. In the 52nd minute, Kevin Gameiro streaked down the field and sent a pass across the face of goal to find Krohn-Dehli far post, who cooly slotted it home. Just 6 minutes later, it was Krohn-Dehli again with a fabulous chip pass over the defense, finding the head of Iborra, who got just enough of a touch to get it passed Claudio Bravo.

Similarly, It took until Week 6 of last year for Sevilla to get their first win of the season, and look how that turned out. With injured players (especially at the back) soon to return, we could look back at this game as the turning point of Sevilla’s season.

Charles (Malaga) 

When you’re known simply as “Charles," and happen to score a hat-trick for a team that collectively had yet to score through six games, you may as well cement your place on the stock up list for the season.

After spending three years at Celta, Charles moved to the south of Spain for a side, that at least on paper, could be somewhat competitive. The reality has been a different story, with his side sitting rock bottom of the table, with no offense to speak of. Though Real Sociedad are having a world of problems on their own (more on that later), a win's a win, and couldn’t have come at a better time.

Stock Down  

 El Derbi Madrileño (Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid) 

In arguably the league's second fiercest rivalry, one would expect an aesthetically pleasing display of football, full of passion and excitement. Instead, we received something on the opposite end of the spectrum.

All started well, when it took just 8 minutes for Real to get on the score sheet via Karim Benzema’s header off a wonderful Dani Carvajal cross.

Sergio Ramos returned to the lineup after a two-game absence and the rust showed. Right before halftime, Ramos prematurely timed his slide tackle taking down Tiago in the box. Atletico were awarded a penalty with Antoine Griezmann welcoming the pressure from the spot. In something that has almost become routine, Keylor Navas stretched to his left with cheetah like quickness and parried the shot away, inducing a fiery reaction from his teammates not normally witnessed so publicly.

Through 70 minutes, the shot count read 1-1: The goal and the penalty. The atmosphere resembled a morgue, almost waiting for the torture to end. Sensing something needing to change, Diego Simeone inserted three subs in Yannick Carrasco, Jackson Martinez, and Luciano Vietto. All were three new arrivals in the summer; and had struggled to adjust to their new surroundings.

Some sort of redemption finally came in the 83’ as Jackson raced down the flank and sent in a cross barely finished off by Vietto. The match ended 1-1 and the final shot count read 4-2. With it came no real clarity, and neither side was able to take advantage in the standings.

David Moyes (Real Sociedad) 

Look, I’m really not here to pick on the Scot. After all, my absolute favorite adult beverage is produced on his island. At the same time, you just can’t ignore a defeat to a previously winless side with no goals scored. After 6 weeks, Sociedad find themselves in 16th place and even on points with sides in relegation.

After the match Moyes said, “The situation is not good, but I think the team is improving, and even today I saw some good signs. The dressing room is quiet and that’s good. It shows that they came here thinking they could get something.”

Not sure how a quiet dressing room translates to an outward desire to claim points on the road... But heck, what do I know, I’m just a silly American.

Nuno (Valencia)  

Fair or not, people in the sports world are judged on "what have you done for me lately?" For Nuno and his Valencia side, you can’t say much. After an incredible 2014 campaign that saw los che qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 4 years, this season has been exactly the opposite.

Nuno employed a hard pressing and aggressive defensive approach last term. This season has seen them play off, while giving offenses far too much room to operate. Offensively, play with the ball has been far too slow, with no real philosophy on how to proceed. The loss of goalkeeper Diego Alves to injury and Nicolas Otamendi to Man City have most certainly hurt, but the lack of results are still concerning.

In Valencia’s two most recent games, fans have stayed long after chanting for Nuno to be sacked. Under Peter Lim’s ownership a sizable amount of money has been invested in the side, and the pressure is on for Nuno to get results sooner rather than later.

Goal of the Week

Charles (Malaga)

This weekend’s goal of the week comes courtesy of Charles, as he chests the ball down to his foot, scissor-kicking it in for the first goal of his hat-trick.

Games to Watch/ Matchday 8

Writer's note: All leagues across Europe will pause domestic play for the international break this week. La Liga play resumes later this month. All match times Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Villarreal vs. Celta Vigo 10/18 - 6:00 AM
Athletic Bilbao vs. Deportivo 10/18 - 2:30 PM
Valencia vs. Malaga 10/17 - 4:00 PM

No comments :