Tag Archives: messi

Everyone Calm Down, Barcelona Is Fine…Probably…

I think…maybe…let us talk about it…

So, is Barcelona in crisis? Sort of.

I previously wrote a few articles about the developing issues at Barcelona. Their collapse in the Champions League against Bayern Munich last season spelled the end of the disastrous presidency of Josep Maria Bartomeu and really shone a light on just how far the club have fallen over the last few seasons. Things were going horrendously wrong, and it looked as though a former football giant was on the brink of collapse as they were entering a very crucial year in the club’s history. Club legend Ronald Koeman was hired in the summer, tasked with taking control of a runaway train.

Yes, their start to the season was horrendous. It sure did look like this would be the disaster final season that would drive Messi away. Koeman looked in over his head, the older players in the team looked completely over the hill, and poor decisions in the transfer window were making them regret ditching Luis Suárez, who has been phenomenal this season for Atlético Madrid. On top of this, the club is in staggering debt, Bartomeu’s presidency left the club in tatters, and club offices were even raided by Catalan authorities pursuing information on a defamation case now infamously known as “Barçagate”. And yes, the greatest player in their club’s history and arguably one of the three or four greatest players in the history of football was in the final year of his contract with no guarantees he would sign a new one.

That sure does sound like a crisis to me. But for those who have not paid attention to matters on the pitch, things are not exactly going poorly anymore. That horrendous start to the season has been reversed.

Barcelona are currently on a 16 match unbeaten run in the league, which dates back to a 1-0 win over Levante on December 13th. They are also in the Final of the Copa del Rey after completing a phenomenal aggregate comeback against Sevilla in the Semifinals. They are currently second in the league table and firmly in the title race despite starting the season outside of the top four. Yes, they are out of the Champions League, but they at least gave a good account of themselves in the second leg against PSG after a disastrous first leg performance. The only major blemishes on Ronald Koeman’s record over the last two and a half months were the first leg defeats to PSG in the Champions League and Sevilla in the Copa del Rey, as well as a Supercopa de España Final defeat to Athletic Bilbao. Obviously the standards of Barcelona mean this is still not a great season, but it is a far cry from the on-pitch crisis that they were in at the start of the season. It is very much within the realm of possibility that Barça could end the season with a league and cup double.

Now, all of this is largely due to Lionel Messi. He is one of the best players ever, after all, and even at 33 years of age he is still phenomenal. He is currently the league’s leading scorer with 21 goals in just 25 games, and he has added 7 assists to be the league’s joint-second highest assister. Barça have scored 61 goals in the league this season, meaning Messi is responsible for a little less than half of them. He is actually incredible. He is at the center of seemingly everything Barcelona does, and it would still be fairly disastrous if he were to leave the club in the summer.

But, should he leave in the summer (and even if he does not), Barcelona’s rebuild is already showing signs of progress, and the Catalan giants are seemingly developing a young core to build around for the future. Everyone knows about Ansu Fati at this point, and he has shown at times this season that the hype is warranted, and he is not alone. Pedri, the 18 year old dynamic Spanish creative midfielder signed from Las Palmas in 2019 and sent on loan for a season, has probably been the best player under the age of 20 in La Liga this season, and he is among the best players under the age of 20 in Europe at the moment. Riqui Puig, despite not having the full confidence of Koeman upon the Dutchman’s arrival, has continued to show how talented he is. They have found a pleasant surprise in Ronald Araújo, a 20 year old Uruguayan center back promoted to the first team due to injury issues. Despite his age and relative inexperience, he more than held his own when thrown into the deep end. Ilax Moriba has come up from La Masia and demonstrated himself to be another incredible talent, and Óscar Mingueza has also come from La Masia and held his own when Barça faced a defensive injury crisis. Add this on top of the 23 year old Frenkie de Jong, having his best season in Catalonia, and the 20 year old Sergiño Dest, having a strong first season for the Blaugrana, and you have a fairly exciting group of players to build the team around. Even when throwing in Ousmane Dembélé, who is still only 23 and can get his career back on track, and the 21 year old Francisco Trincão, a bright talent with a high potential despite a tough start to life in Catalonia, and you really start to get excited for the future of this team.

I mean, look back at some of those names and take it in. De Jong is bursting into a star in front of our eyes. Fati, Pedri, Moriba, Dest, and Puig all have the potential to be incredibly good, with Pedri and Fati in particular being lined up to be the next world-class attacking talents wearing a Barcelona shirt. Mingueza and Araújo can at least be very useful squad players, and Dembélé can still get his career back on track. If Barça’s faith in Moriba and Mingueza is a sign that they are regaining their trust and belief in their academy, then their future is that much more secure. This obviously does not mean that they would be able to seamlessly transition into a post-Messi era. Should Messi leave at the end of the season, it will still be rough. Losing a player of that level will always be a brutal transition. However, it should be comforting for Barcelona fans knowing that the future of this club is fairly secure. Unlike Real Madrid, who are still largely relying on the core of players that started their Champions League dominance a few years ago, Barça are seeing the future of their club play important roles and produce in the team right now.

And this brings us to what could be the most important change of the last year: in the board room. Bartomeu is out, and replacing him is Joan Laporta, who was president of the club from 2003 to 2010. Laporta is largely well-supported and serves as an image of the better times, as his presidency is often associated with the bright times of the late 2000s, including four league titles, two Champions League triumphs, the famous sextuple in 2009, and the beginning of the Pep Guardiola era. His previous tenure began similarly to this tenure, inheriting a club with aging talent and significant debt. He was previously able to save the club from the mounting debt by working with then-manager Frank Rijkaard to move on the aging talent and build around a new core, which included young starlets brought to Catalonia like Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o, as well as a core of home-grown talent including Carles Puyol, Xavi, and Andrés Iniesta. Oh, and also this young Argentinian kid named Lionel Messi. He would not be president for the peak of this core’s success in the early 2010s, but the foundation he laid set up a decade of Barcelona success.

Seems to be a similar situation, right? Laporta inherits a club dealing with significant financial debt and an aging team, but the young core to build around is already there. Obviously, his previous tenure was not without difficulties, and this one will not be, but it should be reassuring knowing there is a competent leader at the highest level in the club.

So, is there any bad? Are we all just overreacting? Well, again, sort of. I do think the whole “collapse of Barcelona” talk is overblown, and their future is fairly well secured at the moment, especially if they begin trusting their academy again. However, the debt is still a significant issue, and this is paired with quite a few aging or poor-performing senior players that will be very hard to sell. Miralem Pjanić, Philippe Coutinho, Samuel Umtiti, Sergio Busquets, and Gerard Piqué will be difficult to earn a transfer fee for, and having to wait for their contracts to expire only prolongs the rebuilding process. The jury is still out regarding the success of the “Antoine Griezmann experiment”, and it could end up being a similarly expensive mistake to the Coutinho move. Because of this, it might be difficult for Barcelona to immediately make a big splash in the transfer market. Moves for Erling Håland or Lautaro Martínez, for instance, are probably out of the question in the short term. Should Messi leave, that would alleviate some of the financial concerns due to the gargantuan wage that Messi makes, but it obviously makes the team much worse.

This financial issue, paired with a potential Messi departure, means that things will likely become worse before they become better. There will be some struggle, and this is why Barcelona are not fully “fine”. This struggle leaves plenty of room for things to go horridly wrong and to knock the club off of their rebuilding path, and it is up to Laporta, Koeman, and whoever is responsible for leading the club to maintain a logical and orderly rebuild and not do what Bartomeu and previous leaders did when Neymar left. Panicking or making rash decisions will not work here. Things are going moderately well when it comes to building Barça’s next generation, and there is no reason to deviate from what appears to be working.

And there is the final concern: the unknown. Things seem to be going well now, but will it continue that way? Koeman seems to be the right guy for the job now, but are we really sure that he will work out? If he does not, will they pick the right successor? Will these young players all end up working out? Fallen giants like Milan seemed to have figured it out multiple times before realizing they were false dawns. Because of this, it will be hard to say Barcelona are fully “fine” until they build a successful team without Lionel Messi in it. That is the hardest part of supporting a rebuilding club; things can seemingly be going very well but can go wrong at any instance, and once things begin to go wrong, the rash and errant, ultimately destructive decisions begin to be made.

My view is I think Barcelona are fine-ish. I think Pedri and Fati and De Jong and others will be stars and form the future backbone for the club. I think Koeman is at least doing well enough to earn the trust of the board, even if their long-term goal is to bring Xavi in as manager. I think Joan Laporta at least has the background and familiarity with the sporting vision and internal politics of the club to get things back on track. I am concerned about the debt and think that it will hold them back for a few years, but as long as they do not panic and do something dumb, they will emerge from the other side ready and able to build a team that can contend for league and European honors.

Or I could be completely wrong about all of this. There is always a good chance of that.

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Looking to 2021 Part 4: Stories to Watch

The stories that will develop this year that you need to keep an eye on…

Welcome back to the final part of our 2021 preview series. In this part, we will be looking at the big, overarching stories that look to dictate conversation in the football world this year. These are the things you need to look out for.

Actual, real, legitimate title races

After an incredibly boring 2019-20 season with only one of the “top five” leagues being remotely competitive, we go into 2021 with three of those leagues having new teams at the top, with Lyon topping Ligue 1, AC Milan topping Serie A, and Atlético Madrid topping La Liga. Every league also has a competitive points margin. Four points separate first place Liverpool and fourth place Everton in the Premier League. Six points separate first place Atlético Madrid and third place Real Sociedad in La Liga. Five points separate first place Lyon and fourth place Rennes in Ligue 1. Two points separate first place Bayern and third place Leipzig in the Bundesliga. A bit more lengthy seven points separate first place Milan and third place Roma in Serie A. But still, these leagues are close, and with several teams having games in hand over the teams around them, it looks like it can get even closer. There is seemingly no one dominant team in any of the top five leagues, so there is no real clear title favorite in any of them, and the teams that have dominated these leagues over the last few years look to have a serious fight on their hands against the teams around them.

We still have quite a bit of football left to play, and the slog of late league seasons and cup competitions could take their toll on some teams, especially if the COVID Pandemic requires league matches, or even whole seasons, to be delayed, but it is still looking good for us to have some serious competition in the major European leagues in the second half of this season.

Euro 2020, but in 2021

I will admit, international football is not everyone’s cup of tea, and I know I probably enjoy it a bit more than most fans around the world. International competitions still attract plenty of interest, however, and this European Championship looked to be the biggest spectacle the competition has seen in recent years, with the competition being spread out over the entirety of the continent. However, due to COVID, it does not look like that will happen, or at least happen with fans in attendance. While that is a real shame and does take away some of what could have made this Euros great, it still looks set to be a great competition because, just like the domestic leagues, there does not seem to be one clear favorite.

Sure, France are the reigning world champions and probably the most talented team in the competition, but with some of the performances they put up in qualifying and some of their friendly performances in 2020, I am not so sure they should be favorites. While they are still very talented on paper, some of the key players from the World Cup team, including Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, Samuel Umtiti, and Antoine Griezmann, are not in good form. France has plenty of talent, but football is not a sport where you can just throw talent on the pitch and they will win. It also seems unclear whether manager Didier Deschamps is willing to trust that young talent, or even if he knows what formation and system suits his team the best. Belgium is another interesting case, with most of their “Golden Generation” beginning to either hit their peak or start to age out. They still have one of the best players in the world in Kevin De Bruyne, and they will be boosted by a more in-form Romelu Lukaku, but they do seem to be questionable defensively. Roberto Martínez has also not necessarily shown he has the managerial nous to get Belgium over the hump and finally win a major tournament.

Meanwhile, some of the “other” teams look pretty dang good. Italy seem to have quietly built one of the most balanced teams on the continent, England still have plenty of attacking talent even with questions around manager Gareth Southgate, and Spain look to be ushering in a promising young generation spearheaded by Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres. Portugal, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark all have talent needed to at least make some noise at the tournament, if not win the whole thing. It is a very interesting tournament, and it is very possible that we have a champion that is not expected.

A real shame that there will not be fans, though. I would have enjoyed watching England play Scotland at Wembley. That would have been some spectacle.

A potential summer transfer upheaval

This upcoming summer transfer window looks to be a very interesting one. The obvious story is the future of Lionel Messi, but there are a few big pieces that will be at play this summer.

Firstly, Real Madrid did not save all of that money from last summer for no reason. Los Blancos look to be major players in this transfer window, especially if they do not end up winning the title this season, as they need to usher out the previous generation and bring in new talent. Kylian Mbappé has long been a name connected with Real Madrid, and there is genuine momentum around Real Madrid making a move for the French phenom this summer. But has recent events at the club changed his mind about wanting a move away? With Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival in Paris, PSG have seemingly never had a better chance at winning the Champions League. Would Mbappé want to stay in the capital and see that opportunity out? Or does his dream of playing for Real Madrid still remain? Beyond Mbappé, are there other moves that Real Madrid will make? Who leaves the club? Club captain Sergio Ramos is a notable player whose contract expires at the end of the season, and it does not look like a renewal agreement will be reached at this moment. Can the club afford to lose such a valuable player? Where does Ramos go? Who does Real Madrid bring in to replace him if he does leave? Mbappé is the most interesting moving part connected with Los Blancos, but he certainly is not the only one. It will be a busy summer for Real Madrid.

Moving from Mbappé to France in general, the recent catastrophically failed Téléfoot TV deal means French clubs are going to be losing a whole lot of money this year. With many French clubs, including major powers Lille and Marseille, already facing financial difficulty, this could mean an exodus of talent from Ligue 1 to other leagues. With Lyon and Lille in particular having quite talented teams, it is very possible those teams get picked apart in the summer as the talent moves to leagues across Europe. Ligue 1 could prove to be a fertile farming ground especially for mid-level clubs lacking the pull and finances of the top echelon of clubs in Europe, with the league boasting plenty of talented young players, outside of just the big name players, that will be available for reasonable prices. It is not just the Houssem Aouar’s or Renato Sanches’ or Eduardo Camavinga’s of the world, but players like Sven Botman, Youcef Atal, Mohamed Simakan, and Denis Bouanga will be names you hear connected with moves across the continent and could be the most successful moves from Ligue 1.

This window is also very interesting because there seems to be more key teams involved. With the leagues having more balance and parity this season, there will be teams going into the market this summer to maintain their high level or push beyond that to become true contenders. This is especially the case in England, where Liverpool and Manchester City will look to the market to maintain their high level, while Manchester United, Tottenham, Everton, and Leicester will go into the market to continue closing the ever-closing gap between them and the top of the league. Atlético Madrid and Borussia Dortmund will also likely be very active, as will basically the entire top six or seven teams in Serie A. It will be very busy for everyone, as we are seemingly now in a world where the gap between the top and the chasers is nearly nonexistent.

Lionel Messi’s Future

Yeah, we will inevitably get to a decision point. Lionel Messi’s Barcelona contract, as you may know, runs out at the end of this season. In the summer of 2021, Lionel Messi will be a free agent. Will he stay, or will he go? Messi is free to negotiate with new clubs starting now, but he has said he has no plans to negotiate with other clubs until the end of the season out of respect for Barcelona. So we will really be waiting until the very end to find out the answer.

Does he stay? After all, he is Mr. Barcelona. He is their greatest ever player. He is so connected to that football club that it is hard to imagine one without the other. He is also their most important player right now, and while they are even struggling with Messi on the pitch this season, it is not impossible that things will only get worse should he leave Catalonia in the summer. With Barcelona presidential elections coming up in a few months, it is very possible that a new club president comes in and reverses much of the poor decision making and leadership that characterized Josep Bartomeu’s reign. Will Messi see the manager he wants? Potentially Xavi returning to the Camp Nou as manager? Can Barcelona get their finances right to be able to make the moves in the transfer window they need to make? Messi still has a few years left in him, enough time for one more run at the Champions League, time to exorcise the ghosts of Rome and Liverpool. He can still cap off his career as a winner with the club he has spent almost his whole adult life at.

Or does he go? Realistically, are Barcelona going to get themselves out of this mess in a few years? Will anything change in leadership at the top? Is keeping Messi even still in their best interests? The legend is getting older, it is possible it may be in all parties best interest to part ways, allowing Barcelona to build for the future around Ansu Fati and Pedri. Ronald Koeman’s tenure as manager has not gone well, but with Guardiola and Pochettino off the market, is there really a good alternative? Would Xavi even be a good choice? And there are plenty of options for Messi, plenty of clubs where he can make a run at the Champions League one last time. Manchester City and PSG are likely the two favorites to sign him should he leave, and both clubs would be Champions League contenders, or even favorites, instantly with the addition of Messi. He could also leave European football behind, returning to Newell’s Old Boys with the goal of helping them win the Copa Libertadores. He could go to MLS, or Japan, or somewhere else, somewhere less stressful and less burdensome and less of a wreck than Barcelona at the moment.

Where is Messi going to end up? I truly have no idea, but we do not have to wait long to find out.

There you have it. These are the major stories in the football world in 2021. These will be the ones that dominate the headlines over the next 12 months. And this concludes our 2021 preview. Thank you for your readership, and look out for more articles and content coming from us this year!

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La Liga Match Week Review (6/11-6/14)

The Match Week Reviews get a decidedly Spanish flair this week, as we add a new league into the mix…

Welcome to the Match Week Review, where we talk about the football we just watched, but for this edition, we discuss the first match week of the resumed La Liga season. We will name our player of the match week, three winners and losers, and discuss what we learned from the first match week in the resumed Spanish First Division.

So, what happened in Match Week 28 in La Liga? Here are your results:

6/11

Sevilla 2-0 Real Betis

6/12

Granada 2-1 Getafe

Valencia 1-1 Levante

6/13

Espanyol 2-0 Alavés

Celta Vigo 0-1 Villarreal

Leganés 1-2 Real Valladolid

Real Mallorca 0-4 Barcelona

6/14

Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Atlético Madrid

Real Madrid 3-1 Eibar

Real Sociedad 1-1 Osasuna

Player of the Match Week

Lionel Messi, Barcelona (1 goal and 2 assists in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Mallorca)

Lionel Messi officially emerged from quarantine looking better than the vast majority of people on this planet. The beard was shaven, the hair was much longer but still looked good on him, and he is still the best footballer in the world. He demonstrated to the footballing community that his insane talents stuck through the lockdown, putting on an attacking masterclass against poor Mallorca. Twitter seemed to be in awe of the Argentinian magician, as they usually are, but I think it was refreshing for all of us to experience this feeling after a long time away. His performance reinforced his already healthy lead as La Liga’s top scorer and top assister, which is absurd but seemingly expected at this point with Messi. He was sharp, the key cog in a fantastic Barcelona performance.

Honorable Mentions: Adri Embarba (Espanyol), Diego Carlos (Sevilla), Unai Simón (Athletic Bilbao)

Winners of the Match Week

1.) Sevilla

I said in the “La Liga is back” piece that a quick start for every team is important in not only the title race, but also the Champions League race and relegation race. Sevilla seemingly took that idea to heart, dispatching of derby-rivals Betis in a comfortable 2-0 victory. Their lack of a goal-scoring striker, which has been their issue all season, did not hinder them, as the regularly-great Lucas Ocampos found a goal, as well as a contribution from defensive midfielder Fernando. The defense and midfield, where Sevilla are the strongest, were just as strong as they were before the hiatus, and the center back pairing of Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé seems to be developing into a formidable partnership. 11 points out of first might be too steep of a deficit to call them dark horse title contenders, and I think the lack of a solid number nine and goalscoring threat will hold them back from finishing any higher than third, but if they beat Barcelona next weekend I will be willing to reconsider.

2.) Espanyol

One of these days, Espanyol will finally get themselves out of last place. They have genuinely been putting in some good performances since their spending spree in January, but never had the luck before the hiatus to change their overall fortunes. A 2-0 win over fellow strugglers Alavés might have changed that. Now, with a fast start to the restarted league season, they could find the form to overtake Leganés and Mallorca. Currently level on points with Leganés and two points behind Mallorca, Espanyol have a realistic chance at safety. If they continue this hot start, then their fortunes will only improve.

3.) Villarreal

The theme for this review is seemingly how teams can take advantage of fast starts. Villarreal were on the outside looking in when it comes to the European discussion, but Manu Trigueros’ last minute winner against Celta Vigo gave the Yellow Submarine three points that they did not realize the significance of at the time. With Valencia, Getafe, Atlético Madrid, and Real Sociedad all dropping points, Villarreal now find themselves suddenly within reach of the top six, and even the top four. Five points separate them from the Europa League places, while six points separate them from the Champions League places. There is still quite a bit more football to be played, but the possibility is there.

Losers of the Match Week

1.) Atlético Madrid

Atléti resumed the league season almost the same way they ended it previously: struggling to win away from home in the league. While they had their chances, namely one each from Yannick Carrasco and Santiago Arias that should have been goals, it was another largely tepid, not good enough performance from an Atléti team that is struggling for identity. Inability to consistently get points off of lower table teams has seemingly been a problem that has plagued Diego Simeone’s entire tenure, as his Cholismo style struggles against teams that also sit back and force Atléti to break them down. They have a few of those matches coming up, before a trip to face league-leaders Barcelona, so this is a dilemma that Simeone needs to figure out. Not only does Atléti now need to keep an eye on the teams above them in the table, but they also need to start looking over their shoulder. Dropped points from Sociedad and Getafe means that it is only a one point gap between Atléti and fourth, but Villarreal’s win puts los Colchoneros only five points ahead of them. The nightmare scenario of not qualifying for the Champions League is still very real, but now encroaching is a doomsday scenario of not playing European football of any kind next season. Simeone needs to right the ship, and he needs to do it quickly.

2.) Celta Vigo

I said in the league returning piece, and still stand by, that Celta are too good of a team to be in a relegation race, but here we are. Celta were very poor against Villarreal, but they had seemingly defended hard enough and done enough to get a point out of the match. Trigueros’ late winner, especially in the manner in how it was conceded, broke their spirits, and they dropped a valuable point in what could be an incredibly close relegation fight. They were bailed out by Leganés, Mallorca, and Eibar all losing, but they still only sit three points clear of last-placed Espanyol. Still, with plenty of matches left to be played, nothing is set in stone, but Celta are in a very desperate situation at the moment.

3.) Valencia

Valencia, like Atléti, stayed true to their form from before the hiatus upon the league’s return. Valencia entered the hiatus unable to consistently scored goals, and they continued that form into their 1-1 draw against derby-rivals Levante. Yes, I will say that they were incredibly unlucky. Carlos Soler hit the crossbar in the first half, squandering a great chance to open the scoring. Rodrigo’s goal was seemingly the winner, and you would expect in most scenarios that a 90th minute goal would be a match-winner. However, unfortunate circumstances and a VAR delay led to a 98th minute penalty, which was converted by Gonzalo Melero to level the score. It was unlucky, but it was also more or less deserved. Levante deserved at least a draw, being the better team for large spells of that match, and the penalty was the correct decision. Valencia continue to struggle with an inability to create goalscoring chances. They had a man advantage for the final 15 minutes of the match, and while they did score their goal in this time, it was seemingly their only clear chance. Valencia were aided by teams around them dropping points, so they are still in the Champions League picture, but they are also now only two points ahead of Villarreal and Granada. Quick starts are important with this restarted league season, and Valencia need to move past this disappointment and kickstart a run of good form in order to keep themselves in the European picture.

What We Learned

1.) Yep, there’s a title race, alright…

Barcelona and Real Madrid both came out of the hiatus with sharp, professional, and convincing performances in their first match back. Yes, they were playing teams near the bottom of the table, but it was more about how they went about their victory rather than putting up a high scoreline against an average side. Messi was great for Barcelona, but I would be more reassured by great performances from the supporting cast around him, namely Jordi Alba and Arturo Vidal. In a situation where many thought this Barcelona team would look sluggish or struggle, they put out a complete team performance, almost as if the hiatus never happened. The same logic applies for Real Madrid. Yes, the players you expected to play well, like Benzema and Kroos and Ramos, played well, but I would be very reassured by the confident and dynamic performance of Eden Hazard. Hazard has largely struggled to find his feet in Madrid, with a mix of poor performances, injury issues, and lack of confidence holding him back. Against Eibar, Hazard was very good, combining well with Benzema and Marcelo in attack and looking like the Hazard we all remember from his days at Chelsea. It was not a maestro performance, or one that matches the price tag that Real Madrid paid for the Belgian, but it is one that gives me confidence and hope. Both teams came out of the hiatus strong, and if they are able to keep this form, we will have a thrilling title race.

2.) Maybe the relegation places are not completely decided…

Espanyol are showing that, eventually, they will find their way out of the bottom place in the league table. Now only three points away from safety, Espanyol has moved from a likely relegation candidate to a team that has all of the ability and coaching needed to stay up. Leganés, due to the unfortunate situation with Martin Braithwaite, seem destined for relegation, but while Mallorca did not show much against Barcelona, they still clearly have the ability to overtake the also-struggling Celta Vigo and Eibar. The Leganés situation is very unfortunate, and I still think they will go down, but I am no longer confident in saying we have relegation teams decided already, especially when talking about Espanyol.

3.) Man, Valencia and Atléti love shooting themselves in the foot…

Apart from Sevilla’s win, the rest of the teams clearly in the Champions League picture dropped points, and this is an especially massive blown chance for Atlético Madrid and Valencia given that their results came largely due to their own mistakes. Atléti have shown this season how much they are missing the consistent goalscoring striker that they seemed to always have. From Fernando Torres to Sergio Agüero, Radamel Falcao and Diego Forlan to Antoine Griezmann, Atléti seemingly always got away with generating so few goalscoring chances because they always had strikers who could put away any chance that they got. Diego Costa and Álvaro Morata are not getting it done. The big chances in their match against Athletic Bilbao, which fell to Arias and Carrasco, were not converted. This has been an issue that has plagued Simeone’s team all season, and it has not gotten better. Valencia face a similar inability to score, but they had done enough through 90 minutes to get the win over Levante, but a silly mistake from Mouctar Diakhaby cost them all three points. You could really pinpoint the moment from each of these matches where Valencia and Atléti shot themselves in the foot: Diakhaby’s foul conceding the penalty and Arias’ missed big chance late in the match, respectively. Both of these teams, especially Valencia, now have to proceed knowing Villarreal and Granada are hovering just over their shoulders, ready to overtake if they keep slipping up.

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