I could go with a dramatic and intense introduction to this text, but that wouldn’t change much. El Derbi madrileño is probably the second biggest club match out there right now. So why would it need any kind of build up?
With El Clásico being the biggest game in Spain (and the world pretty much), the clash between the two Madrid giants is often forgotten amongst neutral football fans. The fixture has proven, in the past few years, to be rather non-Spanish in a sense that the intensity is something that we rarely see in La Liga. It’s dirty, it’s ugly, and extremely infected. Atletico Madrid have in later years been famous, and criticized for their incredibly tough mentality coming in to these big games. This often sets the tone for the whole match, and usually triggers the opposing side to play in the same manners.
We’ve seen a pattern in their game plans against the big clubs in Primera División. To get the opposing team out of balance, out of their rhythm, which is so important for the more attacking sides. They’ve figured out what they need to do in order to do just that, and although it may look as if they’ve completely lost their minds and actually try to get sent off, it has proven to be very successful against the other Spanish and European giants.
Their latest results against the other two Spanish mega clubs in the past few years is nothing but impressive, not having lost at the Santiago Bernabéu in the league since 2nd December 2012, and knocking Barcelona out of the Champions League two times in the last three years. Their 4-0 win over Real Madrid in their 2014/2015 La Liga campaign was probably one of the most impressive games I’ve ever seen performed tactically. They absolutely smashed Ronaldo and the rest of Los Merengues, and if you ask me, there’s a possibility we’ll see a similar display tonight.
The Atleti fans are always 100% behind their team. This makes the Vicente Calderon a nightmare for all other teams trying to silent the constantly cheering fans. Tonight will be and huge test for Zinedine Zidane and his Los Blancos. They’ll want the win. They’ll want the three points. They’ll want the glory. But I think Atletico will want it more.
Valencia are one of the biggest and most famous clubs in Spain. So what has gone wrong and what can new manager Cesar Prandelli do about it?
Cesar Prandelli’s start at Valencia CF, at first glance, seems dreadful. 1 win and 2 losses in 4 games in conjunction with the team dangling at 15th in the league table doesn’t make for pleasant reading. With much expected from the manager, since Prandelli is the first appointment in recent times to have any prior coaching experience, the results seem as erratic as ever. But does that mean nothing has changed?
Valencia started the season with a tumultuous transfer window with Pako Ayestarán at the helm, as 18 players were offloaded. The club started the season with 4 straight losses as the replacements struggled to gel and the 2 -1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao proved to be the last straw for Ayestarán. Prandelli’s feat of delivering Italy to the final Euro 2012 had not been forgotten by Peter Lim, Valencia’s billionaire owner. On the back of the disastrous 2010 World Cup, where Italy finished bottom of an easy group, Prandelli came in to a similar situation he finds himself in right now.
From watching Valencia it is clear what is wrong with the team: everything! The squad has a disorganised defence and an unfocused attack with no leader or voice to give them any steel or spine. The parallels to 2010 Italy do not stop there, with captain Fabio Cannavaro retiring in just the same way as influential Valencia defender Shkrodran Mustafi left to join Arsenal. Mustafi had taken up many of those roles previously mentioned , especially with regards to defensive organization and steely leadership, and the burden has now fallen to Enzo Pérez (captain) and Dani Parejo. Both have struggled to adapt.
If we observe Valencia’s recent results we can see that Prandelli has managed to infuse some battling spirit into the team. The game against Barcelona has characterized some of this and many will consider them very unlucky to not get a point with only Lionel Messi’s 94’ minute penalty denying them. We have seen that the gap in skill can be compensated for tactical nous and hard work by Alavés and Eibar and this philosophy heavily resonates in Prandelli’s coaching. Valencia certainly don’t lack skill; players like Luis Nani, Jose Gaya and Diego Alves are examples of this and some organization could make them a force to reckon. Valencia has fixtures against bottom of the league Granada and also Leganes coming up, games where they can target wins to start turning their season around. If they can build a platform and Prandelli can forge a backbone in the team, it will be very interesting to see what they can achieve.
Spanish Football Writer
“Sergi Roberto is a player to look out for in the coming years. When he really breaks through you’ll all be surprised.” – Pep Guardiola in 2011. It took about 4 years, but he was right. We were indeed surprised when, almost exactly a year ago, Roberto earned himself a place in the Blaugrana starting eleven and kept impressing us with his incredible vision and versatility.
Versatility is the word that describes Sergi Roberto the best. Throughout La Masia he mainly played in a central midfield role, but as his career at Barcelona seemed to have stagnated a bit, manager Luis “Lucho” Enrique (a.k.a. better than Pep Guardiola) used his incredible ability to adapt and played him in whatever position they needed a player. The start of the 2015/2016 season was Roberto’s big breakthrough and we stood there completely astounded as he took on new positions and tasks every game and handled them all brilliantly.
Getafe away early last season was when I realized he was a special player. With two world class assists he pretty much won the Catalan side the three points. In the first half he received a cross just outside the box and back heel-volleyed it to Luis Suarez who put it away in the bottom left corner. The second one, while not as technically impressive, is still my favourite out of the two. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen brought the ball down after a corner, and the attacking line were prepared to counter attack. With good vision the German threw the ball out to the right were Sergi picked it up. He then went on a Messi-like run of about 40 yards and found Neymar with an incredible cross, allowing the Brazilian to finish off the game off with the second goal.
Now, many people argue that Blaugrana is in need of a new right back, that Roberto isn’t a proper one and that he should be played as one of the two central midfielders in the side’s 4-3-3 system. And at first, I agreed with them. I thought it was a waste of talent to put him in a position where he wouldn’t have had as much impact on the game as he would otherwise. But the way he has been playing, and the way everything has worked out so well with Rafinha filling the other midfield spot, I’m confident Sergi is the player the Catalans can rely on in that right back spot for many years to come. I mean, he has it all. His vision and the passing needed to play in Barcelona’s style of play, his tactical awareness, his fantastic stamina, and even a bit of pace means he is the perfect fit for that exact spot.
He is, in my opinion, amongst the top 5 right backs in the world at the moment, which is very impressive considering he hasn’t even played in that position for a full year. Just imagine what he can do in two, three, four years... He was a late bloomer, but his future is looking brighter than many others.
Spanish Football Expert