Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Week in Spain January 24 2015

*The big two both won so Real Madrid stay a point clear of Barcelona put the Merengues made heavy weather of winning 2-1 at Cordoba. They went behind to the 14th placed team in the third minute and although Karim Benzema pulled Real level on 27 minutes, disaster struck when Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off with eight minutes to go. Gareth Bale saved Real's blushes with a penalty a minute from time but the FIFA World Player of the Year faces a three-match ban for swinging an arm and aiming a kick at his over-attentive markers.

The Week in Spain January 24 2015.


* Lowly Elche must be sick of Barça by now after they were overwhelmed 6-0 at home by Luis Enrique's team. The Catalans have now put 15 goals past them this month after winning 10-0 on aggregate in the Copa del Rey. Leo Messi and Neymar both scored twice, while Pedro and Gerard Piqué added the rest.

With six straight victories and a morale-boosting win over Atletico in midweek, the mood is brightening at the Camp Nou. That said, Luis Suarez was benched today despite a vote of confidence from Enrique and has scored only five in seventeen outings.

*Atletico Madrid tried to keep it a three horse race by winning 3-1 at home to Rayo Vallecano to stay six points behind Barça with a game in hand. French forward Antoine Griezmann netted twice for the Colchoneros and the rejuvenated Fernando Torres played the last 20 minutes.

National coach Vicente Del Bosque has praised the returning Atletico hero and has said he is open to recalling El Niño to his next Spain squad. Their next outing is a Group C Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Ukraine on the 27th of March.

*With Barcelona banned from the transfer market until next year, Real Madrid have capitalised by signing two promising young midfielders. Brazil U21 international Lucas Silva Borges has put pen to paper on a four and a half year deal rumoured to be around £9.7 million.

The 21 year-old Silva was voted best defensive midfielder in last season's Brasileiro Serie A campaign for Cruzeiro.

Martin Odegaard, the 15 year-old Norwegian prodigy, is more of a fantasista, a creative midifleder, and signed a contract at the Bernabeu which will pay him £80,000 per week. Press reports suggest the fee was in the range of £2-3 million rising to £6 million with appearances. How good is he? This is what he did in Norway:



*Carlo Ancelotti was named the best coach in the world by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics this week, with Atletico's Diego Simeone in second. Pep Guardiola came third, confirming Spain is still a big player in world soccer, with Jose Mourinho in fourth.

Personally, I would have given the gong to Simeone for breaking the Real-Barça hegemony to win the league and reach the Champions League final, all without anything like the resources of Atletico's big rivals. This might change in future however, as this week Wanda, the firm which belongs to China's second-richest man Wang Jianlin, snapped up a 20% stake in the club for only €45 million.

*Real's existing players meanwhile are the stars of a new video promoting tourism to the Spanish capital:



(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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