International break is always a bit vexing. I like to cheer national teams, but I also like to see the games used to find new ways through. France seems to be doing that and winning too. Spain? Not so much. The US did, but were lucky to get out of Capetown with a victory after a horrible match by both sides. Anyway, it’s back to La Liga and it’s back to wondering why Messi always has to play 90 minutes in friendlies (was there a sub limit in that game? Menezes only used three subs and Batista used two).
It’s been a bit since we talked about other teams around here and while I’d love to continue that trend, the season is nearly 1/3 of the way done so I suppose there’s something to discuss. Technically the first third of the season ends basically the 60th minute of the clásico, but I’m not going to publish a State of the Liga then, so now, when there’s no midweek game, you get your fill of me babbling about teams that aren’t Barça.
The top 2 are uninteresting to me at this point for obvious every day blogging reasons and we just played the 3rd place team, so let’s start with Valencia in 4th and Sevilla in 5th. Both have 20 points from 11 matches and are 6-2-3. Valencia started out 5-1-0, then went 0-1-3 in the next 4. Their last match was a win against Getafe, but it doesn’t get easier for them as they travel to Villarreal on Saturday and to Real Madrid on December 5. Interestingly, they’ve beaten every team from the bottom half of the table save Zaragoza, who they drew 1-1 in the midst of their funk, and they’ve lost to everyone in the top half that they’ve faced save a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao and a 1-1 draw with Atleti. (I saw that Atleti match and while it could have gone either way, Atleti should have put the game away early and not allowed Valencia back into it). Aritz Aduriz is their leading scorer with 3 while Pablo, Soldado, and Joaquin all have 2.
Sevilla have been a mixed bag all season. Their 11 matches ended like this, starting with the first one: W-D-W-D-L-W-L-W-L-W-W. They were hammered 5-0 at the Camp Nou, but then 1 week later took apart Valencia 2-0 in what was a foregone conclusion after about 15 minutes. Alvaro Negredo is their top scorer with 5 of the team’s 18, but neither he nor anyone else really convinces in front of goal. While the Barça match probably shouldn’t be taken as indicative of much since they were missing Andres Palop and Fernando Navarro (and have been without Jesus Navas all year), that they were so thoroughly dismantled and then sprang back for a quick win is telling. Gregorio Manzano hasn’t done as much as I would have expected after taking over. A 2-0 loss to Hercules sealed Antonio Alvarez’s fate, but subsequent 2-0 and 5-0 losses have met with shrugs towards Manzano.
That Espanyol sit in 6th with 19 points and is a stunning surprise to me. Only Almeria and Depor have scored fewer goals (9) than the periquitos (and Racing Santander has scored the same) and away from home, both Espanyol and Osasuna have scored just 1 goal in 6 matches while both have allowed 11. Espanyol’s 5-0-0 home record is the only thing keeping them afloat while their solitary away goal netted them 3 points at Mallorca. They now have 4 away points thanks to last weekend’s 0-0 draw against Racing. Callejon, Datolo, and Osvaldo each have 2 goals and are joint leading scorers for the team. They might be benefiting from an easy schedule at home and a hard one on the road, though, as they haven’t played anyone currently ranked higher than 11th (Getafe) at Cornellà-El Prat while they’ve visited RM, Villarreal, Real Sociedad, Mallorca, Depor, and Racing. It remains in that mold until December 19 and the Catalan derby.
It’s simply shocking to see Espanyol this high in the table. Every time I watch them, they look dreadful and every time I fail to watch them, they batter someone. I think I’ve seen 4 of their matches so far and they were puke-arific each time. 9 goals? For heaven’s sake, step it up Pocchetino. Last year they scored just 29 goals, the lowest in the league, and still came in 11th, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so shocked, but I am anyway. They’re terrible!
That’s the European places, then. Tomorrow I’ll cover the rest of the league. There are a few teams I’m going to talk about in-depth and a few teams I’m going to gloss over, so feel free to guess in the comments as to which will be which. And of course I’ll compare my opening predictions to what’s going on right now.
-Lionel Messi’s 10 goals currently outscores 4 teams (Espanyol, Racing Santander, Almeria, and Deportivo) while it ties Sporting Gijon and Levante.
–Marca is claiming Crynaldo has 12 goals when, in fact, he has 11, but since they’re the ones who officially tally for the Pichichi award…