La Liga Review 2010/11: Sorry Sevilla and Dastardly Zaragoza
Tim Stannard wraps up his end-of-season review of La Liga with the final five Primera clubs...
Sevilla Final Position - 5thLLL Prediction - 5th
It could have been worse. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs perhaps the most polite way to describe a fairly forgettable season for Sevilla, which started appallingly in August with their expulsion from the Champions League qualifiers at the hands of Braga - a loss that eventually lead to the sacking of Antonio Alvarez at the end of September with the coach being replaced by Gregorio Manzano.
Although the former Mallorca man managed to drag Sevilla by the goolies to a fifth-placed finish in May, it was a dithering, inconsistent and wasteful campaign from the Andalusians who were not far off from disappearing into the mid-table wilderness.
Manzano has now been disposed of and RacingÃ¢ÂÂs excitable Marcelino is set to take charge. There are still some grounds for optimism for Sevilla, with Ivan Rakitic, JesÃÂºs Navas and Alvaro Negredo in the squad, but itÃ¢ÂÂs a club that needs an enormous kick up the jacksie over the summer for it to make progress next year.
Highlight Alvaro Negredo finally getting his head together to come up with 20 goals and finish as the season's top Spanish striker in la Primera.
Lowlight The Braga disaster, a five match losing streak through November and December which saw home defeats to Mallorca, Getafe and AlmerÃÂa.
Sporting Final Position - 10thLLL Prediction - 14th
It was so close to going horribly wrong for Sporting and their peopleÃ¢ÂÂs favourite coach, Manuel Preciado, when they found themselves second-from-bottom of the table at the beginning of January. The longest serving Primera manager was seconds away from the sack at a club that is one of the least trigger-happy in Spain, but a last minute goal to earn a draw against Racing followed by three quick-fire wins after that helped give Sporting the confidence needed to launch a desperate but ultimately successful survival campaign.
Highlight Manuel Preciado calling JosÃÂ© Mourinho a Ã¢ÂÂscumbagÃ¢ÂÂ for implying his team did not try in a match against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Sporting then got extra revenge by beating Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, inflicting a first league home defeat on Mourinho in nine years.
Lowlight Nacho Novo. In general.
ValenciaFinal Position - 3rdLLL Prediction - 6th
LLL really doesnÃ¢ÂÂt know what itÃ¢ÂÂs going on about most of the time. First off, the blog thought the departures of David Silva and David Villa would lead to a season of slumber at the Mestalla, a prediction proven quite, quite wrong in May. LLL then assumed a decent Champions League run and instant qualification for next yearÃ¢ÂÂs competition would see manager, Unai Emery, very much the man of the moment at Valencia with his contract running out.
Apparently this wasnÃ¢ÂÂt the case with the club president, Manuel Llorente, displaying laudable people skills by confessing to checking out other options like a footballer in a bar ten minutes before closing time. He did, however, eventually opt to stick with what he had.
Emery has done another fine yearÃ¢ÂÂs work at the Mestalla, working with the clubÃ¢ÂÂs enormous debt, notoriously huffy fans and the usual bouts of indiscipline from the players, and arguably deserves to be at a team where he is a little more appreciated.
Highlight A brilliant game and last minute winner in Mestalla that saw a 4-3 win for Valencia and Unai Emery chucking his coat about like the lovable loon he is.
Lowlight The worst defending ever seen in a 6-3 home defeat to Real Madrid.
VillarrealFinal Position - 4thLLL Prediction - 7th
For once, a team qualified for the Europa League and actually tried to win the blooming thing, realising that if AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid can do it then anyone else with the ability to kick a ball about can repeat the feat. This attempt - which failed against Porto at the semi-final stages - ultimately cost Villarreal a decent shot at a third place finish, which was certainly what Juan Carlos GarridoÃ¢ÂÂs team deserved after playing some of the tastiest football in la Liga for much of the campaign before fatigue set in.
To this end, itÃ¢ÂÂs hard to know whether VillarrealÃ¢ÂÂs year can be counted as a complete success until the clubÃ¢ÂÂs Champions League qualifier. If that match is won, then Garrido will continue to build his reputation as a managerial one-to-watch in Europe.
Highlight Giuseppe RossiÃ¢ÂÂs ridiculous effort against Espanyol. CaniÃ¢ÂÂs ridiculous effort against Osasuna.
Lowlight Losing at home to Levante was not a great day for the club.
Zaragoza Final Position - 13thLLL Prediction - 16th
Footballing proof that the bad guys do win some of the time. Zaragoza fought to stay up through fair means and foul this season. Fair through the tenaciousness of coach, Javier Aguirre, that brought about a vital win at the Santiago Bernabeu. Foul with members of the Zaragoza squad - as well as the ball boys - lobbing balls onto the pitch at inopportune times when opposition teams were attacking.
Zaragoza also gained a competitive advantage over one relegation opponent, Getafe, by failing to make the transfer payments on former blues striker, Ikechukwu Uche, and then fielding him during a 2-1 win in La Romareda, the game which also the ball being chucked onto the pitch by a substitute to add insult to injury.
Highlight GabiÃ¢ÂÂs goals and leadership in the final run-in.
Lowlight See all of the above.