La Liga Lessons: Atlético as Doctor Who, Iker’s new exile and La Liga 0-9 Serie A
Atlético Madrid are football’s Doctor Who
It was all change in goal and up front for Atlético Madrid this summer, with the club’s departures giving José Mourinho’s Chelsea a huge leg-up. However, whoever's in the team, it's still driven by the same core characteristics instilled by Diego Simeone: strength, determination, tenacity and resilience.
That gives the team a Time Lord quality about the side – the body and brain can change but the team is still fundamentally the same, no matter who is out on the pitch. Heck, even the manager is interchangeable during games; Diego Simeone’s assistant Mono Burgos ia running the show while his boss serves a suspension in the stands after bad behaviour during the last time these two sides met, which also ended in an Atlético triumph.
Saturday’s 2-1 victory was all about tenacity, with Atlético well beaten in the first half but Real Madrid failing to take their chances and put the game far out of the Rojiblancos' reach. Instead, the visitors hung on in and a moment of precision from Arda Turan – after a delightful Raul García dummy – gave Atlético back-to-back wins over Real Madrid for a reminder of who the current top dogs of Capital City are.
The time may be right to outcast Iker. Again
At least the Real Madrid keeper will know what it feels like to be sat on the bench. That was a normal way of life for a season and a half with José Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti both content to have ABI between the posts: Anyone But Iker.
However, the return of Casillas has not been a happy one in La Liga with two defeats, six goals conceded and a manager openly blaming his keeper for conceding the opening set-piece strike from Atlético Madrid.
With Keylor Navas ready and likely to play on Tuesday in the Champions League, there must be temptation from Ancelotti to keep the Costa Rican there for the following weekend, if only to avoid a repeat of scenes on Saturday where much of the stadium booed every touch of the club captain – a wholly unpleasant scenario to say the least.
Navas is a proven goalkeeper already in La Liga, and a hugely popular signing – a rarity at Real Madrid at the moment with poor James and Chicharito taking some grief. The time may be right to banish Iker Casillas back into exile.
Barcelona’s strength is at the back
Although Leo Messi and Neymar stole the show in a convincing 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao – despite the winning strikes being left until late in the day, once again – it's the solid foundations at the back that are giving Barcelona a platform to work its midfield and forward magic.
Luis Enrique has instilled a solidity and work ethic into the team – Gerard Piqué spending a large chunk of time on the sidelines has perhaps helped – which has enabled all the fancy-dan stuff up front in which everyone so delights. Last season Barcelona were hardly renowned for picking up any clean sheets, never mind the three in a row that the Catalan club has notched to kick off the current campaign.
Sepp Blatter could save Espanyol
Something a bit odd happened this week: Sepp Blatter offered an idea that wasn’t a lorry load of rubbish. The concept was a manager having the opportunity to query a refereeing decision, and Espanyol coach Sergio González could have done with that ruling on Sunday in Mestalla after a perfectly good goal from Sergio García was ruled offside at 1-0.
The decision may not have changed a pickled pepper in the game a dominant Valencia won 3-1. Even González himself admitted that his team were will beaten, but the potential of challenging decisions for multi-dimensional string-theory football is intriguing.
Levante felt American for the day
There was a bit of Tim Howard-itis on Saturday with Levante at Málaga. Although there was praise and relief after a roof-raising performance from visiting keeper Jesús Fernández, whose save count was somewhere up in double figures, the home side could have mauled their visitors instead of being held to a 0-0 draw.
Had Levante not had the former Real Madrid keeper but, say, the current one, then it could have been a pasting for Levante, who are suffering a testing start to the season.
Real Sociedad should try playing the whole match
If La Real really put their Basque minds to it, the club could probably challenge for the title. The problem is that the San Sebastian outfit only turn up for some of the game. Against Real Madrid a fortnight ago, La Real waited until the visitors had a two-goal lead before waking up and knocking in four.
It was the same story against a still-scintillating Celta Vigo, who once again took a two-goal lead before Real Sociedad realised its predicament. This time, though, the visitors could only manage two, the second being a most fortuitous own goal in the final seconds of injury-time.
Never underestimate Serie A
On LLL’s TV, there were two choices for the final match of Sunday: Granada vs Villarreal, with the Yellow Submarine always worth watching, or Parma vs Milan, which is Serie A and therefore completely rubbish.
All the blog will say is that one game went on, and on, and on, and on, without anything happening as far as it can recall. The other ended 4-5. Lesson learned.
Zizou’s job is safe again
Zinedine Zidane update time, after LLL's last ramblings which reported that the French ace had picked up three losses from three in charge of Real Madrid’s second team down in the third tier of Spanish football. Well, it’s hats in the air now, as Zizou’s Castilla picked up a win against the mighty Trival Valderas from Alcorcon.