Tag Archives: Athletic Bilbao

La Liga Round 34

24 Apr

First they said he couldn’t do it against Barcelona. Then they said that he could only score penalties against them. After that they said that he could only score from open play against the reserve keeper Pinto. Well now there’s no more excuses. Ronaldo has finally killed off any lingering doubts about his ability to perform in the biggest game – el Clasico. And this time, like his winner in last years Copa del Rey final, it was crucial. Now this blog isn’t a Ronaldo love in. Truth be told, I had a thorough dislike of the Portuguese winger during his time at Old Trafford due to his diving, cheating and general arrogance. Something changed though, I don’t know if it’s because he’s now something of an underdog (to Messi) or that it seemed that until now, everything he did had a “but” close behind. Now that Chelsea have knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League, Ronaldo potentially has the upper hand in the claim to be the World’s best. And the stats below, both assists and goalscoring back it up.

After beating Barcelona in their own backyard, Real Madrid moved 7 points clear of their hated rivals in the bid to win the title for the first time since 2008. Mourinho has all but delivered, and like with Ronaldo, the team can also say they have passed the hardest test. And what cannot go unmentioned is the excellent throughball that Mesut Ozil played for the winning goal. That’s his 16th assist of the season, meaning he’s top of the creators:

Although he has the lowest ranked opponent per assist from the top 5 players, the assist for Ronaldo at the weekend is likely to win the league. He’s just above team mates Angel Di Maria (14 at 10.07) and Ronaldo who has the 11 assists – and like the goals, he has the most against Top 6 Opponents as well with 5, which is reflected in his average opposition ranking of 7.36. Barca pair Messi and Dani Alves make up the top five creators.

And so on to the goalscoring.

Ronaldo’s goal against Barca takes him one clear of Messi in the race for the Golden Boot with a mind boggling 42. It also increases his number of goals against Top 6 teams to 16 – a number I doubt will ever be matched after this season. Whilst Ronaldo is the big game player in the Top 6 measure, it’s Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez that has the best average ranked opponent per goal with 6.91. His equaliser against 1st placed Real Madrid was his 4th against Top 6 teams, and none of his 11 league goals have been against the Bottom 6.

The flat track bully continues to be Seville’s del Moral with 17.30 for his 10 league goals. None of his goals have been against Top 6 teams. Worryingly for Cesc Fabregas, he’s fallen out of both the Top Scorers and Top Assists league.

In the battle for the Champions League spots, Valencia continued their inconsistent consistency with a 4-0 win over 12th placed Betis. Roberto Soldado was once again on the scoresheet – hitting his 17th of the season – against an average opponent ranked 8.59, his goals have been worth 15 points for the team that seem to always finish 3rd. And that position looks a bit stronger after Malaga drew 1-1 with Osasuna in another all Top 6 game. Santi Cazorla scored his 9th goal of the season (12.44) and his 3rd against Top 6 opposition with a brilliant strike from 25 yards into the top corner. For once it wasn’t a free kick, but it was familiar territory.

Levante made it three games without a win as they look set to fall just short for the Champions League spots. A 1-1 draw away at 9th placed Seville sees them just about cling onto 5th place. Arouna Kone scored his 14th La Liga goal of the season (10.50) against his parent club. Athletic Bilbao have finally shaken off their funk with their third win in four games, this time against bottom club Racing Santander who are all but relegated. This put Bilbao back up into 6th after hitting the depths of 11th just a few games ago.

At the bottom, Villarreal are dragging themselves to safety, largely down to one of the old guard. Marcos Senna enjoyed the good times at the club which saw them reach the 2006 Champions League Semi Final, and consistently high finishes in the league. Aged 35 and predominantly a holding midfielder, the Brazilian Born former Spanish International has scored 4 goals in his last 11 games – winning the club five points (average opposition 7.00). The latest was at the weekend against 15th placed Real Sociedad in a 1-1 draw. That point takes them 6 points clear of 18th placed Sporting Gijon and Zaragoza in 19th. With 4 games to go, it looks like Senna’s sudden goal rush could be the difference in staying up and going down. His previous highest La Liga tally? Also 4 – when he was 30. The late equaliser in that game for Real Sociedad was Carlos Vela (10.27). He’s now extended his run to 7 goals in 9 games, and 11 overall for the season. Chuck in 7 assists and it’s been a good loan move for all invloved. He wants to stay in Spain, but with little back up for van Persie at Arsenal, maybe next season could be the one to see him finally establish himself in North London.

With four games to go, the title and relegation is all but wrapped up, with the last battle taking place being the race for Champions League Football. Three games without a win couldn’t have come at a worse time for Barcelona – meaning that they’ve effectively lost the Title and Champions League crowns in the space of a week. Guardiola still hasn’t signed his new deal, and Messi still hasn’t scored against Chelsea.

Cheers,

Liam

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La Liga Round 30

4 Apr

In the words of Alan Partridge “Shit! Did you see that?”. I am of course referring to Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal, away at 6th placed Osasuna, from around 210 yards out. He just laced it – as if it was Messi’s face. As seen here (the goal, not Messi’s head).

But wait. That wasn’t even the best goal of the match.

In my opinion, Karim Benzema’s opening goal was even better. It’s drawn comparisons to Marco van Basten’s famous volley in the Euro ’88 final, and you can see why here. Now that’s impressive. Ronaldo’s was a triumph for power, whilst Benzema’s was a triumph for technique. Both were pretty audacious.

Benzema is trying to work out how he’s only the 3rd top scorer at Madrid with 17 league goals

And whilst on the subject of Madrid’s 5-1 win, it’s worth pointing out that the 5th goal (by Higuain) was their 100th league goal of the season. That’s an average of 3.33333333333333333…..recurring…….goals per game. They’re now within 7 goals of equalling the Spanish record (held by Real Madrid), and with 8 games to go, you’d fancy Mourinho to break another record. There’s been plenty of love for Barcelona over the past few seasons, it’s time to send some plaudits the way of Madrid, who are often painted as the baddies of the league (and in the case of Pepe, it’s entirely justified).

Of course, when mentioning Madrid and Ronaldo, it’s a legal obligation to talk about Messi and Barcelona. Guardiola’s team won their 8th game in a row and Messi has scored 13 times in this run. This win was against previously fashionable Athletic Bilbao, who began the weekend in 11th place. Barca won 2-0 with a goal from Iniesta (only his second league goal of the season), and a penalty by Messi. That’s his 36th league goal of the season, one behind Cristiano Ronaldo who scored a rather less glamorous second in the win against Osasuna. The lead is still 6 points, with a game at Barcelona to come. Both have progressed into the Semi Finals of the Champions League, and are in separate sides of the draw, leaving the path clear for a Final meeting. They’re comfortably the best two teams in the World at the moment, and the rest of the season will be great for the neutral.

Whilst at the top of the table, things have gone a bit strange in the race for the Top 4 spot again. The teams in 3rd to 6th all failed to win, with 3rd placed Valencia hosting 5th placed Levante. The game ended in a 1-1 draw with Jonas and Kone amoung the goals (vs Top 6 opposition). This gave Malaga (in 4th) and Osasuna the chance to close the gap on 3rd – we know Osasuna didn’t, and it was the same for Malage who lost 2-0 to 15th placed Real Betis. It seems as though the race for the Champions League spots will go all the way to wire, with just 6 points between 3rd and 8th.

In terms of what the goals mean to the stats, Ronaldo’s brace now takes his number of goals against the Top 6 to a mind boggling 15. To put that into perspective, only 6 players have scored that many goals against all ranked opponents. This also increases his average ranked opponent per goal to a decent 9.32. Similarly, Higuain’s (9.10) brace in the same game and Benzema’s (10.12)awesome effort increased their averages and goals against the Top 6. It’s quite spectacular that Real Madrid have 3 of the 5 top scorers in the league. Benzema has scored 17 league goals, yet is still behind two club mates. The three Madrid players have scored 74 (or 74% with some complicated maths) of the team’s goals this season.

Cesc Fabregas is the Big Game Player in terms of average rannked opponent, but as mentioned previously, he’s gone a long time without scoring, and will soon drop off the top scorers list. His average of 4.78 is comfortably the lowest in the four leagues covered on this site, but his bright start at Barca seems to have slowed somewhat. It’s worth noting that in a European Championships year, with Villa out and Torres out of sorts, Roberto Soldado has 8 goals against Top 6 opponents.

Friend of averageopposition.com, Radamel Falcao banged in his 20th league goal in an impressive debut season – this time against 10th placed Getafe in a 3-o win. This improves his average ranked opponent per goal to 13.25. He’s very much the La Liga equivalent of Serie A’s Cavani. The holder of the Flat Track Bully tag is Seville’s del Moral who has an impressively low 17.30. His 10th goal of the season arrived against 13th placed Mallorca. That’s now eight against the bottom 6, two against the mid tablers and a big fat zero against the Top 6. Not that Seville will mind. He’s now scored 5 goals in the last 3 games, all of which were won by Seville. Equalling Seville’s recent form is Real Zaragoza, who recorded their 3rd succesive win against 19th place Sporting Gijon.

A couple of teams nowhere near the top of the form table are Villarreal and Bilbao. Despite their impressive performances in the Europa League, Bilbao have now lost four of their last five which is confusing for anyone that saw their performances against Man Utd. In another comparison with Serie A, Villarreal appear to be the Fiorentina equivalent. A team of a decent recent past, with the likes of Forlan and Riquelme delighting the crowds, they’ve now slipped to 17th place – just one above the drop zone, after just one win in eight. It sounds like the Yellow Submarine’s will have trouble staying afloat. Let’s hope they don’t go under….sorry.

And just to finish off, a quick look at the points that each player has earned with their goals, and the importance to their team:

La Liga Round 29

27 Mar

After 29 league games, the score is now Lionel Messi 35 – 35 Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s starting to get silly now. The race for the golden boot between the best two players in the World is captivating. As with last season, the league seems to have been decided pretty early on this year round and the focus is on the shoot out between the majestic Messi and the powerhouse that is Cristiano Ronaldo. In the two rounds since the last update, Messi has scored four goals (3 vs 16th place Granada, and 1 vs 13th place Mallorca) and in doing so, has become Barcelona’s all time Top Scorer – aged 24. Not bad when you think about it. By comparison, Cristiano Ronaldo started to show signs of his advancing years (he’s 27 now), by only scoring three times in the last two games – and not a hat trick in sight. His first was in a 1-1 draw away at Villarreal (17th) where around 17 people were sent off, and he then got out of his funk with a brace at home to 14th placed Sociedad in a 5-1 win.

From a stats point of view, Ronaldo has more goals against the Top 6 with 13, and only 4 against the riff raff at the bottom. His average ranked opponent per goal is 9.51 – impressive stuff. Messi’s “only” got 8 against Top 6 teams, and has an average of 10th placed opposition per goal. In Messi’s favour though are the rest of the stats. He’s only scored 3 penalties to Ronaldo’s 11, and his goals have been more important as well – yielding 16 points for Barca, compared to the 11 points won by Ronaldo’s goals. The assists are actually a lot close than you’d expect. For those who want more on the rivalry, click here.

Messi, almost as good as Bendtner

Some believe that Messi and Ronaldo dominating the scoring charts so much, and indeed Madrid and Barca’s dominance is a sign of the weakness of the league, and a gap of 32 points between first and sixth does point to this, but it’s worth remembering that Manchester United were made to look very very ordinary by Athletic Bilbao, a club currently ranked 11th after the latest round of fixtures.

At the top, Madrid’s lead has been cut to just 6 points, but they’re still odds on to win the title. Even with defeat to Barca in the next el Clasico, you’d still fancy a Mourinho team to see it out. You have to feel a bit sorry for Real Madrid. In almost any other era, they’d be regarded as the best team in the World and one of the best of all time. Even if they do go on to win the league, many will still believe Barcelona are the best. It’s similar for Ronaldo. He does has one World Player of the Year title, but only Real Madrid fans and possibly some Man Utd fans would argue he was better than Messi. And it’s worse still for Benzema and Higuain – scorers of 27 and 23 goals (in all competitions) this season, and barely mentioned. It’s a tough life.

But enough about the big two, elsewhere Bilbao’s dreadful run continues. It’s now four games without a win in La Liga, which has seen them slip from 5th to 11th place. This time out it was a 1-1 home draw to 19th place Sporting Gijon. Before that it was a 2-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid with Falcao scoring a brace. unfortunately for our favourite Colombian bully, Bilbao were outside the Top 6 at the time of play, meaning that he still has just the one solitary goal against Top 6 opponents. Though I do have to concede that he’s stepped it up of late and is delivering against better opposition.

And that’s not all. His double against Bilbao, means that he moves into 3rd place in the race for the Golden boot, but even more important than this (in my mind at least), is that he’s no longer the flat track bully! With a jump from 14.18 to 13.42, Falcao has improved his average opposition ranking, and now has two players with worse averages than him. And how. Sevilla’s del Moral has scored a brace in each of the last two games – firstly against 18th place Racing in a 3-0 win, and then against 15th placed Granada last night. This gives him a massive 17.78 ranked opponent per goal. As you can see from the above, 8 of his 9 goals have been against the bottom 6 teams, meaning he’s deserving of the unwanted tag.

Cesc Fabregas retains the Big Game Player tag for another goal less week, but if he carries on without scoring for much longer, he’ll fall out of the above list, giving an opportunity for someone else to take on the Big game Player moniker, with Roberto Soldado the hot favourite (8.38). Ronaldo still leads the goals against Top 6 teams.

It wouldn’t be right to finish the post without a look at Levante. In round 28, they kept up their recent revival with a 3-1 win against Soceidad (12th), but were knocked out of 4th spot after defeat in round 29 to 7th placed form team Osasuna, who have lost just once in nine games. The last champions league spot is now held by Malaga, who have been somewhat off the radar of late. Without anyone really noticing, they’ve won 5 of the last 6 games, with the latest being a 2-1 win over Espanyol. And for those Man Utd fans mentioned earlier, Ruud van Nistelrooy scored the equaliser (Coutinho scored again for Espanyol). And that’s not all! Valencia, who looked like they had 3rd place guaranteed by Christmas, have been dropping points left, right, and centre, with just one win in the last four. as a result, Malaga are now level on points, with Levante just a further 3 behind.

Cheers,

Liam

La Liga Round 23

21 Feb

There were a few shocks this weekend in La Liga – firstly, one of Messi’s goals was a scrappy tap in. Secondly, Falcao didn’t score against poor opposition, but perhaps the biggest shock is that Levante are no longer in 4th place!

Yes, it finally happened. The favourite early season team of every neutral have lost one game too many (at home to 12th placed Rayo Vallecano 5-3). After just 3 points from 8 games, and no wins in the same period, the chasing pack decided to wake up, and Bilbao, Espanyol, and even Atletico Crazy Madrid have all moved above them. In fact, the win took Vallecano to within one point of them. It’s a shame they couldn’t keep up their early season form, but the way it’s going, they’ll be lucky to stay up. They have a 9 point buffer, but they’re in terrible form, and have let in 9 goals in the last two games. I’ll have a look at the end of season table to compare the first half of the season to the second – I certainly can’t recall of a collapse like it, with maybe the exception of Norwich City in 1994-95 who had one win from their last 20 games.

More of the same at the top as Real Madrid continued their Championship Manager form, racking up their 18th win in 19 league games. And as long as they keep it up then it doesn’t matter what Barcelona do. And that includes Lionel Messi. It seems odd that he’s still doing things for the first time, but Sunday saw him score 4 league goals in one match for the first time – and impressively it was against 3rd placed Valencia. Whilst it doesn’t help him close the gap on Real Madrid, it does improve his average opposition ranking to 8.85 per goal – lower than Ronaldo, and also increases his tally vs Top 6 teams to an impressive 7.

Fabregas continues to have the best average opposition ranking, though as pointed out previously, his goals have dried up. Cristiano Ronaldo continues to lead the way against the Top 6 with a massive 12 goals. Messi’s 4 goals have closed the gap though, and also in the number of total league goals. They’re scoring stats over the past 2 and a half seasons really are amzingly similar.

Falcao, as mentioned above, didn’t actually score against 19th placed Sporting Gijon, as Atletico dropped 2 points. Regardless of that, he still retains the worst average opposition index, which means he’s still the league’ flat track bully.

Last week’s predictions:

“1. Falcao to score against 19th place Gijon – his AOI is the worst in the Top Scorers list, and he has 3 against 20th placed teams, and 2 against 18th placed.

2.  Llorente to score against Malaga – he has a decent average of 9.36, and has 3 against Top 6 teams, so a team in 7th should be within range.

3. Messi to score against Valencia – to increase his record vs Top 6, and because he’s the best player in the World. Can you bet on assists?

4. It’s tempting to go for a Levante win – their average opponent per win is 7.88 or 8th. They’re well overdue a win, and are at home against a consistently inconsistent Vallecano (LLWWLLWW). Though confidence is very low – so check the odds and it might be worth a fiver.

I’ve not included Ronaldo to score against Racing as they have a Champions League game in the mid week after. If he plays though, it’s probably gonna result in a hat trick.”

Well I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t quite nail this one. Yes, both Messi and Ronaldo scored, but it hardly takes a sophisticated system to work out that the two best players in the world will score. In my defence, Llorente didn’t play in Bilbao’s 3-0 win over Malaga.

I’ll have another go at a different league before the weekend’s fixtures.

Cheers,

Liam

La Liga Round 18 – Pre Winter Break

5 Jan

As promised, here’s the Spanish League Average Opposition Index for the Top Scorers up until the Christmas break. Ronaldo leads the way with goals, and the most goals against Top 6 Opposition – after recent Hat Tricks away at Malaga and Sevilla. This also helps his Average Opposition rating to a healthy 8.85. His rival for the golden boot, and World’s Greatest Player moniker, Leo Messi, is on 17 league goals – with an average of 9.82. For the record, Ronaldo has 7 penalties to Messi’s 1.

However, neither lead the Average Opposition ranking. That goes to Cesc Fabregas with an incredible 4.38 ranked opponent per goal. It was clear that he’d made a great start since returning to Barcelona, but 4.38 is the lowest I’ve seen in any league across the last 3 years. The average has been boosted by the early season table with a goal in each of his first 4 games against Villarreal #4th, Real Sociedad #5th, Osasuna #7th and Valencia – then 1st. As the table has matured and taken a more familiar shape, he has kept up his impressive big game performances. In his last two games before the Winter Break, he scored 2 goals against 4th placed surprise package Levante (who beat Madrid earlier in the season), and also the final goal in the 3-1 win away at 2nd placed Real Madrid with a rare header.

As per the stats below, the player with the second best Average is Karim Benzema (Average Opponent per goal is ranked 8.25). It’s fair to say that he’s taken his time to settle in Madrid. His undoubted ability has been more apparent this season with more chances, and his goals against Barcelona and away at Valencia go some way to proving this.

The tag of “flat track bully” belongs to Atletico Madrid’s new signing Falcao. He started the season on fire with 5 goals in the first 4 games – including a hat trick against 13th placed Racing Santander. Scoring 9 goals in a new league by the 18th round of fixtures is certainly commendably, but on closer inspection of his opponents, the picture is a little different. The highest ranked opponent that he’s scored against is 10th place (both Rayo Vallecano and Espanyol) whilst he has 3 goals versus opponents ranked in bottom place at the time – a brace against Sporting Gijon in round 4 and one against Getafe. So whilst he’s done well to settle into a new league, he still has a way to go to justify the big fee and big hype. He proved last season that he can do it in the big games (as his winner in the Europa League Final showed) and perhaps the second half of the season will see this.

Along with Falcao, Michu of Rayo Vallecano is the only other player in the top scorers list without a goal vs Top 6 opponents this season – although stats can be deciving. He actually scored 2 goals away at Real Madrid in a 6-2 defeat early in the season. At the time Madrid were ranked in 7th. His average at the end of the season once revised for final positions will certainly reflect better, as no doubt Fabregas’ will lower.

In terms of the Average Opposition Index per team, 10th Placed Getafe have had the hardest run in – their average opposition is ranked in 9th place. The surprise performers of the season so far are 4th placed Levante and it’s somewhat  surprising that they’ve had the 2nd hardest run in terms of the form of their opponents at the time of playing. At the other end of the table, Real Zaragoza’s league position is demonstrative of the form of their oppoents.

I’ll be updating the Premier League for Round 20 shortly, as well as Serie A.

Cheers,

Liam