Tag Archives: Cristiano Ronaldo

Europe’s Best Goalscoring Partnerships

13 Mar

After writing about the Premier League’s best goal scoring partnerships a while back, I was inundated (one comment) with requests for something similar for other leagues. So, instead of signing up to do some accountancy exams that I’ve been putting off for 13 years, I decided the best way to spend some spare time would be to put together another list for absolutely no reward. I hope somebody somewhere enjoys reads this.

With the return to favour of partnerships such as Suarez and Sturridge, (#dare to) Zlatan and Cavani, and Negredo and Aguero, what better time to have a look back at some of the best partnerships before them. Having searched a whole two pages of Google without finding something exactly the same as this, I thought it was time to put together a combined list.

Rules and Workings

I’ve decided to go back 25 years to cover the 1988-89 to the 2012-13 seasons. Why 25 years? Well that just about covers my football watching memory and it’s a nice round number. I’ve decided to include just the Top four Leagues in Europe – the top divisions in England, Germany, Italy and Spain (based on European Trophies won).

A partnership is only considered so if both players (regardless of position)have scored at least 10 goals each. For this list, I’ve only combined those pairs with 30 goals or more, so sadly that would exclude van Wolfswinkel and Elmander’s herculean haul of 2 goals from this season. Tough break fellas.

A further blow to the Norwich duo’s chances are that this season’s partnerships are not included as they’ll instantly make this post out of date. Expect to see Suarez and Sturridge included in the next update in space year 2038.

Joking aside, as I type, Suarez and Sturridge have just hit their combined 44th, 45th, 46th and 47th goals of the season against Cardiff, so they definitely make it into the Top Partnerships list, but as the season hasn’t ended yet, their number is likely to change.

It’s worth noting that the German League has fewer games, and the other leagues have varied in number of teams.

And lastly, it’s league goals only.

The Stats

In all, there’s a whopping 221 instances of 30 goal partnerships in the Top Four European leagues over the last 25 completed seasons – actually a lot higher than I’d expected. Spain lead the way with 70, followed by England (61), Italy (49) and Germany (41). No real shock there as Germany has fewer games, as did Italy for a good chunk of the 25 seasons in question. In terms of clubs represented, there are a decent 61 (Spain 17, England 16, Italy 15 and Germany 13).

At the top end of the food chain are the mighty Real Madrid with a 30 goal partnership in 19 of the 25 seasons recorded. No wonder they win quite a lot. As you’d expect, anything they can do, Barcelona can almost do (that would make a catchy song), and the Catalans are second on the list with a healthy 17 partnerships represented. Aside from Spain, England have Man Utd and Liverpool in double figures (13 + 10), whilst somewhat surprisingly, it’s Bayer Leverkusen who lead the way in Germany with 10 partnerships making the 30 goal mark. For Italy, AC Milan are the team with the most deadly duos, featuring 8 times.

At the bottom end, there are 25 clubs with just one 30 goal partnership, sadly, my team don’t even have that. The likes of Coventry’s Dublin and Huckerby, are joined for their day in the sun by Villarreal’s Forlan and Riquelme (2004-05). And who could forget Bochum’s world famous Thomas Christiansen and Vahid Hashemian with their 31 goal haul in 2002-03. I know I certainly won’t.

The 50 goal club

As mentioned above, there’s a great deal of 30 goal partnerships, so many in fact, that I wonder why I used that number. So to get things going, here’s a list of those partnerships that scored at least 50 league goals in a season. Just to manage expectations – it’s a bit heavy with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Best Strike Partnerships (50 goals +)

In fact it’s basically La Liga’s greatest partnerships plus three others.

As its illegal not to mention both Ronaldo and Messi when speaking about the Spanish league, it’s worth having a quick look at their record in this list. Interestingly, both players have been part of a successful partnership as the second scorer – which is really what you’d have expected a few years back, with both players featuring out wide early on. Ronaldo’s first season in Madrid saw him form one of the most balanced partnerships on this list, with Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine banging in a decent 27 goals to the shy Portuguese’s 26. A pretty good debut season before the championship manager stats started kicking in. Messi’s season as the second scorer was in the 2008-09 season that saw Samuel Eto’o hitting 30 to Messi’s 23.

Man City fans may be surprised to see Edin Dzeko in 6th place with the wall decorating Brazilian Grafite (I’m sorry) making up the pair – the highest Bundeliga entry with 54 goals. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard have combined for 30+ goals on two occasions, with the 2009-10 season seeing a combined 51 league goals for the Chelsea legends – albeit not a typical strike partnership. However, in first place for England are Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley with a whopping 55 – all for a promoted club too. Impressive stuff. Must have been before Cole needed five chances to score (Glenn Hoddle’s words, not mine).

Fans of 90s football will be disappointed not to see any Italian partnerships breaking the 50 goal mark but heartened to see the Original Ronaldo and (possibly the original) Luis Enrique with 51 goals in the 1996-97 season. Ronaldo who started the season aged just 19 would score 47 goals (all tournaments) in his only season with the Catalan giants. Damn you Gods of injury.

What is also interesting (depending on your definition), is that 11 of the 50 goal partnerships have been in the last five years – at a time when 4-5-1’s have become the norm. Although a lot of them are rather dependent on Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo being involved.

The number one partnership sees Ronaldo paired up with Higuain for the 3rd time to make a 50 goal mark. The winning season being 2011-12 when Mourinho’s men managed to break Barca’s dominance of La Liga. A phenomenal 68 league goals from just two players is quite frankly bonkers. Both Ronaldo and Messi feature in four 50 goal partnerships – Messi with 4 different partners, the big flirt.

Top 20 Partnerships By Country

I planned to show a top ten by country, but La Liga’s are already on show, and it would also mean leaving out the likes of Batistuta and Oliveira who thrived on Rui Costa’s assists in 1997-98. And because we haven’t featured much from Serie A just yet, now seems as good a time as any. So without further ado:

Serie A Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

Serie A Top Scoring Partnerships

Premier League/Division One Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

Premier League Top Scoring Partnerships

La Liga Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

La Liga Top Scoring Partnerships

Bundesliga Top Scoring Partnerships 1988-2013

Bundesliga Top Scoring Partnerships v2

I know what you’re thinking – where’s Vialli and Mancini? They were undoubtedly a great strike partnership, but they were also playing in the most defensive era of a league known for being defensive. They’re best season together came in 1990-91 when they combined to score 31 league goals (ranked 35th in the Serie A charts).

There’s three entries from before the Premier League began in England, with Barnes and Rush scoring a decent 39 combined goals in the triumphant 1989-90 season for Liverpool.

Spain’s list sees the crowd pleasing entry of Romario and Stoichkov, who notched 46 goals in 1993-94 whilst the Bundesliga entry reminds us of just how good Roy Makaay was. In fact the Dutchman is one of a number of players who feature across multiple leagues, with the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldo (not a typo), Ibrahimovic, Eto’o, Raul and Berbatov (along with others).

 

Other Notes of Interest

Top 10 Teams are:

Real Madrid 19
Barcelona 17
Man Utd 13
Liverpool 10
Bayer Leverkusen 10
Arsenal 9
Bayern Munich 9
AC Milan 8
Valencia 7
Juventus 7

Most Featured Players:

Only 8 players have featured in five or more 30 goal partnerships and top spot doesn’t go to Messi or Ronaldo, but rather Raul who has been involved in 10 great partnerships. Across two countries, he scored goals with Morientes, Zamorano, van Nistelrooy (2), Ronaldo (2), Guti, Huntelaar, Higuain, and Suker. That’s impressive.

The other compatibles are Cristiano Ronaldo (7), Messi, Del Piero, Makaay, Eto’o, Berbatov, and Rooney (all five).

 

So there you have it, it’s not just the big man-little man partnership (Quinn-Phillips), or the classic goalpoaching number 9 and playmaking number 10 (Romario and Stoichkov) that make great partnerships. It can be wide men with false number 9s, a lone striker with an advanced midfielder (Torres and Gerrard/Drogba and Lampard) or if you’re lucky, it may even be Toni Polster and Bruno Labbadia (FC Koln 1994-95).

This season will see entries from Suarez and Sturridge, Ronaldo and Benzema, and Messi and Sanchez. Tevez and Llorente also stand a good chance of joining the elite club along with a few others

I’ll chuck the full list up in the coming days.

Cheers,

Liam

;

Notable ommissions – maybe other countries/world cups

Near miss

La Liga Round 10

8 Nov

Some strange times in La Liga, as Ronaldo, Messi and Falcao all failed to score in the last round of fixtures, whilst at the same time, Real Betis fans are cheering on Sevilla – Salva Sevilla, a central midfielder who’s scored in his last two games for the club.

The lack of Ronaldo and Messi goals didn’t matter too much as both Real and Barca won, with Modric and Essien on the score sheet for the former. For Atleti, the lack of Falcao goals did hurt them as they went down 2-0 at Valencia, who opened the scoring through current average opposition leader Roberto Soldado (4 goals against an average of 7th). Falcao has scored almost half of Ateltico Madrid’s 22 La Liga goals this season in what has been a great start for both him and his club.

In terms of goals, last season’s Top three remain in order, with Falcao already equalling his number of goals against Top 6 opponents from last season. Along with Soldado, Pizzi also has four goals against an average ranked opponent of 7.00, whilst it’s Sevilla’s Negredo that is leading the way in the Top 6 stakes, with three stirkes against the best teams in the league (at the time of play).

In terms of team wins, whilst Barcelona have had their best start to a league season with 9 wins from 10, they’ve largely done it against the weaker teams, with five of those wins coming against teams in the Botton 6 – surely a very favourable fixture list to ease Tito into Pep’s rather large shoes. Real Madrid on the other hand have managed to beat an average ranked team of 11.00, with teams in the middle of the table, being beaten in the main, but surprisingly no Top 6 teams. City rivals and currently in second, Atletico Madrid lead the way against Top 6 teams with two wins already this season, though you expect them to somehow implode somewhere along the way – like the Man City of old, it’s in the club’s nature.

Real Sociedad have only managed three wins this season, and against an average ranked opposition of 17.00, it would appear as though there’s a struggle ahead. You should also fear for Mallorca. After starting the season in blistering fashion (three wins and two draws from the first 5 games), they’ve since lost five games in a row.

Top 50 Big Game Scorers – 30-21

20 Aug

The countdown continues from 30 through to 21. This ten feature four players still active(ish), and some all time greats. For 40-31, click HERE

Cristiano Ronaldo makes the Top 50 Big Game Scorers – ahead of Lionel Messi…..for now

30. Sandro Mazzola (Italy) 1960-1977 / 15 points – 6 goals

Son of the great Valentino Mazzola of Torino and sadly the Superga air disaster, Sandro Mazzola was a great in his own right. Part of ‘Le Grande Inter’, he had a massive impact on the golden era of Inter Milan under Helanio Herrera. Despite the defensive tactics employed by the team, Mazzola was a regular scorer from the outside right position and especially so in the European Cup. An integral part of Inter’s run of three finals in four years from 1964-67, he scored some of the most crucial goals in that time. Facing European giants Real Madrid complete with Di Stefano, Amaro, Gento and Puskas in the 1964 Final, Mazzola was the difference with two goals in a famous 3-1 win, coming after his two goals in the Semi finals put Inter through against Borussia Dortmund. A year later, it was Mazzola’s away goal in the semi final away to Liverpool that made the difference on aggregate as the Italians defended their crown. Fast forward to 1967 and Mazzola scored in the final again although this time it would end in defeat to the Lisbon Lions of Celtic.

29. Pieter Robert (Rob) Rensenbrink (Netherlands) 1965-1982 / 15 points – 6 goals

Eagle eyed readers will have noticed Kurt Hamrin’s pretty impressive four goal tally in UEFA Cup Winners Cup Finals – in fact it’s the joint highest in the history of the competition. Joint with Rob Rensenbrink. The left winger took an unusual career path, when you see a Dutch player from the 70′s featuring on this list then there’s a good chance he was part of the great Ajax team. Oh no. Rensenbrink played for AFC Door Wilskracht Sterk in Holland from 1965 to 1969 before moving to FC Brugge in Belgium. Surprise number two is that he joined big rivals FC Anderlecht after just two seasons. And it’s with Anderlecht that he shone – winning the Belgian league twice, as well as the Belgian Cup, and most importantly for this list, two Cup Winners Cup medals. In the 1976 Final, it was Rensenbrink that scored twice to deny West Ham their second European trophy in a 4-2 win. A defeat the following season in the Final was forgotten just a year later as they defeated Austria Vienna 4-0 with Rensenbrink scoring the all important first and second goals. His other big game entries came in the Final Group stages of the 1974 and 1978 World Cups where he scored against East Germany and Austria respectively. He could however have been a lot higher up the list and in the list of greats had it not been for a few inches. The 1978 World Cup final was stuck at 1-1 with hosts Argentina competing with Holland. Resenbrink was able to play in his preferred wide left of the front three due to Cruyff’s absence. With just 30 seconds left, this happened:

A few inches to the right and Rensenbrink would have scored the winning goal for the first time in Holland’s history and finished as the tournament’s top scorer. Instead, people talk about how they would have won it with Cruyff. Football can be a cruel game. In the words of Jan Mulder, his Holland and Anderlecht team mate “Robbie Rensenbrink was as good as Cruyff, only in his mind he was not”.

28. Hernan Crespo (Argentina) 1993-Present / 15 points – 6 goals

Now onto someone a bit more current – just. Hernan Crespo is currently a free agent (at the time of writing) after leaving Parma, though aged 37 it’s just a matter of time before he hangs up the boots. Perhaps, understandably compared to Argentine team mate Gabriel Batistuta, Crespo was once the holder of the World Record Transfer fee when he moved to Lazio for £35m in 2000. Famous for his off the ball movement, he was a clinical finisher and especially in the big games. Most notably in the 2005 Champions League Final, scoring two goals to put AC Milan 3-0 up. That didn’t end particularly well for him and his team mates, but his second goal was one of the best finishes seen on the big stage:

The previous year also saw him score in the semi final stage against Monaco for Chelsea, whilst in 1999 he scored the opening goal in the UEFA Cup Final as a star studded Parma team demolished Marseille 3-0. And to confirm his big game credentials, 1996 saw Crespo’s brace in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores Final to win the tournament for River Plate, for only the second time in their history. Final goals in three major competitions leaves his place in the list unquestioned.

27. Marcelo Delgado (Argentina) 1990-2010 / 15.5 points – 6 goals

Very much a Copa Libertadores specialist, Marcelo Delgado was not prolific striker (his 18 caps for Argentina produced no goals), but he was very much a man for the big occasion. Only two men in the history of football have scored more Copa Libertadores Final goals – Uruguay’s Alberto Spencer (more on him later) and Coutinho of Brazil (#42). Delgado’s first came in the 2001 Final when Boca Juniors faced Mexican side Cruz Azul. Delgado scored the away goal as the Argentines won in Mexico, only for the second leg to end in a reverse. Penalties ensued, and as befitting of a big game player, Delgado scored what would prove to be the winning penalty to give Boca their 4th title. Two seasons later he was at it again, this time scoring in the semi final win against Colombia’s America de Cali before an all Argentine team beat Santos 5-1 on aggregate. Alongside Carlos Tevez in attack, Delgado scored three final goals (two at home, one away). He then briefly left the club for a one season spell with Cruz Azul where he formed a partnerhip with Delgado (Cesar) before returning to Boca for 2005-06. In all, he won three Libertadores medals with the Buenos Aires team, who have won the trophy six times in their history.

26. Juan Alberto Schiaffino (Uruguay) 1943-1962/ 16 points – 6 goals

The Uruguayan and some time Italian international (that sort of thing was a lot more common back then) was part of the Maracanazo final of 1950. With Brazil leading it was Schiaffino that struck the equaliser in the high pressure Final against the hosts. Uruguay would go on to claim their third crown, much to the World’s surprise, with a goal from Ghiggia (51st on this list). For his club teams the forward excelled for Penarol in Uruguay but it was after a move to AC Milan in the mid 50’s that he’d score more high profile goals. He hit one in the 1956 European Cup semi final defeat to Real Madrid who were taking their first step to becoming the greatest team in competition’s history. Two years later he hit two more at the semi final stage to knock out a Manchester United that were tragically weakened by the Munich air disaster. In the Final Shiaffino actually put the Italians 1-0 up, but it wasn’t to be as the game ended 2-2 after 90 minutes and 3-2 to Madrid after extra time, thanks to Gento.

25. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) 2002-Present / 16 points – 7 goals

Ronaldo has an unfair reputation of being something of a flat track bully. But fear not Cristiano, you’ve made it into the Top 50 big game scorers, which is one of, if not the biggest achievement in football. He’s specialised in the Champions League with a semi final goal against AC Milan in 2007, followed by a brace at the same stage in 2009 against Arsenal, and then another two in this year’s semi final against Bayern, this time for Real. The biggest goal came in the 2008 final against Chelsea as United completed a memorable double when Ronaldo scored one of his famous headers. A year later, he didn’t score in the Final, but was Man Utd’s best player and the only one that put any real pressure on the Barca goal. For his country, a semi final strike for Portugal on home soil in Euro 2004 is the biggest goal he scored as they qualified for the Final, and if you point to the winning goal in the Copa del Rey Final (2011) against Barcelona and an FA Cup final goal against Millwall, then you have a case for the defence. In short, he’s not a bottler.

24. Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina) 1995-Present / 16.5 points – 8 goals

Despite spending a large chunk of his career in Spain with European regulars Barcelona and Villarreal, all of Riquelme’s big game goals have come in South American games, for club and country. A gifted if slightly lazy number 10, Riquelme specialised in dictating play and set pieces. A legend at Boca Juniors where he’s sometimes been seen as a disruptive influence (it is rumoured that team mate Martin Palermo retired instead of playing another season with him), the talented number 10 and Scarface impersonator brought back the good times to Boca. Scoring in the semis on the way to Boca’s first title in years (alongside Delgado), he would go on to do so again on his return to Argentinean football with semi final goals in both 2007 and 2008. But it was for his contribution to the 2007 final that would result in a statue being erected in his honour. Facing Brazil’s Gremio, Boca won the first leg 3-0 with Riquelme scoring the second. In the second leg, the playmaker scored both goals to give Boca a 5-0 win. Impressive. For his country, he often played second fiddle to Veron and Aimar but was on target in the Copa America semi final of 2007 against Mexico on the way to defeat in the final against Brazil.

23. Hector Rial (Spain) 1947-1964 / 17 points – 7 goals

Another of the great Real Madrid side of the 1950’s, Rial joined Real from fresh from winning the Uruguayan championship with Nacional. Born and bred in Argentina (although he played for Spain), the front man spent seven seasons in the Spanish capital from 1954 to 1961 – neatly coinciding with the five straight European Cup wins. And he had a pretty big part to play in them too. In the Semi Final of the first ever European Cup in 1956, Rial scored the first goal as Madrid knocked out Milan 5-4 on aggregate, and in the final, would score both an equaliser and the winning goal as they defeated Stade Reims 4-3. Not content with being the man to make the difference in the biggest club game ever played, he scored two semi final goals the following year – this time home and away against Matt Busby’s Manchester United before Real would claim the trophy against Fiorentina. In the 1957-58 competition he scored a 79th minute equaliser as Real came from behind to beat AC Milan to win their third successive trophy. He was scoring not only in the big games, but decisive goals. By the time the 1958-59 season had come around, the tournament had grown from 16 teams to 28, not that it made any difference to Rial and Madrid. He scored the equaliser in the semi final stage against city rivals Atleti before claiming another winners medal in the final. Sure, his international career wasn’t much to write home about (5 caps and 1 goal for Spain), but when it came to performing in the big matches, Rial was a man to rely on.

22. Alessandro Del Piero (Italy) 1988-Current / 17 points – 7 goals

There’s always been a feeling of Del Piero going missing in the big games (regular readers may remember these stats), but that’s only when taking his ability into account. The fact that he’s still 22nd on the all time list of Big Game Scorers suggests that maybe he has been a man for the big occasion. Hi first big game goal came in the 1997 Champions League Final against Borussia Dortmund as Juventus lost their crown as the Champions of Europe. Fast forward to the 1997-98 competition, and Del Piero was top scorer with 10 goals. In particualr, he absolutely dominated the semi final stage – hitting a hat trick in the first leg at home to Monaco, before soring his fourth against them in the return leg. Unfortunately for him and Juve, despite reaching their third successive final, they’d lose 1-0 to Real Madrid and a goal from Pedrag Mijatovic. He wasn’t quite done there though, as he scored in the semi final of the 2002-2003 tournament, getting revenge on Real as they were defeated 4-3 on aggregate. In the final, despite scoring his penalty in the shoot out with AC Milan, he ended up with his third runners up medal in seven years. Even more disappointing is that Juve had finished a massive 16 points ahead of their conquerors in Serie A. For the natioanl team, Del Piero famously missed two good opportunities as France came from behind to win Euro 2000 in extra time, but he would have redemption in the shape of World Cup semi final goal against hosts Germany in 2006.

21. Romario (Brazil) 1985-2009 / 17.5 points – 6 goals

World Player of the Year? Check. World Cup Golden Boot? Check. Scorer of 1000 goals? Check. All things point to a natural inclusion for Romario on this list. His most important goal came in the 1994 World Cup semi final win against Sweden to Brazil in their first final for 24 years. He also scored his penalty in the World Cup Final shoot out better known for Baggio’s miss. Aside from 1994, Romario also popped up with some valuable goals on the way to winning the Copa America in 1989 and again in 1997. The 1989 edition saw final group stage goals against bitter rivals Argentina, Paraguay and then in the final group game to decide the winners against Uruguay. Eight years later and with the tournament back in a knock out format, Romario scored a double in the semi final as Brazil scraped past Peru 7-0 on the way to winning the tournament. Big game scorer then?

Well maybe, but if you’ve claimed to have scored 1000 goals (including youth matches and presumably headers and volleys in the back garden), surely you should have scored more than six goals in the Finals and Semi Finals of major tournaments? Especially when playing for the likes of Brazil and Barcelona. In fact, when you scrapte the surface, he played in the Finals of the 1994 World Cup, the 1994 Champions League, and the 1997 Copa America, but didn’t score. Fair enough, you can’t be expected to score in every match, but when you say that you’re better than Messi, and equal to Pele, Maradona and Zidane, then you should probably be able to back it up a bit better. More on Messi vs Romario (and Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho) here.

Euro 2012 – The Findings

1 Jul

First and Foremost – Spain = All Big Game Players. That’s right, www.averageopposition.com for cutting edge analysis.

In particular, a few words about Cesc Fabregas. He must surely be considered a Big Game Player. I put forward the evidence:

  • Euro 2008 Quarter Final – Winning Penalty against Italy
  • Euro 2008 Semi Final – Two assists against Russia
  • World Cup 2010 Final – Assist for the only goal against Holland
  • Euro 2012 Semi Final – Winning penalty against Portugal
  • Euro 2012 Final – Assist for the opening goal against Italy

He may not have scored in open play in these games, but he’s had a major influence on each game, as Spain went on to win an unprecedented three successive tournaments. And the difference between winning tournaments and not is down to having players like Fabregas that can make a difference in the highest pressure atmosphere. Almost all of the above were coming on as a substitute as well. He also scored the equaliser in the opening game against eventual finalists Italy.

Looking at his club form this season, there was a hint at his big game tendencies. Although his output dropped significantly in the second half of the season (9 league goals by game 17, none after), he scored against Real Madrid, Valencia (in the league and cup), City Rivals Espanyol, and then there’s the small matter of goals in the World Club Cup final against Santos, and the European Super Cup Final against Porto. Chuck in a few more goals against Top 6 teams Atletico Madrid and Levante, and it all points to a Big Game player.

Xavi Hernandez, Fernando Torres and Sergio Ramos are also particularly worthy of an extra mention. Xavi grabbed two assists in the 2012 Final as well as one in the 2008 Final. Torres of course became the first player to score in two European Championships Final, and Sergio Ramos is the only defender who played in the final of all three Tournaments – and along with Casillas, conceded no goals in the last 10 knock out games.

And just to provide further evidence (if it was needed) why Spain are the best team in the World – here’s an eleven made up of players not in the squad, whether that be injury, international retirement of just not capped yet:

Spanish players not in the Euro 2012 squad

Apart from Spain

There were of course some other teams playing, and this being a site that concetrates on the Big Game Player, here’s a quick look at some of the names that entered the tournament with big expectations (as originally previewed here).

Mario Gomez – Okay, he got the joint Golden Boot with three goals, but as predicted on this very site, he did nothing in the knock out stages. Sure, I predicted him to go missing against Holland, but that was on the basis that Holland were gonna be good. His lack of impact on the knock out stages was in fitting with his performances in both the Champions League Final, the German Cup Final, and in general, against any Top 6 team in the Bundesliga.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Massive expectations were on his shoulders, and it showed in the first two group games, where he was shown up by the likes of Niklas Bendtner. However, his double against Holland for me was more impressive than Gomez’s as the game was effectively a knock out game – a Holland win saw them through and Portugal out. He delivered arguably the performance of the Tournament. He then went on to score the winner in the Quarter Finals against the Czech’s and was a constant threat against Spain in the Semi-Final. He didn’t get to take a penalty in the shoot out due to his want to be the 5th and possibly final taker.

Robin van Persie – He scored in his biggest game and against the best opponents, with a very well taken goal against Germany. However, after the season he had in the Premier League, his European Championships, like the 2010 World Cup, must go down as a failure. He was better than Klaas Jan Huntelaar though. He is another who had a Flat Track Bully season in the league for Schalke.

Mario Balotelli – He went into the tournament unsure of a starting place and with just one international goal to his name. It’s fair to say that he came out with an enhanced reputation. A goal against Ireland in a must win game, followed by an impressive albeit goal less, performance against England. Then in the the Big Game environment of a Semi Final against Germany, he scored two quality goals. He didn’t have a lot to shout about in the Final, but aged only 21, and on the back of a season where he scored two at Old Trafford and a last minute winner over Spurs, he has already showed signs of being a Big Game Player. We shouldn’t forget his penalty against England either. Team mate Di Natale had his best moment in the opening group game against Spain, but was often left out for Cassano, who notched against Ireland but no one else.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – To an extent, he laid to rest his Big Game Bottler tag. Goals in the opening game against Ukraine and and the final game against France saw him meet most people’s expectations (maybe not his own of three hat tricks in the group stages). However, Ukraine were one of the weaker teams at the tournament, and when Sweden beat France 2-0, they were already out, so the pressure was off. The most important game was that against England. He didn’t score, so the jury is still out on his big game credentials. He probably doesn’t even know who won last night.

Wayne Rooney – Unfortunately continued his World Cup form. He did at least score one goal (from 1 yard), which unfortunately fooled people (Roy included) that he should stay in the team. He did, at least score more than Karim Benzema who seemed to play wide or deep, but not really in the area.

All in all, there weren’t really many surprises from a Big Game Player perspective. None of the leading names really performed differently to their League seasons – with the exception of Wayne Rooney. In the league, he scored 8 goals against Top 6 opponents, and in 2011 he scored in the Champions League Final. Everyone else reverted to form.

La Liga Round 37

8 May

With the league title already tied up last week, there’s only one place to start. Lionel Messi. Although Barcelona will end up with fewer medals this season than in recent years, it’s been Messi’s greatest season personally. In the last two league season’s, he’s scored a combined 65 goals in just 68 games – phenomenal. I, like many, wondered if he’d peaked already, and if he could stay at that level. Boy is my face red. In the weekend’s Barcelona derby against Espanyol, Messi gave Pep Guardiola a parting gift – scoring all the goals in a 4-0 win. That takes his league tally to a ridiculous 50 goals in 36 games. We’re going to have to invent some more words for him as I’m all out of superlatives. In all competitions for Barcelona, he’s hit 72 goals in 58 games (beating Gerd Muller’s record). When you add in his 28 assists, he’s been responsible for 100 goals in all competitions this season. Anyone who doubts his credentials as an all time great doesn’t deserve to watch him play.

In what’s been a quite frankly ridiculous season, Barcelona have now gained 90 points, and scored 112 league goals. And that’s not even good enough for first place. Real Madrid only scored the two in a 2-1 away win at Granada, to take their tally to 97 points and 117 goals. Ronaldo scored one to take his personal count to 45 in the league – a career best for him. How he must curse Messi.

So with the news on the big two out of the way, the next port of call is the race for a top 4 spot. And as with the Italian League, it’s going to go down to the final day:

Valencia tied up their customary 3rd place finish with a 1-0 over Villarreal (more on that one later), courtesy of Jonas’ 7th goal in 8 games, taking his tally to 10 for the season (12.10). It’s below 3rd that it becomes interesting. Going into the final day of the season, one of four teams can take that final Champions League spot. However, it’s all in Malaga’s hands despite a 2-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid at the weekend. They face 19th placed Sporting Gijon at home, making them clear favourites. Atletico are also facing a team fighting relegation in Villarreal (16th), whilst Levante host Bilbao, and Mallorca who beat Levante at the weekend to make it 4 wins in a row, have to try and stop Real Madrid reaching 100 points. Based on that, it’s likely to be Malaga’s spot, though with Sporting still in with a chance (albeit slim) of staying up, it should be theirs.

In terms of the average opposition stats, Messi’s 50 goals have been against an average ranked opponent of 10.22 in the league table (average position in a 20 team league is 10.5). The split of 12-25-13 (24% vs Bottom 6, 50% vs Middle 8, 26% vs Top 6) is close enough to where you’d expect it to be for a regular scorer with just Ronaldo ahead of him in goals against the Top 6 teams. Barcelona team mate Alexis Sanchez hols there best average with 6.91, whilst there was also no change at the bottom as del Moral retains the lowest average ranked team per goal with an impressively low 17.30, and no goals against Top 6 teams. Valencia’s Jonas (12.10) and Vallecano’s Costa (8.30) both move into the Top Scorers chart with goals at the weekend. Costa in particular has done it against decent teams, with 5 of his 10 against the big boys, and 4 against mid table opponents, including his double at the weekend against Seville (who scored 5 in response).

And so onto the battle to avoid relegation:

Sporting will require a miracle of sorts to escape the drop as they travel to 4th placed Malaga. They will have to hope that Vallecano (hosting 15th placed Granda) and Real Zaragoza (away at 11th placed Getafe) will both lose. Villarreal host 4th placed chasing Atletico Madrid. They looked to be safe just a few weeks back, but one win in five (against Sporting) has seen them fall right back into trouble. Couple that with Real Zaragoza’s excellent recent form and it really could be any team up to 15th that fall. Zaragoza’s latest win (4th in 5) was at home to Sporting, winning 2-1. Sporting have faced and lost to both Zaragoza and Villarreal in recent weeks as they look set to play their football in the Segunda Division next season. If I were a betting man (and i’m not), I’d go for Sporting and Villarreal to drop this weekend.

Cheers,

Liam

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

La Liga Round 33

17 Apr

As much as I hate to focus on the two poster boys of La Liga, it’s very hard not to. Because they’ve both just broken the scoring record in the Spanish League on the same weekend. In round 29, I put up their stats side by side. Since then, they’ve both scored six goals – so let’s have another look:

Messi wins the games per goal.

Ronaldo wins on Average Opposition.

Messi wins when taking away Penalties.

Ronaldo has most goals against the Top 6.

Messi has more assists.

Ronaldo has less goals against the Bottom 6.

Messi’s goals have been worth more points.

So the winner is………..Going to be known at the end of the season. If they don’t finish level on goals, then one of them is going to feel very very hard done by at not winning a golden boot. It looks like Ronaldo is favourite for the league title though, as Madrid came from behind to beat 18th placed Sporting Gijon. It was the usual trio of Ronaldo, Benzema (18 goals – 10.56) and Higuain (21 goals – 9.52) with the goals as Madrid scored their 107th league goal of the season. Those chancers over in Catalunya only have 96 goals after beating 5th placed Levante 2-1, courtesy of Magic Messi. The gap is still four points and the next game is of course el Clasico this weekend. It’s a big one.

Somehow still in 3rd place and around 70 points behind Barcelona are Valencia. To say they’ve had an inconsistent run is a bit of an understatement. After beating 12th placed Vallecano 4-1 last week, they lost 4-0 to 10th placed Espanyol. The last 6 games have seen just 5 points returned. That means the fight for fourth has become a fight for third. But it’s a fight that nobody seems to want to win. Malaga in 4th have one win from four games, everyone’s favourite underdogs Levante are in 5th with one win in five and Osasuna in 6th have one win in four. This is the form table over eight games:

No surpise at the top, but the race for the Champions League spots could go to any of the top 11 teams. Valencia’s 14 wins is the lowest total for the 3rd placed teams in Spain, England, Germany, France and Italy……and Holland and Portugal and Belgium and Turkey. Even Accrington Stanley (who are they? Exactly) have 14 wins in League Two, and they’re in 12th place.

Hats of to Getafe who are 3rd in the form table. They beat 7th placed Seville 5-1, in a game that saw Venezeulan striker Nicolas Fedor score a brace. Who he? You’ll know him (possibly) as Miku. The former Valencia youngster scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season to catapult him into the Top Scorers list, as seen below:

He’s performed well against decent opposition too – with an average of 8.73 (3rd best) and 5 of his 11 goals coming against Top 6 opposition, including two against league leaders Real Madrid. He still has a way to go to beat Alexis Sanchez’ 7.50 average, and Ronaldo’s 15 goals against the Top 6. Those two are the big game players, with a nod to Messi (10 goals against Top 6) and Valencia’s Roberto Soldado (8.38).

The Flat Track Bully continues to be Manu del Moral of Seville. His average of 17.30 is the lowest of any player in the Top European Leagues with 10 goals or more. He won’t mind too much though, as this is the most prolific season of his career. Other movers on the top scorers list this weekend were Fernando Llorente (16 goals – 10.8), Castro Martin (14 goals – 10.14), Negredo (11 goals – 13.27) and our favourite player Falcao. The Colombian now has a very impressive 22 goals for the season (30 in all competitions). His latest victims were 13th placed Rayo Vallecano – a ranking right up his street. That’s 7 goals in his last 8 games for the player sometimes criticised for bullying the poor clubs (not by me, that’s for sure). Well played Radamel.

That’s all for now, anyone watching the Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid will know that I always believed in Mario Gomez as a big game player as well. Honestly.

Cheers,

Liam

La Liga Round 32

13 Apr

In what could become a theme on this site, let me begin with “Shit! Did you see that?” again. And once again it’s a Cristiano Ronaldo rocket that grabs the attention:

That was his second goal of his seventh league hat trick of the season. This now puts him on 40 league goals for the season, which is just stupid really. This was of course during the Madrid derby – the bi-annual event which always leaves Real with 6 points. Due to nature of a derby, this should be classed as a big game – though due to the nature of the Madrid derby, it probably wasn’t. The final score was 4-1 to the visitors in what could have been a slip up. Madrid had the added pressure of knowing that Barcelona had closed a previous 10 gap margin to just one point with victory over 10th placed Getafe on Tuesday night. It didn’t seem to make a difference to Mourinho’s men though as they extended their unbeaten run to 17 league matches. The biggest surprise for me, was the continuation of Falcao’s big game performances. After notching against Barcelona in round 24, he has now got the other one of the big two, after his strike briefly brought the game level. I’ve been quick to judge him as a Flat Track Bully, but he’s now starting to show up in the big games. A debut season in a foreign league will always be hard, so to score 21 league goals is impressive. Sure his average ranked opponent is only 12.67, but he’s going in the right direction.

Messi of course scored in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Getafe, but rather embarrasingly for him, he only got one. This leaves him on just 39 league goals for the season. I actually posted a question to the Knowledge wondering what the highest tally of goals was to not win the Golden Boot in any of Europe’s top leagues. One of these two are surely going to do so this season? Also on the scoresheet for that game was Alexis Sanchez who scored a brace. In what’s been another good debut season, he now has 10 league goals for the season and has the best Average Opposition rating for any player in double figures, with 7.50. He was previously behind Cesc Fabregas, but it’s now been 11 games since he troubled the opposition goal.

Ronaldo continues to lead the way against the Top 6 teams, with an incredible 15 strikes. One player who has entered the Top Scoring charts of late is Real Sociedad’s Carlos Vela. The young Mexican forward is on loan from Arsenal, and has, until now, failed to live up to the early promise shown in the U17 World Cup that convinced Wenger to sign him. However, something seems to have clicked of late and he’s now scored 6 goals in his last 7 games – and his average opposition ranking of 9.7 suggests that he can live at the top. He’s still owned by Arsenal but given the lack of chances he’s had there, and the insult of being behind Chamakh in the pecking order, he’s made noises about staying in Spain on a permanet basis. You can’t really blame him, I’d be insulted if Chamakh was picked ahead of me, and I’m an unfit, untalented Centre Back in my (early) 30s.

Also on the list above and with a half decent average is Levante’s Kone. He scored his 13th league goal (10.62) for Levante in their defeat to bottom team Sporting Gijon. What’s strange about his goal is that it takes him closer to 18 goals – at which point he has to contractually go back to parent club Seville. He has 15 in all competitions, but wants to stay at Levante. Unfortunately for everyone’s favourite underdog, this defeat sees them remain in 5th as both Malaga and Valencia have won in recent rounds. Malaga have actually had a certain Ruud van Nistelrooy amongst the goals in recent weeks, with strikes against Racing and Espanyol in the last few games. Unfortunately for them, he couldn’t stop a 2-1 defeat to a desperate Villarreal who scored twice in the last 7 minute move seven points clear of 18th place. This should be a big enough gap to keep them up. With Malaga slipping to a late defeat, Valencia finally snapped out of their lump with a 4-1 defeat of Rayo Vallecano to move back into 3rd. Rayo were brought back down to earth with a bump after their 6-0 win last time out against 6th placed Osasuna. What a strange league it is.

The Flat Track Bully continues to be Seville’s del Moral with a massive 17.30 ranked opponent per goal. Whilst he’s in danger of falling out of the top scorers list, it could be Falcao inheriting the unwanted title next time round. Time will tell.

Cheers,

Liam

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