Tag Archives: Gonzalo Higuain

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:

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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 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

Player Comparison: Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo 2009-11

16 Dec

Inspired by the recent el Clasico, I thought now would be a good time to have the first Average Opposition Index player comparison. And who better to start with than the undoubted best players in the world. I’ll leave out Carlton Cole for the time being as he’s not playing in the same league (yet).

Contenders:

Barcelona and Argentina’s Leo Messi, the current World Player of the year vs former World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal. Both play as Forwards – whether that be down the middle or from wide, both are generally part of a front 3.

Rules:

As usual, I won’t be including European Champions League Average Opposition as these are not ranked in the same competition, instead I’ll include La Liga games only from the last two completed seasons – 2009-10 and 2010-11. I’ll also compare their international goal record from an Average Opposition Index perspective.

La Liga:

From when Cristiano Ronaldo finally made his long anticipated move to Real Madrid in 2009, all eyes were on the show down between him and the existing king of La Liga – Leo Messi. By way of comparison, in the two seasons in question, Messi made 68 appearances in the league compared to Ronaldo’s 63. In those appearances, Messi scored a mind boggling 65 league goals compared to the even more impressive 66 by Ronaldo.  In terms of scoring alone, Ronaldo has a strike rate of 1.05 goals per game, compared to Messi’s 0.96.

La Liga 2009-2010:

Surprisingly, Ronaldo wasn’t even Real Madrid’s top league scorer in the 2009-10 season, with Gonzalo Higuain scoring 27 to his 26 goals. However, due to an injury ravaged season last year, Higuain’s record doesn’t stand up to comparison. And so on to the Stats:

The 2009-10 season was Ronaldo’s first in a new league. With that in mind, his record of 26 goals from 29 appearances is phenomenal. Unfortunately for him, this is a comparison against Leo Messi. Messi’s 34 goals in just 35 appearances is even more impressive. Based on the Average Opponent per Goal at the time, Messi’s 10.50 is exactly where you’d expect a player to be and shows his high performance against all opposition. This is emphasised by the ranges of opposition he has scored against. 10 goals against the other 5 teams in the Top 6 excluding his own is a great achievement and inline with the other stats above. This includes a hat trick against 3rd placed Valencia and a double vs Sevilla (5th).

Ronaldo by comparison had an Average Opponent per Goal of 12.38 based on their position at the start of each round. Looking at his ranges, again, there is a good split between Top/Bottom 6 and also the majority in the Middle 8 is where we’d expect to see this. Where Ronaldo falls behind is that he’s 3 goals behind Messi vs Top 6 opposition, and 4 of his 26 goals were from the spot, compared to just one of Messi’s. Both scored in a similar number of games where comparing the Average Opposition Index for the final league positions, although Ronaldo’s increases to 11.85, Messi’s is still better despite it decreasing to 11.18. At the time of play and at the end of the season Messi did it against harder opposition, and more often.

Winner: Leo Messi

Unsurprisingly, Messi who had been playing in La Liga for 5 previous seasons won this fight on all fronts.

La Liga 2010-2011:

So with a season of La Liga experience behind him, Ronaldo and his team mates targeted Messi and the Barca boys, and this time they had Jose Mourinho calling the shots. Despite his reputation for defensive football, Mourinho’s teams have often been record breakers in goals scored and points collected. Ronaldo especially thrived under his stewardship, along with two important other factors – he was now the main man at the Bernebeu after Raul’s exit, and he was also being supplied by Di Maria and Ozil. For Messi, he also had a change in his forward partners with Ibrahimovic and Henry leaving, replaced by Villa and youth product Pedro. And so onto the stats once more:

First and foremost, in a similar number of appearances, Ronaldo outscored Messi by a whopping 9 goals – take out each players penalties and there’s still 5 goals in it. In terms of the Average Opposition both were close enough to the expected 10.5 mark. However, where Ronaldo really shines is in the Top 6 goals. Of his 40 league goals (41 if you read Marca – the Madrid based and in no way biased sports paper), a massive 16 were against other members of the Top 6 including a four away at Sevilla, and a hat trick at home against Villarreal – one of 6 hat tricks scored in the season. It was against other members of the Top 6 that splits the two players – although Messi does come out on top in the number of games scored in.

However, what the stats don’t tell is that 3rd-6th were a long way behind the big two. Valencia, who finished in 3rd were 21 points behind 2nd placed Madrid, whilst 4th placed Villarreal were 30 points behind. Towards the end of the season when it was clear that Barca were going to win the league, the Madrid players were going out of their way to provide for Ronaldo – he scored 11 in his last 4 games. In that same period, Barcelona had one eye on the Champions League final and Messi didn’t score one goal. Upto that point in the season, Messi was actually ahead of Ronaldo in the scoring charts.

Though we should give credit where it’s due – 11 goals in 4 games in itself is an incredible achievement. Boosted by his late flourish, Ronaldo beats Messi in all but the number of games scored in.

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

La Liga 2009-2011:

So looking at their league performances in the two full seasons they’ve played in the same competition:

There’s one goal in it in Ronaldo’s favour, though he has scored 7 penalties more than his rival. Messi is ahead in games scored in and has an Average Opposition per goal of 10.63 compared to Ronaldo’s 11.38. Ronaldo is ahead on goals against the Top 6 whereas Messi trumps him in the other ranges. With the closeness in the goal scoring stakes, when looking for a winner and without wanting to sit on the fence it’s worth looking at some further factors.

With the rest of the opposition so far behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, a better indicator than just looking at the Top 6 goals is the goals in the head to head games. In the four league games played, Messi has two goals compared to Ronaldo’s one. Something that continues to be levelled at Ronaldo is that he rarely performs well in the el Clasico’s. Even in last week’s game, he missed two good chances, and also neglected to pass to team mates in better positions. In the games last season, both scored a penalty in a 1-1 draw in Madrid, whilst in the first game in Barcelona, Messi was outstanding, laying on rather than scoring goals for his team mates in a 5-0 win. And it’s Messi’s ability to create that gives him the edge. Last season saw Messi top the assist league table with 18 compared to Ronaldo’s 10. Going back to 2009-10 season and it was a similar story – Messi leading Ronaldo.

So with that in mind, the Winner is Leo Messi.

Internationals:

For their countries, it’s a similar story – albeit the gaps are wider. Whilst Ronaldo has scored 32 goals in 87 appearances for Portugal (0.37 goals per game), Messi has scored 19 in 66 (0.29 goals per game). However, when comparing the Average Opposition per goal there’s little room for debate. Messi has scored on two occasions against #1 Spain, and also against Argentina’s fierce rivals Brazil. The worst opposition he’s scored against as per the FIFA Rankings at the time of play is Algeria #67. Interestingly, when the two nations faced each other in February of this year, both scored in a 2-1 win for Argentina but crucially, Messi also got an assist.

Both failed to impose themselves on the 2010 World Cup – one of the few criticisms that can be levelled at them. Messi’s solitary World Cup goal being in the 6-0 win over Serbia & Montenegro in a game famous for Cambiasso’s team goal back in 2006. Ronaldo scored in 2010, but it was against North Korea – ranked 105th in the World. This was in addition to his 2006 World Cup goal against Iran. For Ronaldo’s 2 goals in the European Championships (2004) see Messi’s 2 goals for Argentina in the 2007 Copa America.

In Conclusion:

Looking at just the stats, it’s difficult to separate the two players in the comparisons available. What can be agreed is that both players still need to do more at International level – especially in a World Cup, but as both are in their Mid-20s and with a World Cup less than 3 years away, they should both have the chance to do so.

Taking into account the goals against each other and the assists that Messi provides, the argument up until now falls in Messi’s favour. Both are outstanding players, but you can use the recent Real Madrid v Barcelona game as a microcosm of their rivalry. Take away Ronaldo’s goals and there’s not much else on offer, whereas Messi created the first goal after picking up the ball from his Centre Back, beating 4 men, and playing a perfect pass through for Sanchez to score. It was a similar story in the 5-0 win last season – Messi didn’t score but was man of the match.

Ronaldo is a modern great – a former World Player of the year, a scorer in a Champions League final, and the winner of the Golden boot in two strong leagues and in the Champions League.

But he’s not Messi.

Both have 17 league goals this season, as this intriguing head to head continues. Both can count themselves unlucky that they’re playing at the same time as another 50+ goal a season forward (in all competitions), but it’s great for the neutral. Messi is ahead due to his all round game, but it’s far from over.

I’ll revisit this at the end of the season. I came into this expecting a clear win for Messi, but the fact that it was assists that separates them says a lot for the rivalry.

Cheers,

Liam