Tag Archives: Leo Messi

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.

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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 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 25

7 Mar

Just a quick update on La Liga this weekend. In what could be an identikit update: Real Madrid won, Barcelona won, 10 point gap…..league over. Done. Scratch the surface a little and Barcelona had to win without Messi as he was surprisingly suspended. What was also surprising is that Iniesta and Keita both scored only their first goals of the season in a 3-1 win against 19th placed Sporting Gijon (Xavi scored the other). Madrid’s win was a little more convincing – scoring 5 without reply at home to 8th placed Espanyol. Cristiano Ronaldo continued his great form – hitting his 30th goal of the season, whilst Gonzalo Higuain’s brace were his first goals in 5 league games. Kaka and Khedira completed the rout.

It was nice to see Levante win again at the weekend and hold on to that 4th spot, and also refreshing to see was Torres finally scoring again. Xavi Torres that is – on loan from Malaga. He scored the second goal in a 3-1 win against 12th placed Real Betis in a game where Kone and Barkero also scored. And it turns out that some of the other teams have realised that 4th place is actually pretty important after all – with Torres’ parent club Malaga and Bilbao both winning.

Cesc Fabregas holds onto his Big Game Player crown, by virtue of a goal drought, whilst Falcao keeps hold of his clown hat, with an average opponent per goal of 14.07. Hot on the heels of Falcao is Rayo Vallecano’s Michu. His brace against 18th placed Racing Santander lowered his average to 13.46. He did score a couple against Real Madrid at the start of the season though, but they were ranked in a lowly 7th place at the time. His goals have been worth 10 points to Vallecano this season, and have had a big impact in their recent form – with 4 wins in 5. Higuain’s return to goalscoring form brought him back up to 3rd in the goalscoring charts, and increased his average opposition ranking to a decent 9.00.

Cristiano Ronaldo stays top of the goalscoring chart, and to score 30 goals by the first week of March is an amazing achievement. When comparing Messi and Ronaldo earlier on in the season, the main difference was Messi’s ability to get assists, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw that Ronaldo is only one behind Messi in the assists table:

What’s not so surprising is that Messi leads the way in the big game assists. He has 5 against Top 6 opposition, and an average ranked opponent of just 4.75 per assist – including one against fierce rivals Madrid. Elsewhere on the list, Carlos Vela is the creative bully, with 5 of his 7 assists against the Bottom 6 clubs, leaving him with an average of 15.14.

Leading the way outright is Angel Di Maria with 13. With an average opponent of 9.46, he’s certainly enjoying a good season – and even more remarkable is that he’s only played one game since Christmas. Madrid and Barcelona dominate the Top 10 with 4 players each in the assists table.

Coming up next is the Bundesliga round up, with my weekend predictions in tow.

Cheers,

Liam

La Liga Round 22

14 Feb

And then there was one. Well played Jose, it looks like you’ll leave Spain with your head held high. A 10 point lead over the greatest team in the world is a pretty large gap, and one that you don’t expect a Jose Mourinho team to lose. If Barca beat Madrid again in the league, and go on to win the Champions League (possibly beating Madrid again) – it’ll be a bittersweet success for the fans and the boss. But that’s a lot of ifs. After losing away to Osasuna, Barcelona left themselves with a Bernebeu shamped mountain to climb, and Real Madrid have won 17 of their last 18 games. Good luck with that. As mentioned by La Liga expert Sid Lowe in the excellent Football Weekly, this could well be the weekend that decided the Spanish Title. Madrid can lose 3 games of the last 16 and still win the league.

Busquets after hearing about the 10 point gap

So with that decided, we can look at the rest of the league. Apart from Madrid’s ridiculous winning run, there’s been some other notable trends, that i’ve touched on before. For the seventh game running, Levante failed to pick up a win. For the seventh game running, they managed to stay in the last Champions League spot. But Seville can top that – they’ve picked up just 2 points from the last 8 games as they’ve plummeted to 13th. Unlucky for some. But wait, there’s more! And this is quite the shock – and no, it’s not Falcao scoring against anyone good. Bottom side Real Zaragoza, ended Round 22 with a win, their first in 14 (fourteen) games. And more surprising than that is that it was against 5th placed Espanyol (see Levante, Lucky). And it was away!

And so onto the Average Opposition Index for La Liga’s goalscorers:

Ronaldo scored his 6th hat trick of the season (there was another penalty involved for those wondering). This takes him up to 27 league goals this season, and more importantly for his AOI rating, this latest treble was against 4th placed Levante (seriously, how are they still in 4th!?). Not only does that increase his average opponent per goal to 8.59th place, it also takes his goals against Top 6 opponents to a massive 12. Add that to the recent goals against Barca (albeit in the cup), and you get the feeling that Cris, as some people probably call him, has silenced a few critics. I’d like to claim an assist here, as it seems to have happened since the Messi vs Ronaldo comparison. You’re welcome Cristiano.

Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid played 3rd placed Valencia in Round 21 which meant that Falcao had a chance to prove us wrong and deliver in a big game. It finished 0-0. He retains the Flat Track Bully Tag for this season.

Cesc Fabregas keeps hold of the Big Game Player title, though hasn’t scored since Round 17. Real Betis’ Castro Martin has a very respectable 7.29 which is largely down to a brace against Valencia, and one against Barcelona, whilst Higuain is in 4th place in the AOI ranking behind his team mate Ronaldo in 3rd.

After the success of my Premier League Predictions for Round 24, I thought it’d be interesting to try and apply it to another league. So, with nothing to gain (I don’t generally bet), but plenty to lose (any credibility) here are the fixtures for this weekend, and my 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.

Good Luck.

Bundesliga and Serie A to follow this week.

Cheers,

Liam

La Liga Round 19

26 Jan

Whilst all eyes were on the 127th el Clasico(s) of the last 12 months, there have also been some league games since the last La Liga update. After the crushing defeat at home to Barca before Christmas, Real have put together a fantastic run of victories – winning the last 4 league games, and scoring 17 goals in the process. They say a measure of a team is how they react to set backs. Mourinho’s men have certainly reacted well to the Barca defeat, and now hold a 5 point lead at the top after Barcelona dropped points to neighbours Espanyol. However, they’ll have to react well again after another defeat in the Copa del Rey to their bitter rivals, and talk of dressing room unrest between the Spanish players and the Portuguese speakers (which was also leaked to the press).

Jose is currently in the middle of a dressing room war, and looks very sad about it, though that could be because someone stole his glove puppet.

Valencia are sitting pretty in 3rd without having to do much, whilst Levante’s early season run is a thing of the past. No wins in 4 games, and only 1 goal. They’re still clinging onto 4th spot, but Espanyol have closed the gap to 3 points. I think most neutrals would be happy for either to finish in the last Champions League spot.

Onto the players and the Average Opposition Index. It’s no surprise to see Cristiano and Leo at the top. Ronaldo banged in 2 more goals at the weekend (both penalties) whilst Messi scored his 4th hat trick of another mediocre season. Like his boss, Ronaldo has also been under fire in the Madrid press, though he has since gone on to score in both legs of Madrid’s cup defeat to Barca. That should shut a few people up – and would suggest I wrote him off too soon myself in the Player Comparison.

Ronaldo’s 2 against Bilbao improved both his AOI and also increased his goals against Top 6 opposition to 9 – impressive stuff. Similarly, Messi’s hat trick against 8th placed Malaga also helped his average increase to 9.59. Prodigal son, Cesc Fabregas is still leading the way from an AOI ranking with a frankly ridiculous 4.78 ranked opponent per goal. He is the stand out big game player, and seems to be refusing to score against the bottom 6 teams.  Team mate Alexis Sanchez also deserves a nod for his impressive 6.73, and has scored 6 league goals in the last 6 games. The two major signings have certainly hit the ground running for Barca this year. The whole team seem to be able to do it regardless of the opposition (unless it’s Getafe).

Roberto Soldado continued his good season with his 12th of the season against 5th placed Osasuna. He’s currently many people’s choice for Fernando Torres’ international place – although with Villa out, he may get a stay of execution. Another rival for that place is Bilbao’s Llorente, who scored his team’s only goal in a 4-1 defeat at the Bernebeu. Nonetheless, it gave him his second goal vs the elite, and also improved his average to a decent 8.43.

 Falcao celebrating after scoring another goal against the local Blind School’s Under 12’s mixed XI

At the other end of the Index, despite what appears to be a cracking start to his career in Spain, Falcao continues to bully the smaller clubs. His hat trick at the weekend (his 2nd of the season) was against 14th placed Sociedad. Now, I’m not saying he’s a poor player, far from it, it’s just the facts would suggest he flatters to deceive. His 14 league goals have come in 8 games. The highest ranking opponent that he’s hit the net against was 10th placed Vallecano. He’s scored 3 of his goals against then 20th placed teams, whilst his hat trick at the weekend actually improved his AOI rating. He’s undoubtedly a good player, he just has to prove it againt someone half decent.

What will the second half of the season bring? Real to hold onto their lead and win the title ahead of the best team ever? Maybe. Messi and Ronaldo to score 100 goals between them in all competitions again? Probably. Fabregas to keep up his average opponent per goal rate? Unlikely.

It’ll be an interesting second half in Spain, personally, i’d love to see Levante hold on to 4th (if not, then Espanyol), Valencia to put a bit more pressure on the top 2, and Falcao to score against one of the Top 9.

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