Tag Archives: Malaga

La Liga Round 38

16 May

With the league title wrapped up, it was just a case of Real Madrid flexing their muscles and break their own records. In beating 7th placed Mallorca they wracked up a massive 100 points from a possible 114 (which is mental), and in scoring another 4 goals (Ronaldo, Benzema, Ozil x 2), they extended their own goals scored recored to 121 goals. I’m gonna put my neck on the line here and suggest that it’s not going to be beaten in a regular 38 game season. It’s impressive.

But that’s not where the drama lay at the weekend. Far from it. It was the fight to avoid relegation that had the Man City-esque ending, for Rayo Vallecano at least. The real story was Villarreal’s relegation from La Liga. The same Villarreal that was in the Champions League this season after finishing last year in 4th place. The same Villarreal that have qualified for European Football for the last 8 seasons (including a 2nd and 3rd place). They’ve had a terrible season under three different coaches, but the way they went down was just cruel. Starting the day in the relative safety of 16th, they were facing Atletico Madrid (5th – chasing a Champions League spot) at home, whilst Rayo Vallecano and Real Zaragoza who started the day in 17th and 18th were facing Granada at home (15th) and away at 11th placed Getafe respectively. Real Zaragoza continued their amazing recent form, by swatting aside Getafe 2-0. That made it four wins in a row and eight in the last eleven games to guarantee safety. That left one place between Villarreal, Vallecano and Granada. Villarreal could draw and guarantee safety regardless of the result in the other game, and up until the 88th minute, they were. Then Falcao (12.83) struck for Atleti. Not to worry, it was still 0-0 in the other game, meaning Rayo would be going down. That was, until the 90th minute, when veteran striker Raul Tamudo scored to put them ahead. And just like that, Villarreal were down. They could have drawn and send down Granada, but it wasn’t to be. It’s a shame for a small team that had consistently punched above their weight, but the loss of Santi Cazorla (Malaga), Joan Capdevila (Benfica) and most crucially Guiseppe Rossi (injury).

The battle for 4th was settled with a little less drama. Malaga started the day in 4th, and facing 19th placed Sporting, the only surprising thing is that they only won 1-0. Despite all the big name signings after new ownership came, it was last season’s top scorer Jose Rondon who grabbed the winner. It was the 22 year old Venezuelan striker’s 11th goal of the season (10.81) after 14 last season. With the likes of van Nistelrooy, Toulalan, Cazorla and Demichelis coming in, there was a sense of change as Malaga looked to reach the Champions League in a slightly more measured approach than recent Billionnaire owned clubs, and it looks to have paid off.

Regular readers (hi Mum) will know that I oaccsionally have a bit of a pop at Falcao for his Flat Track Bully ways. People can point to the Europa League Final (last two years) in his Big Game Player defence, and whilst it is a great achievement, there’s a nagging feeling I have that maybe it’s his level. In the league, of his 24 league goals, only 2 were against Top 6 opponents (albeit the big two), which is a pretty paltry return for a player being valued at £50million. His goals against Bilbao in the Europa League final were effectively against 9th placed opposition, whilst the goal to relegate Villarreal was against Bottom 6 opposition. Now I know you can only beat what’s in front of you, but of a possible 10 games against Top 6 teams, to score in only two of them is questionable for a Superstar Striker. An average ranked opponent per goal of 12.83 would back up the Flat Track Bully claims, though it’s still a good way behind del Moral’s 17.30. He takes teh official Flat Track Bully tag for the La Liga season based on opponent’s ranking at the time of play. I’ll be looking at it from the final league rankings in the end of season review in the coming weeks.

One man who cannot be labelled a Flat Track Bully is Real Betis striker Ruben Castro (Martin). Having been key in the promotion campaign last year, he scored his first La Liga goals for four years this season, and several more followed. He finished the season on 16 goals, and most of them were important. He averaged a point per goal as Betis finished in the safety of 13th. What’s more, of the 16 league goals, half of them were against Top 6 opponents, including a brace at the weekend in the 2-2 draw against Barcelona (previously the best football team in the galaxy of all time ever). In fact, he scored in both games against Barcelona, as well as scoring against Valencia and Malaga this year. His average of 9.13 was slightly lower due to the 5 goals he scored against Bottom 6 teams, but all in all, he can be classed firmly as a Big Game Player. But not the biggest. Cristiano Ronaldo may have embarrassed himself and his family with a measley 46 league goals this season, but at least he can take consolation that 16 of them were against the Top 6 teams. That’s easily the highest in Europe – ahead of Messi’s 13. In terms of average opposition ranking, it’s Alexis Sanchez who has the best rating of 6.91 based on positions at the time of playing. Especially well done in a debut season in a new country.

Full Season review to follow with bells and whistles in the coming weeks.

Cheers,

Liam

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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 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

La Liga Round 27

20 Mar

First and foremost, nothing to do with stats but a bit of class displayed by Real Madrid at the weekend after the terrible news about Fabrice Muamba:

It was a nice touch from a club that has it’s fair share of detractors (not least Fergie), and especially the note to Barcelona’s Abidal who’s awaiting a Liver Transplant after overcoming Cancer last year.

Unfortunately for Madrid, there wasn’t the same amount of goodwill shown to them from Malaga (6th). All looked to be going according to plan with Benzema’s 4th goal against Top 6 opponents, with an assist from Cristiano Ronaldo. This would have been 12 straight league wins – a record held under Pellegrini, now coach of……Malaga! Luckily for him, Santi Cazorla stepped up in the very last minute and scored a fantastic free kick – as seen here. With Madrid finally dropping points, Barcelona managed to clse the gap to a slightly less uncatchable 8 points with a 2-0 win away at Seville (10th). As usual, Messi scored, but what is interesting is that Xavi scored his 8th league goal of the season, and 13th overall. Aged 32, Xavi is enjoying the best goalscoring season of his career. In fact, at the time of writing, he’s just scored against Granada to make it 14 goals for the season.

Messi’s goal meant that he closed the gap on Ronaldo to 1 goal in the race for the golden boot (though he has also juist scored twice against Granada to become Barcelona’s all time leading scorer – more of that in round 28). Ronaldo still leads the way in goals against the Top 6 with a whopping 13. He doesn’t hold the Big Game Player tag though, that still remains with Cesc Fabregas. The former Arsenal schemer is going through a barren run in front of goal at the moment (2 goals since Christmas), but at least that keeps his average opponent ranking per goal at 4.78, and if we’re honest, he’s probably got his priorities right.

One Spaniard who has managed to break his scoring duck is Valencia’s Roberto Soldado. His hat trick against 5th placed Bilbao ended a 2 month dry spell in La Liga. And it’s also increased his AOI to 8.20, whilst taking his goals against Top 6 opponents to 8. Just ahead of him in the goal scoring charts is friend of the site, Falcao. After the blip of scoring against Barcelona recently, he’s returned to form and scored in successive games against 16th place Granada, and 14th place Mallorca. Though it must be said that the goal at the weekend was a beauty (click here). Plus 17 goals in a debut season is not to be sniffed at.

A new face to La Liga currently making waves is Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian youngster is on loan at Espanyol from Inter Milan, and after a slow start, he’s scored 3 goals in his last two games. A brace in the 5-1 win against Rayo Vallencano (11th), followed up with a goal and an assist against Racing Stantander, have helped the Barcelona club into 6th.

And a La Liga round up wouldn’t be complete without checking on Levante. And I’m pleased to report that they are back in 4th place after losing it briefly in the last round. Three wins in four games is a good turn around after three in fifteen. This is a team that finished 14th last season. The latest victory was against the Yellow Submarines, Villarreal. And what of the team that finished 4th last season? Well I think it’s fair to say that they’ve had a shocker this season. The defeat to Levant was their 4th in 5 games, and it leaves them just one place above the bottom 3.

Premier League Update to come once the midweek fixtures have been completed.

Cheers,

Liam

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 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