Tag Archives: Valencia

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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Top 50 Big Game Scorers 10-6

11 Sep

Finally into the Top 10, and the big guns are out, with seven World Cup Final goals between the next five players, plus a Copa Libertadores legend. For 20-11 see HERE

10. Eusebio (Portugal) 1957-1979 / 23 points – 9 goals

Mozambique born Portuguese legend, Eusebio was one of the most prolific scorers of the 60’s. With a reported 727 goals for Benfica, the lightening quick frontman dominated the Portuguese league, winning eleven titles in his stay with the Lisbon giants. However, it was his performances in the European cup that first brought him to the World’s attention. Playing in four finals and scoring in two of them, Eusebio lifted the trophy just once in 1962. The previous year had seen Benfica end Real Madrid’s reign as Kings of Europe as they beat Barcelona in the Final, and the 1962 Final paired the two of them against each other. Despite Madrid storming into a 2-0 and then 3-2 lead (thanks to a Puskas hat trick), Benfica stormed back to win 5-3 thanks largely to a brace by Eusebio. The man known as the Black Pearl had done this aged just 20 in his first full season with the club.

A year later, he was in the thick of it again as he scored against Feyenoord in the semi before notching another Final goal, this time against AC Milan who overturned Eusebio’s goal with a brace by Altafini. He’d suffer further Final heartache to Inter Milan in 1965 and Manchester United in 1968, scoring two semi final goals in both seasons.

His stay with Benfica wasn’t always so smooth though. When he signed for them, he alledgedly had to go under an alias to avoid kidnapping, whilst after the 1966 World Cup, Portugal’s dictator Salazar passed a law stating that he wasn’t allowed to leave Portugal after Inter Milan bid a massive $3m for him. In 1966. And whilst on the subject of the 1966 World Cup, Eusebio top scored with nine goals, including a memorable four goals haul versus North Korea. Portugal would eventually bow out at the Semi Final stage where Eusebio’s goal wasn’t enough to stop hosts England progressing to the Final.

 

 

9. Mario Kempes (Argentina) 1970-1996 / 24 points – 6 goals

It’s fair to say that the 1978 World Cup brought the best out of Mario Kempes, and especially the big games. Kempes won the golden boot much like Paolo Rossi after him, with all his goals scored in the final stages. Argentina finished the first group stages behind Italy, but in the Final Group stage, Kempes would burst into life. He scored the only goals of the game in a 2-0 win against Poland, before hitting another brace in the 6-0 win over Peru, a result that put them in final ahead of Brazil on goal difference. And of course, it was the Final that would be Kempes’ greatest moment. On home soil, Argentina faced the mighty Dutch who were contesting their second successive Final. Kempes opened the scoring in the 38th minute, only for the Dutch to equalise late on. In extra time, Kempes put the hosts ahead for a second time before it was made safe by Daniel Bertoni. Argentina had won their first ever World Cup, and Kempes had finished top scorer with six goals. You might want to put the video on mute:


In what was a prolific career, Kempes will be best remembered for his time with Valencia which saw him win two Pichichi trophies, a UEFA Cup Winners Cup (versus Arsenal) and the Copa del Rey in 1979, when he scored both goals in a 2-0 win against the mighty Real Madrid. He became something of a journeyman in his later career (that saw him scoring goals into his 40s), taking in spells in Austria, Chile and Indonesia, where he still remained prolific. He went on to play twelve more times for his country, but the extra time goal in the World Cup Final was his last for his country. A big game player when his country needed him most.

 

 

8. Vava (Brazil) 1949-1969/ 27 points – 6 goals

And coming in at number eight is Brazilian great Evaldo Izidio Neto, known more widely as Vava. Despite winning just 20 caps for the national team, Vava won the World Cup twice, in 1958 and 1962 and scored nine of his 15 national team goals along the way. Nicknamed Steel Chest (not quite as cool at Zico’s nickname), Vava was known as a goalscorer first and foremost. And he did that very very well. The first man to score in two World Cup Finals (only three others have managed this), he first came to International prominence in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. With Brazil looking to make amends for finishing runners up at home four years earlier, Vava, along with a 17 year old Pele and the mercurial Garrincha, won Brazil’s first World Cup. Aftecr just four minutes, they found themselves 1-0 down in the Final to the hosts, courtesy of a goal from AC Milan’s Nils Liedholm. cometh the hour, cometh the man – Vava stepped up to make sure there would be no repeat of the 1954 disappointment. And despite all of Brazil’s beautiful football, it was two poachers goals from him that firstly equalised, and then put them 2-1 up. Brazil went on to win the game 5-2 and in doing so, would begin a legacy that has seen them become the greatest footballing nation in the history of game.


And it shouldn’t be forgotten that he also scored in the Semi Final win against France – once again an important goal, with Vava scoring the opener. And he wasn’t finished there. Four years later he was even more instrumental. He top scored with four goals despite the fact that his first goal wasn’t until the Quarter Final win over England. In the Semi final win against hosts Chile, Vava’s goals were the difference as he scored a brace in a 4-2 win (along with player of the tournament Garrincha). And once again, he was at it again in the Final, scoring the third and final goal as Brazil retained their trophy with a 3-1 win over the Czechs. Once again, it wasn’t a classic Brazilian strike, with Vava this time pouncing on a goalkeeper mistake as seen here.

He enjoyed spells with Vasco da Gama, Atletico Madrid and Palmeiras (among others) before moving into coaching, where most notably he was the assistant manager of the 1982 Brazil squad – generally regarded as the best team never to win the tournament.

 

7. Alberto Spencer (Ecuador) 1953-1972 / 27.5 points – 13 goals

After a few World Cup specialists comes the King of the Copa Libertadores, Alberto Spencer. After spending his whole career in Ecuador and Uruguay (he also represented both countries), he’s somewhat unknown in Europe, despite his prolific scoring record. Even now, he’s the all time Top Scorer in the history of the Copa Libertadores, and it’s his 13 goals in the latter stages of the tournament that warrants his inclusion in the top 10. In total he scored 54 goals in the tournament from 1960 to 1972. Internationally, despite never appearing in a World Cup, he does have the distinction of being the only player to have played and scored simultaneously for two countries. In fact, he swapped between Ecuador and Uruguay no less than four occasions. Nicknamed the Magic Head due to his heading ability, Pele once said of him “Someone that headed better than me was Spencer. I was good, but he was spectacular heading the ball“. He didn’t however, mention problems in the bedroom.

And so onto the goals. Spencer scored in four different Copa Libertadores finals, and has a whopping eight Final goals. It should be remembered that Finals were played over two legs, but that’s still an incredible record and the epitome of a big game player. On top of that, he also scored five goals at the Semi Final stages. In 1960, after Spencer scored two goals in the semis, Penarol were facing Olimpia of Paraguay. In the first leg, he scored the first Final goal in the history of the now prestigious tournament – a fitting start for what he’d go on to achieve. That goal proved to be the difference as Penarol won 2-1 on aggregate. A year later, and the opponents had changed (Palmeiras of Brazil) but the outcome was the same. Spencer scored the only goal of a 1-0 first leg win, as Penarol went on to defend their crown with another 2-1 aggregate win. Penarol found themselves in a 3rd successive final in 1962 as they looked set to dominate the tournament the way Real Madrid had done with the European Cup. But it wasn’t to be. Spencer scored three more semi final goals against fellow Uruguayan’s Nacional. In the final, they faced Pele’s Santos, and despite Spencer’s goals in both legs of the Final, the Brazilians went on to win the play off 3-0. Injuries and form meant that Spencer didn’t get to play in another Final until 1966, and once again, he was pivotal. Scoring in the second leg of the final, this time against River Plate, Spencer decided the playoff game with the first and third goals 4-2 win to win his third and final winners medal. Pele wasn’t lying about his heading ability:

6. Ronaldo (Brazil) 1993-2011 / 32 points – 9 goals

It’s probably easiest to just start with the goals for Ronaldo, as they tell a pretty clear story:

He’s played in the Final of four different major tournaments and scored in all of them. Some correctly point out that he never scored in the European Cup Final, to which the simple answer is that he didn’t play in one. The closest he came was with Real Madrid in 2002-03. They ended up losing to Juventus 4-3 on aggregate, with Ronaldo playing and scoring in the 2-1 first leg win, but missing the return match which meant both he missed the chance to play in the Champions League Final, and also that the rest of us had to watch what is one of the worst Finals in the history of the competition. But I digress. This is all about Ronaldo. In my eyes, the pre injury Ronaldo was the best player I’ve ever seen, and had the potential to be the best of all time. Quite a statement I think you’ll agree but when you compare him with say Messi at the same age (19-20) Ronaldo scored 47 goals for Barca whilst Messi scored 17. I know there are plenty of variables to that, but it does tell a story.

Unfortunately though, the injury did happen, and football fans of the World had to put up with a bulked up but watered down version of the Brazilian striker, and he didn’t do too badly. Pre injury, he played and scored the only goal in the Cup Winners Cup Final for Barcelona against PSG in 1997. A year later at Inter, he played and scored in the UEFA Cup Final win over a Lazio team containing Nesta, Casiraghi, Nedved and Mancini. The goal showed his trademark rounding of the keeper, something that he seemed to take great joy in doing (as seen here). For Brazil, by the time of his first injury, he’d dazzled all before him with goals and assists in the 1998 World Cup, including a goal in the Semi Final against Holland. Unfortunately, we all know what happened in the Final, though at the same time, we all know what was to come four year later. He’d also scored in the Final of both the 1997 Copa America verus Bolivia and the 1999 Final against Uruguay with this effort – highlighting his ability to finish equally well on his left foot as his right. Pace, Power, Technique and accuracy:

After the injury (November 1999), he was visibly different, but he adapted to great success and fulfilled his greatest dream by winning the World Cup in 2002 (after recoevring from a second career threatening injury). And how. Ronaldo scored 8 goals in his 7 games (the highest total since 1970) including the winner in a 1-0 defeat of Turkey in the semi final, before his moment of redemption – the 2002 World Cup Final against Germany. Sure, he had a crap haircut, but look at the hunger for the first goal – winning the ball back (after losing it to be fair), and following up on Rivaldo’s speculative effort. The second was a thing of beauty though.

To be the all time World Cup top scorer, to have scored in two Copa America finals, and two European club finals, and to be the only man to score on both sides of the el Clasico and the Milan derby tells you all you need to know about his big game credentials. Ronaldo was a man for the big occasion. The fact that he did all this and people still talk about what might have been also shows you what a player he was, especially before the injuries. When Zinedine Zidane was asked who was the best player he ever played with or against he didn’t pause when he replied “without hesitation, Ronaldo”

The Top 5 will be up next week.

La Liga Season Review: 2011-2012

9 Jul

Next up in the season reviews is the Spanish League. More specifically, Real Madrid, Messi, Ronaldo and a few others. Okay, maybe not as blatant as that, but with the season’s that they’ve had, it’s going to be hard to look past them on all of the calculations. But I’ll give it a shot…

It was of course a record breaking season in Spain’s top flight, Barcelona beat the previous record of 107 goals with some breath taking attacking play, unfortunately for them, Real Madrid scored more than them with a jaw dropping 121. Madrid also beat Barca’s 99 point haul with 100, and Messi scored 50 league goals on his own – more than 13 of the teams in the League. You could be forgiven for thinking that it was a very weak league, but with the showings of Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League, and with Barca and Real in touching distance of an El Classico Champions League final, the standrad is still sky high. But I’m here to look at the stats from how players and teams did based on their opposition. If you want a very good season review by a proper journalist then click here. So without further ado – the statistics.

Goalscoring

Big Game Players – Messi, 17 goals versus Top 6 opponents, and Da Costa, Average Oppostion 8.40

Despite what you may think, this is actually a surprise win for Messi. Throughout the season, based on opposition based on the time of play, Cristiano Ronaldo has led the scoring vs Top 6 from almost start to finish. However, this review is based on the final positions, meaning that hat tricks against Atleti and Malaga (both ranked 8th at the time of play) translate into 6 more goals against Top 6 teams based on final positions:

That’s 17 goals in 10 games against the other Top 6 teams. That’s ridiculous. But, and it’s a big but (not in the Jennifer Lopez way), he didn’t score against Real Madrid. And for those that incorrectly think there’s only two decent teams in Spain, it’s a glaring ommision for Messi. No surprise that Cristiano Ronaldo was in second with an almost as brilliant 13 goals against the big teams. The Madeira born winger scored against all of the teams in the Top 6, including crucially, the winner against Barcelona in the Nou Camp – which ultimately settled the whereabouts of the League Title. Big Game performances for a man often accused of not doing it. Add to that the brace he scored in the Champions League semi final, and a further brace against Holland in the Euros, and all of a sudden, it’s clear that he’s not just a flat track bully that some would have you believe.

Real Betis’s Castro Martin (left) is the best of the rest with a very decent 6 goals – impressive considering that Betis finished in 13th position. He scored three goals against Barcelona, two against Valencia and one against Malaga.

In terms of those with the highest average ranked opponent per goal, that honour (and it is an honour), goes to Rayo Vallecano’s Diego Da Silva Costa with 8.40. Although only 23, the Brazilian forward is somewhat of a journeyman, with 7 clubs under his belt so far. On loan from Atletico Madrid, he managed a very impressive 10 goals from 15 starts, including strikes against Top Sixers, Valencia, Malaga and Levante. Such was his dislike of the small occasions, he only scored once against the teams at the bottom of the table. Three strikes against Osasuna and Sevilla just outside the Top 6, helped his average up.

Castro Martin’s average was also suitably impressive with 8.81 – bouyed by the 6 goals mentioned above, against the elite teams, whilst Alexis Sanchez was the only other player with 10 goals or more to have an average under 10.00

Of course, for every player that thrives in the big games, there’s another who bottles it.

Flat Track Bullies/Big Game Bottlers

Below is a list of the players with the most goals against the Bottom 6 teams. I’ve taken out Messi (15) and Ronaldo (14) as they scored just as many against the Top teams. Looking at the below, it’s reasonable to suggest a couple of them are Flat Track Bullies, or just Big Game Bottlers:

My old pal Falcao is present in the final table, as he was throughout the season. He undoubtedly had a great debut season with 24league goals, but for me, he just didn’t do it enough against the best teams. A split 11-11-2 suggests there’s a tendency to go missing against the better opposition, and although he did score goals against Real and Barca, that’s just two goals from 10 games against the other teams in the Top 6. He can of course point to another goal in the Europa League final, but is that perhaps the right level for his talents? Time will tell.

Valencia’s Jonas and Agirretxe of Sociedad both had near identical records, with 60% of their league goals scored against the poorer teams. Both scored just one goal against the Top 6 teams. Flat Track Bullies? Indeed. Benzema and Kone can be excused for their large haul against the Bottom 6 teams as they at least had the good grace to score a respectable amount against the good teams as well.

Unlike del Moral of Sevilla.

And as if to prove his status as the ultimate Flat Track Bully, here’s handy table showing the players with the worst Average ranked opponent per goal scored (10 goals or more).

An average that low doesn’t really need any extra commentary, but I’ll just point out that four of his 10 goals came against bottom team Racing Santander. The big bully.

So that’s the deal from a Big Game Player/Bully/Bottler situation. But there is another parameter. The importance of the goals – both to the result, and to the team.

Points won and Importance to the Team – Lionel Messi, 23 points earned, and Castro Martin, 34% of his team’s points

And it’s another nod to Messi. It’s no real surprise given he scored 50 league goals last season, but he was the player that won themost points for his team last season. Of the 25 games he scored in, his goals were decisive to the result in 11 of them. The 23 points won by Messi’s goals are second only to Robin van Persie’s 24 for Arsenal (from 30 goals).

The table below shows both the number of points won (see rules and workings link above for calculations), and the percentage of the team’s points.

Once again Castro Martin’s name pops up, and he managed a very decent point per goal with 16. And due to Betis’ relatively modest points haul, that 16 was 34% of their total amount, meaning that he is the most important player to his team – in terms of goals as points.

And the goalscoring review wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the guys creating the goals.

Assists – Mesut Ozil, 17 Assists, and Cristiano Ronaldo, Average Opp of 9.08

There’s a pretty clear winner there, with Mesut Ozil of Germany and Madrid, leading the way with 17. He didn’t bother the scoresheet as much as a player with his ability should, with just 4 league goals, but at just 23, 17 assists in the league is a great return. However, there is an element of the flat track bully about his creations, with 9 assists against the Bottom 6 teams and just two against the Top 6. It is worth pointing out though, that if the goal is not scored due to poor finishing, that’s not the fault of the bloke that set it up.

It’s a Real Madrid heavy table, which is no real surprise given that they scored 400,000 goals last season. Argentine’s Di Maria and Barca’s Messi, followed in second with a decent 15 assists each. Like Ozil, Di Maria’s assists were weighted towards the lower opposition with an 11.47 average rank, and just two recorded against the big boys. Messi managed a decent four against the Top 6 teams, which is impressive given that he was normally on the end of chances.

Like Messi, Ronaldo also managed four assists against Top 6 opposition, but none against the Bottom teams. As a result, his 9.08 average ranked opponent per assist, is the highest in the Top 10 assisters.

It’s a pretty good list to be part of, with inclusions for Jesus and an Angel. Holy Creators!

For those that are interested, I’ve put up the full scoring stats of any one with double figures, and i’ll be adding the Team Stats shortly (ish).

So well done to the Big Game Players – Ronaldo, Messi, Ozil, Castro, and Da Costa. Shame on you Falcao and del Moral. And in the words of Forest Gump, that’s just about all I have to say on that.

Cheers,

Liam

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