Spanish Watch - Analysing La Liga's heavyweights: Game Week 10
In 2001, when Phil Ball wrote his infamous book “Morbo: The History Of Spanish Football” he lived in a relatively tepid time without Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The book, focused around the Spanish slang word “morbo” which, although difficult to translate, is more like “the cause of rivalry” or rather “fuel of rivalry”.
It went through the entire history of Spain’s beloved game along with historical and political underpinnings that highlighted just how fierce the rivalry between Spanish clubs in general and the big two of Barcelona and Real Madrid is in La Liga.
Spain’s game is far more ingrained into their fan’s hearts than in England. It’s more about national identities like Barcelona being Cataluna’s flag bearer while Espanyol lie in Barca’s shadow.
The same way Athletic isn’t just Bilbao’s team it’s the heartbeat of the Spanish Basque region while Real Sociedad and Osasuna are the lesser known underdogs from the same area.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, are seen as an example of Spanish centralism. There is plenty going on in Spanish supporters’ heads that translates to the intensity of the football on the pitch and the extensive nationwide “morbo”.
Not much has changed in Spain in terms of the dominance of Barcelona and Real Madrid, until recently where Atletico Madrid have broken the shackles that these two mammoth clubs had on La Liga, and have emerged as a worthy force to contend with.
Gameweek 10 was a classic case of highlighting the gulf in class between these three and the rest of La Liga, well almost. This weekly column will track Spain’s heavyweights through all their games in La Liga this season.
The early kick off between newly promoted Deportivo Alaves and Real Madrid would not be a repeat of the feat Alaves achieved by beating Barcelona in September. Instead, Real Madrid won the game 4-1 in an entertaining display of attacking football.
Alaves are back playing in Spain’s premier division after a 10-year exile and Deyverson scored the surprise opener putting them in front. However, Real Madrid overpowered them soon after with Ronaldo scoring from the penalty spot to equalize.
Ronaldo had scored only twice in his last 6 outings in La Liga for Real – which isn’t too shabby, but being the goal scoring superhuman that is Cristiano Ronaldo, was considered a dip in form.
He fired a shot from distance, about 25 yards, to make it 2-1 and then missed a penalty for his hat-trick in the second half – very unlike his nickname inside the Real dressing room “Maquina” or “machine”.
Alvaro Morata would score Real’s third after receiving a Marcelo long ball and lobbing Pacheco in the Alaves goal. Ronaldo would finally complete his hat-trick in the 88th minute after a one-two with Marcelo and drilling home his third and Los Blanco’s fourth of the night.
This was Cristiano Ronaldo’s 43rd career hat-trick and 31st La Liga hat-trick in 243 La Liga appearances. This was also his 350th goal and 466 career league appearances. “La Maquina” seems to be holding true to his teammate’s nickname for him.
LANDMARK: Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 350 league goals in 466 games over his career.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) 29 October 2016
Sporting CP (3)
Man Utd (84)
Real Madrid (263) pic.twitter.com/CK2GpvHYNm
Cristiano Ronaldo scores his 43rd career hat-trick and his 31st in 243 La Liga appearances (7.8 La Liga matches needed per hat-trick). #CR7— Gracenote Live (@GracenoteLive) 29 October 2016
Elsewhere, rival Madrid club Atletico played Malaga in another fixture that was more or less over in the first half. Yannick Carrasco and Kevin Gameiro both scored braces as Atletico beat Malaga 4-2 on the night. Atletico talisman Antoine Griezmann, set up the first goal for Carrasco – a player who is slowly emerging as a vital piece of the Atleti puzzle.
He drilled home with his left foot from outside the box after a Griezmann layoff. Malaga equalized through a Ramirez free kick but Kevin Gamiero scored the second after a mistake by Malaga’s Ignacio Camacho who headed the ball straight to him.
Griezmann would be influential yet again after heading down a Felipe Luis long ball into Gameiro’s path, who then rifled home his second and Atletico’s 3rd goal within the first 45 minutes. The first half ended with Atletico leading 3-1.
Ignacio Camacho headed in from a Gonzalo Castro corner to score for Malaga but Carrasco put the game beyond doubt four minutes from time to make it 4-2. Carrasco now has 7 goals in 10 La Liga appearances for Atletico. While Atletico have scored more goals at home than any other side in Europe.
7 - No other midfielder has scored more goals than Yannick Carrasco in Europe's top five leagues this season (all competitions). Ray. pic.twitter.com/S21DHdSnoA— OptaJose (@OptaJose) 29 October 2016
18 - Atletico de Madrid have scored more goals at home than any other side in Europe's top five leagues this season. Artillery. pic.twitter.com/DKztdZioUi— OptaJose (@OptaJose) 29 October 2016
Barcelona and in particular, their front line of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar struggled against lowly Granada at the Camp Nou in a game that saw a lot of chances but barely any goals. Until the 48th minute when right back Rafinha scored an acrobatic goal after Neymar had hit the post.
Granada fought hard and defended well negating the most feared strike force in Europe. In what was a performance of much mettle and resolve than ambition by Granada, Barcelona dominated possession but only could muster one goal. MSN had an off colour night and were lucky to score thanks to Rafinha.
The right back now has 5 goals in La Liga from just 6 shots.
5 - Rafinha has scored five goals from just six shots in La Liga this season (five on target). Rescuer. pic.twitter.com/jhWNZMmqbm— OptaJose (@OptaJose) 29 October 2016
While Samuel Umtiti provided another solid display making the most passes made by any defender in La Liga this season, earning him quite a few plaudits.
115 - Samuel Umtiti completed 115 passes against Granada, more than any other defender in a La Liga game this season (115/120). Confidence. pic.twitter.com/DNrGax3YZC— OptaJose (@OptaJose) 29 October 2016
In what was a regular day at the office for La Liga’s giants Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, and Barcelona all came away with three points that further help their cause in chasing for the league title.
Barcelona laboured their way to victory while both the Madrid clubs performed in stellar fashion. Real Madrid lead La Liga with 24 points followed closely by Barcelona at 22 and Atletico at 21, while Sevilla find themselves also level with Atletico on 21 points and in fourth position.
Things are certainly heating up at the top of the table and there certainly will be more “morbo” among the rivals as La Liga progresses. That’s the Spanish Watch.
Tune in every week to this column for more.