Atleti scintillating, Rayo struggling – La Liga week 6Posted: September 25, 2013
Diego Simeone has began this season’s work at Atletico Madrid in great fashion, continuing with the improvements he’s done to the team since first joining the Rojiblancos midway through the 2011/12 season. They’re the in-form team in La Liga so far along with Barcelona, both teams sitting in the top two positions with 6 wins out of 6. Great rivals of both sides, Real Madrid, sit behind them by 2 points, only faltering on one hurdle, a difficult away trip to Villarreal in which Gareth Bale debuted for the Madrid side.
One reason for Atleti’s strong start to this season is their good performance in the summer transfer window. The low-cost (relatively speaking) acquisitions of Leo Baptistao and David Villa have added immensely to the squad with both players slipping neatly into the first team leaving the Vicente Calderón faithful wondering; Radamel who? Villa has started the season well for his new side, including contributing a goal and an assist in an important 2-1 victory away to last season’s fourth placed team Real Sociedad. Leo Baptistao broke into the Rayo Vallecano first team last year at the tender age of 20, and was widely touted as one of the best young players in La Liga. His goals and assists in the first half of the season last year were surely one of the reasons why Rayo not only stayed up, but finished in a club record 8th place in the league.
As good as these new players have been, and as solid as their defence has stayed this year (best defence in La Liga for 2012/13 with 31 goals conceded all season (Barcelona – 40, Real Madrid – 42); five goals conceded in opening six games for 2013/14), what’s probably been the most important factor in the strength of the team this season is Diego Costa. The Brazilian truly found his feet in Spain last season and became a fan favourite, with the Calderón crowd loving the energy, power, and work ethic of the physical striker. After six gameweeks this year, he lies level at the top of the Pichichi (top goalscorer) ranks with Lionel Messi, both of whom have scored seven league goals to date.
Sevilla managed to pick up their first win of the season against fellow strugglers Rayo Vallecano. The only points the Vallecano side have picked up this season came in an opening day home victory against newly promoted Elche. Sevilla haven’t looked poor all season, with Ivan Rakitic being the sole bright spark for the side for the most part, and he did his part in a week 6 battle of the bottom two in the Ramón Sanchez Pizjuán with two goals to his name.
Rayo are in trouble, even from this early stage. This midweek round of games continues with Rayo now bottom after Sevilla’s win means the Andalucíans overtook Paco Jémez’s team. The team are playing in the exact same style of play as last season’s very impressive year, which saw the administrated club enjoy the 3rd most amount of average possession throughout the year out of all teams in Europe’s major leagues, only bested in this by Barcelona and Bayern Munich. In fact Rayo even beat Barcelona in the possession game in their meeting in week 5, despite the Catalans still strolling to a 4-0 victory in Vallekas. However, the system isn’t working this campaign so far. The disorganisation in the defence is evident in every single match; four times now Rayo have conceded at least four goals in a single match (Atleti 5-0, Málaga 5-0, Barcelona 4-0, Sevilla 4-1). Basic mistakes cost them dear, small things such as defenders not picking up opposition strikers – not something you’d expect from the 8th best team in Spain going by the final table of the 2012/13 season. Meanwhile, for all their possession that they hold onto in a match, Rayo are largely unable to do anything with the ball. Creating and scoring chances have been as much as problems to Paco Jemez as keeping them out at the other end have been.
The only thing that Rayo fans can hold onto is that their opening fixtures were against difficult opposition, who they’d realistically probably be expecting to finish behind anyway; not teams they’re looking to measure themselves against. The bad news is that that difficult opening still isn’t over, Valencia (a) and Real Sociedad (h) are up next for Rayo.
After the 4-0 hammering from Barcelona, Paco Jémez vowed not to change his style of play and alter from the daring, adventurous, and ultimately highly entertaining route of passing his way from defence to attack. After the 4-1 away loss to Sevilla that put his side bottom, he remained confident that his side played in the right manner at times and could have drawn level when it was 2-1.
Neymar has scored his first league goal in Europe, with Barcelona’s relatively easy 4-1 drubbing at home of fellow Champions Leaguers Real Sociedad. The Brazilian didn’t begin the season as a starter for the Catalan club, as shaking off injuries left him not yet match fit. Neymar started Barcelona’s third game of the season, away to Valencia, and provided an assist for Messi’s third, which turned out to be the winning goal.
Five minutes into this week’s fixture against a generally well-drilled Real Sociedad side, Barcelona found themselves 1-0 up thanks to probably the most commercialised footballer ever. Neymar’s directness and ability to create chances quickly are the attributes Barcelona seem to be building around this season. Tata Martino is letting go of the classic tiki-taka that the world has adored since Pep Guardiola took charge of the club and instead adopting his own style of play, moving the team on from what it now used to be. Neymar’s first goal will surely be a source of delight and relief for him, and will no doubt give him the taste for more.
Múñiz Fernández is a man who is going to be the subject of a lot of La Liga talk this week. Lowly Elche, newly promoted and still searching for their first win in the Primera División this campaign, hosted Real Madrid on Wednesday night in what was a night full of robbery from start to finish.
First off, Elche robbed their fans and charged €110 for one of the cheapest tickets to the match. The most expensive prices were €180. On top of this, season ticket holders were forced to pay their way into the match, albeit they were given slightly cheaper tickets being season ticket holders. For me this still makes a mockery of the idea of a season ticket.
Later on in the evening, however, Múñiz Fernández robbed the Elche team of a result against their illustrious rivals from the capital. In the first half, Sergio Ramos should have seen a second yellow card and walked. The teams went into the break at 0-0, with Elche fighting hard and holding on. Early enough in the second half, Ronaldo was fouled by a calm breeze roughly ten yards outside the box, and scored directly from the free kick. Elche, knowing they can’t do anything about this fact, fight on.
90 minutes arrives and Real still lead 1-0. One minute into the three added for injury time and goalkeeper Manu Herrera launches the ball forward in hope of igniting an attack for his side. The ball is crossed to the young Ghanaian striker on loan from Juventus, Boakye, who cooly finishes to the delighted disbelief of the home support. Five minutes into the three added on, and Ronaldo slots away a penalty at the other end of the pitch, a penalty given for Pepe grabbing the arm of Carlos Sanchez and dragging the midfielder to the ground with him. That’s as best as I can describe the incident, to be perfectly honest. A robbery, a farce. The three points went to Madrid and ensured that a win in this weekend’s derby against Atletico (in the Bernabéu) will take them above their high-flying city rivals. Their high-flying city rivals, who, for the first time in 14 years, in a cup final, held at the Bernabéu, beat Real Madrid. Saturday will be fun.