Why La Liga fixture is not always a ‘cakewalk’ for big teams ?

Bibek Bimali

Barca Nepal, Feb 17. La Liga is always taken as tactical competition. It is not too physical and fast like Premier League and BundesLiga or too defensive like Italian Serie A. Spanish players are always taken as technically sound and the players from Spanish league have done well in other foreign league too. Be it David Silva for Manchester City , Juan Mata for Man United , Santi Cazorla for Arsenal or Thiago Alcantara for Bayern Munich , they are always one of the most important members in their team when they are fit.

Laliga officially started from 1929 and the 89 years old tournament is mostly dominated by two arch rivals of world football ; Real Madrid and Barcelona. The two teams combining have won this trophy 57 times with Madrid winning 33 titles followed by Barca who have won this competition. Laliga is very competetive league specially to due to presense of some historic rivalry. Collecting 91 or even 92 points sometime is not enough to win this competetion. Pep’s Barca won Laliga in 2008/09 season with 87 points but all the champions after that have surpassed point tally of 90 points.

Jose’s Real Madrid missed Laliga title by 3 points despite collecting 96 points in season 2009/10. This means only one thing. You have to be at the best throughout the season , a minor slip and the trophy is gone from you hand. The fact that Real Madrid have won 3 Champions League titles in last 4 years but only 1 Laliga title in last 5 years shows the level , dedication and intensiy required to win this competition. Since last few years , Laliga has always been decided in last match week , unlike other top 5 league in Europe , which are generally decided some 2-3 matches ago.

Even last season , the league was alive till 38th round. Barca and Real are winning league with huge points but there are also some interesting facts. That is about the ‘upset’ in league. Big team loses those match which many people believe they should have won easily. Certainly , any teams in the world are allowed to have a bad day but there are lot of things involved. Apart from Barca and Real and also Atleti since the arrival of Cholo Simione , other traditionally big La Liga side have failed to show proper stability. They are good for one season and then automatically poor in next season.

Villareal got relegated despite the fact they were playing Champions League quarter final at the same time. Similar to Malaga , they got robbed against Dortmund in Champions League Quarter Final few years back but now are on 20th position of league table , almost certain that they will be relegated at the end of this season.

Now let me tell you what I am trying to tell. The traditionally big sides in Spain, like Sevilla , Valencia , Villareal , Real Betis and Atheltic Bilbao , no matter if they are having a fine season or bad , they always step up against Barca and Madrid. Valencia was having series of bad season but matches against them were always full of tension and problems.
These sides are always pain in the a#s for Barca and Real and are always in danger of snatching points which could change the outcome of Laliga campaign of both teams. And when they are playing well , they are proper title contender. Then there are other teams. Relatively small teams but having a good season with playing proper football under good manager. There are many teams who tend to have surprising season in Laliga due to multiple factors and against some odds too. Like Las Palmas last season under Quique Setien or Getafe this season under Jose Bordalas , they are the surprise package in La Liga and are always superbly motivated against big guns to snatch the points.
If you look the points tally this season , Las Palmas , Deportivo and Malaga are in relegation position but if we remember they were decent sides till last year. Sepcially Malaga against whom Barca have always struggled either home or away. Last season Barca were in title race until they lost to away against Malaga . The sides like Celta , Alaves , Eibar etc. always gives good run of money for big teams. For instance , Levante held Madrid to 2-2 draw at Bernabau this season and Barca failed to score against Getafe in Camp Nou. Similarly another new face in La Liga ; Girona ; is having quite a good season and has taken away points against Real Madrid and Atletico this season already.
Talking about tonight’s fixture of Barca , they are going to face a very very balanced side in Spain , against Eibar. Eibar is in 7th position in league table with just 2 points behind Villareal who are challenging Real and Valencia for top 4 spots. Also there is another very important thing to tell about Eibar. Eibar have scored 32 goals and have conceded 34 but this is not the only thing to tell about them.
Manager Jose Mandilibar has done some wonder work this season at Eibar. In term of few stats , Eibar are actually one of the best team not only in Spain but whole Europe. Eibar have faced only 182 shots in Laliga this season. Among top 5 league in Europe only Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have better record than them. It means they just don’t sit back and wait but press the opposition to have their chance. Only 182 shots conceded signals that they are very stubborn side defensively and it is also very hard to create goal scoring chance against them.
Another important stat to look , Eibar is the king of midfield battle in Spain this season. They have won possession in midfield for 704 times this season which is even better than that of league leader Barca. Most important thing , they are also the best side to win possession in final third of opposition with 134 times. This only indicates one thing that the match is going to be very hard for Barca specially when manager Ernesto Valverde is poised to give rest to some key players ahead of vital Champions League away clash against Chelsea.

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