Viva La Liga: The 2010 Spanish League Preview

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Personal History

I’ve been a loyal English Premier League supporter for almost 14 years now, but the Spanish La Liga is also close to my heart, like my proverbial football mistress, if I may say so myself.

Granted, I only ever closely follow two of its top teams, Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona. However, do not ask me who I support between those two because that will need a separate article altogether.

For brevity’s sake, let me just state that I am completely neutral when it comes to La Liga. I shan’t cry nor obsess over a club’s result, but I do enjoy following and watching the league. I watch Real Madrid for the love of Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, and Alvaro Arbeloa. As for Barcelona, the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique, and Lionel Messi, are truly a joy to watch. Lest you say I’m a fickle-minded, bandwagoning fangirl, I have been looking out for those clubs since Real was still ruled by Raul, Guti, Fernando Morientes and Zinedine Zidane, Casillas wasn’t even old enough to drive and Luis Figo and Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) were still donning Barcelona jerseys. I have loads of fond memories of my university-induced insomnia years, either drafting design plates/skimming stacks of readings or just plain zoning out in front of the telly and watching live La Liga matches, wondering why the heck the pictures from Spain look gray and dreary compared to the Premier League when it is England that is notorious for dreary weather. Oh, and occasionally screaming “Faster!” to the players every once and a while. Ah, the good old zombie days.

The thing with La Liga is that I do not follow ALL of its matches, mainly only those that have certain importance to me, say the “Unmissable” matches such as:
*The El Clasico– Real Madrid CF vs Barcelona
*The Madrid Derby– Real Madrid CF vs Atletico Madrid
*The Catalan Derby– Barcelona vs Espanyol

This is because some of the other matches coincide with the broadcast of the English Premier League, and since I can only rely on the worldwide web to watch the La Liga matches (I will never understand why ESPNStar Sports chose to terminate live broadcast of the La Liga matches), most of the time I catch up by downloading the La Liga Show and various La Liga Match Highlights.

League Structure

The structure of the Primera Division is similar to that of the Premier League, in such that the league has 20 teams that play each other twice (Home and Away) and after 38 matches, the Top 2 automatically qualifies for the UEFA Champions League, the 3rd and 4th placers enter the final CL qualifying round, and the Bottom 3 are relegated to the Segunda Division. Numerous clubs though have A teams and B teams, the ‘B’ teams being the equivalent of Reserve reams in England, with the exception that they don’t have their own Reserves League so they play in the lower tiers of the Spanish La Liga. There is a rule that the A team and B team of a club cannot play in the same division, so if the A team of the club is relegated, the B team of the club is automatically relegated also, except in instances when the B team is already 2 leagues down from their A team.

Pace and Flow

While the Premier League is fast, aggressive and physical, the La Liga is slow, methodical, and more cerebral in some aspects. Both are very entertaining to watch although it does take quite a while to get used to the seemingly endless passing-backpassing-passing style of Spanish play if the go-go-wham-bam style of the Premier League has already been ingrained in you.

Press and Coverage

I once thought that there’s nothing more brutal, ruthless and fickle than the British media when it comes to covering their local football—boy, was I wrong. As I delved into the World of Spanish Football Media, I found out just how obsessive their press is. And when I say obsessive, I mean it with a capital O. Understandably, the top papers cover Real Madrid and Barcelona most, with Real Madrid ruling over Marca and AS and Sport being the pro-Barcelona one. Absolutely nothing and no one is spared from their scrutiny, so much so that they even write and discuss super menial details such as what the players watched on the telly and what they had for breakfast. Seriously.

Terms and Vocabulary

Below are some of the basic terms used in Spanish Football to help you feel more involved in the match:

portero: goalkeeper

defensa: defender

centrocampista: midfielder

delantero: forward

arbitro: referee

entrenador: manager

falta: foul

penalti: penalty

saque de esquina: corner

saque de banda: throw in

saque de puerta: goal kick

tarjeta (amarilla, roja): card (yellow, red)

fuera de juego: offside

un crack: a superstar

tiki taka: good, one touch football

el pichichi: the top goalscorer

el Zamora: best goalkeeper

la cantera: the youth system

Personal Blog Coverage

Since I will also be busy covering the Premier League and I have minimal access to live coverage of matches, I will mostly feature interesting bits and pieces from the clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona. I cannot promise in-depth match-per-match analyses but I will try my best to provide all the relevant news, stats, and most important, video highlights of their matches, whether they be from the Primera Liga, the Copa del Rey, or the Champions League.

Season Predictions

Primera Liga Champions- FC Barcelona

Liga El Pichichi- Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Buena Suerte to all Clubs!

 

No Kimi, No Spa.

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The One and Only Finnish King of Spa.

For the first time in years, I will watch the Formula One race in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium this weekend with one very important man missing from the lineup.

Kimi Raikkonen.

Also known as Iceman, Kimster, Kimbot, ex-Sauber, McLaren and Ferrari driver, 2007 World Drivers’ Champion, but most important, The King of Spa. MY King of Spa.

I cannot, though, for the life of me, boycott this race, for Spa is the one race track that truly takes my breath away. It has been witness to innumerable Classic and Epic races throughout its history and I still dream of the day when I can see and touch that Famous “Corner of Corners” Eau Rouge and actually marvel at the sheer awesome steepness of that part of track. Eau Rogue defies horsepower and willpower in equal measure. It’s almost sculptural in its heft and grace.

Words are not enough to accurately describe the track so let Kimi Raikkonen take you through the track with his Pole Lap in the 2007 Belgian GP:

I can still remember 3 years ago, the Belgian GP race coincided with my Mom’s birthday, and all throughout the celebratory dinner I kept leaving the table, pretending to go to the loo when all the while I was surreptitiously checking the race on the telly, frantically sending text messages to my friend C demanding updates and analysis on everything I missed. Yeah, I didn’t win Daughter of the Year then. Good thing my Mom understands my brand of Crazy. =P

Unpredictable weather. Fast corners. Insane elevation changes. It is THE track that truly rewards the driver who is willing to push beyond the limit.

It takes a true racer to master this track.

I’m sorry, Kimi. I wanted to stay away in your memory but I won’t be able to. I will sit and watch the race and see a new winner stand on the top step of the podium, hoisting the trophy you’ve held aloft and spraying the champagne you’ve once gingerly cradled. But I won’t be sad, instead, I will smile and look forward to the day when I, and the thousands of your other fans, will see you race and triumph in Spa once again. I know you will be back, and there is nothing that can stop me from hoping.

This calls for a Cheesy Compilation Video. Except you can scratch off the cheesy part since this is practically a manual on How to Race in Spa and Completely and Utterly Own Your Opponents Without Breaking a Sweat:

Hurry back, Kimi.

Advert of the Day: A Pensioner German and A Poker-Faced Finn

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So many things are just right in this FIAT Bravo Advert:
1. Two of my all-time favorite drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher, are together. In one car. Talking like best mates.
2. Kimi talking in German. He seems comfortable with the language and could seriously pass for a German himself with his Aryan looks
3. Kimi’s bored expression when Michael was talking. I doubt they needed to coach him for that.
4. I can’t find the video with the English subtitles anymore, but the moment when Kimi said “okay, okay..(German German German)”, the English translation was “Do you want to talk or drive?”
5. The moment when Schumi sat in the passenger seat and spoke to Kimi, his line was “So…you wanna see a pensioner drive?” If there was a thing called Money Shot, then that was the Money Line.

Now, hold off on any wisecracks about Kimi’s current absence in F1 nor Schumi’s current lack of competitiveness. Why? Because I don’t give a flying fart. See y’all after Spa.

Six-Nil Is In Fashion: The English Premier League Week2 Wrap-Up

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SATURDAY

Arsenal 6-0 Blackpool
The fairytale is over for the newly-promoted club. Theo Walcott scored a hattrick and propels the Gunners’ title bid back on track.

Tottenham 2-1 Stoke
Tightly-contested match. Gareth Bale’s angled shot is the Recipient for Silk (=Skill) of the Week. Oh, and for the record, Stoke’s 91st minute attempt at goal was completely over the line. Should have been given by the ref and should have ended in a draw.

Bolton 3-1 West Ham United
A day of wasted chances for the Hammers. Cole missed a penalty, Dyer scrapped Scott Parker’s Pass of the Match, and their defenders carelessly watched Bolton score the goals. Parker won them a Penalty which Noble converted, but by then it was far too late to salvage anything.

West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Sunderland
Will be a famous victory for the Baggies, since they consider the Mackems a “local” rival. That is all.

Birmingham 2-1 Blackburn
Lively match. Both goalkeepers, Ben Foster and Paul Robinson were well-prepared but in the end, Foster pipped Robinson as he saved a penalty from Gamst Pedersen. I really thought Blackburn was going to snatch the win until the Brummies mounted a solid comeback.

Chelsea 6-0 Wigan
Seems the defending Premier League Champions are keen to set the benchmark for starting their Championship defense campaign with a bang. Their Goal Difference is now +12, something that the rest of the Big Four will be extremely jealous of (whether they’ll admit it or not). However, let us spare a thought for the poor Latics, only 2 matches in and their GD is already -10. Will Roberto Martinez be the next PL Manager to get the sack? Watch this space.

SUNDAY

Newcastle United 6-0 Aston Villa
On paper, Newcastle United’s squad is extremely undernourished compared to Aston Villa. Then again, this is the Premier League and stats become useless to make way for giant-killings. Oh, and what a slaughter it was! Andy Carroll scored a hattrick and most important, fellow goalscorer Joey Barton promised to shave off his horrid pornstache if Toon gets their first win of the season. Truly win-win for everyone.

Barton keeps his promise of getting rid of his moustache after the Toon's 1st win

Manchester United 2-2 Fulham
You’d think after their 3-0 drubbing of Newcastle last weekend, Manchester United will follow up with an emphatic performance against Fulham. Then again, Fulham  was United’s bogey team last season. winning both their Home and Away matches against them. United started the game brightly, with both Berbatov and Hernandez having chances, until the ever-reliable Paul Scholes broke the deadlock by drilling in a low shot. Fulham then went all out and equalised through Davies. United’s best goalscorer, also known as Own Goal (this time it was Hangeland), took them in front yet again, and Ferguson decided to bring in the big guns Giggs, Nani and Owen (squee) to reinforce their attacking options. Tension arose in the cottage as Damien Duff was misjudged to have handled the ball, and United was given a Penalty Kick. Surprisingly, Nani stepped forward to take it but his shot was easily saved. Fate then stepped in cruelly as Hangeland exacted his revenge and scored the emphatic equalizer. United scrambled to find the back of the net but to no avail and in the end, they were left ruing their wasted chances and are now 2 points adrift of the table-toppers. Seems Chicharito needs to pray a lot harder for the next matches.

For those who missed the action:

1st Half Highlights

2nd Half Highlights

MONDAY

Manchester City 3-0 Liverpool
Right. I can’t be objective over this. I’m disappointed with the performance and disappointed with the result. However, there’s absolutely no need to press the panic button just yet. It’s still early days and after all, Liverpool are known to be slow-starters in the EPL.

Yeah, don't give me that shrug, Nando. You should have done better. Okay, sorry, you're forgiven, come here and I'll give you a hug.

(P.S. Can M.O. please trounce Man City this season again? NGL, his last-minute winner last season still makes me smile)

Anyway, for those who missed the action:

Match Highlights

We’re Not Sold Yet…

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…But We’re Getting There.

Alternative Title: The Liverpool FC vs Trabzonspor UEFA Europa League Playoff 1st Leg Roundup

1.0  Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard didn’t play.

2.0  Ryan Babel, undisputed King of Twitter among the Liverpool squad, scored the sole goal of the match. Joe Cole with the assist.

3.0 Fernando Torres replaced Babel at the start of the 2nd half. He had two half-chances at goal and was looking lively and springy already.

4.0 Joe Cole missed a penalty. It was quite a weakly-taken penalty, if I have to say so myself. Was he trying to channel Xabi Alonso with his straight-down-the-center PK? His kick lacked the necessary power to take it through the keeper. Then he goes on to admit that he hasn’t taken a penalty in more than a decade. Que?! Surely he must have practiced PK’s during training sessions with England? I. Don’t. Understand.

5.0  So Liverpool FC will take a slim lead going into the 2nd Leg. I ‘m so expecting nothing less than a goal fest.

For those who missed the action:

Download Link for Match Highlights.

Fernando Torres vs Trabzonspor

Enjoy and YNWA.

Advert of the Day: An Ordinary Day at the Yamaha Office

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Except it’s not that ordinary, after all.

Circa 2009.  The four Yamaha MotoGP riders are required to pull their weight and earn their keep off the track.

Notice how James Toseland doesn’t want to switch lunch with Colin Edwards? Well, they were in the middle of a Major Catfight in real life when that advert was shot, so no point in making them pretend to be best mates.

Vale was in charge of answering the phones and greeting everyone who comes in. Not a very good idea in terms of increasing employees’ efficiency, although that would have garnered a lot of phone-in inquiries…

Oh, and Jorge as the Janitor. Just too…priceless.

The Secret Skillz of Mesut Oezil

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To commemorate German NT’s Mesut Oezil’s shock, gasp-inducing (not) transfer to Real Madrid from Werder Bremen, feast your eyes on a heated duel between Mesut and a cafeteria lady, all for a certain beloved Hazelnut spread:

I bet he brought tons of boxes of Nutella to Madrid.

Also, here’s proof that ze Germans can rap. Mesut = Gangsta. Peace out.