Clutch player – Marcelo
It’s difficult for anyone who isn’t an attacking player to earn column inches while at Real Madrid. Well, except Sergio Ramos of course. And now we can – and should – add Marcelo’s name to that list. The Brazilian is enjoying a purple patch, avoiding injuries, and showing the whole world he’s the best left back around.
In the run up to the matches against Valencia and Atletico Madrid a lot of talk was regarding which team Zidane should go with: ‘A’ or ‘B’. Is it time to admit that the BBC isn’t the best forward line any more? Similar to Carlo Ancelotti realising a midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez didn’t offer the right balance, long term. Do Alvaro Morata, Isco and Marco Asensio deserve a chance in the biggest games?
Yet in amongst all of those debates the one constant is Marcelo. There is no alternative, no suitable replacement. The Brazilian’s form means Fabio Coentrao has returned to the obscurity he briefly threatened to escape from. No such luck, Fabio. Marcelo’s influence and importance is something Zidane cannot compromise, whereas everyone else could feasibly sit a game out.
When the forward line flopped once again it was down to Marcelo, much as he did against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, to make the difference. Valencia were riding a wave of confidence after getting back on level terms but the afro-sporting full back raced into the box, cut inside onto his right and unleashed a shot which crept into the far corner to make it 2-1. Irreplaceable.
Prospect – Toni Lato
On the topic of special left backs it seems Valencia have another starlet on their hands. Not content with producing Juan Bernat, Jordi Alba and Jose Luis Gaya along comes Toni Lato and he’s pretty damn good too.
Gaya is often linked with moves away from Mestalla and until now that was a prospect Valencia fans dreaded. Perhaps since the emergence of Lato less so. You’d rather keep Gaya, don’t get me wrong, but if a big offer came in it might make sense to cash in and trust Lato.
The faith Voro has in his youngsters is arguably the most important legacy he could leave Los Che. Somewhat untouchable in his interim role he can take chances other coaches would be fearful of making. Carlos Soler is already a star but giving Lato the nod against Real Madrid is a huge vote of confidence. Lato is just 19 but played as if a 30-year-old veteran. Calm, assured and with each game adds a little more hope of a brighter future for Valencia.
Response – Luis Suarez
It feels strange to say Suarez, a player with 32 goals to his name coming into the weekend, was under pressure to score. However the issue with the controversial Uruguayan is his killer touch deserts him far too often. The reason it isn’t noted as much is because he gets so many chances in a single game he inevitably scores one or two anyway.
A five-game goalless streak (in all comps) isn’t a common occurrence for Suarez. In fact, it hasn’t happened since he made his debut for Barcelona following a FIFA ban back in 2014. Much like the BBC, MSN isn’t valued entirely on goals but it plays a big part. Two blanks against Juventus and a subsequent Champions League exit didn’t help ease the pressure either.
His two strikes against Espanyol were true predator’s goals. The first taking advantage of an awful back pass and slotting it neatly beyond Diego Lopez. The second, again due to a defensive error, was equally taken advantage of. A weak clearance fell to Suarez who skipped past Lopez and made it 3-0. ‘El Pistolero’ is back.
Gesture – Levante
Now Levante aren’t technically in LaLiga, although they will be next season, but they did something worthy of praise this week. And no, I’m not talking about them securing promotion at the first time of asking – although that too is pretty damn good.
When you drop out of the limelight of Spain’s first division there’s a danger you could never recover. It isn’t like in England where the Championship is still widely followed and relatively rich. It’s LaLiga or nada. So Levante came up with a unique scheme to keep the fans onside and also reward their loyalty.
The Valencia-based side promised season ticket holders that if the club went up and they’d attended more than 85% of the home games they’d be given a free season ticket for the first year back in LaLiga. Yesterday, following promotion, 12,500 fans will be rewarded for their loyalty. A classy gesture.
Performance – Las Palmas
Ever since Quique Setien confirmed he would be leaving the club at the end of the season Las Palmas have been dreadful. Five losses in seven, all conceding a minimum of three goals, tells the story. One single victory against Real Betis and a draw against Alaves were the other two fixtures.
If the players’ intention was to show Setien he was wrong to leave then they’re doing a horrible job. The inconsistency of the side isn’t entirely new but people like their football. They play the game the way so many of us believe to be correct yet there is a problem at the club which means too many don’t take it seriously.
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Setien’s decision to leave looks wiser by the minute. As for Las Palmas you worry about them for next season. They look completely lost. The 5-0 margin of victory was actually flattering to Las Palmas, Atletico Madrid could’ve hit double figures.
Response – Granada
When a new coach comes in, even on a temporary basis, you expect a slight upturn in form. The classic ‘new coach syndrome’. Tony Adams came in and was brutally honest. Possibly too honest but he knows the long-term future of Granada needs that. So much before his arrival was categorically wrong from top to bottom.
Adams did at least get a response from his team against Real Sociedad. Ultimately they were outdone by a better side on the day but the performance was encouraging. Yet that in itself is another problem for Adams – most of the team will leave. Loan deals sound like a good idea on Football Manager but less so in real life. And especially if you build the majority of the squad with them!
The reality for Adams and Granada is he won’t be judged on this season. He is responsible for rebuilding an entire football club and that won’t happen overnight. Good luck, Tony.
Miss – Roberto Soldado
Ah, Bobby Soldier. I have a bit of a soft spot for Roberto but he doesn’t half miss some sitters.
Since returning to Spain with Villarreal the Spaniard has been a key component in the club finishing in the Champions League places and a fine Europa League run. Without him, the Yellow Submarines drop a level or two. He’s essential in their attack. Soldado’s first touch and finish for Villarreal’s first goal against Sporting was further proof of that.
Bakambu made it 2-0 before he unselfishly squared a chance to Soldado in acres of space. He slipped and his effort sailed wide of the post. The ball wasn’t perfect but even still, he might have a few sleepless nights about it.
Still love you, Bobby.
– Deportivo aren’t mathematically safe after squandering a winning position against already relegated Osasuna. It’s another season of uncertainty for Depor but they will hope to do better under Pepe Mel next year.
– Real Betis are another side aimlessly floating towards the end of the campaign. Safe but with no clear direction you worry for them. You sense another summer of upheaval will come. Alaves brushed them aside with ease to run out 4-1 winners.
– Eibar beat Leganes 2-0 at home. It was a game that included arguably the greatest cross of the season from David Junca. Seriously, search it out. Incredible.
– Athletic Club showed no mercy against a Celta Vigo side distracted by their Europa League adventure and ran out 3-0 victors. Iñaki Williams is going to be a superstar.