Players to Watch: Xabi Prieto, Roberto Soldado, Igor Gabilondo
Xabi Prieto: The ironman of the second division for the last 4-5 years, Xabi Prieto played in 35 games in 2009–10, totaling exactly 3000 minutes and scored seven goals. As a result, Real Sociedad returned to the first division for the first time in three years. This year, Prieto has led his newly promoted team to a middle of the table mark of 13 pts and he’s contributed three brilliant assists.
Roberto Soldado: Coming off of two goals against the Glasgow Rangers during Tuesday’s Champions League match, the former Madrid man (both Real Madrid and Getafe-in the suburbs), seems to have found his groove playing on his home turf (he’s from Valencia). He’s had big shoes to fill (those of David Villa) but has his new team in a solid 4th place. He had an early impact last year as well leading Getafe with 16 goals and then finished that up with a Europa league qualification. Valencia will hope for the same thing and will want to secure another third place finish. At 25, he’s yet to fully make an imprint with the Spanish Senior National Team recording only 2 appearances but did have a very successful youth career with 26 goals and was a noted superstar. He’ll head to the Sanchez Pizjuan to lead “los che” against a disgruntled Sevilla team that got clobbered last week in the Nou Camp.
Igor Gabilondo: Igor spent his whole career with Real Sociedad before moving over to Bilbao. Originally, he’s from San Sebastian and the 30yr old left midfielder great passion for the game is finally starting to pay off. This season, he’s paired nicely with up and coming superstar Fernando Llorente to lead Bilbao to a 13pt mid-high position in the table. The boys from San Mames will have their hands full this weekend as they take on an upstart Villarreal squad this weekend. Gabilondo must control the midfield and not let Rossi (the Italian-American) run onto through balls and have chances to fire shots if he wants to give his team a shot at winning.
Impact Foreign Player of the Week: Kun Aguero
Sergio aka Kun Aguero told the international press this week that Atletico can beat Real Madrid. After being injured in the beginning part of the season, the 22yr old Argentine (who came over to Madrid in 2006) will look to be the difference maker. Besides his great striking abilities, it’s important to note that Aguero is also engaged to Diego Maradona’s daughter (with whom he has a son with). Sergio earned his nickname “Kun” when his grandparents noted his resemblance to Japanese anime character, Kum Kum. The Argentine Football Federation doesn’t care what he’s called as long as he continues his success on all levels. He’s made 25 appearances with the Argentine National Senior Team. However, come this Saturday, number 10 will find it more difficult to penetrate Real Madrid’s defense this year in the Bernabeau.
Hot Team: Barcelona
“Los cules” thrashed Sevilla 5-0 last weekend but only managed a draw against Champions League foe, Copenhagen. It looks to me like Pep Guardiola has got that fire back after he had an angry exchange with the Danish manager at the conclusion of the game (over a prior infraction) regarding Barca’s goalkeeper, Pinto. Barca’s various injuries have been remedied and Mr. Messi is back to being number 2 in “total la liga goals”. Dani Alves and David Villa are in stellar form and have been making the most noticeable contributions. Getafe shouldn’t provide any problems. Xavi has wildly proclaimed that he now believes Messi to be better than Diego Maradona (I can’t comment on that until Messi wins a World Cup).
Cold Team: Malaga
Let’s review: only 7 points, the most losses in the league, and only one impressive game against last place Real Zaragoza. Add to that the additional trouble and pathetic displays the Andalusian boys exhibited against Real Sociedad and Real Madrid and “Houston, we have a problem”. Jesualdo Ferreira, the manager, realizes his job is in jeopardy. His insistence, though, on playing a 4-3-3 system, which he employed successfully at Porto, has earned him a considerable amount of controversy lately from the Spanish media. Couple that with his failing to change a strategy and structure that isn’t working while his team struggles and you’ve got cause for criticism. The Portuguese boss is being very confrontational and needs to understand the new owners spent €17 million on additional talent for a lineup that Malaga is failing to utilize (which is resulting in less than desired results).
***Note to Entry: Ferreira has been fired from Malaga and it’s rumored that Manuel Pellegrini (former Real Madrid and Villarreal manager) will take over within the next week.
A Few Predictions (using the Quiniela Format):
Getafe v. Barcelona: 2
Real Madrid v. Atletico Madrid: 1
Sevilla v. Valencia: X
Real Zaragoza v. Mallorca: X
Villarreal v. Athletic Bilbao 2
Trainer to Watch: Juan Carlos Garrido
The Valencia native managed the Villarreal B team for the last 8 years. He’s the only Spanish manager who has a “peña” aka a social club. This is one of the coolest tidbits I’ve heard in a long time. He’ll need to devise a plan to stop Gabilondo and Llorente or else he could put his recent winning ways in jeopardy.
Match of the Week: Real Madrid v. Atletico Madrid
Yankees v. Mets. White sox v. Cubs. Giants v. Jets. Manchester United v. Man City. Liverpool v. Everton. Arsenal v. Chelsea. The list goes on and on. This Spanish Darby is always a fun one. It’s dominated by foreigners with South American roots like Kun Aguero, Diego Forlan, Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Costa, Thiago and Angel di Maria. Don’t forget about Portuguese superstar CR7 with 12 goals. Expect an extremely intense and competitive match with a fair amount of squabbling. My prediction is 2-1 for Real Madrid. The “mou” success continues as he experiences his first Darby (and probably chews 1,000 pieces of gum).
About the Author
Written by Timothy Ashe Jr.
Tim was born and raised in Downers Grove, IL (a suburb of Chicago). He graduated with a degree in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign and also holds University English Language Excellence certificates. He's fluent in Spanish and teaches both English and Spanish in his spare time. He's a Real Madrid and Chicago Fire aficionado and is partial towards the EPL and LFP. His hope is that the game of soccer can continue to grow in the U.S.A. and for our men's national team to eventually win the World Cup.