Players to Watch: Dani Alves, Diego Lopez, José Salomon Rondon Jimenez
Alves is the firestarter for Barca’s defense. This right back and versatile defender will have his hands full this weekend with Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar, and Santi Cazorla. The former Sevilla player and current Brazilian National teamer has two goals and four assists already and is always a surprise contributor on offense. His feisty personality will be tested in the next match as red hot Villarreal heads into the Camp Nou to try to stop the two team horse race (between Real and Barca) from commencing at this early stage of the season.
The Villarreal big man (6’5) who minds the nets for the yellow submarine has a chip on his shoulder this season. After being passed up for the World Cup squad because of the depth of quality goalkeepers in Spain as well as Victor Valdes’ career year last year, Lopez wants to show off why his team continues to thrash opponents. He’ll face an onslaught of strikes this weekend as his team travels to face the likes of Villa, Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta. The Galician man (who got his start professional in the Real Madrid system) probably has quite the distaste for Barca already.
José Salomon Rondon Jimenez-The Malaga forward and Caracas native who also plays for the Venezuelan National team will be relied on tremendously as Manuel Pellegrini takes over in La Rosaleda. He’ll continue to try to team up with Eliseu, Juanmi, and Juanfri to get the Andalusian team out of the la liga gutter (they sit with 7pts). His 3 goals and impressive starts against quality teams in the beginning part of the season have earned him high praise. The 3.5€ million transfer from Las Palmas over the summer may continue to prove his worth as the malagueños host struggling Levante this weekend in a must win match.
Impact Foreign Player of the Week: Mezut Ozil
The former Werder Bremen man seems to have found a home in the Bernabeau. After bending a fantastic strike past an outstretched Reyes and a stumbling DeGea last week in the Derbi, the German youngster looks to continue his fine form this weekend as “the whites” travel to Asturias to take on Sporting Gijon. His ability to adapt to a new style of play alongside the constant dribbling CR7 has garnered good vibes from “the special one”. The Turkish blooded winger has 3 goals and 4 assists while his skillful and creative approach has wowed fans from all around the world.
Cold Team: Levante
The recently promoted Valencian club (which is named after a barrio en the southeastern Spanish city) is already in some financial trouble but now their play has been noticeably dismal. Manager, Luis Garcia, has looked confused at times. The club has been around for over 100 years and has only seen the top division six times while continuously struggling to find the better half of the table. With an aging Juanfran in the back and a struggling Xisco Nadal up top, the future doesn’t look promising for “les granotes”. After losing to bottom dwellers Depor in last week’s action, they’ll look to get some points back against Malaga and Racing Santander in the upcoming weeks, however; first, they must show they can handle recently delegated Xerez in a midweek Copa Del Rey clash.
Hot Team: Real Sociedad
Mr. Lasarte has his club sitting pretty as they watch the big boys from a 7th position in the table. Xabi Prieto, Raul Tamudo, and Joseaba Llorente are leading with a quiet confidence and the atmosphere they have created up in San Sebastian along with an always stable fan base which routinely fills the Anoeta (with thousands of Basques) every week encompasses the full football experience. The mostly all Basque team has the traditions in place to welcome the tougher opponents with open arms, thus, la Real looks to be extremely competitive this season. If they can avoid doing something silly against a cooled off Hercules this weekend, they could add something different into the traditional top of the table league mix as the league marches on.
A Few Predictions (using the Quiniela Format):
Barcelona v. Villarreal: X
Sporting Gijon v. Real Madrid: 2
Real Zaragoza v. Sevilla: X
Valencia v. Getafe: 2
Hercules v. Real Sociedad: 1
Trainer to Watch: Manuel Pellegrini
Any other trainer would have been praised for last season’s great work in the Spanish capital. The Chilean tactician and patient leader directed Real Madrid to a second place finish and close to 100 points. This was a truly a stunning accomplishment minus a few slipups. However, if you’re a manager at one of the biggest clubs in the world and you lose to Alcorcon (a then 3rd division team) and make an early exit from the Champions league, you’ll quickly be shown the exit door. Pellegrini had success previously at Villarreal and will try to replicate that as he takes over a struggling Malaga team that has the talent and the passion to get back on its feet. Even though they have only 7 pts, they have a favorable upcoming schedule and it’ll be interesting to see if the smart Santiago born man can right this sinking ship.
Match of the Week: Barcelona v. Villarreal
Speaking of ships, this weekend we’ll see if the yellow submarine is for real. With 23 points and a slew of top players like Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar, Santi Cazorla, Marcos Senna, Carlos Marchena, and Diego Lopez, the Valencian team heads into the Nou Camp looking to shake up the table. They’ve got the best home record in the league, have only lost once on the road, and we’ll have their first test of the season as Leo Messi looks to continue his magical ways and frustrate Garrido’s boys who will attempt to come full force against the other Catalan side.
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.