La Liga’s newest rivalry establishes itself as unmissable contest

By Cillian Shields l @pile_of_eggs

“There is a huge lack of respect for me. All I ask for is respect from everyone – players, referees, everyone. It’s nonsense. Now I am very calm, because I act with total respect towards everyone. I only ask for respect. You can all see the play and I’m not going to talk about it any more.”

Getafe manager José Bordalás came out fighting and furious following his side’s recent defeat to Real Sociedad. After seeing his and his team’s reputation dragged through the proverbial mud over the past few weeks, Bordalás finally has reason to smile again, and perhaps breathe a heavy sigh of relief.

Indeed, Getafe and Valencia were battling it out until the last day of the season with the fourth Champions League spot in contention just a couple of years ago, while nowadays both teams are desperate to avoid relegation. After some heated cup meetings and league run-ins, Getafe-Valencia fixtures have become one of the most fascinating fixtures in Spain of recent years, organically bearing the bitterness of a local derby, with drama and red cards essentially guaranteed.

Getafe celebrate

This weekend, Getafe came out clear 3-0 victors in the duel, putting five points between themselves and the bottom three, and matching Valencia’s points haul of 27 too. Geta had gone six games without a win, picking up just one point in that time, and had fallen into a deep slump extremely difficult for a team to drag itself out of. The win goes a long way to securing their top flight status, but the job is far from finished.

During that winless spell, a lot of focus around Spain has been on Getafe for their brutish physicality and rough style of play. They commit more fouls than anyone else in La Liga and have accumulated significantly more yellow cards than any other team in the league too, 88 to second placed Alavés and Celta Vigo with 69.

Valencia v Getafe

It has long been known and understood that Getafe play this way, making it extremely difficult for opponents up and down La Liga, but on occasion other managers and players can lose patience with Geta and lash out strongly against their style. Particularly against Sevilla on 6 February, when Lucas Ocampos had to be stretchered off the field fearing the worst, Getafe came under strong scrutiny for their impactful manner of taking to the field.

Lucas Ocampos

Thankfully Ocampos’ injury from a crunching Djené challenge was not as bad as first feared, and will return to action this season, but the incident caused outrage on the sidelines with Julen Lopetegui and Pepe Bordalás getting into heated words. Both were sent to the stands and sanctioned with suspensions.

Jose Bordalas

Bordalás said in media comments after the game that he “can understand [Lopetgui’s] anger but not his behaviour, which was unacceptable.” He went on to add that he felt the Sevilla coach “insulted” and lacked respect for both he and his club.

Bordalás said he would expect a phone call of apology from his counterpart, while for his part, Lopetegui reminded the world that the only victim at play here was Ocampos, who suffered the serious injury from Djené.

During their grudge encounter with Valencia, Erick Cabaco could easily have seen red with a challenge that will still perpetuate the idea of Geta being an overly physical team too prone to sticking the boot in. He flew into a challenge with Daniel Wass and plowed through the Dane, arriving very late as the ball had already long been passed on. In the end, the referee didn’t even deem it worthy of a yellow, but on another day that tackle sees red.

In the six games preceding the Valencia clash, Getafe managed a total of three shots on target – a grim 0.5 shots on target per game. In a nearly incomprehensibly short period of time, they’ve gone from the greatest Getafe side ever to one of the worst, struggling to find any spark on the pitch and fearing a total collapse with the bottom three managing to pick up points closely behind them, enjoying the effect of new manager bounces.

Getafe v Ajax

Just about a year ago, Geta were knocking the famous Ajax out of Europe, the team who had so nearly made it to the Champions League final the season prior. They were drawn against Inter Milan in a tie that was due to take place on March 12, 2020, just as Europe was beginning to lock down. To their enormous credit, Getafe refused to travel to Northern Italy to play the match in San Siro as it was a region hit devastatingly hard very early in the pandemic. The club decided to renounce their biggest match in their history and accept forfeiting the tie as they did not want to put their players in any health danger. Geta officials understood the risk posed by the coronavirus before most others in the world and acted in the best interests of their staff and players’ wellbeing, even at a likely huge financial cost.

Fast forward one year, and the blues are facing a crucial spell in their next five games, with four opponents in the same position of fighting against the drop. Valladolid, Atletico Madrid, Elche, Osasuna, Cádiz are up next for a make-or-break period for Getafe.

Valencia defender Gabriel Paulista

For Valencia, when asked in the post-match interview about his side’s standings as they continue to fight for survival in La Liga, Gabriel Paulista was almost reduced to tears as he contemplated in real time on live television how far his team had fallen. The former Arsenal man has lifted silverware with Los Che, qualified for the knockout phase of the Champions League, and now the thought that his side are in a battle to not be in the second division next season weighed heavily in an extraordinary show of face to the fans.

Elsewhere…

– Just as they confirm they were the fourth team in the conversation for the title race, Sevilla go and lose to Barcelona in a game that goes a long way to confirming the end to that dream. Outwitted on the sideline and outclassed on the pitch, Sevilla have made huge strides this season in Lopetegui’s second year at the helm but being practically ruled out of a title race as late as March is a testament to how well the Andalusians have done this campaign.

Oscar Mingueza

The mere fact that this column focused on the title race being contested by four sides, rather than three or two, shows that Sevilla have taken a step forward this season. Champions League football next season and further understanding and advancement of Lopetegui’s methods will only stand in good stead to the Andalusians.

– On the other end of the pitch, Ousmane Dembélé shined in a new role as the centre forward for Barça. He got on the end of a brilliant through ball from Lionel Messi to open the scoring, capping off a brilliant performance from the Frenchman.

Ronald Koeman reverted to a sort of 3-5-2 formation, with three centre backs flanked by Sergiño Dest and Jordi Alba either side of them, and Dembélé and Messi providing the presence up top. The Catalans limited the hosts to very little in a game that will serve as a fascinating prelude to their cup semi-final second leg, with Sevilla leading 2-0 from the first leg.

Joan Jordan

– Another frustrating result for Eibar against another side mired in the relegation battle. Huesca seemed to have delivered a hammer blow to the Basques with a late goal to go 1-0 up in Ipurua thanks to Sandro Ramírez, but Mendilibar’s men marched back up the pitch an equalised just minutes later. A 1-1 will do little good for either side’s prospects, but perhaps suits Huesca better than Eibar, as they seem to be on an upward trajectory, while Eibar seems to be headed in the opposite direction.

– Valladolid have equaled their worst run without a win in La Liga after drawing 1-1 with Celta Vigo. The Pucelano have taken just four points from the last 24 available, and are level on points with Deportivo Alavés in the relegation zone. With much of their remaining fixtures against sides with European ambitions, there is reason to worry in Valladolid. The team owned by Ronaldo Nazário are repeatedly making costly defensive errors of late, with Sergio González left to rue that his side are punished by “every tiny mistake” lately.

Goal of the week: Mauro Arambarri’s wonder strike from distance that flew into the top corner after Jasper Cillessen could only manage to get a light finger to the ball, kicking things off in Getafe’s dominant 3-0 win over Valencia. A piledriver that will certainly be an end-of-season contender.