Valverde deserves some praise
Even after winning a league title and nearly going the whole season unbeaten, some Barcelona fans are yet to warm to Ernesto Valverde. In some ways that is understandable. Over the past decade they have been blessed with the managerial talent of Pep Guardiola and Tito Villanova, who have brought both success and arguably better football. And their capitulation in the Champions League last season to Roma is not so easily forgotten. But after a Clasico weekend where most attentions are firmly fixed on the man in the opposite dugout, Valverde deserves some credit of his own for getting things spot on.
In the absence of Lionel Messi, whom many say Valverde had become too reliant on, his side were near faultless in the first half as they raced into a two-goal lead. Just as the tide of the match was turning he brought on Nelson Semedo and Ousmane Dembele to stretch the game, with his third substitute Arturo Vidal scoring Barca’s fifth.
When a baby is born, sometimes people give toys, nappies or stuffed animals. In Spain the gift seems to be goals. Iago Aspas and Luis Suarez both became had children this week and honoured them by scoring hat-tricks. Suarez become the first person not named Lionel Messi to score a Barcelona hat-trick in El Clasico since Romario since 1994.
And somehow Aspas’s feats were perhaps more impressive. Following the birth of his daughter, he slept at the hospital the night before his match against Eibar. He then terrorised their defence, scoring two exceptional goals and pinched the ball from Anaitz Arbilla to score his third.
Art of the draw
Eduardo Berizzo says he enjoys the tranquility at current club Athletic more that than the high-pressure situations he endured at Sevilla and Celta Vigo. That calmness may not last so long should results continue.
Since their last-gasp opening day win against Leganes, the Argentine’s side are yet to win a game, with their latest 0-0 draw against fellow strugglers Valencia their seventh stalemate of the season. The two losses saw them concede three goals at home to both Villarreal and Real Sociedad. The Basque derby loss perhaps the most embarrassing as La Real dominated at San Mames with several first teamers side-lined. As relaxed as Berizzo may be, someone needs to light a fire under him and his charges soon.
Sanabria is underrated
A few weeks ago, we examined how underrated Wissam Ben Yedder was in the wake of Sevilla’s 6-2 win over Levante. This did not reference Pablo Sarabia’s stunning contribution in that same game as he laid on three assists and scored one himself. He’s helped himself to a few more goals since and sits on 12 La Liga goals, leading Lionel Messi in the Pichichi race.
Sevilla are two points off the top of the league table and to say Sarabia has had a small part to play in this early success would be a disservice.
The Ronaldo impact
Not all sporting greats can translate their talents on the pitch to off it. Perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time Michael Jordan owns a majority share in NBA franchise Charlotte Hornets, but they are yet to enjoy anywhere near the success he did during his playing days with the Chicago Bulls.
And the same could be said of Real Valladolid, as we are still in the early days since Brazil legend Ronaldo Nazario took over the club’s presidency. But after losing the first game under his stewardship, they have gone six games unbeaten.