Who would’ve thought that La Liga minions Sporting Gijon could do the unthinkable, nullify Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten streak at home. M&M’s (Mourinho & Madrid) perfect record is no more, and the timing could’ve not been worse. Come April, La Liga is realistically, not mathematically, out of reach for the Merengue. On the other hand, now the Special One and his team can now solely focus on the upcoming Champions League game against Tottenham Hotspurs.
Real Madrid vs Sporting Gijon 0-1 - Full Match Highlights
Looking at the fixture list, FC Barcelona’s trip to the El Madrigal may have been the last real challenge before clinching a third consecutive La Liga crown. Not to suggest that the remaining opponents are push-overs but they certainly aren’t on the same level as Villarreal. With that in mind, the yellow submarine has once again proven to be one of La Liga’s best teams. On another night, with another goalkeeper things would’ve been a lot worse. Victor Valdes was simply outstanding.
Amazing Victor Valdes Save Villarreal Vs FC Barcelona
The absence of first team players, like Xavi and/or Pedro and Lionel Messi, in the Villarreal tie had some welcomed side-effects, the inclusion of Thiago Alcantara and Ibrahim Afellay. While the latter clearly needs a prolonged run in the first XI, Brazilian-born Thiago was not particular outstanding but didn’t strike out negatively either. If anything, the youngster looked like a regular in a side full of superstars, and that’s one hell of an accomplishment.
Even his fellow La Masia graduate, and FC Barcelona B teammate, Jonathan dos Santos, gained some invaluable first team experience. Maybe Pep Guardiola is more flexible with his formation as I suspected. Whatever prompted his decision to give either of them game time, one can only hope to see more of it.
At the very least Pep Guardiola continues the tradition of promoting youngsters into the first team. In that sense he is akin to his predecessor, Frank Rijkaard. Perhaps Pep is more successful in that area than the Dutchman. Nevertheless, it was Rijkaard who promoted young Lionel into the first team at the tender age of 17.
If you’re curious about a direct comparison between those two tacticians, check out Arron Duckling’s Rijkaard vs. Guardiola series that has sadly ended with this week’s installment.
One series ends, another starts.
This Sunday marks the launch of our new column/series "From the Sidelines". The new section will almost exclusively feature insights and/or observations from "rival" supporters. One of those supporters recently joined our blog, Sabrina Dessipe. Sabrina is a very passionate Arsenal FC supporter (I can tell, I had a very long debate with her about Barca & Arsenal) who will share her unique views with us.
Barca Blaugranes might be a blog solely dedicated to FC Barcelona but that doesn’t mean we are ignorant to other opinions.
But Sabrina has not been the only addition to Barca Blaugranes as we have added Shehryar Khan & Gabriel Roberts to our ever increasing team. If you are passionate Barca fans and always in search of the latest news on FC Barcelona, chances are that you’ve stumbled upon their articles. Although I’m tempted to tell you where their work is featured I can only refer you to their respective profiles ;)
Either way, Shehryar & Gabriel will regularly publish exclusive content for Barca Blaugranes. If everything goes accordingly you can expect to read a Barca Blaugranes roundtable discussion/preview on Tuesday, with ALL our writers.
Oh yeah, we don’t hold the distinction of being the only La Liga blog on SB Nation anymore. This week also marks the addition of Villarreal USA to the SB Nation centerfold. As luck would have it, we were able to collaborate on a joint preview with our new friends at Villarreal USA. Since Villarreal play some eye-catching football and have some very passionate supporters I suggest you check them out. Personally I believe La Liga is the best league in the world. But that’s just me.
So what happened in a nutshell? Barca increased their lead, we recruited more writers, made some new friends and celebrate Sporting Gijon.
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