La Liga champions Barcelona made the short trip to the Basque country to take on Athletic Bilbao on Sunday evening. In what is one of the more eagerly anticipated clashes on the La Liga calendar, Bilbao’s intense and energetic pressing was pitched against Barcelona’s commitment to passing out from defence. What followed was a thrilling encounter where only poor finishing from both sides meant the game finished with one goal.
In the midst of the busy season, there are several good matches that initially pass under the radar due to the sheer number of fixtures. In this series, our authors analyse some of their favourite games from the 2015/2016 season.
Fresh from their last gasp Europa League triumph over Liverpool Villarreal travelled to the Mestalla to take on rivals Valencia on Sunday evening. Whilst victory would assure Marcelino’s men a top 4 position and a Champions league qualification round entry, their rivals, meanwhile, have endured a bitter season having even flirted with relegation at times.
In the first clasico since Cruyff’s passing, Zinedine Zidane lead his side to a late win in what was otherwise one of the most meaningless games between the two sides in the past few years. The French coach learned from Benitez’ mistakes and fielded Casemiro as a 3rd midfielder in the centre as their game plan was largely based around control of the midfield battle.
Diego Simeone and his Atletico Madrid side continue to prove that solid defensive organisation and effective transitioning is just as, if not more effective than attacking flair in winning football matches. Simeone has beaten Mourinho, Ancelotti and now Zidane at the Bernabeu in his time as Atletico Madrid manager.
Barcelona hosted Atlético in a clash between two elite sides at the top of the Spanish first division. Although the outcome was inevitably influenced by the two red cards, some important changes from both managers were also key in what was an interesting match-up.
Real Madrid has long been a club varying between extremes. Following the firing of Rafael Benítez, La Madrid’s board appointed no less than Zinédine Zidane as their new head coach. The former playmaker and superstar of the 1990s and 2000s is set to revitalise a stumbling team of modern superstars.
Zidane’s first game as a head coach. Throughout the game traces of the strategy used under Carlo Ancelotti (while Zidane was the assistant) were visible while some problems which existed under Benitez still weren’t done away with. Ultimately, it looked as Real Madrid took a step in the right direction and it will be exciting to see how good they can become with more time under their new head galactico.
With just 8 goals conceded in 18 La Liga matches this season, Atletico Madrid have conceded the least goals of any team in the ‘big 5’ European leagues this season. They are at the top of the table however unlike their La Liga title rivals, Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the other single-figure conceding teams in Europe this season, PSG and Bayern, Atletico don’t compete to break transfer records every summer. They’ve spent a net £12million in transfers over the last four seasons.
Not only was it the Catalan derby as Espanyol made the short trip to the Camp Nou, but we saw the long-awaited debuts of Arda and later Aleix Vidal as Barcelona won 4-1. The Turkish midfielder, signed from Atlético Madrid in the Summer, fit into the right side of the midfield trio as he took on a similar role to Ivan Rakitic with some slight changes.