Yesterday it was a football day for me. There were 3 awesome matches and luckily I was able to see them all. The first one was Villarreal vs Real Madrid, the second one was Tottenham vs Manchester City, and the third one was Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona. Let's begin with the first one.
Real Madrid's last match before the 2-week break to make room for the national teams' competitions was a disaster. This match was against Valencia and Real Madrid lost it 4-1 with 3 of those goals being penalties. After the 2 weeks break, some Real Madrid players were unable to participate in the match because they were either injured or had recently been sick from the coronavirus. Some of these players were Sergio Ramos who is the captain and leader of the defense, Benzema who is the main striker, Casemiro, who is the only defensive midfielder in the team, Jovic who is the secondary striker, Valverde who is one probably the best midfielder, among others... It is clear Real Madrid has been suffering from a lot of bad luck regarding the health of its players.
Villarreal on the other hand has been obtaining good results in their last matches, the last time they lost a match was back in September. They are in good shape and are currently in position number 3. However, it is important to notice they have already played 10 matches, while some other teams have only played 9 or 8, but either way, this has been a good season for Villarreal so far.
The match was very challenging for both teams. Real Madrid had the urgency to obtain a victory and continue its pursuit of the first position in the league, while Villarreal wanted to keep its good results coming and maintain their good position in the table that allows them to participate in continental competitions. Real Madrid's had several secondary players for the reasons I mentioned above, some of these players were Nacho, Mariano, and Lucas Vazquez. Despite all of Madrid's difficulties, the match couldn't have started better for them, in the second minute of play they scored their first and ultimately, their only goal in the match. It was a good header from Mariano after a great cross from Carvajal.
I am sure neither team was expecting a goal that fast so things were looking good for Real Madrid. But since I always watch this team's matches I knew that at some point they were going to probably relax a bit which would cause the other team to generate opportunities to score goals and tie the match. The team played better than what I was expecting for the first 20 minutes, but after that moment, Villarreal started to gain more and more confidence and they could have tied the match on several occasions.
The main mistake in this match for Real Madrid was in my opinion, the decision from Zidane to include Isco in the 60-minute mark in exchange for Odegaard. Modric is an old player who can't last 90 minutes because he gest tired, and Isco is in very bad shape so adding him is always counterproductive for the team. If he wanted to change a midfielder the proper decision should have been Modric.
I don't think it is a coincidence that around 10 minutes after Isco went to the pitch, Villarreal ties the match with a penalty goal. He wasn't directly responsible for Villarreal counterattack or for the penalty, but he doesn't do high pressing as younger midfielders like Odegaard and Valverde, and his presence prevents other more competitive players to cover his midfield's zone. He weakens the team and makes it much more vulnerable every time he plays.
The penalty was Courtois's fault for doing such a silly mistake inside the penalty box and Vinicius's fault for losing such an easy ball when doing a dangerous counterattack. Those 2 mistakes allowed Villarreal to tie the match, and it was deservedly. In the end, Villarreal had 13 goal attempts while Real Madrid only had 6. Real Madrid continues to lose points and it will be impossible for them to compete for the league trophy if they don't change. A positive thing is that when their main injured players are back, the good results should be achievable again.
Next, it was the match between Tottenham and Manchester City, between Mourinho and Guardiola. So far, this season has been a disaster for Guardiola. His team, Manchester City has received more goals than the ones they have scored, and they are currently in position #11. This is the team that has invested the most in purchasing players over the last few years and no so long ago, they were breaking records and they even won 2 consecutive league trophies. This year they are just horrible.
Tottenham won the match simply because they were more effective in their goal attempts. Kane played not as the main striker but more as a creator and his movements allowed other players such as Sun to find open spaces in the defense and run straight to a 1 vs 1 against the goalkeeper. That is what happened in the first goal. The second goal was scored by Lo Celso seconds after he entered the pitch in the second half and it was assisted by Kane with an awesome pass.
This was the typical match where Mourinho has effective and lighting fast counterattacks as well as a super-strong defense that cannot be defeated. This is not the first time a Mourinho's team achieves this type of victory. The stats are crazy and these can make longtime football fans remember historic matches between these 2 coaches such as the Inter vs Barcelona semifinals in 2010. Manchester City had 22 goal attempts and scored 0 goals while Tottenham had 4 goal attempts and scored 2 goals. That's Mourinho at his best.
The Premier League is looking very competitive with Tottenham, Liverpool and the humble Leicester City being the best ones so far. In normal circumstances, Liverpool should be the favorite to win this league again, but given the fact they are suffering a lot of injuries and since Tottenham has inspired players and inspired coach, it is very difficult to foresee the next champion. Who knows, perhaps Leicester is able to repeat their heroic championship achieved in 2016.
The last match of the day was Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona. For several weeks Atletico Madrid has been the best team in the Spanish league. They weren't in position number 1 because they started the league weeks later and had played fewer matches but the points they have achieved with the number of matches they had played were the best. Now, even though they have 2 fewer matches compared to some teams and 1 less match compared to other teams, they are the team with the most points. They have a higher number of points, and the best goal differences between goals scored and received. They are tied in those 2 stats with Real Sociedad but this team has played 1 more match than Atletico.
Their squad is young and they don't have that many players over 30. Their strikers, Diego Costa and Luis Suarez is the only position that does depend on players over 30. Their defense and midfield has a lot of young players in good shape and providing high performance.
This is a stark difference between Real Madrid and Barcelona because both of these teams have a lot of players over 30 and they are extremely important for the team. In Real Madrid, we have Sergio Ramos (defense), Modric (midfield), and Benzema (striker), and in Barcelona, we have Pique (defense), Busquets (midfield), and Messi (striker-creator). With several other players reaching 30 years old in the coming months. The ones I mentioned are well over 30, some even reaching 34-35.
I am not saying players stop being competitive when they reach 30 years old, but if all the main players are well over 30, then the team will surely suffer when facing younger and more energetic rivals. The season is just beginning, in the league these 3 teams have only played 8-9 matches and in total there will be 38 matches so everything can happen. But for the moment, it is the younger Atletico Madrid who is looking like the best team in the league.
Personally, I think Real Madrid will be able to compete with Atletico despite the fact they have played 1 more match and have 3 fewer points. Real Madrid squad is a bit bigger and their performance should get better with time. Atletico Madrid has been enjoying a top-notch performance, and keeping that performance from an entire season is almost impossible. There are always periods of low performance and Atletico might suffer one of these in the coming months.
Barcelona is the one I am seeing in the most vulnerable position. Everyone knows Messi isn't happy, Griezmann doesn't feel comfortable in the team, their league top scorer, the young player Ansu Fati, will be injured for around 4 months, and their defensive leader, Pique, got seriously injured in today's match. I don't think they will compete for the first position this year, but they could very well end in position number 3 even though they are currently in position number 10.
For the next few weeks, there will be tons of matches so I will continue writing about them! The next matches are going to be in the Champions League!